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Conversations and Tributes

Juliette Binoche in Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In (2017)

The Delta variant is proving to be a formidable opponent, but for the vaccinated and tested, going to the movies is an option again. In New York, Anthology Film Archives has reopened with screenings that, as Screen Slate’s Jon Dieringer points out, “could only happen in-person: a new restoration of Paul Sharits’s dual-16 mm projection Razor Blades (1965-68), shown with Ray Gun Virus (1966).” Lynn Hershman Leeson: Twisted, the artist’s first New York museum solo exhibition, is on view at the New Museum through October 3. At Hyperallergic, Cassie Packard writes that this show is “criminally belated. A foremother to young new media artists working today, Hershman Leeson has blazed a trail for more than five decades, engaging materially and conceptually with cutting-edge technologies ranging from interactive video to artificial intelligence to genetic modification.”

When the pandemic hit, Film Forum was presenting The Women Behind Hitchcock. Starting today, the series resumes, and back in March 2020, we took a look at the crucial roles played in Hitchcock’s life and work by his wife, Alma Reville, and by screenwriter and producer Joan Harrison. The twentieth New York Asian Film Festival is also opening today, and at the Notebook, Daniel Kasman talks with Hong Kong director Soi Cheang, who is “back and more fierce than ever” with Limbo.

Leos Carax is back, too, and Annette sees a limited release today at select theaters from coast to coast. On Sunday in Los Angeles, film critic Jacqueline Coley will introduce the American Cinematheque’s presentation of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love & Basketball (2000) on 35 mm.

This week’s highlights:

  • Just before cinematographer Agnès Godard received the 2021 Pierre Angénieux Tribute in Cannes, Nicolas Rapold spoke with her for Reverse Shot. They discussed a series of images from her work with Claire Denis, including a shot of Juliette Binoche reclining in Let the Sunshine In (2017). “It’s like the skin is shining,” says Godard. She was one of three cinematographers on Agnès Varda’s Jacquot de Nantes (1991), and she says that Varda “would make a mise en place that would induce the way to film. You would understand right away how to look at the shot.” Godard typed an entire book, Des lumières et des ombres, written by Henri Alekan, the cinematographer who worked with Cocteau, Wyler, and Wenders. Alekan believed that “light is an element of directing,” says Godard. “So the image is not only a technical performance, it’s part of the storytelling, it participates in the narration. And that’s the deepest definition, I think, for cinematography.”

  • Through Wednesday, Metrograph is streaming three half-hour documentaries by Chris Marker: Berliner Ballade (1990), Prime Time in the Camps (1993), and Blue Helmet (1995). Writing for the theater’s Journal, José Teodoro “can’t help but wonder how many filmmakers not only worked into their eighties but also remained so politically, aesthetically, technologically, and philosophically engaged. Only Marker’s Left Bank cohort Agnès Varda comes to mind. (I’m not certain late Godard hits all the above points.) Perhaps the dearth of dogma in Marker’s films, their fluid movement between genres, their endless open-mindedness as to what cinema can be, is intrinsic to their endurance and continuing relevance. There is no victory lap in late Marker. He never stopped running, or at least walking, with camera in hand, senses wide open, curiosity in full effect.”

  • At Hyperallergic, Yasmina Price pays tribute to Menelik Shabazz, “one of the pioneering figures of independent Black British cinema,” whose influence she sees in films by Barry Jenkins and Steve McQueen. “At stake in Shabazz’s work was the question of differing political identities and how people of African descent were excluded from a flattened notion of British nationality,” writes Price. “Confronting anti-Blackness, racialized police violence, and xenophobia, he wrestled with the continuations of imperial power structures . . . Throughout his career, Shabazz echoed a key position of many Black filmmakers both on the African continent and across the diaspora: a sense of shared historical responsibility and an imperative to create counter-narratives.”

  • On the latest episode of his Talk Easy podcast, Sam Fragoso chats with Brian De Palma about growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s, watching and falling in love with Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), his early documentary work, and his 1993 film Carlito’s Way. Much of the conversation is given over to Blow Out, which was released forty years ago this summer. “I’m obviously very interested in visual storytelling,” says De Palma, and Blow Out “lent itself to telling a story with just pictures.”

  • In his latest Quorum column for Film Quarterly, Girish Shambu writes about three streaming projects—Another Screen,My Sight Is Lined with Visions, and the Playlist Initiative—that are “part of a certain movement born during the pandemic: activist-minded, grassroots streaming initiatives that surround films with rich, thoughtfully assembled, contextual material.” Let’s note here that the Maysles Documentary Center and South Asian Artists in Diaspora are currently presenting KRAANTI: Visions of Resistance, a program of nine documentaries curated by Devika Girish and Bedatri Datta Choudhury that explore “the long-standing legacy of grassroots resistance against the violences of caste, capitalism, patriarchy, and settler colonialism in India.” It’s on through August 15, and all proceeds “will go toward mutual aid networks that directly serve Dalit Bahujans, Adivasis, migrant workers, funeral workers, sex workers, and other adversely affected communities in South Asia.”

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