Did You See This?

Spotlighting the Great and the Obscure

Wang Yu in One-Armed Boxer (1972)

Every day, it seems, brings changes that would have been next to impossible to imagine just six or seven weeks ago. SXSW is teaming up with Amazon Prime Video to stream films originally slated to premiere at this year’s cancelled edition. Dates have yet to be set for the ten-day event, but the target is late April. Tribeca, which is already presenting short films online, will begin rolling out selections from its immersive programming on April 17.

In Toronto, TIFF co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey have posted an update on their plans for this year’s festival, which is still scheduled for September 10 through 20. Cooperating with organizations around the world, they aim to steer TIFF back toward its roots as a “festival of festivals.” At the same time, says Bailey, “we recognize that in planning for the festival now there is still some uncertainty in what people coming together will look like come September.” TIFF 2020 may be, at least partially, a virtual experience.

We’re getting used to it. The latest round of notable home-viewing recommendations comes from Abel Ferrara at the Talkhouse, where he advises catching up with the entire oeuvre of John Cassavetes, and especially A Woman Under the Influence (1974), “the masterpiece of masterpieces”; the curators of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art; and New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, whose pick for this weekend’s watch is Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940). Everyone’s invited to post comments on Monday, and Dargis and Scott will respond on Wednesday.

Roger Corman, the “Pope of Pop Cinema,” will turn ninety-four on Sunday, and to celebrate, Shout! Factory will present a two-day birthday marathon starting tomorrow. In an entirely different aesthetic corner, France’s Re:Voir Video is currently presenting one film per day—works from the likes of Philippe Garrel, Isidore Isou, Jonas Mekas, and Marcel Hanoun—for free through next Friday. Meantime, podcast hosts Nate DiMeo (The Memory Palace) and Karina Longworth (You Must Remember This) have launched a new one called It’s the Pictures That Got Small. In the first episode, Knives Out director Rian Johnson finally catches up with Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away (2000).

  • Johnson has also been talking to James Mottram in Sight & Sound about his love for the New Beverly, the repertory theater in Los Angeles owned and programmed by Quentin Tarantino—who will only screen films on 35 mm. “I know a lot of filmmakers that strike prints of their movies just so they can show them at the New Beverly,” says Johnson. “We have exactly one print of Knives Out in the hope that the New Beverly will screen it!” Tarantino recently called in from Tel Aviv—he’s married to Israeli model, actress, and singer Daniella Pick, and their son, Leo, was born in February—to chat for nearly three hours with the hosts of the Pure Cinema Podcast about the reviews he’s been writing for the theater. Over the past month or so, these reviews have been appearing every couple of days, and you might want to start with his appreciation of Wang Yu, “one of the greatest and most innovative filmmakers in the history of martial arts movies.”

  • The New Yorker’s Richard Brody draws our attention to a fascinating initiative headed up by Rotten Tomatoes curators Tim Ryan and Sara Ataiiyan which aims to pull into the spotlight “an important range of critics who’d formerly been excluded—and who haven’t, until now, got their due for their insights, observations, and ideas. (Not surprisingly, many of these excluded critics are women and people of color.) In the process, Ryan and Ataiiyan are meaningfully contributing to, even significantly shifting, the history of cinema over all.” Brody especially recommends the work of Iris Barry, who wrote for the Spectator in London before founding MoMA’s Film Library in 1935, and John Kinloch, an African-American critic who wrote during the same era about Fritz Lang, Charles Chaplin, and, in his words, the “danger of blackwashed white films pumped into Negro circuits.”

  • This year’s Courtisane Festival, which was supposed to have opened in Ghent on Wednesday, was set to launch Out of the Shadows, a program of work by Arab female filmmakers that would then roll on to Brussels in the summer. Fortunately, an accompanying collection of texts is still in the works. At Sabzian, Gerard-Jan Claes and Stoffel Debuysere introduce a new translation by Sis Matthé of a 1994 talk by Algerian novelist and director Assia Djebar, “one of the most important figures in North African literature,” who worked with Frantz Fanon and Ousmane Sembène and decided to make her first film on the day Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed in November 1975. That film, The Nouba of the Women of Mount Chenoua (1977), won of the FIPRESCI Prize in Venice. Djebar, who passed away in 2015, spoke in 1994 about her “need for cinema” despite the obstacles presented to women by the Algerian film industry.

  • Frederick Wiseman, the great documentary filmmaker who turned ninety in January, has just finished editing his latest film, which focuses on Boston City Hall. In a relaxed conversation with Benito Vila at Please Kill Me, Wiseman talks about growing up watching the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton, listening to radio serials, and dealing with anti-Semitism: “Philip Roth perfectly conveyed my childhood in The Plot Against America.” Wiseman’s first feature, Titicut Follies (1967), shot in a state hospital for the mentally ill in Massachusetts, began a series of studies of institutions. He then made High School in 1968. “It seemed to me that the logical ‘follow’ for a film on the criminally insane was a high school,” says Wiseman. As for what’s next, “I haven’t done an airport or a hub of any sort. And yes, there are lots of good subjects. I, in no way, think I’ve covered everything. I think it’s impossible to cover everything. I’m doing my best. I’m trying to push it up to fifty films before I die, so I may have to make a few five-minute films to reach my goal, but that’s my goal.”

  • Why not wrap with a few lists? After all, we have time now to do more than skim the rankings; we can actually watch some of these movies. At the A.V. Club, contributors write about the fifty most influential American independent films—in chronological order, too, if that’s way you’d like to go about filling the gaps you’ve been meaning to get around to. Team Slant ranks the hundred best westerns of all time, arguing that the genre has proven itself to be “a durable and influential way of talking about the human condition—one that need not be confined within the frontiers drawn by the Euro-American colonial imagination.” And for the BFI, Anna Bogutskaya presents a guide to the “weird west,” a collection of “mash-ups” that have cowboys riding alongside aliens, robots, and vampires.

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