Did You See This?

We’ll Meet Again

The Daily — May 1, 2020
Pier Paolo Pasolini on the set of Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1976)

When will filmmakers be able to get back to work? Will we have to wait for a vaccine, and if not, what would a safe set look like? What aspects of production, distribution, and moviegoing have changed for good? These are the sort of questions that the Los Angeles TimesJen Yamato and Mark Olsen have put to directors Gina Prince-Bythewood, Kenneth Branagh, Sophia Takal, and Janicza Bravo, producers Jason Blum and Jordan Horowitz, cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, editor Alan Heim, location manager Lori Balton, makeup artist Nicki Ledermann, hair stylist Adir Abergel, and others. The bottom line, of course, is that we’re still a long way away from definitive answers to any of these questions, but overall, there’s an encouraging sense of long-term optimism percolating from such a wide range of voices.

This week’s distractions from the crisis:

  • Let’s begin with an outstanding home viewing tip passed along by Jordan Raup at the Film Stage. The Walker Art Center has put together a collection of more than sixty in-depth conversations with directors, actors, writers, and producers conducted over the past thirty years. Even watching (or in a few cases, listening to) these dialogues with Robert Altman, Bong Joon-ho, Julie Dash, Claire Denis, Todd Haynes, Jim Jarmusch, Abbas Kiarostami, Spike Lee, Mike Leigh, Kelly Reichardt, Liv Ullmann, Frederick Wiseman, and so on and on—back to back—would take days. But if you’re up for just one more, Film Forum has posted programmer Bruce Goldstein’s 2004 conversation with Jules Dassin.

  • This week has seen the rollout of new issues from [in]Transition, the peer-reviewed journal of audiovisual film criticism; Moving Image Artists Journal, with an eclectic collection of writing about landscape; and the Journal of Film Preservation from the International Federation of Film Archives. The new Artforum, with Amy Taubin on Alexander Nanau’s Collective, J. Hoberman on Sergei Loznitsa’s State Funeral, Shinyoung Chung on the film and video work of Im Heung-soon, and Thomas Beard, Ed Halter, Nellie Killian, and Sierra Pettengill on the creation of the Cinema Worker Solidarity Fund, is free to read. And the new issue of Senses of Cinema features conversations with Joanna Hogg, Radu Jude, Eliza Hittman, and João Pedro Rodrigues; festival reports and book reviews; program notes on films by Gillian Armstrong, Hiroshi Shimizu, and Billy Wilder; and Jeremy Carr on Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1976), in which Pier Paolo Pasolini “probes through formal, conjectural, and psychological means the nature of the cinematic medium, its history, its artistic and revelatory function, and its critical effects.”

  • A. S. Hamrah’s new column in the Baffler is another string of brief, incisive reviews with the titles this time around ranging from the Michael Winterbottom comedy Greed to a new cycle of short films by Lewis Klahr. Whether you agree or agree to disagree with Hamrah, you’ll find it hard to deny that there’s no one else writing about movies right now quite the way he does. In the recently revived Cane River (1982), for example, Horace B. Jenkins “combines an Americana sensibility reminiscent of King Vidor’s early 1930s films with a class consciousness unique in the film’s setting: African-American red-clay Louisiana, the once-French central part of the state where some light-skinned black Creoles owned plantations and slaves . . . The film has the faded-color look of a country and western album cover from a musical tradition lost in thrift store bins.” And Kitty Green’s The Assistant “is the only film in which I’ve seen the shame-filled, eating-in-a-Manhattan-bodega aspect of life in New York City portrayed so acutely, or at all.”

  • Writing for the Notebook, Kelley Dong considers the films Kenji Mizoguchi made in the 1950s in light of his affinity for “layered composition” and a “holistic but decidedly feminist view of women’s subjugation by patriarchal authority. Within these later films, Mizoguchi conceives of misogyny as a tiered structure, wherein women’s experiences—as well as the choices resulting from these experiences—vary based on their proximity to capital (and the security gained by acquiring it).”

  • Programmer and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht has asked David Meeker, author of Jazz in the Movies and its accompanying online database, Jazz on the Screen, for a list. “I don’t think anyone in the world has seen as many jazz films as David has,” writes Khoshbakht, “and certainly no one has bothered spending years retrieving information (including song lists and personnel) from these films, compiling the indispensable encyclopedia that he has given us.” For his part, Meeker, “faced with almost a hundred years of world cinema and taking a degree of masochistic pleasure in sticking my neck out, I have managed with considerable difficulty to reduce untold millions of feet of celluloid to a necessarily subjective choice of ten favorite titles, undoubtedly quirky but hopefully not pretentious.”

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