Did You See This?

And Life Goes On

The Daily — Feb 26, 2021
Farhad Kheradmand in Abbas Kiarostami’s And Life Goes On (1992)

The filmmaking career of the DJ and multidisciplinary artist who goes by the name KEFF is certainly off to a promising start. His 2019 short film Secret Lives of Asians at Night picked up awards around the world and his forty-five-minute Taipei Suicide Story was selected for the Cinéfondation program at Cannes last year. Last night, the film won both the grand jury prize and the audience award at Slamdance. Tender Huang, who has won the best actor award, plays Zhi-hao, a receptionist at a hotel where people check in to kill themselves. One guest, Jun-ting (Yuhua Sung), can’t seem to decide whether she wants to live or die, and Zhi-hao thinks he might be falling for her. Joe Bendel, who teaches jazz at NYU, calls Taipei Suicide Story “an exquisitely humanistic film.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the best reading of this past week:

  • For Reverse Shot’s ongoing symposium Great Beyond, in which contributors revisit a film from a country other than their own, Devika Girish takes another look at And Life Goes On (1992). In this second feature in Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy, a film director and his son go looking for the two boys who appeared in the first entry, Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), after an earthquake has devastated the northern Iranian village. “When I first saw the film in college,” writes Girish, “I identified with the protagonist, not just for how he seemed to perceive others in the film, which felt familiar from my own cultural and class experiences, but also because I imagined he and I were perceived similarly by a Western viewer. The Iranian critics who panned the film might have seen themselves in the locals that the protagonist, with his European accoutrements, observes as he drives through the region; an American viewer might align herself with the remove of Kiarostami’s long shot, encountering only Otherness in varying degrees. But none of these are stable or complete positions offered by the film. In Kiarostami’s work, the sands of identification shift constantly under your feet.”

  • The critics at Vulture have spent several months putting together an annotated list of the 101 greatest movie endings of all time. The third film in The Koker Trilogy, by the way, Through the Olive Trees (1994), comes in at #14. Topping the list is just the sort of final sequence Alison Willmore writes about when she suggests in a sidebar that “to watch the finest of musical finales is to become convinced, however briefly, that every movie should end with a song and/or dance.” #1 on Vulture’s list is Claire Denis’s Beau travail (1999). “There are few spectacles more wondrous in all of cinema than the great Denis Lavant dancing his ass off to Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night,’” writes Bilge Ebiri. “But in the context of the film itself, the scene becomes (literally) otherworldly.”

  • When Sundance premiered Passing—Rebecca Hall’s adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel about the reunion of two childhood friends, Clare (Ruth Negga), who chooses to “pass” as white, and Irene (Tessa Thompson), who doesn’t—the film was met with raves such as Jessica Kiang’s in Variety and takedowns along the lines of Benjamin Lee’s in the Guardian. Hilton Als definitely recommends seeing it when it arrives on Netflix in the fall. “Passing is a sort of moral noir, a movie about performance, about how women put on their female drag to please, annoy, flirt with, and provoke one another,” he writes in the New Yorker. He does not recommend Lee Daniels’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday, but he brings it up to elaborate on his assertion that “Daniels sees the world through the kind of white gaze that Hall, for one, questions and dismantles.”

  • Through next Thursday, the Metrograph is streaming two films by Djibril Diop Mambéty, Le franc (1994) and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (1999). Writing for the theater’s Journal, Yasmina Price explains how the economies of France’s former colonies in Africa remained tethered to the French Treasury even after those colonies gained political independence. With these two films, Price argues, Mambéty asserts “that the economic vulnerabilities of Senegal were created and aggravated by Western financial string-pulling. In order to unmask the endangering global sociopolitical mechanisms at play, these two medium-length films signal an imperative to follow the money, while also offering twin fables about the everyday possibilities of crafting alternative paths.”

  • It’s only been two and a half years since TikTok “cornered the market on lip-syncing videos and homegrown dance crazes,” writes Caroline Golum in the Notebook. Well over a billion people around the world are regularly watching little movies that usually run less than a minute and “clearly bear the stamp of early cinema and its creative forebears. Foundational techniques developed by Thomas Edison, Georges Méliès, and the Brothers Lumière live again in this new digital landscape—one often greeted with the same indifference and ridicule. From the outset, motion pictures were dismissed as either a passing fancy or serious threat to more ‘legitimate’ entertainment. Throughout the medium’s history, technological innovation has inspired fresh panic, suspicion, and class anxiety. The current ‘discourse’ surrounding streaming media, and its growing share of the ‘attention economy,’ is as old as the cinema itself.”

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