Did You See This?

Melville, Mogambo, and Mattel

Jean Eustache

This week has brought lineup announcements from Locarno,Edinburgh, and San Sebastián, but first: Venice will open on August 30 with the world premiere of Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers. Screening out of competition, Challengers stars Zendaya as a tennis star turned coach who sets up a match between her husband (Mike Faist) and her former boyfriend (Josh O’Connor). Venice’s eightieth edition, opening on the same day as Telluride, will wrap on September 9—two days after Toronto opens.

Lav Diaz’s Essential Truths of the Lake, Radu Jude’s Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World, Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge 3, and Quentin Dupieux’s Yannick are among the seventeen features that will compete for the Golden Leopard in Locarno. As part of the Piazza Grande program, Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel’s The Falling Star—“Think Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati and Aki Kaurismäki,” suggests Locarno artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro—will open the festival’s seventy-sixth edition on August 2, and Noora Niasari’s Shayda, starring Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Holy Spider), will close things out on August 12.

Last October, it looked as if the Edinburgh International Film Festival had reached the end of a run that began back in 1947. Its operator, the Centre for the Moving Image, shut down and called in administrators, but Screen Scotland, working with the Edinburgh International Festival, an annual event celebrating the performing arts, funded a revival and appointed a new program director, Kate Taylor. From August 18 through 23, Edinburgh will present twenty-four features as well as five retrospective screenings, five programs of short films, and a weekend of outdoor screenings. World premieres include Hope Dickson Leach’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Ian Jefferies’s Choose Irvine Welsh, a documentary portrait of the author of Trainspotting.

San Sebastián has announced the first competition selections for its seventy-first edition running from September 22 through 30. Among the seven features are Cristi Puiu’s MMXX, which “captures the wanderings of a bunch of errant souls stuck at the crossroads of history”; Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, a decades-spanning portrait of a Black woman in Mississippi; and Robin Campillo’s Red Island, an evocative recollection of growing up on one of the last French military bases in Madagascar.

A few highlights from this past week:

  • The new Cinema Scope is out, and much of it is given to coverage of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. There are interviews with Lisandro Alonso (Eureka) and Sean Price Williams (The Sweet East) and reviews of Víctor Erice’s Close Your Eyes and Pham Thien An’s Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, and Aurélie Godet writes about the controversy sparked in France by statements Justine Triet made when accepting the Palme d’Or for Anatomy of a Fall. The issue opens, though, with an excellent piece in which Michael Sicinski asks if we might consider Jean Eustache “foremost a maker of experimental documentaries, a métier he arrived at after leaving narrative cinema behind.” For more recent and outstanding writing on Eustache, see Lisa Katzman (Film Comment), Beatrice Loayza (Artforum), and Adam Nayman (Toronto Star).

  • If, like me, you’ve only now discovered Devan Scott’s remarkable podcast How Would Lubitsch Do It?, you may at first be daunted by the fact that there are already two full seasons to catch up with. Not to worry! Even though the goal is to devote a full episode to each and every one of the forty-three surviving films—in chronological order—you can dip in anywhere. You might start with the first episode, in which Simon Fraser University assistant professor Lauren Rossi sets the stage with a brief history of Weimar Germany, or skip to the most recent one, featuring Peter Labuza’s guide to early Hollywood. In between, guests such as filmmaker David Cairns, programmer Maddie Whittle, film scholar and Egyptologist Kristin Thompson, and Munich Film Museum director Stefan Drössler discuss individual features.

  • Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri talks with John Woo about the movie he’s just finished shooting, Silent Night, a film without dialogue. “We are using music instead of language,” says Woo, who also discusses working with Chow Yun-fat, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and of course, with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta on Face/Off (1997). But before the conversation begins, Ebiri spots a poster behind Woo for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Magnet of Doom (1963). “I loved his movies,” says Woo. “I stole from two of his movies, Le samouraï and Le cercle rouge, when I made The Killer. He was the biggest influence on me.”

  • Writing for Air Mail, Richard Cohen riffs on the making of John Ford’s Mogambo (1953), anti-Semitism in postwar America, the Hays Code, the arresting beauty of Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra’s slump, the “second iteration of Clark Gable,” and the bright but brief life and career of Grace Kelly. “The film itself was a vestige of European colonialism, even a paean to it,” writes Cohen. Making Mogambo “entailed the clearing of the jungle; the building of airstrips; the hiring of private armies; the engagement of soldiers of fortune . . . It was as if MGM was going to show the Brits how to establish an empire.”

  • Chances are, you’ve seen pointers to and maybe even snippets from Alex Barasch’s astonishing piece in the New Yorker on Mattel’s grand plans to harness its IP to create a whole new MCU. If you haven’t gotten around to actually reading it, do. The occasion, of course, is the upcoming release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie on July 21, Barbenheimer Day. But while Barasch sketches a fascinating history of a toy company with an outsize impact on popular culture, he also—somehow without gawking—captures a mindset that could conjure “a horror-comedy about the Magic 8 Ball,” a Barney project that would lean “into the millennial angst of the property,” and an Uno movie set in Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. “Is it a great thing that our great creative actors and filmmakers live in a world where you can only take giant swings around consumer content and mass-produced products?” wonders talent agent Jeremy Barber. “I don’t know. But it is the business.”

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