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Soulful and Defiant

Tom Kalin’s Swoon (1992)

Just hours after we wrapped the week last Friday, Le Monde reported that French director Jean-Jacques Beineix had passed away. He was seventy-five. “Cited as the ‘first French postmodern film’ by American theorist Fredric Jameson, Beineix’s 1981 feature debut, Diva, would prove to be one of the formative films of the cinéma du look, embodying the movement’s media-conscious, visually driven approach,” writes Chelsea Phillips-Carr in the essay for our 2019 release of Beineix’s third feature, Betty Blue (1986). In that film, the “saturation of the colors, the intensity of the lighting, the propulsiveness with which the characters are moved from one idiosyncratic setting or situation to another—all of these suit the narrative world Beineix is creating, a place that accommodates the implausible and even the fantastic.”

On Monday, Claire Denis shared the news on Instagram that Michel Subor had died at the age of eighty-six. In Beau travail (1999), Denis cast Subor as Commandant Bruno Forestier, giving him the name of the would-be assassin he played in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le petit soldat (1963). Nicholas Elliott notes that Subor lent that early role “a heedless gruffness that makes Jean-Paul Belmondo’s seductive performance in Breathless look like pandering to the audience.” In Denis’s The Intruder (2004), Subor played an ex-mercenary with a defective heart. “Denis has said that she likes to cast Subor not as an actor but, rather, as a person,” writes José Teodoro for New York’s Metrograph. “His subsequent, overtly sinister appearances in White Material [2009] and Bastards (2013) indeed feel talismanic, intrusions that signal the presence of some restless, nearly revenant-like apparition-figure that might turn up anywhere.”

This week just wouldn’t let up. Yvette Mimieux, who appeared with Rod Taylor in George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), died at eighty on Monday night. Then on Wednesday, Gaspard Ulliel, who played one of the foremost designers in fashion in Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent (2014) and worked with André Téchiné, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Xavier Dolan, died far too young following a skiing accident. He was only thirty-seven. And Hardy Krüger, who appeared in Howard Hawks’s Hatari! (1962), Robert Aldrich’s The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975), passed away at the age of ninety-three. Critic Herbert Spaich tells Stephen Kinzer in the New York Times that in the years following the Second World War, Krüger “helped Germany create a new image for itself in the world.”

Looking ahead, the Berlinale lineup is set, Locarno has announced a major Douglas Sirk retrospective, and Sundance has opened. It’s a virtual edition this year, so you won’t have to fly to Park City to attend. There are more than eighty features to choose from, and if you’re looking for guidance, contributors to the A.V. Club,Filmmaker, the Film Stage, the Guardian,Hammer to Nail, IndieWire (features and shorts), the Playlist,RogerEbert.com,ScreenAnarchy,Vanity Fair, and Vulture have written up lists of the films that they’re most looking forward to seeing.

  • With the Criterion Channel program Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded, we’re celebrating a watershed year for both the festival and American independent cinema. At the Reveal, Keith Phipps and Scott Tobias discuss three of the twenty-five films, Tom Kalin’s Swoon, Christopher Munch’s The Hours and Times, and Gregg Araki’s The Living End. In the New York Times, Erik Piepenburg looks back thirty years to the “Barbed-Wire Kisses” panel moderated by B. Ruby Rich, who coined the term New Queer Cinema that year and went on to become the editor of Film Quarterly. “What happened that day was a flash point in the genesis of New Queer Cinema,” writes Piepenburg, “a call to arms of angry and unapologetic independent films that were made during the ’90s by, and arguably for, a community in crisis.”

  • Alana Haim is on the cover of the new Cinema Scope, and inside, Adam Nayman talks with Paul Thomas Anderson about Licorice Pizza, growing up in the 1970s, and the parallels between directing and parenting. Also online are features on Paul Verhoeven, Joanna Hogg, Jane Campion—and Vadim Kostrov, whom Christopher Small describes as “a young Russian filmmaker with an entire body of work waiting in deep freeze.” Chuck Stephens files his final Exploded View column in this issue, writing about Ken Jacobs’s Blonde Cobra (1963), “the greatest nunsploitation film of the American avant-garde.”

  • The Austin Film Society, the Visual Arts Center, and Bass Concert Hall are staging a spectacular Bill Morrison retrospective, and for the Austin Chronicle, Joe Gross talks with the artist and filmmaker best known for his 2002 collage of decomposed footage, Decasia. “Encounters with the work of experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate, and the thunderous a-ha! moment that was Chris Marker’s La Jetée turned him toward using aging footage as it was, neither pristine nor artificially distressed,” writes Gross. “‘These messy frames can speak to the materiality of film,’ he explained. The films he’s working with may have been shot decades ago but they are modern because ‘they took exactly this long for them to look this way.’”

  • However seriously recent threats to the long-term survival of the BBC are to be taken, now is an excellent time to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Ways of Seeing, a four-episode miniseries on art, media, and advertising written and presented by John Berger and directed by Mike Dibb. “From the very first scene, in which Berger takes a knife to a Botticelli, it was clear that Ways of Seeing was an assault on thoughtless reverence,” writes Olivia Laing for the Guardian. “One of the reasons the series is so lastingly influential is that Berger empowers the viewer, transforming them from passive consumer of high culture to detective, stalking venerated artifacts in search of the master key to patriarchal capitalism.”

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