Did You See This?

Outside and Inside

Mick Jagger in Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970)

Japan declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, but as Mark Schilling reports for the Japan Times, the film studio Shochiku, once home to Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Mikio Naruse, is proceeding with plans to celebrate its hundredth anniversary with an exhibition and screening series set to open in the summer. There was to be a new feature to mark the occasion as well, God of Cinema, directed by Yoji Yamada, but the movie’s star, comedian Ken Shimura, died on March 29, having contracted the coronavirus. Production is now suspended.

The toll is relentless. And so, we stay in and read and watch, and recently, some of us have been getting creative with our recommendations for others. Girish Shambu points us to a series of playlists from the Centre for Screen Cultures at the University of St. Andrews with themes such as the female gaze, Ecuadorian cinema, “embodying capitalism and its abuses,” and of course, “surviving social distance.” 4Columns is asking contributors to “revisit films that are particularly significant to them and that are easily found online.” Our own Andrew Chan recommends Vincente Minnelli’s The Clock (1945): “Like In the Mood for Love and Before Sunset, this is a movie that knows how to stage private longings in public spaces.”

The Museum of Modern Art has posted a new installment in its “How to See” series of video essays that serve as guides to filmmakers and genres. “How to See Home Movies” comes with a supplementary collection from MoMA’s exhibition Private Lives Public Spaces. And throughout April, This Long Century is presenting thirty films divided into two programs, Outside and Inside. Because the contributing filmmakers—including Beatrice Gibson, Sky Hopinka, Lucile Hadžihalilović, David Lowery, Jodie Mack, Carlos Reygadas, Ben Rivers, Deborah Stratman, Peter Tscherkassky, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul—are offering their work for free, TLC is requesting donations to one of five nonprofits offering help to those who need it—especially now.

Here’s a sampling of what else has been going on besides the virus:

  • Of the thirteen films in the ’70s Style Icons program on the Channel, Cintra Wilson finds Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970) to be “one of the most sartorially radical.” In a 1995 essay that Sight & Sound has retrieved from its archive, the late theorist and filmmaker Peter Wollen maps the roads from Morocco, bohemian Chelsea, and ancient Persia that led to the film’s making, a convoluted tour whose guides include William S. Burroughs, Joseph Losey, and Marianne Faithfull. “Performance is a makeover movie with a surprising sting in the tail,” writes Wollen. “A gangster movie is gradually absorbed by a hippie pastoral, but there remains an irreducible core of violence, which psychedelia and music and sex cannot ever overcome—with which, indeed, they are covertly complicit.”

  • Catherine Grant flags a new, freely accessible issue of Panoptikum in which the editors and contributors pay tribute to Thomas Elsaesser, the renowned scholar who unexpectedly passed away last December. “Cinematic Norms and Puzzles” is the theme of the issue, and it includes an excerpt from a 24,000-word paper in which Elsaesser analyses “perhaps the most paradigmatic mind-game film,” Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). As for norms, guest editor Mirosław Przylipiak explores the origins and applications of the notion in the work of David Bordwell.

  • For his part, Bordwell has just posted a “broadly-aimed version” of a lecture he recently delivered to his seminar on Poetics of Cinema. “Most basically,” he writes, “I’m interested in two questions: How do films work? How do they work on us?” An answer to the first question would begin with, yes, “the norms that filmmakers work with in their historical situation.” Turning to the second question, Bordwell walks us through the phases of a film’s reception as “the filmmaker’s power decreases and the viewer’s power increases.” But there are ways, he suggests, that filmmakers can win some of that power back.

  • Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is still slated to open in December, Greta Gerwig is quietly working on a tap-dancing musical, and Richard Linklater will spend the next twenty years shooting an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. “The musical’s balance—between reality and fantasy, heartbreak and whimsy, underscore and songbook—is so delicate that to dissect it risks breaking its spell entirely,” writes Robert Abele in the new DGA Quarterly. Nonetheless, he takes a crack at it, talking at considerable length with Barbra Streisand about making Yentl (1983), Bill Condon about Dreamgirls (2006), Adam Shankman about getting permission from John Waters to do what he would with Hairspray (2007), Julie Taymor about her Beatles reverie, Across the Universe (2007), Damien Chazelle (La La Land, 2016), Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman, 2019), and with Jon M. Chu about working with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the forthcoming In the Heights.

  • This week has seen simply too many solid interviews not to wrap with a mini-roundup. In the new Brooklyn Rail, there’s Dan Sullivan with Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden) and Jessica Dunn Rovinelli with Matias Piñeiro (Isabella). Ultra Dogme editor Maximilien Luc Proctor asks Nathaniel Dorsky about dreams and universal forms. Aubrey Plaza’s conversation with Michael Caine in Interview is as fun as you’d imagine. Sight & Sound is running Ben Thompson’s 1995 interview with Richard Linklater and talking with Céline Sciamma and Richard Stanley about the movie theaters they love—and miss. And David Lynch tells Vice’s Nick Rose that we can look forward to a “much more spiritual and much kinder” world on the other side of this crisis.

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