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Connections Full of Song and Color

Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV’s Contemporary Color (2016)

Anyone who follows our monthly roundups on new and noteworthy books will most definitely want to see the latest comprehensive collection from Ruben Demasure at Sabzian. The range is broad and deep, with news of fresh titles on Jean-Pierre Melville, Pedro Costa, and Med Hondo and collections exploring the history and possible futures of cinema.

Here are a few more items that have caught our eye this week:

  • In a rich and wide-ranging conversation for BOMB Magazine,  RaMell Ross, director of the lyrical documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018), gets brothers Bill and Turner Ross (Contemporary Color; Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets) talking about their approach to nonfiction filmmaking. “It isn’t necessarily about the austerity of the shot or the moment,” says Turner, “but just that you get to it and find whatever that inner light is. And sometimes that’s looking at the carpet, you know? Sometimes that’s following the dog. It’s saying, ‘If I were the id of the energy of this environment, where would I go? And can I plug myself in enough to be there?’ It’s a theater in the round. It’s the world that continues. These moments don’t happen again.” To which Bill adds: “They don’t end once we leave.”

  • This week has marked the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. “We were shunned in a lot of ways because everybody felt we were this first big-budget film at Sundance,” recalls producer Sean McKittrick in an oral history of the cult favorite that Alan Siegel has put together at the Ringer. “Nobody believed us that we made it with $4.5 million.” The premiere screening of Kelly’s next feature, Southland Tales (2006)—at Cannes, no less—was even more of a disaster, but that film, too, has found its audience over the years. “I love this film more than anything I’ve ever made, and probably always will,” Kelly tells Christopher Rosen at Vanity Fair. “In my mind, there is both a prequel and a sequel wrapped into the Russian-nesting-doll narrative of this whole thing. It’s an unfinished art project from a very special time in my life. I will always be working on it. Even if I’m an old man acting out a Southland Tales expanded version with sock puppets in a mental hospital one day, I will still be working on it.”

  • For the Nation, Tal Milovina talks with Tourmaline, the New York–based artist whose first solo exhibition, Pleasure Garden, is currently on view at Chapter NY’s temporary pop-up location through the end of the month. The centerpiece is a 16 mm short, Salacia (2019), which reimagines the life of Mary Jones, who worked in a SoHo brothel in the early 1800s. “At a time when there weren’t many Black trans people out and about, she was living large and in charge,” says Tourmaline. Writing for 4Columns, Tiana Reid notes that “the piece, which was produced by Keanu Reeves and recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, is not a work of history. Salacia leans into a quiet drama, through thick nineteenth-century drawls and intense cinematic techniques including green screen and slow motion. So much happens in this little art movie, so much leaping and crisscrossing, from day to night, from split-screen to single, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries.”

  • This week’s 4Columns also features Melissa Anderson drawing parallels between Eugene Ashe’s “sumptuous” Sylvie’s Love and the work of Jacques Demy. At Reverse Shot, Ryan Swen offers an ode to “perhaps the most radiant film I’ve ever seen,” Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). “The American films that Demy drew on generally proposed the act of song and dance as a means of escape,” writes Swen, “whether via direct fantasy (as in An American in Paris) or meta-cinematic playfulness (Singin’ in the Rain), but The Young Girls of Rochefort opts for something closer to reality. Songs become part of the movie’s texture; the recurring images of characters dancing in the streets without any direct motivation always serve to highlight a given character’s specific concerns, resulting in a universal sense of joy and love.”

  • Best-of-all-time lists are usually met with grumblings about missing or overrated titles, but most consider Keith Phipps’s ranking of the top fifty westerns ever for Vulture to be pretty solid. John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) lands on top, followed by Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Writing for New Critique, Ben Lewellyn-Taylor takes a look at what Quentin Tarantino borrowed from Leone when making Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood (2019) and how Tarantino’s choices reflect on his attitudes toward race and women. The highest ranking film on Phipps’s list from this century—still new, but somehow already exhausted—is Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010), and Reichardt’s First Cow (2019), sort of a Pacific Northwestern, tops a poll Mike D’Angelo has put together for Filmmaker, a “reconstruction” of what the best-of-2020 Village Voice poll might have looked like if the paper were still around.

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