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They’ve Got the Look—and the Beat

Arie and Chuko Esiri’s Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) (2020)

Since Wednesday’s flurry of news from Cannes, all we need to mention before turning to this week’s highlights is that the festival has filled out two more juries. Rossy de Palma, best known for her work in films by Pedro Almodóvar, will preside over the jury that awards the Camera d’Or, the prize for the best first feature, and Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah will head up the jury that presents a Palme d’Or to the best short film. Cannes’s seventy-fifth edition will run from May 17 through 28.

  • In Arie and Chuko Esiri’s Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) (2020), two remotely connected strangers in Lagos, Nigeria—an electrician and a hairdresser—are each working to scrape together enough money to start new lives in Europe. Introducing his interview with the directors—they’re twin brothers—at Hammer to Nail, Nelson Kim calls Eyimofe “an intimate epic: it burrows deep within its characters’ inner lives, while attaining the sprawl and reach of a nineteenth-century social novel.” Kim asks about the striking look of the film, which was shot on 16 mm, and Arie points to their “reference films,” Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1985) and Satyajit Ray’s The Big City (1963). As for the overall emotional tone, Chuko says that a certain “balance of pessimism and optimism is a typically Nigerian thing. There’s a very famous saying here, that no condition is permanent. In general, we always believe in a better tomorrow. And it filters into us as people and as filmmakers. There’s a huge amount of dysfunction and so much that is wrong. But the people—I always say, love Nigerians, hate Nigeria.”

  • Writing about sound in the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul for Sabzian, musician, author, and former professor of audio culture David Toop begins with the “mysterious, violently loud bang that may be ‘in here’ or ‘out there’” heard by Tilda Swinton’s Jessica in Memoria (2021). Toop eventually turns to Syndromes and a Century (2006), which ends with an exuberant outdoor aerobics session in Bangkok set to “Fez,” an “example of the Japanese cut-and-paste 1990s microgenre known as Shibuya-kei, inspired by clever 1960s pop and indeed mutating every eight bars from intimations of jazz fusion to computer games to rock guitar to Tokyo city pop to cheerfully inane happy hardcore. In life there is constant flux, it seems to say. Sound can lead us to bliss and transmutation whether low or high, humble or exalted, ‘in here’ or ‘out there.’ Exercising together in light, heart rate raised by the tempo of music, community comes into being. Asked about his use of sound, Apichatpong has this to say: ‘I want it to resonate in the heart.’”

  • Both You Must Remember This host Karina Longworth and the New York Times’s Wesley Morris cite Chuck Klosterman’s assertion in his new book The Nineties that the 1980s began with the opening title sequence of American Gigolo (1980). Paul Schrader’s film is “a bridge to the ’80s from the previous decade,” writes Morris. “Diva is the 1980s by Immaculate Conception.” The first feature from the late Jean-Jacques Beineix launched a brief but influential wavelet, the cinéma du look. As Melissa Anderson points out in 4Columns, the term “was applied retrospectively in 1989 by French film critic Raphaël Bassan, who singled out Beineix—and his younger confrères in the movement, Leos Carax (Bad Blood, 1986) and Luc Besson (Subway, 1985)—for his gossamer artifice, jagged romanticism, and striking color palette. Bassan deployed his franglais term as an insult. But the look of cinéma du look proved auguring and enduring: MTV, that seedbed of pop postmodernism, launched five months after Diva premiered, and filmmakers around the globe in the decades that followed, not least Michael Mann and Wong Kar Wai, developed their own look-isme.” New York’s Film Forum is screening Diva on 35 mm from today through May 5.

  • Simon Reynolds, the author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84, has put together a list of twenty of the best punk movies for Pitchfork. Punk biopics don’t work, he argues, because these artists’ “magnetic allure” cannot be emulated. “But arguably the best punk movies are stories that tap into the spirit of the time through imagined characters and invented situations.” Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens, for example, or Sogo Ishii’s Burst City—both from 1982. Then there are the documentaries, such as Julien Temple’s The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980), which “might just be the best punk film of all—simply because it’s the truest. Not ‘true’ as in historically accurate but in the sense of being the most offensive.” One candidate for a future list might be Roland Klick’s White Star (1984), if for nothing other than Dennis Hopper’s turn as a singer’s manager who sparks a riot in an underground club in Berlin. “Hopper would never give such a visceral performance as this again,” writes S. Naish at Aquarium Drunkard.

  • While we anxiously await the arrival of Claire Denis’s Fire in theaters this summer and the premiere of her Stars at Noon in Cannes, the Beacon in Seattle will screen Beau travail (1999) on Sunday. For more than twenty years, the Stranger has been carrying on a “love affair” with the film starring Denis Lavant as a French Foreign Legion sergeant obsessed with a young recruit. Charles Mudede introduces a string of excerpts from the praises sung to Denis’s loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor since the first of many reviews ran in 2000: “Denis’s materiality, whose medium is sensuality, finds its most successful expression in this film, which blooms into a kind of United Nations of young male bodies: Arab, African, European. Also, the Legion’s military exercises are not violent but shamelessly erotic. There is the sun, the sea, and the material Denis loves most, the skin.”

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