Did You See This?

Late Spring Reading, Listening, and Viewing

The Daily — Apr 2, 2021
Anne Teyssèdre in Eric Rohmer’s A Tale of Springtime (1990)

In the race between the variants and the vaccines, the variants have the upper hand at the moment. Festival organizers, though, are clearly counting on the astonishingly rapid pace of vaccinations to turn things around. Tribeca plans to celebrate its twentieth edition with in-person screenings and live events over twelve days in June, while the Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center will be offering the option of in-person screenings during its fiftieth anniversary edition of New Directors/New Films from April 28 through May 13. But virtual screenings will also be available through May 8.

Opening with Amalia Ulman’s El Planeta and closing with Theo Anthony’s All Light, Everywhere, the ND/NF 2021 lineup is impressive enough on its own. But MoMA and FLC will also draw from the festival’s history to present a free virtual retrospective featuring early work by such filmmakers as Lee Chang-dong, Chantal Akerman, Charles Burnett, Wim Wenders, Sara Driver, and Christopher Nolan.

This evening and tomorrow afternoon, the Flaherty will present To Feel, To Feel More, To Feel More Than, a two-part program whose title has been taken from an essay by poet and scholar Fred Moten. Previewing the event for Reverse Shot, Ela Bittencourt notes that programmers Devon Narine-Singh, Suneil Sanzgiri, and Alia Ayman chose the title “after the program had been finalized. Rather than reflect Moten’s concepts, these films create productive reverberations between Moten’s vision of what he calls ‘the human remainder’ and the programmers’ own ideas about the importance of human interconnectivity and of remembrance and archive preservation, as the basis for new beginnings.”

For Sentient.Art.Film, Matt Turner talks with Inney Prakash about Prismatic Ground, the experimental documentary festival he’s founded. The inaugural edition will run from April 8 through 18. Virtual lineups are now set for Visions du Réel (April 15 through 25), CPH:DOX (April 21 through May 5), and True/False (May 5 through 9), and Sheffield Doc/Fest (June 4 through 13) has announced a retrospective focussing on Black British cinema. 

Let’s add one more note on virtual viewing before turning to this week’s highlights. Another Screen, the new platform launched by the feminist film journal Another Gaze, has two new programs up, Hands Tied and Eating/The Other, both of them available for free worldwide with optional subtitles in more than half a dozen languages.

  • This past weekend saw the fortieth anniversary of Michael Mann’s debut feature, Thief, featuring James Caan as Frank, a safe cracker who takes on that one last job. For Consequence of Sound, Adam Carston, Andrew Buss, and Michael Roffman have spoken with Caan and James Belushi, who plays Frank’s friend and associate, to put together an oral history of the film the interviewers call “a boiling point for ’70s crime thrillers and a fever dream of the ’80s to come.” Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan discuss Thief at the Ringer and eleven contributors to the New York Times each write up a favorite moment from Mann’s filmography.

  • One of the wildest reads of the week has to be Joshua Hunt’s profile for Vulture of Randall Emmett, a producer whose credits “include more than 110 movies, which have grossed in excess of $1.2 billion, most of them bad enough to require a category all their own.” Emmett specializes in “geezer teasers,” the sort of “cheap paint-by-numbers action flicks” featuring Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Sylvester Stallone, or Steven Seagal on the poster and in the trailer even though they might show up for less than ten minutes in the actual movie. Hard to believe as it may be, Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2016) probably would not have been made without Randall Emmett, who launched his career in Hollywood as a “hard-partying hanger-on who helped inspire the character Turtle on HBO’s Entourage.

  • This week has given us not only a new issue of Film-Philosophy but also a new publication. The first issue of Caligari features Devika Girish’s interview with John Akomfrah, thoughts on the long take from Jia Zhangke, and Amy Heller on why she and fellow Milestone Films cofounder Dennis Doros “like to fuck with the canon.” But the biggest surprise is the return of the “nonsectarian left, feminist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist” journal Jump Cut, which has been publishing since 1974. The new sixtieth issue is the first since 2019. “I know that readers wonder how long Jump Cut will keep going,” writes Julia Lesage, the sole surviving founding editor. “I do, too.” But she’s “just turning eighty-two and in good health and compos mentis. So, I want to go on as long as possible with putting it out.” The new issue, “one of our best,” features “groundbreaking special sections on pedagogy during the pandemic, contemporary media activism, and queer TV.”

  • Adam Curtis’s six-episode series Can’t Get You out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World premiered online in mid-February, and it’s still very much a hot topic. Talking to Curtis for the April issue of Sight & Sound, Nick Bradshaw notes that he hasn’t “seen a TV series offer so much dizzying food for thought while enjoying its freedom to disorient us since Twin Peaks: The Return (2017).” But for Hannah McGill, also writing in S&S, “Curtis practices journalism absent the qualities that give it credibility: specificity, precision, corroboration, consistency.” On the Politics Theory Other podcast, Owen Hatherley, Juliet Jacques, and Alberto Toscano talk about the split verdict on Curtis on the political left, while Film Comment’s Clinton Krute and Devika Girish discuss Curtis’s aesthetic strategies with programmer Dan Sullivan and Harper’s web editor Violet Lucca. Meantime, the top ten in the new Artforum comes from Curtis himself.


  • New York’s Film Forum and the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts, are currently presenting new restorations of Eric Rohmer’s Tales of the Four Seasons, a cycle of four features made in the 1990s. “Rohmer was pushing seventy when he began the project, and these films exude the relaxed command of an old master,” writes Sean Burns for WBUR. “None of the storylines or characters overlap from movie to movie—you can watch them in any order you’d like—but they all include slight variations on recurring motifs of matchmaking, missed opportunities, and what happens when lofty, abstract ideals about love have to compete with our more mundane reality.” At 4Columns, Michelle Orange writes that in each of these films, “Rohmer extracts from what amounts to chronic human dithering a story of transience and possibility.”
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