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Conflicting Outlooks

Catherine Deneuve on the set of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

This past week has been spent laying the groundwork for the next couple of months. Following lineup rollouts from Critics’ Week,Directors’ Fortnight, and ACID (the Association for the Distribution of Independent Film), Cannes announced that Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi will preside over the short film and La Cinef juries and that the world premiere of Elemental, the animated feature from Disney and Pixar directed by Peter Sohn, will close its seventy-sixth edition on May 27.

The third edition of Prismatic Ground, the experimental documentary festival committed to presenting “politically and aesthetically abrasive new forms” at various venues across New York City, will open on May 3 with Hello Dankness. As the Guardian’s Luke Buckmaster writes, this latest feature from Soda Jerk (siblings Dan and Dominique Angeloro) “uses remixing and reappropriation to jokily ponder the end of consensus reality—the idea that dramatic events of recent years have not just changed the course of human history but destroyed general agreement about what is real and what is not.”

Through May 7, Prismatic Ground will present recent work from Tsai Ming-liang, Kimi Takeuse, João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata, John Gianvito, Jodie Mack, and Adam Piron as well as the New York premiere of Sofia Bohdanowicz, Burak Çevik, and Blake Williams’s A Woman Escapes and tribute screenings honoring Michael Snow, Takahiko Iimura, and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa. You can watch a selection of films from the festival’s first two editions on the Criterion Channel.

As Samantha Bergeson notes at IndieWire, Tribeca Festival’s 2023 edition will be “all about the actor-director.” From June 7 through 18, Tribeca will screen new features from Chelsea Peretti, Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, John Slattery, Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater, David Duchovny, Randall Park, and Jennifer Esposito. There will also be a new series from Steven Soderbergh, Full Circle, starring Dennis Quaid, Claire Danes, and Zazie Beetz, plus live performances from Alicia Keys, Sara Bareilles, and Gloria Gaynor, a Q&A with Dan Rather, and local premieres of some of the year’s highlights so far, including Christian Petzold’s Afire.

On to a few of the best reads to appear in the past seven days:

  • Cannes also unveiled its 2023 poster this week, and it features a glorious 1968 shot of Catherine Deneuve—who, as it happens, is the subject of Colleen Kelsey’s piece in Metrograph Journal, the first entry in a new column, Wardrobe Department: “After cementing major fame as the singing Technicolor heroine of [Jacques] Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Deneuve embarked on a body of work that would soon encompass a sublime assortment of disconcerting oddities, using her unnerving beauty as stealth cover to animate sexual fantasists, shameless grifters, coddled princesses, bourgeois masochists, and the psychotic and homicidal all as fascinating psychological specimens. The control Deneuve wields squares them at a singular register: cool, contained, and flagrantly subversive.”

  • Marking its thirtieth anniversary, the Black Film Bulletin has republished founding editor June Givanni’s conversation with Kwesi Owusu, codirector of the consortium that opened the first Black-owned cinema in Britain, and artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah’s 1993 reflections on the challenges then facing Black British cinema. Akomfrah’s Purple (2017), his largest video installation yet, is on view at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., through January 7. “Playing out over six gargantuan screens, it combines both archival materials and original documentary footage as part of a broad survey of the effects that climate change is having on the environment,” writes Dan Schindel, introducing his interview with Akomfrah at Hyperallergic. “I’m more optimistic now, actually,” says Akomfrah. “I have no logical reason for it, but I think something about the nature of making art induces a sort of optimism.”

  • György Fehér’s Twilight (1990), a noirish adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1958 crime novella, opens at Film at Lincoln Center today before heading to Montreal,Philadelphia, and beyond. At the Film Stage, Z. W. Lewis notes that when Béla Tarr, a consultant on the film, “speaks of Hungarian master director Miklós Jancsó in interviews, he describes his ’60s and ’70s films as a rallying point for a country that had lost its identity and a cinema culture that defaulted to safe Soviet-realism productions.” With Damnation (1988), “Tarr himself had now become that rallying point for the Berlin Wall generation, and suddenly every talented Hungarian director was shooting in black-and-white with long mobile shots. These directors (including Fehér) were not stealing from Tarr, just as Tarr was not stealing from Jancsó. Instead, by using this style, directors could continue the conversation—about feeling lost, hopeless, always walking to no destination—in a cinematic language they intuitively understood.”

  • Photographer, artist, and activist Nan Goldin was a teenage cinephile, notes Rachel Pronger in the Notebook. Goldin’s most famous work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a series of nearly 700 photographs, was originally presented in the mid-1980s as a slideshow with “a soundtrack of songs by Maria Callas, Nina Simone, and the Velvet Underground. The combination of music and churning photographs, plus that pungent title, taken from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, combined to create more than just a mood or a sense of style; the show built an entire atmospheric world populated by recurring characters and narrative arcs . . . That some of these early events were presented by the Collective for Living Cinema, an artist co-op who advocated for filmmakers such as Ken Burns, Yvonne Rainer, and Dziga Vertov, demonstrate how seriously The Ballad was already being read as a work of experimental cinema.”

  • Matt Alt’s appreciation in the New Yorker of the late Leiji Matsumoto (Space Battleship Yamato) serves as a fine primer on the evolution of Japanese manga and anime from the mid-1950s to the present. It is odd, though, that neither Studio Ghibli nor its founding directors, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, are even mentioned. As Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988) turns thirty-five, Adam Nayman, writing for the Ringer, notes that the film’s “namesake, a gray, rotund forest spirit that slowly sidles up to the school-aged Kusakabe sisters,” is “a perfect avatar for Miyazaki, an artist whose own prickliness belies his deep, abiding connection to primal sources of magic and enchantment.”

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