Did You See This?

Good Old New Waves

Marcello Mastroianni in Mario Monicelli’s The Organizer (1063)

Since yesterday’s overview of the first best-of-2021 lists, Sight & Sound has posted the results of its poll of 111 critics, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody has assessed the state of the art, the staff at IndieWire has drawn up a list of its top twenty-five films, and the National Board of Review has announced its awards. The Souvenir Part II tops the S&S poll, and Pamela Hutchinson talks with director Joanna Hogg and star Honor Swinton Byrne about what they may turn to next.

Wes Anderson’s “wildly comedic, yet fiercely serious” The French Dispatch is Brody’s #1. “The cinema has weathered crises of many sorts, economic and political,” he writes, “but if movies themselves hold any lesson a rebirth is as likely to resemble a zombie as a phoenix.” IndieWire’s pick for the best film of the year is Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. “From Sweetie and An Angel at My Table to Bright Star and Top of the Lake, nearly all of Campion’s work is pitched along the nebulous border that runs between desire and self-denial, genius and insanity,” writes David Ehrlich. And the NBR salutes Licorice Pizza as best film, Paul Thomas Anderson as best director, and Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman for their breakthrough performances.

Before turning to this week’s highlights, we need to take a moment to remember David Gulpilil, the “charismatic actor, mesmerizing dancer, and cultural icon,” as Lorena Allam describes him in the Guardian. A member of the Mandhalpuyngu clan in Arnhem Land in northern Australia, Gulpilil was sixteen when Nicolas Roeg cast him in his first role as an Indigenous guide in Walkabout (1971). “He seemed to be as true a person as the character demanded,” said Roeg. He appeared in Henri Safran’s Storm Boy (1976) and Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977) and won an acting award in Cannes for his performance in Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country (2014). He also met the Queen and “mingled with John Lennon and Muhammad Ali,” writes Allam. “He hung out with Bruce Lee [and] played yidaki (didjeridu) with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.” David Gulpilil died on Monday at the age of sixty-eight.

  • As J. Hoberman writes for the New York Review of Books, Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) can be succinctly described as “a slow, continuous forty-five-minute zoom across a largely empty loft into a photographic close-up of gentle waves pasted between the windows on the opposite wall . . . Some movies are not simply motion pictures but monuments in space and time: D. W. Griffith’s epoch-hopping Intolerance (1916) is one. So is Chantal Akerman’s domestic epic Jeanne Dielman (1975) . . . The most modest and, in many ways, the greatest of these monuments is Wavelength.” Snow’s films “are invariably anti-illusionist, reflexive, and often paradoxical investigations of cinema’s unique, irreducible properties.” As Forrest Cardamenis writes at Hyperallergic, the complete retrospective opening today at Anthology Film Archives in New York offers “a chance to rediscover what remains vital about structural film.”

  • Anthology is also currently presenting The World of Gordon Parks, a series of films by the renowned photographer, writer, and composer—and the first Black filmmaker to direct a major Hollywood feature. The Learning Tree (1969) is an adaptation of his semiautobiographical 1964 novel, and Parks’s second feature, Shaft (1971), “along with Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), birthed the blaxploitation genre,” as Blair McClendon writes at 4Columns. “But where their creators saw cocksure heroes countering the ‘Uncle Tom’ characters, as Parks put it, of American cinema, studios saw sex, violence, and a new market to exploit . . . A question runs throughout most of Parks’s films: What is the best way for Black people to live under and to fight against white supremacy?”

  • This summer, Milestone Films posted a brief and bemused piece from filmmaker Fronza Woods, “40 Years and 19,979,520 Feet from Stardom or, the Perils of Being (Re)Discovered.” Her short films Killing Time (1979) and Fannie’s Film (1982) were revived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017 and have been traveling the world ever since. Now they’re streaming for free at Another Screen, where Yasmina Price writes about these two “vivacious shorts. Slipping easily between registers, from flippant to sincere, exasperating to reassuring, Woods documents the daily rehearsals that make up the labor of living—even on one’s way to dying.”

  • As the UK-wide BFI season Japan 2021: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema turns to the New Wave of the 1960s, James Balmont revisits five films from the period that “remains one of the most radically artistic in the country’s filmmaking history.” Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (1964) “possesses all the hallmarks of a great horror film without ever truly veering into the trappings of the genre,” he writes for AnOther Magazine. Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (1966) is “uncompromisingly stylish” and Nagisa Oshima’s Death by Hanging (1968) “becomes a bleak and satirical exploration of racism, colonialism, and morality.” In the Guardian, Balmont introduces us to a new Japanese filmmaker, Junta Yamaguchi, whose first feature, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, “asks: in our world of remote working and Zoom calls, what if the face staring back at us from our computer was a version of ourself two minutes in the future?”

  • In the latest addition to Reverse Shot’s ongoing symposium on objects in movies, Imogen Sara Smith writes about a darning egg, one of the few possessions that Professor Giuseppe Sinigaglia (Marcello Mastroianni) carries in a small wicker basket in Mario Monicelli’s The Organizer (1963). The film is an “epic tragicomedy about the nascent labor movement in late nineteenth-century Turin,” writes Smith. “For all the film’s sweep—the seething crowds, the urgent political debates—what remains most indelibly are passing details.” Mastroianni “obviously relishes upending his suave, glamorous persona to play this shabby, scuttling figure in a dusty hat, with a scruffy beard and round, wire-frame spectacles . . . The ethos of mending and repairing, of making by hand and making do with scarcity, is more than foreign in our society, it is almost taboo. Hence, the Professor’s ratty long underwear, Swiss-cheese gloves, and darned socks register as a protest.”

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