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Gunn, Snow, Tsai, and More

The Daily — Jun 4, 2021
Bill Gunn and Seret Scott in Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground (1982)

Even as we’re still processing the walloping Cannes lineup, let’s keep in mind that the Rotterdam and Full Frame festivals are running through the weekend and that Sheffield Doc/Fest opens today. To mark its fiftieth anniversary edition and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the opening of the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, the two Dutch institutions have teamed up to present Vive le cinéma!, an exhibition at the museum with an online extension featuring five new works by Jia Zhangke, Lucrecia Martel, Nanouk Leopold and Daan Emmen, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, and Carlos Reygadas. And from today through Sunday, Women and Film History International is sponsoring Entr’acte, a free screening series and conference exploring women’s contributions to cinema in the silent era.

This first week of June has given us quite a bit of weekend reading to catch up with:

  • Till They Listen: Bill Gunn Directs America, an exhibition and screening program peppered with a couple of concerts and a conversation with Ishmael Reed, opens tomorrow at Artists Space in New York. At Screen Slate, Stephanie LaCava has an utterly delightful conversation with Sam Waymon about Gunn, with whom he lived in a house with a particularly rich history—the old Ben Hecht estate! James Baldwin and Waymon’s sister, Nina Simone, were frequent guests. Waymon wrote music for Gunn’s plays Black Picture Show and Rhinestone Sharecropping as well as for the 1973 film Ganja & Hess, in which he also appeared. In his appreciation of Gunn for Gagosian Quarterly, Carlos Valladares calls on Warner Bros. to release Gunn’s Stop! (1970). Artists Space will screen Ganja, Personal Problems (1980), and Kathleen Collin’s Losing Ground (1982), in which Gunn plays a painter, and Sabzian and Courtisane have pulled together two essays by Collins and two interviews with her.

  • In 1967, Susan Sontag argued that the relationship between the two women played by Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) is “something beyond sexuality, beyond eroticism even.” Melissa Anderson, writing for Bookforum, finds that to be “a strange disavowal.” Also in the new summer issue, Blair McClendon writes about Claire Denis, who “has what feels like an increasingly rare faith in images and rhythm’s ability to hypnotize—the hypnotic state being the optimal way to engage in an art form born of flickering lights.” Dayna Tortorici looks back to the making and the long-term impact of Alek Keshishian’s Truth or Dare, which “caught Madonna at the height of her powers,” and poet Michael Robbins looks back even further, writing about second viewings of Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974) and Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980).

  • The third issue of Field Notes, Field of Vision’s online journal for nonfiction cinema, features archivist Mackenzie Lukenbill’s survey of visual art by HIV-positive artists working at the height of the AIDS epidemic. “This,” writes Lukenbill, “is the impossible dichotomy of the queer video works of the era: they exemplify a moment of boundless creativity, anger, and pure collective energy, but just as immediately became archives of death and mourning.” The new issue also offers Violet Lucca on Marilu Mallet’s Unfinished Diary (1982) and Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), Victor Guimarães on Brazilian cinema, Giovanni Vimercati on the late Cecilia Mangini, Devika Girish’s interview with Jia Zhangke, and Ashley Clark’s conversation with Matt Wolf about Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008). Wolf has also been talking recently with writer Olivia Laing on FUSE, the podcast from BOMB magazine.

  • Tsai Ming-liang’s Days, which topped the best-of-2020 lists from Cinema Scope and Reverse Shot, will open in the U.S. on August 6. “Intimacy in Tsai’s films is an elusive possession,” writes Max Nelson in the New York Review of Books. “The desire for it, however, is constant and concrete: it stings, itches, presses, burns.” And yet to “build a private world in Tsai’s films is to realize that it can never be sealed tightly enough—it is to risk a leak, or a flood. Just as their characters hover between isolation and intimacy, so the movies themselves at once coalesce around an individual artistic sensibility and undercut it. They have come to seem like installments in a self-conscious performance about the conditions of auteur filmmaking itself.”

  • At ninety-two, Michael Snow is still best known for his landmark 1967 film Wavelength. In the new Brooklyn Rail, Raymond Foye has a good long talk with this “famous and neglected, celebrated and obscure” artist about the restoration of Wavelength and the reissue of Snow’s 1975 book Cover to Cover. The June issue also features Harrison Blackman on Blake Edwards’s Experiment in Terror (1962), Ella Turenne on Raoul Peck’s HBO series Exterminate All the Brutes, Daniel LoPilato on three films by Jia Zhangke, and a moving collection of tributes to the late painter, poet, performer, and electronic media and video artist Aldo Tambellini.

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