Did You See This?

Hello to Language

Jean-Luc Godard and producer Menahem Golan meet the press after the premiere of King Lear (1987) in Cannes

Composer Angelo Badalamenti, who died on Sunday at the age of eighty-five, wrote and arranged for such renowned singers as Nina Simone and David Bowie and worked with directors Paul Schrader (The Comfort of Strangers), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Children), and Jane Campion (Holy Smoke). First and foremost, though, he will be remembered for his collaborations with David Lynch.

Badalamenti was brought in on Blue Velvet (1986) as a music supervisor and singing coach for Isabella Rossellini and wound up writing “Mysteries of Love” for the late Julee Cruise to perform. “Despite Lynch’s increasingly daring and (for mainstream audiences) alienating embrace of abstraction and ambiguity,” writes Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture, “you could always hear the unchanging heart of Lynch’s vision beating in Badalamenti’s music: an audible surge of raw sincerity.”

In the New York Times, James Poniewozik points out that before Twin Peaks went on the air in 1990, theme songs for TV shows were meant to whip up “a sense of excitement and adventure” or sketch out a back story. But Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks theme “is not a synopsis. It is not a fanfare. It is a passageway, a portal. It is slow, spare, and meditative, even by the relatively languid TV pacing of three decades ago. It tells you to reset your pulse, abandon your expectations, and step for an hour into a dark wood where the owls are not what they seem.”

In brighter news, the winter festival season is taking shape. Sundance (January 19 through 29) has added lineups for its Indie Episodic and Short Film programs, and the Berlinale (February 16 through 26) has rolled out a first round of titles for its Panorama and Generation sections. New York’s Museum of the Moving Image will present the lineup for First Look, its annual showcase for new international cinema, in February. In the meantime, MoMI has announced that it’s now taking applications for the Reverse Shot Emerging Critics Workshop set to take place during the festival’s twelfth edition (March 15 through 19).

Lucrecia Martel will be the guest of honor during the fifty-fourth Visions du Réel (April 21 through 30). In the picturesque Swiss town of Nyon, the festival will present a complete retrospective as well as an Honorary Award to Martel, who will discuss her work during a master class. One more programming note: On Sunday, Wang Bing will deliver the State of Cinema 2022 address in Brussels, and Sabzian will post the text on Monday.

A few highlights from the past seven days:

  • In this week’s New Yorker, Molly Ringwald looks back on being asked to take on the role of Cordelia in Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear (1987). Naturally, she asked Godard why he wanted to cast her. “He smiled as if he had anticipated the question,” she writes. “He replied that, as a young movie star, I was the closest thing America had to a princess.” Ultimately, the project was “just strange enough to spark my curiosity.” During the shoot, while she dined and strolled through Nyon with Burgess Meredith and Julie Delpy, Godard kept pretty much to himself. “I think he was actually a bit shy, trapped in his mind,” writes Ringwald. “Perhaps the only way he could make sense of anything was to film and edit it.” The Observer is running a remembrance of JLG from cinematographer Caroline Champetier, who has worked not only with Godard but also with Jacques Rivette, Straub-Huillet, Xavier Beauvois, and Leos Carax. Champetier once told Godard that she thought “he was a manual worker rather than an intellectual. He smiled. I think he liked that.”

  • Brooklyn Rail film editors Edward Mendez and Laura Valenza have called on contributors to put together a list of “the greatest films you’ll never see”—which they freely admit is not 100% accurate. Allan Moyle’s Times Square (1980) “achieves a balance between the aesthetics of Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) with Riot Grrrl politics and a scrappy rebelliousness reminiscent of Born in Flames (1983),” writes Payton McCarty-Simas—and it’s available from Kino Lorber. But as Nolan Kelly explains, chances of catching Bill Gunn’s Stop! (1970) are slim. Also in the new issue: Rachel Elizabeth Jones on Ross Lipman’s The Case of the Vanishing Gods (2021), a “dizzying entanglement of popular entertainment, psychological splits, and spirituality”; Nicole White on David Lynch: Big Bongo Night, the exhibition closing tomorrow at Pace Gallery; Peter Halley on Wolfgang Tillmans’s 1996 photograph John Waters Sitting; and Harrison Blackman on Karen Han’s new book, Bong Joon Ho: Dissident Cinema.

  • Godfrey Cheshire has a new book out now, too, In the Time of Kiarostami: Writings on Iranian Cinema. For RogerEbert.com, he not only reviews Mitra Farahani’s See You Friday, Robinson—a record of a 2014 exchange between Iranian literary and cinematic giant Ebrahim Golestan and Jean-Luc Godard that is “as inspired as it is unusual”—but also writes about pulling up to Golestan’s “enormous, ornate mansion” in London in the late 1990s to interview the writer, translator, director, and former lover of poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad (The House Is Black). “Because people had described the reclusive auteur with words like irascible, fearsome, and unapproachable,” Cheshire was nervous, but Golestan “welcomed me warmly. Over the next two hours, I discovered he was full of feisty, sometimes scathing opinions on various subjects and proud of his work.”

  • You’ve got to love an interview in which the interviewer, right up front, owns up to having his vocabulary widened by the interviewee “by three words (abreacting, recrudesce, and armamentarium).” The Guardian’s Alex Needham talks with Tony Kushner about working with Steven Spielberg on the screenplay for The Fabelmans, the parallels between his own life and the famed director’s, psychotherapy in the 1950s and now—Kushner is “working right now on a miniseries project about bipolar disorder”—and the danger of making art. “You’re accessing powers that are greater than yourself and that you don’t have complete control over,” says Kushner. “Film is an art and art is a power that, like water, seeks a level and the level is truth. It’s just going to lead you towards truth no matter how incommodious or uncomfortable or inconvenient truth may be.”

  • A different set of power dynamics comes up in the conversation Alison Willmore has with Park Chan-wook for Vulture. Willmore notes that in The Handmaiden (2016), “whether a character spoke Korean or Japanese said a lot about their situation.” Park adds that language barriers also play crucial roles in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), in which a mother relies on a dictionary in order to communicate with her daughter, and in Joint Security Area (2000), with its tell-tale differences between North and South Korean. In this year’s Decision to Leave, when Chinese immigrant Seo-rae (Tang Wei) speaks Korean and gets worked up, “she hits a block,” as Park puts it, and turns to her translation app. Both Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) and the audience must wait to hear what she has to say. “Some may say this is a bad thing,” says Park. “But I’m the kind of person who would say this is a good thing.”

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