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Designs for Living

Ernst Lubitsch

After the New York Film Festival unveiled its Main Slate on Tuesday, Toronto rolled out the lineup for its Primetime program and announced that its forty-seventh edition will wrap with a gala screening of Mary Harron’s Dalíland. Set in New York and Spain in 1973, the film stars Ben Kingsley as the aging artist Salvador Dalí and Barbara Sukowa as his wife, Gala. One of Toronto’s Special Presentations, Sam Mendes’s Empire of Light, starring Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward, will see its European premiere in London on October 12. “Empire of Light is a very personal movie for me,” says Mendes, “and I can’t wait to show it in my home town.”

This week’s highlights:

  • “Technically virtuosic and visually poetic,” Ernst Lubitsch “elevated comedy to the realm of the sublime,” writes the New Yorker’s Alex Ross, who has been seeking out rare prints and delving into the archives. “His entire career is a singular event: arguably, no director maintained so distinctive an identity within the Hollywood studio system.” During the course of his research, Ross “found Lubitsch to be the rare case of a major artist who becomes more likable the more one learns about him. He had nothing dark or demonic in him, even if there were chambers of sadness behind his suggestively closed doors.”

  • Last week we were anticipating the inaugural issue of Outskirts, which includes an eighty-two-page dossier on Soviet filmmaker Boris Barnet. It’s out now, and the Notebook is running Boris Nelepo’s contribution, a deep dive into Barnet’s final film. Whistle Stop (1963) is “not only a valediction but an attempt to capture its maker’s already thinning connection to a certain lived reality,” writes Nelepo. “Barnet’s film proves cinema’s ability to be something larger than a faltering storyline—that is, an object that reveals the medium’s transcendental foundations through its narrative gaps and oddities, features without which cinema wouldn’t even be an art form at all.”

  • Irina Aleksander’s new piece in the New York Times Magazine is both an engaging profile of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who brought Tchaikovsky’s Wife to Cannes in May, and a must-read for anyone demanding a blanket boycott of all Russian culture. “You can cancel a concert,” says Serebrennikov, likely referring to the recently scrapped performances of Tchaikovsky’s music in Wales, Ireland, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Japan. But Tchaikovsky is “definitely not bombing Ukrainian cities. And neither am I.” Filmmaker Anastasia Palchikova puts it this way: “When the Western world bans Russian people, they are kind of doing the work for the Russian government.”

  • Eric Hynes’s Make It Real column has returned to Reverse Shot, and it’s a rousing state-of-the-doc address prompted by a tour in May that took him first to the Millennium Docs Against Gravity festival in Warsaw and then to Cannes. There are notes here on Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán’s My Imaginary Country, “his most vital work since Nostalgia for the Light (2010),” and on Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, “a deep and indefatigable humanist, unwilling to forsake human expression or freedom for the sake of political orthodoxy. It’s not earning him many fans at this fraught moment, but there’s rigor and integrity in the endeavor nonetheless.” Hynes wraps with a call on Cannes, with all its “size and power,” to program more nonfiction work. “Narrative films dominate the spotlight regardless of whether they’re gold, silver, bronze, tin, or porcelain grade. Recognizing, curating, and showcasing documentary films as films is really all it takes.”

  • Tina Charad is a graphic designer known for her work on The Batman and several Disney projects, but It’s Nice That writer Joey Levenson wants to talk to her about Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. She tells him about securing licenses for fonts and designing the ’60s-era storefronts that Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt breeze by, and the piece is spectacularly illustrated with samples of her work. If you go in for this sort of thing, take a look around the sites set up by a couple of designers who have worked with Wes Anderson, Annie Atkins (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Erica Dorn (The French Dispatch).

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