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Legacies and Listicles

Bruce Lee

It’s as if the rest of 2020 has been postponed indefinitely. Disney has taken Niki Caro’s Mulan and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, originally set for releases in August and October, off the calendar entirely, and who knows when we’ll ever see Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Warner Bros. certainly doesn’t. Paramount has moved the release dates for the sequels to A Quiet Place and Top Gun from September and Christmas to next spring and summer. The major studios clearly do not believe that movie theaters will be able to safely reopen in the next few, possibly even several, months.

But productions are shut down as well, leading Disney to shift its schedule for the Avatar sequels and Star Wars movies. These franchises were supposed to have begun rolling out in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and now both series will be delayed for a full year. We can look forward to seeing Avatar 5 in December 2028. And while the industry in the U.S. dangles in perpetual limbo, theaters in other parts of the world are beginning to tentatively, carefully open back up again. In the Guardian, Steve Rose argues that for the sake of these cinemas and related business as well as the studios themselves, some of these potential moneymakers need to be opening now in Europe, Oceania, and east Asia. “The U.S. is still the largest single cinema market,” he writes, “but in 2018 it made up just twenty-seven percent of the global box office. The longer the ‘America-first’ principle remains, the worse things get for everyone.”

For her part, Italian filmmaker Daniele Luchetti is “honored to open the dances of the first great festival in unexpected times.” The Venice Film Festival has announced that Luchetti’s Lacci, an adaptation of Domenico Starnone’s novel starring Alba Rohrwacher, will open its seventy-seventh edition on September 2. And the independently run Venice Days program has unveiled a lineup that includes a new feature from Bruce LaBruce and a new short from Mati Diop.

On to this week’s highlights:

  • Like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006) has become disconcertingly relevant all over again, and the New Statesman’s Gavin Jacobson argues that one of the reasons is that its dystopian vision is one of the bleakest of all popular science fictions. “In Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), the inability to grow food impels mankind to look to the stars for new worlds to inhabit,” writes Jacobson. “In Children of Men, however, the failure of the medical sciences to discover a cure for [global] infertility seems to have stripped humanity of all resolve and Promethean ambition.” Children of Men is “both a mirror and augur of the world, and the world to come. At the end of history, cut off from its past and pessimistic about the future, and facing slow death under rising tides, humanity has resigned itself to a somnambulant life.”

  • Along with analyses of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau, essays on Preston Sturges and Béla Tarr, and interviews with filmmaker Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema) and author Todd McGowan (The Impossible David Lynch), the new issue of Crisis and Critique also offers Tom Gunning’s exploration of the notion of “haptic cinema.” Gunning focuses in particular on images of grasping hands in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. “Hands in Hitchcock are more than just a recurring motif,” he writes. “Like eyes, the hand forms a nexus between our bodies and the world. As a director of thrillers, Hitchcock not only portrays bodies in action but creates sequences and situations in which we, as viewers, experience intensely this bond between our embodied self and the dangers and delights the world affords.”

  • Racquel Gates, the author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture, appreciates the good intentions behind the cascade of BLM-themed listicles over the past several weeks, but “the very idea that Black film’s greatest purpose is to be an educational primer on race in America is a notion that we need to lay to rest.” Writing in the New York Times, Gates calls for a redirection of our collective focus to “Black narratives that decenter whiteness or ignore it altogether, films that connect audiences with the pathos, joy, and even treachery of the Black characters and lives they depict, the films that recognize their complex humanity.” The recent rediscovery of Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground and Horace Jenkins’s Cane River, both from 1982, “inspires a feeling of melancholy for me as much as excitement,” she writes. “How many more Black films languish on the verge of disappearance, films that may not have been deemed ‘important’ because they cared more to focus on the lovely intricacies of Black life rather than delivering Black pain for white consumption?”

  • This summer has seen a wave of reassessments of the legacy of Bruce Lee in the wake of the releases of Bao Nguyen’s documentary Be Water and our new box set, and among the best of these has been Danny Chau’s, which ran in the Atlantic last month. This week, the Ringer has posted star restaurateur David Chang’s conversation with Nguyen and Daniel Chin’s deep dive into an idea proposed by Matthew Polly, the author of Bruce: A Life. Readings of Lee nearly half a century after his death have fallen into three categories, Polly proposes. “One is what we call ‘Saint Bruce,’ the hagiographic version in which he is something of a demigod,” he tells Chin. “The second one is kind of the humanistic portrait, focusing on his successes but his flaws, and then there is the third one, which is kind of a minor strain, but it’s basically: ‘Bruce Lee is an asshole.’” Chin argues that if one is to “understand the monolithic figure Bruce became during and after his cruelly short lifetime, one must consider all three of these versions of Lee, and how each took on a life of its own.”

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