Did You See This?

A Slew of Shorts and One Scénario

Alice Roberts, Louise Brooks, and Fritz Kortner in G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929)

A little holiday reading before we ring in the new year:

  • Earlier this year, Stéphane Delorme and Joachim Lepastier found Jean-Luc Godard, who turned eighty-nine on December 3, eager to talk with “the great grandchildren of Cahiers du cinéma.” Now Srikanth Srinivasan and Andy Rector have translated a good portion of the interview that ran in the October 2019 issue. In Goodbye to Language (2014) and The Image Book (2018), Godard wrestled with the nature of language, and as he talks about the project he’s been working on, Scénario, it’s clear that it’s still very much on his mind. Delorme and Lepastier also ask about those vital early years at Cahiers, and Godard draws contrasts and comparisons between François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette. “In my view,” he says, “these are the three from the Nouvelle Vague.”
  • This week’s cartoon issue of the New Yorker features Richard Brody’s guide to “a forgotten canon,” the remarkably inventive animated shorts made during the earliest days of cinema. The big bonus offered by the online version of the article is that we can actually watch them. “To rediscover the spontaneity, the free-flowing imagination, and the uninhibited sense of fun at the heart of the medium, go back to its beginnings,” advises Brody. “Just as live-action films surpassed their roots in photography and theatre, animated films—borrowing from comic strips, magic shows, and vaudeville—took flight and became a distinctive and mysterious kind of aesthetic experience.”
  • In Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), Ingrid Bergman plays a psychoanalyst trying to help the new director of the hospital (Gregory Peck) discover the root causes of his mysterious phobias. “The craziness buried in Spellbound is misogyny,” argues novelist Lucy Ellmann in the New York Times. “The movie veers off to become an examination not of the hazards of neurotic trauma but of what it’s like to be a woman tormented by patriarchy. For wherever Bergman goes, she’s under scrutiny from men, if not direct attack.”
  • All week long, the highs and lows of the year in film have been hashed out at Slate’s Movie Club. Bilge Ebiri can’t understand why Shadow, and for that matter, Zhang Yimou’s entire career, “one of the most fascinating, complicated in cinema history,” have been overlooked. For Karen Han, The Lighthouse and Midsommar are the funniest films of the year. Looking back on the “Scorsese vs. Superheroes” debate, Alison Willmore has found herself “feeling increasingly disheartened by how many people seem to be more interested in declaring allegiance to a brand than to any particular artist.” And host Dana Stevens marvels at all the “straight white dudes” crying—Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems, Adam Driver in Marriage Story, and so on. “A few years ago, when performative misandry was all the rage on the internet—a cover for a truer, deeper female rage that expressed itself in the #MeToo movement—there was lots of talk about sipping from mugs of delicious male tears,” she writes. “But the ones shed by men in movies this year didn’t go down like a sweet schadenfreude-laced beverage. It hurt to watch these men fall apart, but it was a good hurt, maybe because it seemed that, in the theater and out, masculinity too was beginning to crumble.”
  • Michael Atkinson,Sean Burns (WBUR), Alex Greenberger (ARTnews), film historian Luke McKernan, filmmaker Michael Smith, three MUBI programmers, a slew of Film Stage contributors, and the programmers and distributors polled by IndieWire are among the many others looking back on the most notable films of 2019. For the thirteenth year in a row now, Kristin Thompson gives us a refreshing break from the year at hand by looking back ninety years. Films by Hitchcock, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Borzage, King Vidor, and G. W. Pabst rank among the best of 1929. “The list is dominated by Hollywood and especially the USSR, for opposite reasons,” writes Thompson. “The American studios were well into sound production, and some of the top directors found tactics for using the new technique in imaginative ways. In the USSR, on the other hand, silents reigned . . . Thanks to them, the golden age of silent cinema continued on.”

Here’s to a great 2020, everyone!

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