On Tuesday, Guardian columnist George Monbiot rolled out a list of random and not-so-random acts of kindness happening right now all over the world and argued that horror movies “got it wrong. Instead of turning us into flesh-eating zombies, the pandemic has turned millions of people into good neighbors.” In the film community, we’re seeing directors releasing their work online, distributors teaming up with movie theaters and splitting revenue, and fundraising initiatives such as the one we and Janus Films have helped establish to support art-house cinemas.
Publishers are chipping in as well. We’ve mentioned that University of California Press is making the full archives of all of its journals, including Film Quarterly, freely accessible through June and that the entirety of the new issue of Filmmaker is online. On Monday, Another Man will release its “High Art Pop Culture” issue with Jake Gyllenhaal on the cover. And now, both Artforum and Bookforum have unlocked their latest issues.
Both feature new work from critic and author J. Hoberman. In Bookforum, alongside Joy Williams on Robert Stone, Tom Carson on Shakespeare’s footprint on American culture, and Gerald Howard on why Don DeLillo deserves to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, there’s Hoberman on cartoonist and writer Ben Katchor’s The Dairy Restaurant, “a learned commentary (if not an encyclopedic midrash) on a particular Jewish American institution that is also, for the author, a lost world.”
In Artforum, Hoberman revisits Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950), the “belated epitome” of modernism, the early twentieth-century movement whose “flirtation with classical antiquity would be regarded as suspect . . . Unquestionably Cocteau’s strongest film (and arguably his most resonant work in any medium), Orphée has lost none of its capacity to enthrall the viewer with its ingenious, economical effects, based primarily on the deployment of duplicate sets, rear-screen projection, and clever match cuts, as well as negative imagery and reverse motion. Welles’s influence is everywhere apparent, and indeed, in its confidence, energy, and inventiveness, Orphée is among the greatest cinematic works made in the decade following Citizen Kane.”
Also in this issue, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie writes about the “ten ever more luminous and ambitious films” by artist Moyra Davey. “The texts for Davey’s films pick their way through the ungainly thickets of art and politics, with strong, purposeful forays into literature, the history of photography, psychoanalysis, family drama, collective trauma, and the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of living a full working and thinking life as a woman, an artist, and a mother. The artist strings together long associative chains, drawing on iconoclasts and innovators such as Chantal Akerman, Elena Ferrante, Derek Jarman, and Virginia Woolf.”
A new series launched by the New York Times, entitled simply “Those We’ve Lost to the Coronavirus,” is a wrenching sign of the times. One of the losses that has hit the hardest is the passing of Adam Schlesinger of the bands Fountains of Wayne and Ivy. The title track that Schlesinger wrote for Tom Hanks’s That Thing You Do! (1996) scored him nominations for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and just last year, he won an Emmy for his work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Matthew Dessem has been gathering tributes at Slate. Schlesinger was only fifty-two.
This crisis has had David Bordwell reflecting on what he called “chamber art” in his 1981 book on Carl Theodor Dreyer. “Chamber cinema–wherever it turns up–offers some unique filmic effects, and maybe sheltering in place is a good time to sample it,” he writes before turning to work by Alfred Hitchcock, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Abbas Kiarostami, Sidney Lumet, and several others.
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