Did You See This?

“The Response Was Positive”

On Film / The Daily — May 29, 2020
Lewis Klahr’s Circumstantial Pleasures (2012–2019)

This week we’re mourning the loss not only of Irm Hermann but also of Larry Kramer, the award-winning playwright (The Normal Heart), novelist (Faggots), and activist who cofounded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP. Kramer launched his career as a writer working for Columbia Pictures and United Artists and wrote the screenplay for Ken Russell’s Women in Love (1969). “In his many careers,” writes Jesse Green in the New York Times, Kramer “served as a kind of reverse lightning rod, drawing out homophobia from American society to light up the sky with danger.”

In festival news, Cannes will announce on Wednesday what would have been this year’s official selection, the roster of films that will now go out into the world bearing “the Cannes stamp of approval.” The 2020 edition of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival will now take place in 2021, and in the meantime, the festival will be working some of the world’s leading archives to present an online program in October. And the virtual edition of Hot Docs is on. The staff at IndieWire is previewing ten of the most promising premieres, and for Filmmaker, Lauren Wissot talks with some of the “movers and shakers and doc-makers” about conducting business on Zoom.

This week’s highlights:

  • Over the past several weeks, Sight & Sound has been talking to filmmakers such as Céline Sciamma and Peter Strickland about their moviegoing memories, and the latest entry in the series is the most colorful by far. Guy Maddin looks back to his childhood and the summer vacations spent in a lakeside fishing village in Manitoba with its lone single-screen theater. “It didn’t matter what was programmed, I went,” says Maddin. One night, BUtterfield 8 (1960), starring Elizabeth Taylor, was showing and the young Maddin “brought a pack of firecrackers, which I set off in a machine-gun burst of incredibly loud detonations, producing a thick cloud of smoke from which a massive close-up of Liz Taylor emerged. Movie magic.”

  • From today through June 18, the Wexner Center is presenting the free online premiere of Circumstantial Pleasures, a collection of six new shorts that collage artist and filmmaker Lewis Klahr began shooting in 2012 and completed last summer. “An archivist par excellence and excavator of the collective unconscious, Klahr creates striking, deeply personal assemblages using found images and objects, with jolts of sound and music,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. Talking to filmmaker and programmer Courtney Stephens in BOMB, Klahr says that while making these films, he was “thinking about global supply chains that are normally out of sight but have now gained visibility as this invisible pathogen has traveled along the same pathways. The current crisis certainly has brought to life aspects of the imagery that, just a few months before, didn’t and couldn’t have had the same impact. They’ve been injected with a new sense of—” “Currency?” asks Stephens. “Perfect word,” replies Klahr.

  • Gabriella Paiella’s profile of Steve Buscemi for GQ has been passed around quite a bit this week, and for good reason. It’s a finely observed portrait of a man putting his life back together after the loss of his wife, artist and choreographer Jo Andres, to cancer early last year. Paiella recaps the biography of the firefighter-turned-actor and talks to a good number of people who have worked with him since he broke through in Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances in 1986. It’s hardly a surprise that some of the most piquant comments come from Jim Jarmusch. “We used to joke that he was our generation’s Don Knotts, but he’s more Jimmy Stewart in a way,” says Jarmusch. “He portrays humanity.” And further in, noting that Buscemi is an “incredible” dancer, he adds: “Yeah, you got to get him loosened up and then ‘Hey, Steve, let’s see you hit the dance floor.’ He’s really good.”

  • New York Times television critic James Poniewozik weighs in on the phenomenally rapid rise of comedian Sarah Cooper since April 24, the day she posted “How to medical,” the first TikTok video in which she lip-syncs Donald Trump. “A big problem comes when a writer tries to take the president’s belligerent spoken jazz (‘I know words. I have the best words’) and force it into comedic 4/4 time,” writes Poniewozik. “Even the most lacerating satire has to impose coherence on Mr. Trump, which—like news reports that try to find a narrative in his ramblings—ends up polishing the reality, losing the chaos essential to the genuine article. Which maybe destined Donald Trump to be the TikTok president. The service was built around the concept of lip-sync videos, and to spoof this president, the perfect script is no script.”

  • In 1896, Alexandre Promio was hired by Auguste and Louis Lumière to travel the world and capture and project short vues animées. Sabzian artistic director Gerard-Jan Claes has not only posted several of these “moving views” but also translated Promio’s travelogue in which he reported on, among other things, one of the first tracking shots in the history of cinema: “When I arrived in Venice and went by boat from the train station to my hotel on the Grand Canal, I watched the banks fleeing in front of the gondola, and I thought that if the immobile cinema allows us to reproduce moving objects, then perhaps we could turn the proposal around and try to reproduce immobile objects as mobile with the help of the cinema. I immediately made a reel that I sent to Lyon with a request to tell me what Mr. Louis Lumière thought of this experiment. The response was positive.”

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