Did You See This?

Retrospectives, Reflections, and One Long Look Ahead

The Daily — Feb 28, 2020
Jerome Hiler’s Words of Mercury (2011)

The week closes with news that all fifteen members of the editorial staff at Cahiers du cinéma have resigned. As Tom Grater reports at Deadline, editor Stéphane Delorme and his team claim that the magazine’s new owners, among them a number of prominent producers, create a conflict of interest. “Whatever articles are published, there would be a suspicion of interference,” they argue in a statement. Founded in 1951, the iconic publication is best known for launching the careers of critics who would become the major directors of the French New Wave, including, of course, Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, and Rivette. But Elena Lazic, who has been translating some of the work that has appeared in Cahiers’ pages over the past few years with Paul Ridd, reminds us not to overlook the magazine’s more recent contributions to film culture. “No other film magazine is doing what Cahiers was doing under Stéphane Delorme,” she tweets.

Here’s what else has caught our eye this week:

  • One of the most popular reads of the week has been Parasite director Bong Joon-ho’s annotated list in Sight & Sound of twenty directors he believes will be having an impact on cinema over the next twenty years. His selection ranges from hitmakers like Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Jordan Peele through critical favorites such as Bi Gan, Chloé Zhao, and Mati Diop to such genre-benders as Rose Glass and Jennifer Kent.
  • For SFMOMA’s Open Space, Mac McGinnes has conducted a simply fantastic interview with filmmaker Jerome Hiler, who moved to San Francisco with his partner, Nathaniel Dorsky, in 1971. They met in New York in 1964, and Hiler looks back on those heady days working as a projectionist alongside Bob Cowan, the star of films by George and Mike Kuchar, at the 41st Street Theater, where they premiered Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966). Before all that, Hiler was living “in a Bowery derelicts’ hotel” when a friend brought by one his idols, Gregory Markopoulos, who “looked around the room with great disdain and asked me if I wanted to be his roommate,” Hiler recalls. “Well, needless to say, this visit was almost supernatural in the transformation that was being offered me. I moved into his Civil War-era attic apartment on 11th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. He was busy shooting The Illiac Passion and, in a matter of weeks, I became his assistant, his location-hunter, and costume designer for nearly half a year. Gregory also let me borrow his Bolex camera, which was an honor beyond imagining. This mutation in my life was so powerful that I took it as a sign that film was my path from then on.”
  • At Hyperallergic, Willow Catelyn Maclay talks with Jennie Livingston on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Paris Is Burning, her documentary about African American and Latinx voguers in Harlem in the late 1980s. Livingston recently directed an episode of the FX series Pose, and while on the set, “this woman told me she was trans, and seeing Octavia Saint Laurent was what enabled her to imagine that she could transition,” she says. “I hope that is Paris Is Burning’s legacy. You make a film to make a film, but if it can actually have an impact, that’s incredible.” As for the future, “I would love to see queer cinema to have someone like David Lynch, who has always told stories differently, to be empowered to not only include people who look like us or have stories we are familiar with, but to also break ground with form.”
  • A little over a year after the death of Dušan Makavejev, New York’s Anthology Film Archives is currently presenting the first major North American retrospective in twenty-five years. “Finally!” exclaims Sukhdev Sandhu in 4Columns. “The work of this merry, sagacious prankster has long been shrouded in tee-hee rumors and gossip, hardly known even among cinephiles.” Sandhu especially recommends catching Sweet Movie (1974), which “makes the punky wildness of Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966) seem like a lunchtime recital.” In the Notebook, Lawrence Garcia takes a deep dive into the oeuvre of the controversial director whose films “give the constant impression of something being worked through. Or perhaps worked backwards, that is towards a fundamental essence—whether it be the body or a so-called ‘primitive’ conception of the cinema, the twin fascinations of his lifetime.”
  • Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books about last fall’s Ritwik Ghatak retrospective and an accompanying symposium on the Bengali filmmaker, Swagato Chakravorty suggests that if both events staged in New York were “clearly aimed toward the double projects of compensating for decades of institutional neglect and (finally) securing Ghatak’s place in the putative canon of global art cinema, it was hard to receive the rhetoric of globalization and canonization without skepticism. In fact, Ghatak’s work resists the historicist ideology that permits the construction of categories such as ‘global art cinema’ in the first place—something most clearly evident in the history of Ghatak’s long-standing invisibility (opacity may be a better word) within western cultural contexts.”

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