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Death and Politics

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day (1972)

The thirty-seventh edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cineteca Bologna’s annual celebration of cinema’s deep and rich history, opens tomorrow at the end of an alarming week for cinephiles. On Tuesday, Turner Classic Movies “jettisoned its five most senior executives,” as Brook Barnes puts it in the New York Times. TCM devotees immediately took aim at Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and president David Zaslav, and Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Paul Thomas Anderson met with Zaslav on Wednesday to express their concerns. Declaring in a joint statement that they were “heartened and encouraged” by their conversations with Zaslav, the directors added that “it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him.” Let’s hope so.

Il Cinema Ritrovato, in the meantime, will screen around 470 films, spotlighting Italian dynamo Anna Magnani, Hollywood director Rouben Mamoulian, screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico, the pre–Emeric Pressburger career of Michael Powell, Japanese filmmaker Teinosuke Kinugasa, German cinematographer Elfi Mikesch, and much more through July 2. There’s “some magic to Bologna,” festival codirector Ehsan Khoshbakht tells Manuela Lazic at Cineuropa. The audience is “absolutely international. You see a film, but you also see it through the eyes of people from a varied range of backgrounds.”

This week’s highlights:

  • Working with renowned critic and guest curator J. Hoberman, the New Republic has put together a ranked list of the top one hundred “most significant” political films of all time. “Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) won . . . by a lot,” writes Hoberman. “What did we learn?” For one thing, when the majority of the seventy-nine critics, programmers, and academics sending in ballots live in North America, most of the films on the list will be American. “Nevertheless,” writes Hoberman, “the overwhelming primacy of an anti-colonialist Italian-Algerian co-production in which no English was spoken, and which was written, directed, and scored by Italians (two of them associated with spaghetti westerns), is a victory for cosmopolitanism.”

  • For many, the absence of any mention of Pier Paolo Pasolini on that list will be a grievous oversight. The “seeming ideological blurriness” of the Christian Marxist poet, essayist, and filmmaker “is impishly relished—and willingly misconstrued—by wannabe-transgressive types today,” warns Conor Williams in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Pasolini “perpetually rebelled against moral hegemony, commiserating with outcasts and creating and dying as one,” writes Slant’s Ed Gonzalez. “Today, his canon has been co-opted by forces on the right and left, the faithful and the secular. Which is to say, he belongs to us all.”

  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, the 1972 miniseries centering on a working-class family in Cologne, does make the New Republic’s list, coming in at #78. Fassbinder’s films “weren’t about the way a society becomes fascist,” writes Owen Hatherley in the London Review of Books, “but about a recently fascist society’s use of clothes, cars and interiors, affluence and wealth, sex and power, as means to avoid thinking about its emergence out of smoking ruins—not to mention its own acquiescence (or worse) in genocide. Fassbinder’s fury at the German middle classes wasn’t just the usual disdain for comfort and hypocrisy; it was a molten hot fury that a people responsible for such horrors could be quite so smug.”

  • Starting today, the Brooklyn Academy of Music presents a weeklong run of Neige (1981), codirected by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger. “Filmed primarily in the Pigalle and Barbès neighborhoods of Paris,” writes Melissa Anderson at 4Columns, “this neo-noirish tale provides a glimpse of the capital rarely seen, emphasizing the many marginalized residents of the area: Creole- and Arabic-speaking immigrants, sex workers (many of them trans women), drug sellers and buyers. Superbly photographed by William Lubtchansky (the cinematographer for multiple Rivette films over three decades), Neige, capturing dynamic street life, doubles as urban verité, a funky city symphony.”

  • Metrograph Journal editor-at-large Nick Pinkerton writes about one “key distinguishing characteristic of the films of the Final Destination franchise, the very finest American horror series to have appeared in the twenty-first century: these are movies without an onscreen villain that the dramatis personae/prey can fight back against.” The antagonist here is “that phantom endboss who comes for us all, none other than Death himself.” And the Death of this series turns out to be “a bit of a showboat,” and “in fact is actually enjoying himself.”

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