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Quantum Entanglement in a Mabusean World

Cauleen Smith’s Drylongso (1998)

Mark Peranson hopes to be editing the hundredth issue of Cinema Scope in a couple of years, but he’s being admirably up front about the very real possibility that the magazine might not make it that long. The greatest argument for subscribing if you can is the generous and freely accessible sampling from the new ninety-third issue. Beatrice Loayza interviews Alice Diop (Saint Omer), Phil Coldiron assesses Pierre Clémenti’s films, Michael Sicinski reviews Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom: Exodus, and that’s just scratching the surface. There’s more online, and most importantly, even more in print.

Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay and IndieWire’s Anne Thompson are among the many remembering Noah Cowan, the former codirector of the Toronto International Film Festival, executive director of SFFILM, distributor, writer, and consultant who passed away on Wednesday. He was only fifty-five, and the cause was glioblastoma multiforme, an especially aggressive type of cancer. Cowan was “one of the great ambushing charmers of the film business,” a “festival director who walked among us at sidewalk level, all the better to have fun with everyone,” writes Guy Maddin, whose The Green Fog was commissioned by Cowan for SFFILM in 2017. “What a force of humanizing warmth he was in the often too sprawling, drafty, and chilly festival world.”

This week’s recommended weekend reading:

  • Seens new Dreams Issue features reviews, interviews, profiles, a roundtable on Afrofuturism, sketches toward a postcolonial video game, an appreciation of Missy Elliott’s music videos, and a reflection from Cauleen Smith on her 1998 film Drylongso. “Black film—whether it be documentary or fiction—has long been assigned the role of educating and elucidating liberal white audiences, and/or rectifying historical omissions or errors of representation,” writes Smith. “Films that refused this service were summarily ignored and dismissed as narrative structural failures . . . I’ve spent so much energy trying to figure out how to defend and protect this film that I hardly know how to speak of it any other way.”

  • A String of Pearls: The Films of Camille Billops & James Hatch, a program of six films made by partners in love and work, opens next Friday and runs through February 9 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “Racism, family trauma, shame, and taboos are the abiding themes in these movies—harrowing subjects often leavened by humor, whether that of the filmmakers or their subjects,” writes Melissa Anderson at 4Columns. “‘We’re border-crossers,’ Billops says, while cutting Hatch’s hair in a field of sunflowers, in The KKK Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks (1994). The declaration reflects not only the porous nature of their nonfiction moviemaking but also the strenuously guarded lines of propriety—regarding motherhood especially—they endeavored to explore.”

  • When Dennis Zhou spoke with Jia Zhangke for Metrograph Journal, China had just lifted its Covid restrictions and Jia, who wrote three screenplays during the pandemic and worked on a film incorporating footage shot twenty years ago, was preparing to oversee this year’s Pingyao International Film Festival. He tells Zhou that the genre tropes in films such as A Touch of Sin (2013) and Ash Is Purest White (2018) are “paying homage to traditional Chinese film cultures” but also “saying goodbye to them. Because such traditional genres can be said to be films from a ‘Newtonian physics era.’ That is, the internal relationship and narrative logic is very clear: which events lead to which others, which causes lead to which results. The stories have a mechanical logic to them. I think my films belong, instead, to what might be called the ‘quantum entanglement era’ of film. We can see the mutual influence between two things, but we can’t tell what kind of logical relationship they have. This is the kind of narrative I am currently fascinated by.”

  • “One would struggle to name a body of work in which age is more reliably noted and sweated over,” writes Leo Robson in a piece for the New Left Review on White Noise, and more broadly, Noah Baumbach. “His films tend to employ the same dramatic formula—a series of episodes built on frustration and confusion, culminating in a crushing low-point or cathartic showdown, and then a tentatively happy ending, with the worst-case scenario being a temporary farewell or lesson learned . . . After a period of adjustment, following the breakdown of one’s parents’ marriage or one’s own, a depressive episode, a professional setback, a falling out, there is every reason to live.”

  • Diving deep into David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (2018), Lawrence Garcia draws insight from the work of Chris Marker, Antonin Artaud, Michael Snow, and Stanley Cavell. Taken as a whole, Twin Peaks can be compared to Fritz Lang’s Mabuse films, suggests Garcia. Both projects feature “two installments made relatively close together, and a third iteration released over two decades later, with each new entry reframing each previous work, while also pushing into new avenues of exploration. This is not, however, to suggest any stylistic affinity between the two filmmakers; of great living directors, there are few less ‘Langian’ than Lynch. But the German director’s conceptions of modernity, in the Mabuse movies especially, later systematized into what critic Tom Gunning calls the ‘destiny machine’ (i.e. ‘a metonymy, a fragment which stands in for the whole systematic nature of the modern world’), are nigh-inescapable, their blueprints having been endlessly replicated in both cinematic form and the now-dominant systems of contemporary life. It’s a Mabusean world, and Lynch, like the rest of us, is just living in it.”

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