Did You See This?

Wild Gals and White Zombies

Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová in Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966)

There’s a lot of great reading to catch up with this week, but also too many losses to mourn. Two weeks ago, Anne Heche, whose offscreen life frequently threatened to overshadow her singular on-screen presence, suffered severe injuries in a pair of car crashes. A week later, she was pronounced brain-dead, and on Sunday, she was taken off life support. She was fifty-three.

Playing Catherine Keener’s best friend in Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking (1996), holding her own opposite Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro in Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog (1997), or insisting that Nicole Kidman get real in Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2004), Heche was “brilliantly unnerving and frequently very funny, her angular face a disarming mix of intelligence and wiliness that made her the perfect choice to play competent women in extreme situations,” writes Esther Zuckerman in the New York Times.

The Los Angeles Times’s Justin Chang found Heche “especially vivid opposite Johnny Depp in the mob drama Donnie Brasco, bringing an unusual emotional potency to the otherwise standard role of a long-suffering wife and mother. Heche could outclass her material without condescending to it; she could also jump-start an indifferently written scene by dint of her own wry wit and bristling energy.” Further appreciations of Heche’s unique talent have come this past week from Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture), Mayukh Sen (New Yorker), and Stephanie Zacharek (Time).

Last Friday, director Wolfgang Petersen, who broke through internationally with Das Boot (1981), passed away at the age of eighty-one. The global success of Das Boot, which was nominated for six Oscars, is all the more remarkable because it’s a World War II story—epic in scope and often almost unbearably suspenseful—told from the German point of view.

As the LAT’s Chang and Ed Stockly point out, when Hollywood came calling, Petersen proved that he “could conjure disasters both natural and man-made, whether he was scaring a pre-COVID world silly with the pandemic thriller Outbreak (1995), pitting a supremely presidential Harrison Ford against terrorists at 36,000 feet in Air Force One (1997), or tossing George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg into the path of a nearly 100-foot wave in The Perfect Storm (2000).” We also have to mention In the Line of Fire (1993), starring Clint Eastwood as a weary Secret Service agent and John Malkovich as a disgruntled CIA agent determined to assassinate the president.

In the Guardian, filmmaker and historian Kevin Brownlow pays tribute to Mamoun Hassan, the screenwriter, director, and producer who lent crucial support to promising British talent. As head of production at the British Film Institute and then managing director of the National Film Finance Corporation, Hassan was instrumental in seeing through such projects as Bill Douglas’s My Childhood trilogy (1972–1978), Horace Ové’s Pressure (1976), Terence Davies’s Children (1976), Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl (1980), Franco Rosso’s Babylon (1980), and Jimmy Murakami’s When the Wind Blows (1986), an animated adaptation of the graphic novel by the late Raymond Briggs.

Canyon Cinema remembers artist, filmmaker, and teacher Amy Halpern as “an essential and beloved figure of American experimental cinema.” In the 1970s, Halpern was a cofounder of the Collective for Living Cinema in New York and the Los Angeles Independent Film Oasis. The LAT’s Kevin Thomas called her 1992 feature Falling Lessons “a stunningly sensual, life-affirming experience.” As a cinematographer, gaffer, or electrician, Halpern worked with Julie Dash and Charles Burnett and appeared in films by Chick Strand and Pat O’Neill.

This week’s highlights:

  • A new 4K restoration of Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966) opens today at the IFC Center, and in the New York Times, J. Hoberman recommends it as “an anarchic conspiracy featuring an insolent pair of wild and crazy gals, determined to be as ‘spoiled’ as the world . . . The spectacle they make of themselves disrupting the corny floor show and harassing the uptight patrons at a Prague nightclub with their desultory, drunken antics, is as funny as anything in A Night at the Opera. Funnier, actually.”

  • On Monday, IndieWire launched a ’90s Week special feature with a ranked and annotated list of the best hundred films from that decade, setting off all the usual huzzahs and grumblings about what did and didn’t make the cut. But the week has since been packed with features and interviews. Revisit 1992 with Gregg Araki (The Living End), Bill Duke (Deep Cover), and Spike Lee (Malcolm X). There are also chats with Heather Matarazzo, who was fourteen when she appeared in Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), and Paul W. S. Anderson, whose Event Horizon (1997) flopped before it became a cult favorite. For more on that one, see Bilge Ebiri’s conversation with Anderson at Vulture.

  • In Lodge Kerrigan’s Keane (2004), Damian Lewis plays a mentally unstable loner frantically looking for his lost daughter. The film’s “raw hopelessness is its universality,” wrote Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice. “If Keane’s life is a hurricane of delusions and terrifying mistakes, it’s nothing we can’t easily imagine for ourselves.” Newly restored, Keane opens today in New York before heading to Los Angeles and Cambridge. At the Film Stage, Ethan Vestby asks Kerrigan about the inclusion of executive producer Steven Soderbergh’s re-edit on the first DVD release. “We thought it’d be interesting to other filmmakers and cinephiles to see how editing can really change the film and change the intent,” he says. And talking to Isaac Feldberg at RogerEbert.com, Kerrigan emphasizes: “At no point were we trying to make Keane look beautiful . . . Beauty is such a political term already, and I really reject that.”

  • From today through September 11, the Museum of the Moving Image will present White Zombies: Nightmares of Empire, a series exploring the origins of the genre. “The zombie is minstrelsy incarnate,” writes guest curator Kelli Weston. “In part, the zombie functions so well as a racialized bogeyman because usually they preserve little, if any claim, on human compassion. Unlike their dead, equally hybrid kin—the ghost, the vampire—the zombie’s particular transmutation severs them from personhood, characterized by their lifeless gaze. They are automatons and thus summarily vanquished, with or without remorse from our heroes.”

  • In the Notebook, Kat Sachs takes us on a tour of The Third Life of Agnès Varda, an exhibition accompanied by screenings and talks this summer in Berlin: “As Varda is often referred to as the godmother of the French New Wave—a somewhat reductive epithet that diminishes her contributions to its genesis—it’s nevertheless apropos that, like such a figure, her work invites viewers into its embrace, whether it’s being projected onto the big screen or even closer in proximity, as with displays of her photographs and installations. But when it’s the latter, physical experience, there’s a materiality involved that more fully realizes a key tenet of her work—to turn spectators into participants.”

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart