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Twists of Fate

Bogusław Linda in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Blind Chance (1981)

The film industry is shaken and angered by a horrible accident on the set of Joel Souza’s Rust that cost the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Details are still coming in, but a scene being shot in Santa Fe yesterday called for Alec Baldwin to fire a prop gun. Souza was injured and has since been discharged from the hospital. Hutchins died en route. She was only forty-two.

Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with Hutchins on last year’s Archenemy, tweeted that he was “so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.” Cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Mudbound, Black Panther) said she was “gutted and just so mad right now. No shot, no scene, and no movie is worth the loss of life.” American Cinematographer sent out a link to an article it ran in 2019. Dave Brown, a professional firearms instructor, wrote about the paramount importance of taking every possible precaution, and added, “I would never ask an actor or crew member to stand anywhere I am not willing to stand myself.”

This week’s highlights:

  • Michał Oleszczyk, who teaches at the University of Warsaw, has written and delivered video introductions to forty-three films by Krzysztof Kieślowski. They each run around three minutes, give or take, and stacked up as they are on a white page at RogerEbert.com, the prospect of spending a few hours taking them all in at once may seem rather dry. But they’re outstanding. For starters, you may find yourself drawn to the “hits”—The Decalogue, the Three Colors trilogy, The Double Life of Véronique—but Oleszczyk’s commentary on The Office (1966), the very first film Kieślowski shot while still in school, or Camera Buff (1979), Kieślowski’s first international breakthrough, is equally engaging and informative. The centerpiece here is Blind Chance, shot in 1981 but not released until 1987—and “to my mind,” says Oleszczyk, “his greatest masterpiece.”

  • In 1990, Chameleon Street, the first—and so far, only—feature completed by Wendell B. Harris Jr., won the grand jury prize at Sundance. Harris plays William Douglas Street, Jr., a real-life Black con artist who posed as a journalist for Time, a human rights lawyer, and a surgeon who actually managed to pull off thirty-six hysterectomies. “Street displays the particular self-awareness of a Black man performing in (or for) a white world,” writes J. Hoberman in the New York Times. “More than a landmark indie, Chameleon Street contributes a character to American literature.” Harris talks with Mitchell Beaupre at the Film Stage, Film Comment editors Clinton Krute and Devika Girish, and IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson about the 4K restoration opening today, Street’s verdict on the film, his own run-in with Spike Lee, and struggling for thirty years to get a second feature off the ground.

  • On Tuesday, Netflix announced that 142 million households had watched Squid Game, making Hwang Dong-hyuk’s show about 456 contestants competing in a mysterious death match the streamer’s most-watched series ever—in just four weeks. “Squid Game is not a subtle show, either in its politics or plot,” writes E. Tammy Kim in the Nation. “Capitalism is bloody and mean and relentless.” In the New Yorker, Ed Park draws parallels between the show and films by Bong Joon Ho, Park Chan-wook, and the late Kim Ki-duk. Park notes that South Korea “takes pride in its shiny cultural exports—both the smoothly produced K-dramas and the country’s chart-topping K-pop acts, such as BTS and Blackpink—but Hwang seems to be drawing from a grimier and, in some ways, more vital tradition. Netflix’s warning strip at the start of each episode reads ‘Language, violence, sex, nudity, suicide, smoking’—practically the DNA for the New Korean Cinema.”

  • The new issue of photogénie is devoted to Greek cinema. Start with Alonso Aguilar’s piece on two filmmakers working during the relatively stable period between the end of the German occupation in 1944 and the takeover by the military junta in 1967. Nikos Koundouros and Michael Cacoyannis “play with the stylistic tropes of 1950s genre cinema while simultaneously grounding their works within the specific framework of Greek cultural tradition and folklore,” writes Aguilar. Maximilien Luc Proctor explores how Theo Angelopoulos “highlights the extent to which the ‘reality’ of space and time relies upon our own perception.” Cypriot director Yannis Economides delves into “the daily lives of countless neurotically loquacious miscreants who spend most of their time trying to better their own dreary situation at the cost of someone else’s,” writes Stefan Goncharov. And Savina Petkova argues that suspicion is “an instance of self-inflicted oppression” in Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg (2010) and Chevalier (2015).

  • Let’s wrap with a couple of ranked lists. The BBC has polled 206 critics, journalists, academics, and industry figures to come up with a list of the top one hundred television shows of the twenty-first century. David Simon and Ed Burns’s The Wire is the clear favorite, and Eric Deggans looks into why. He recalls a 2018 conversation with Simon, who told him, “I used to say all the time: ‘Look, there are, let’s say, 479 dramas about one America. For a brief, five-season period, we did a drama about the other America that got left behind.’” Buster Keaton, in the meantime, is all up and down Paste’s annotated list of the seventy-five best films from the 1920s. He’s topped it, too, with Sherlock Jr. (1924). “In the ninety-one years since Keaton made his love letter to cinema,” writes the team at Paste, “no one has crafted a better examination of the relationship between the audience and the silver screen.”

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