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“Art Is Not the Place for Moralizing”

Isabelle Huppert in Michele Placido’s forthcoming Caravaggio’s Shadow

Just before the pandemic hit in 2020, the Berlinale was the last major festival to carry on as if everything were blissfully normal. Earlier this year, the festival was split in two, with a virtual edition for the press and industry in the spring, and a series of outdoor screenings for the public in the summer. Yesterday, the Berlinale announced that its seventy-second edition will run from February 10 through 20 as an in-person event. Let’s hope for a safe winter.

In other news from Berlin, Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man, Germany’s horse in the Oscar race, came close last Friday night to sweeping this year’s German Film Awards, the Lolas. The story of a scientist who grudgingly takes part in an experiment that pairs her with a robot programmed to make her happy won best film, director, screenplay for Schrader and Jan Schomburg, and actress for Maren Eggert, who also won a Silver Bear when the film premiered at the Berlinale.

This week’s highlights:

  • Over the past year, Isabelle Huppert has wrapped four features and begun work on theatrical productions in Paris of The Cherry Orchard and The Glass Menagerie. “For the next month,” writes Robbie Collin in the Sydney Morning Herald, “it will be Anton Chekhov in the afternoons and Tennessee Williams in the evenings, six days a week, with Mondays off.” Collin talks with Huppert about her work with Michael Cimino on Heaven’s Gate (1980), with Michael Haneke on The Piano Teacher (2001), and with Claude Chabrol on seven films. Huppert says she returned to Chabrol over and again “because he liked to show people as neither good nor bad, but just the way they are—and my way of acting, my way of being, fitted this kind of vision.” Art, says Huppert, is “not the place for moralizing—otherwise we would have no painting, no books, no nothing. It’s where we explore all the thoughts and acts we could never confess to in normal life.”

  • Through January 16, Spike Island in Bristol is presenting Vision Machines, an exhibition of work by filmmaker and video artist Peggy Ahwesh. “For decades,” writes Ed Halter in the new issue of Mousse, “her work has bedeviled avant-garde cinema’s tendency to valorize mechanical expertise and andro-auteurist mastery, embracing instead a trickster’s tenacious ever-inventiveness and a gleeful impiety. She is the artist as darting fox, not single-minded hedgehog.” New York’s Metrograph has posted a few pages from Ahwesh’s single-issue zine, The Films of Doris Wishman, which was first published in 1995 and republished in 2019 by Inpatient Press and Light Industry. Wishman, writes Ahwesh, is “a one-of-a-kind filmmaker with the idiosyncrasies of the experimental world, the business savvy of the commercial world, and the wit and imagination of some mysterious dream world.”

  • Marian Goodman Gallery in New York is showing several new works by Tacita Dean through October 23, and in the new Brooklyn Rail, Jonathan T. D. Neil talks with the artist about her deep investment in film. “Its magic is embedded in the material,” she says. Dean’s engagement with every step of the process is immediate and physical. A camera is, “by its very etymology, a ‘room,’” she notes. “And I always feel that, especially with the aperture gate masking films that I make, like Antigone or JG or Paradise, it’s all what happens inside that room, with the lights turned off, within darkness, in the camera. I always have a very strong sense of the architecture of the camera, that things go on in there.” She also still edits on a Steenbeck. “I need that materiality. I need that process and I need the labor also: the to-ing and fro-ing and the pace of it. It’s important.”

  • Bright Lights Film Journal is running Nicolas Ciccone’s extensive investigation into the demise of The Deep, an adaptation of Charles Williams’s 1963 novel Dead Calm that Orson Welles spent years trying—and failing—to complete. It could have been “a low-budget, commercially viable movie,” and Welles, Jeanne Moreau, and his other costars did shoot quite a bit of it off the coast of Croatia. But Bosna Film, the state-run film board of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the prolonged production of The Other Side of the Wind became insurmountable obstacles. “For all his flaws,” writes Ciccone, “Welles was not a man with a fear of completion, but rather one who would hold on to finishing his work to the absolute breaking point.” Ciccone also traces the path the rights to the book took once Welles knew it was all over. In 1989, five years after Welles’s death, Phillip Noyce directed an adaptation starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane.

  • In the fourth season of the horror anthology series Slasher, David Cronenberg plays a filthy rich patriarch who tells his children that he plans to kill himself and have them fight each other over his inheritance. The VFX department created an eerily realistic model of Cronenberg’s corpse, which the director then borrowed to make a one-minute film, The Death of David Cronenberg, in collaboration with his daughter, photographer Caitlin Cronenberg. Now Magazine editor Kevin Ritchie talks with Cronenberg about wrapping Crimes of the Future, his first feature since Maps to the Stars (2014), acting in Star Trek: Discovery, and, of course, death. “I think we die,” says Cronenberg. “That’s it. There is no more . . . The whole process throughout your life is to come to terms with your nonexistence. Not an easy thing.”

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