Did You See This?

Long Views from a Short Week

Claudia Weill and Melanie Mayron during the making of Girlfriends (1978)

We’re wrapping this week early, and before we do, let’s flag an ongoing online festival. Back in January at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, the Film Noir Foundation presented an international edition of Noir City, a “tour of the globe’s most unsavory spots and unhappiest citizens” that “revealed how the familiar formulas of Hollywood crime movies were sometimes echoed, sometimes reinterpreted, sometimes radically reinvented in other parts of the world,” as Imogen Sara Smith described it in Film Comment. Now, courtesy of the FNF and the AFI Silver Theatre, much of that program is screening virtually through Sunday.

In awards season news, you’ll have heard that the Grammy nominations are out and that Beyoncé leads with nine, including one for best music film. Black Is King is the visual album shot by nine directors working with twelve cinematographers. For Variety, Jazz Tangcay talks with one of those DPs, Santiago Gonzalez, about the inspirations for some of the album’s most impactful imagery. Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s Crip Camp, in the meantime, leads the nominations for the International Documentary Association’s thirty-sixth annual IDA Documentary Awards with five, followed by Garrett Bradley’s Time and Sam Pollard’s MLK/FBI with four each.

Last weekend in Taipei, a lifetime achievement award was presented to Hou Hsiao-hsien during a live ceremony, red carpet and all, overseen by Golden Horse Awards chair Ang Lee. Taiwan, a country of 23.5 million people, has seen just 611 coronavirus cases and seven deaths since the outbreak. For the second year running, after documentary director Fu Yue called for global recognition of an independent Taiwan at the ceremony in 2018, China has kept its talent from taking part in the competition. Saturday night’s big winner—best feature, director, original screenplay, editing, and visual effects—was Chen Yu-hsun’s romantic comedy, My Missing Valentine.

Film London announced last night that all six artists shortlisted for this year’s Jarman Award have collectively decided to split the prize money (£12,000). “This is not a time for competitions,” writes the Guardian’s Adrian Searle. “However, we are entitled to like some things more than others.” Searle’s clear favorite is Jenn Nkiru’s Black to Techno, “a visually stunning and playful montage dedicated to the birth of techno in Detroit.”

A few items that have caught our eye since Friday:

  • Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends (1978), “like no other film I can think of, gets at the insidious but quite natural envy that can sabotage a friendship,” writes Molly Haskell in one of the essays accompanying our release. In Filmmaker, Jim Hemphill asks Weill about her decision to focus on Susan (Melanie Mayron), the friend who’s left, rather than on Anne (Anita Skinner), the friend who chooses married life. “That was the whole idea,” says Weill. “Going way back you always have these sidekicks—usually they’re funny, maybe a little overweight, maybe a little ethnic—and I wanted the sidekick to be the protagonist. It came out of feeling like I didn’t actually see myself or my friends in the movies, if you understand what I’m talking about.”

  • In an outstanding essay for frieze, Shiv Kotecha writes about being a lifelong fan of the legendary playback singer Asha Bhosle. “Bollywood wanted to project cosmopolitanism,” he writes, “so Bhosle improvised, absorbing her cues from British psychedelia, American jazz, Arabic and Bengali folk music, calypso and cabaret. Despite her physical absence, when Asha-ji (as she is also known) sings, the on-screen male protagonists’ lusty aims are briefly upended: they pause, as if to consider who could do what to whom.” Kotecha also struggles to come to terms with Bhosle’s public support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, noting that “her voice continues to be heard inside shops and blaring from car radios across India and its diaspora, over the same channels that spew Modi’s cultish oratory. Beguiled by one, and repelled by the other, I feel disrupted; perhaps this is the impossible structure of feeling that Bollywood always intended.” Don’t miss the accompanying interview and playlist.

  • A new issue of Cineaste is out, and online we find Larry Ceplair on Allan Dwan’s Silver Lode (1954), “an apt Cold War companion piece for High Noon (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954)”; Karen Backstein on Buster Keaton and The Cameraman (1928), “a film of space and place”; Stuart Liebman on Hans Karl Breslauer’s “long-neglected” but “impressive” The City Without Jews (1924); T. R. Delapa on David Miller’s Lonely Are the Brave (1962) with Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, and Walter Matthau; David Sterritt on Jean Renoir’s “resolutely discreet” Toni (1935); Robert Kohen on Helmut Käutner’s Black Gravel (1961), one of the titles featured in the current edition of Noir City; and Jonathan Kirshner on Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s Town Bloody Hall (1979), “a time capsule . . . well worth revisiting.”

  • Declaring that we are in “a golden age of acting—make that platinum,” New York Times film critics Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott have put together a ranked list of the twenty-five best actors of the twenty-first century—so far, of course. The impressive presentation—scroll slowly!—includes guest appreciations as well: Bong Joon Ho on Song Kang Ho, James Gray on Joaquin Phoenix, Marjane Satrapi on Catherine Deneuve, and Denzel Washington on Viola Davis.

  • On Twitter, Chad Hartigan has posted the trailer for Little Fish, his fourth feature after Luke and Brie Are on a First Date (2008), This Is Martin Bonner (2013), and Morris from America (2016): “I made a science fiction movie about a global pandemic and then 2020 happened, eliminating a lot of the fiction.” Hartigan also points to a supercut of his thousand favorite movies of all time that runs just under twenty-five minutes. As each microclip gives way to the next, a voice in your head my try to yelp out the film titles as they whoosh by, but try to squelch that voice and relax. There’s a laugh or two to be had here, and chances are, here and there, you may well up a bit. It’s been a long, hard year.

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