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Better Angels

Emma Thompson in Mike Nichols’s Angels in America (2003)

This year’s fiftieth-anniversary edition of New Directors/New Films won’t open until April 28, but starting today, the Museum of Modern Art is presenting a retrospective of highlights from the history of the festival to its members. The eleven films range chronologically from Humberto Solás’s Lucía (1968), an “openly tendentious tour de force considered by many as Cuban cinema’s peak accomplishment,” as J. Hoberman wrote in the New York Times a few years ago, through works by Chantal Akerman, Charles Burnett, and Gregg Araki to Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy (1999).

Rotterdam, too, is celebrating its fiftieth edition and has announced a first round of titles for a hybrid second phase of online and in-person screenings slated for early June. Tribeca will open its twentieth-anniversary edition with the world premiere of In the Heights, Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. The TCM Classic Film Festival, running from May 6 through 9, has unveiled its lineup and a tantalizing roster of starry guests. And Venice will present a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Roberto Benigni in early September.

We can’t move on to this week’s highlights without noting the passing of Richard Rush. He directed Jack Nicholson in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) and Psych-Out (1968), Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen in Getting Straight (1970), Alan Arkin and James Caan in Freebie and the Bean (1974), and most famously, Peter O’Toole in The Stunt Man (1980), the film that scored Rush Oscar nominations for best director and adapted screenplay. “Based on the novel by Paul Brodeur,” writes Ryan Gilbey in the Guardian, “it concerns a fugitive who stumbles unwittingly on to a movie set, gets hired as a stunt performer, and starts to believe that the flamboyant, maniacal director, who is shooting a First World War picture, is trying to kill him.” The Stunt Man is “a devilishly inventive film about filmmaking.” Rush was ninety-one.

  • For a limited time, the entirety of the current issue of Film Quarterly is freely accessible. Patrícia Mourão de Andrade offers a comprehensive survey of the work of actress and filmmaker Helena Ignez, a foundational figure in Brazil’s Cinema Novo and Cinema Marginal movements in the 1960s and ’70s. She first appeared in O pátio (1959), directed by Glauber Rocha, the subject of Alonso Aguilar’s piece in the new issue of photogénie. The link between these new issues is fortuitous in that workers formerly employed at the Cinemateca Brasileira have issued a statement that’s both a manifesto and a call for help. For eight months now, this vital institution has been shut down and abandoned, leaving its invaluable archive of around 240,000 reels vulnerable to the dangers posed by heat and humidity.

  • Drawing on Emerson, Kierkegaard, literary theorist Northrop Frye, and philosopher Stanley Cavell, Lawrence Garcia walks us through Terrence Malick’s oeuvre from Badlands (1973) through A Hidden Life (2019). A few thousand words in, he restates “two underlying hypotheses of this essay. The first is that even a cursory account of Malick’s films reveals strong, conventionalized structures that undergird his sensuous weaves of sound and image. The second is that, far from being determinant, these structures cannot fix just how any element of his films will be taken, a fact that Malick augments by effecting continual shifts in perspective (whether through whispered voiceover or narrative relays) and reversals of tone (quite literally in the case of Ennio Morricone’s score for Days of Heaven). If Malick can be considered a magician of mood, his cinematic prestidigitation seems to ask the viewer just what it is that ‘a natural perspective’ consists of.”

  • The editors at KoreanScreen.com have polled 158 critics from twenty-eight countries to come up with a ranked list of the hundred greatest South Korean films of all time. Classics such as Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid (1960, #7) and Yu Hyun-mok’s Aimless Bullet (1961, #10) make a strong showing all up and down the list, but overall, the top half is dominated by films made in the past twenty years or so. With twelve titles, Hong Sangsoo is represented more than any other director, his highest ranked film, Right Now, Wrong Then (2015), coming in at #15. You might expect to find Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019) at the very top, but it’s been edged to second place by Lee Chang-dong’s Burning (2018). Now the editors are asking for your top ten.

  • For several years now, Jason Evans has been collecting “sketchbooks, personal memorabilia, annotated typescripts, short essays, home movies, and near impossible to find archival work” from filmmakers, writers, artists, and musicians at This Long Century. It’s an endlessly fascinating browse. The latest entries include a 1982 draft of an essay, “Hours for Jerome,” by Nathaniel Dorsky and a set of photos from Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili. As she notes, some of these images inspired her first feature, Beginning, which swept up four top awards in San Sebastián last year.

  • In 2003, Mike Nichols directed an adaptation of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play Angels in America. Emma Thompson plays a nurse, a homeless woman, and crashing through a bedroom ceiling, the Angel America. Interview has brought Thompson and Kushner together to share a couple of memories of Nichols and talk about a few shows and the state of things in general. “In a way,” says Kushner, “you can get a semblance of social justice, a window-dressing version of it, and still have the most profound economic barbarism shattering the lives of the vast majority of people on the planet. These young people are really calling us on that.” For Thompson, working into your sixties “can be a truly interesting time. Honestly, from the point of view of acting, I feel like I could do anything now. I feel completely fearless.”

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