Did You See This?

Missing the Movies

The Daily — May 15, 2020
Yalitza Aparicio and Jorge Antonio Guerrero Martínez in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018)

A few countries and a handful of states in the U.S. have begun tentatively reopening cinemas, but for many theater owners, the costs of limiting the number of viewers for each screening, maintaining social distancing, and frequently sanitizing every surface are simply too prohibitive. As for audiences, many are still reluctant to sit themselves down in a dark, enclosed space for a couple of hours with a few dozen strangers. And so we wait, watch movies at home, and share memories of better times, which brings us to the first of this week’s highlights.

  • The Guardian has reached out to filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Sarah Polley, Edgar Wright, Steve McQueen, László Nemes, and Whit Stillman; to actors such as Emma Thompson and Tilda Swinton; and to critics and programmers and asked them to send in recollections of their most memorable moments at the movies. This long string of evocative anecdotes is supplemented with a brief yet incisive breakdown of the theatrical experience from Walter Murch, the great editor and sound designer known for his work with Coppola. “Technically,” he writes, “the quality of a film at home can now equal, or exceed, the quality at a multiplex. But what at-home viewing can never do is provide a communal experience to which we happily submit. In the best circumstances, that experience can paradoxically expand our consciousness and awareness of our commonality, sharpening our senses in the mass intimacy of the darkened theater.”

  • In a fascinating pair of interviews for Film Comment, Manu Yáñez Murillo talks with two subtitlers: Darcy Paquet, whose work you’ve read if you’ve seen Parasite, and Andrew Litvack, who has been working closely with some of France’s top directors since the early 1990s. It’s telling that neither of them likes to see a film in full before they begin translating, preferring instead to let each scene hit them as they come. Paquet’s observations on the differences between Park Chan-wook’s, Bong Joon-ho’s, and Hong Sang-soo’s approaches to dialogue are revealing, and Litvack has stories to tell about working with Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, and Claire Denis, who “rewrites when she writes, rewrites when she films, rewrites when she edits, rewrites in post-synching and, on High Life, she rewrote a bit while working on the French subtitles.” And of course, no one will be surprised to hear that “Godard was a trip.”

  • Nick Pinkerton urges us to rediscover the “unjustly forgotten” Catherine Binet, who directed a handful of short films and a single “extraordinary” fictional feature, The Games of Countess Dolingen (1981). The film, produced by her partner at the time, the writer Georges Perec, stars Carol Kane as a neglected wife, Michael Lonsdale as her husband, Marina Vlady as “an ice-cold matriarch,” and Katia Wastchenko as a curious eleven-year-old girl. “What is remarkable about Binet’s film,” writes Pinkerton, “is not only its venturing transgressions on multiple fronts but its total absence of sensationalism in doing so, its very matter-of-factness in addressing adolescent sexuality . . . When asking why Binet hasn’t enjoyed more attention, one needs look no further than her chosen subject matter.”

  • The BFI is currently dedicating a months-long season to Japanese cinema, and rather than draw up a traditional list of the top hundred films, it’s opted to select the single best Japanese film of each year from 1925 through 2019. The idea, explains Sam Wrigley, is “to help move beyond our understandable excitement around certain golden ages, the New Wave, the rise of J-horror or modern anime in favor of a more evolutionary picture. This way, we take the rough vintages with the smooth, giving a cumulative panorama of the trends, genres, stars, and directors who mattered over the last century.”

  • To wrap with a few home viewing tips, Gregory Crewdson, the outstanding photographer who teaches at Yale, has been conducting a series of pop-up Q&As with his classes. Among the extensive interviews now online are those with Tilda Swinton, Noah Baumbach, Cate Blanchett, Errol Morris, Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, Ben Stiller, and Natasha Lyonne as well as with artists such as Kara Walker and Kim Gordon. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in the meantime, has posted the third and final round of short films in its Spaces series, and for the Notebook, Leonardo Goi has asked the directors—Albert Serra, Ildikó Enyedi, Nanouk Leopold, and more—to introduce the short films they’ve made while in quarantine.

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

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