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What Really Speaks to Us

Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939)

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron will be the first Japanese film and the first animated film to open the Toronto International Film Festival (September 7 through 17). Writing for Time Out Japan, Emma Steen calls this story of a young boy who moves from Tokyo to the countryside with his father after the death of his mother “a mature, complex masterpiece, weaving together the director’s past, present, and future.”

After announcing sixty Gala and Special Presentations earlier this week, Toronto has now also rolled out the lineup for this year’s TIFF Docs. Highlights include Raoul Peck’s Silver Dollar Road, the story of a Black family’s decades-long struggle to hold on to their waterfront property in North Carolina; The Pigeon Tunnel, Errol Morris’s portrait of spy novelist David Cornwell, a.k.a. John Le Carré; and Lucy Walker’s Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa, a profile of a record-breaking mountain climber who works as a dishwasher at Whole Foods.

As Variety’s Nick Vivarelli points out in his overview of the Giornate degli Autori lineup announced on Thursday, the independent program also known as Venice Days is modeled on the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. The emphasis is on first and second features such as the opening film, Tommaso Santambrogio’s debut, Oceans Are the Real Continents, a Cuban love story. Among the ten films world-premiering in competition is Élise Girard’s Sidonie in Japan, starring Isabelle Huppert as a French writer mourning her husband’s death while on a book tour in Japan.

João Pedro Rodrigues (Will-o’-the-Wisp) will preside over the jury during the Giornate’s twentieth edition (August 30 through September 9), and beyond the competition there will be special screenings such as the premiere of a new short from Céline Sciamma, This Is How a Child Becomes a Poet. Two more shorts are lined up for the Prada-commissioned series Miu Miu Women’s Tales, Eye Two Times Mouth from Lila Avilés (Tótem) and Stane from Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović (Murina). As a tribute to Jean-Marc Vallée, the Giornate will screen a 4K restoration of the late director’s 2005 coming-of-age drama C.R.A.Z.Y.

A bit further down the calendar, Michael Mann’s Ferrari, starring Adam Driver as the celebrated racing entrepreneur, will see its North American premiere as the Closing Night selection at the New York Film Festival. NYFF 2023 (September 29 through October 15) will open with Todd Haynes’s May December, and the Centerpiece presentation will be Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla.

Nearly every day this past week has brought sad news. Two great screenwriting talents passed away. Bo Goldman won Oscars for his work on Miloš Forman’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Jonathan Demme’s Melvin and Howard (1980), and in 1974, John Barry adapted Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros for Tom O’Horgan’s film starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel as well as his own play, Lenny, for Bob Fosse.

We also lost Josephine Chaplin, Charlie’s daughter, who appeared in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales (1972); Lelia Goldoni, who starred in John Cassavetes’s Shadows (1959) and played the close friend of a newly widowed mother (Ellen Burstyn) in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974); and Sinéad O'Connor, remembered in the New York Times by Jon Caramanica as “an uncompromised voice of social progress and someone who found stardom, and its sandpapered and glossed boundaries, to be a kind of sickness. She was also a singer of ferocious gifts, able to channel anxious passion with vivacious power and move through a lyric with nimble acuity.”

This week’s highlights:

  • Time’s Stephanie Zacharek has put together a list of one hundred favorite films, ten for each decade from the 1920s through the 2010s. “This list isn’t the result of a poll,” she writes. “Aside from the question of whether we really need yet another film survey, there’s a way in which choosing by committee irons the idea of loving movies into a smooth, flat sheet, as if the right amount of number crunching will yield the answer . . . Our movie tastes are determined by some indefinable electrical current of enthusiasm or joy or deep, radiating sadness, or some combination of the three. In that sense, our favorite movies aren’t about taste at all, but simply about listening to what really speaks to us.” The layout of the feature invites dipping into the list anywhere; you’ll find a compact and insightful essay on any title you choose. Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939), for example, “is so intimate and observant that its contours change dramatically every time you watch it.

  • For the first time in English, the New Left Review is presenting four pieces that appeared in a 1963 special issue of the Italian journal Il contemporaneo focusing on the state of Britain. In one, Peter Wollen suggests that what he was then calling the “British ‘new wave’” was “vulnerable to the charge that its primary interest is sociological, that it presents not a new idea of cinema but a new range of subjects and milieux.” While Wollen admired the work of Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson, his most urgent endorsement went to Joseph Losey, whose “films address political and social issues with far greater immediacy than those of the ‘new wave.’ They are also formally and stylistically superior. His work recalls Fritz Lang’s American period, its clear, well-ordered shots and the revelations of the camera . . . It is a tragedy that recognition of Losey’s significance has come from Paris rather than London.”

  • In the run-up to next month’s release of its second issue, Outskirts has unlocked two articles. BAMPFA is currently screening 35 mm prints of films by and starring Yuliya Solntseva, including The Enchanted Desna (1964), which draws from the childhood memories of her husband, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleksandr Dovzhenko, who died in 1956. “The film is made of disidentifications,” writes Miriam Martín. As the new restoration of Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore (1973) tours North America, Brandon Kaufman argues that “in form as in content,” the film “enacts a deep skepticism about the body.”

  • Cinema Scope has posted a transcript of the conversation editor Mark Peranson had with Hong Sangsoo in Vienna last November. Hong had just completed his thirtieth feature, and he talks about his pace (“I have nothing else to do”) and his process, which is “so important to me personally because, except loving someone truly, except that, nothing can beat this experience.” He also teaches, and he explains why he sometimes sends students to the restroom, where “I let them write on the wall for twenty minutes.” Further topics include spacing out Kim Minhee’s performances in his ever-flowing oeuvre, meeting and working with Lee Hye-young, and the importance of actors actually getting at least a little tipsy during his many drinking scenes.

  • The degree to which Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Todd Haynes’s forty-three-minute, no-budget 1987 film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story “exist in diametrical, generational opposition to each other is uncanny,” writes the New Yorker’s Jessica Winter. With Barbies as actors, Haynes staged the story of The Carpenters’ rise and Karen’s early death—she was thirty-two—after struggling with anorexia. “Superstar begins as a droll prank and then tilts, almost imperceptibly, into surreal domestic nightmare and, finally, authentic tragedy,” writes Winter. “It was sui generis in both its execution and, arguably, its reception.” The film was a hit on the midnight circuit but was all but banned when Haynes lost a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Richard Carpenter. “Barbie sets out to rehabilitate a deeply problematic icon,” writes Winter, while “Superstar substitutes one icon for another, then cuts and slashes at her plastic flesh until she dies.”

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