Did You See This?

One Hundred Years On

Dyella Touré in Ousmane Sembène’s Xala (1975)

A two-week celebration of Ousmane Sembène’s centennial year, featuring new 4K restorations from Janus Films, opens today at New York’s Film Forum, and the American Cinematheque’s retrospective opens tomorrow in Los Angeles. “Although the Senegalese artist is often too efficiently packaged as the social-realist ‘Father of African Cinema,’” writes Yasmina Price at 4Columns, “his contributions to the hard-won emergence and dynamic maturation of filmmaking on the continent were far more significant than reductive categorizations and exhausted patriarchal hyperboles suggest. A founding member of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), he was, if anything, one of the many uncles of African cinema, a cohort anchored in a collective commitment to film in service of African political, cultural, and economic liberation.”

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody suggests that the “artistry of such filmmakers as Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Eric Rohmer is similar to Sembène’s in the analytical visualization of language at work. But Sembène, unconnected to the Hollywood styles that the former adhered to and the latter admired, approached the filming of discourse even more radically, in form and in politics alike—a choice that has made the great films of his maturity less revered than they should be.”

Sembène’s films are shot through with “love notes to his country,” writes Walter Chaw at RogerEbert.com, and the filmmaker contrasts “the essential goodness of the ordinary people, this tantalizing possibility for egalitarian socialism built on kindness and empathy,” with “the venal cupidity and corruption of the wealthy ruling class of any color or nationality. He is as gifted a satirist as Luis Buñuel.”

More Goings On

  • The Open City Documentary Festival is on in London through Tuesday, and the curators have generously published a series of texts that accompany several screenings. Contributors include Aaron E. Hunt, Genevieve Yue, Phuong Le, Lucía Salas, and So Mayer.

  • Writing for AnOther Magazine, James Balmont offers a guide to films by Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Tsai Ming-liang screening in the New Taiwanese Cinema series running at the Garden Cinema in London through November 6.

  • Cinema Guild is currently sending two films by Shinji Somai, the Japanese filmmaker admired by Hou and Ryusuke Hamaguchi, on a coast-to-coast tour. In P. P. Rider (1983), a trio of teens tumbles across Japan with little of the grace but all of the charm of the great silent-era slapstick comedians. Another cluster of teens spends an unpredictable night at their abandoned school in the mysteriously moving Typhoon Club (1985), which was named one of the greatest Japanese films of all time in a Kinema Junpo poll.

  • Chile Year Zero, a seventeen-day survey marking the fiftieth anniversary of the coup d’état, opens this weekend at the Harvard Film Archive with screenings of all three parts of Patricio Guzmán’s The Battle of Chile (1975/1977/1979). This epic work still “has the galvanic charge of a tragic catastrophe happening in real time, a human rupture in which the film is a participant, not merely an observer,” writes Michael Atkinson for the Village Voice. The Battle of Chile “feels especially relevant today, in this fiery season of ascending middle-class fascism.”

Festival Updates

  • Damien Chazelle’s jury will present this year’s Gold and Silver Lions tomorrow, wrapping Venice’s eightieth edition. Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, in the meantime, has won the twentieth Giornate degli Autori Award. As Michael Sicinski points out at In Review Online, everything you need to know about this Quebecois horror-comedy is right there in the title. “Basically,” writes Adam Nayman for Cinema Scope, “this is a decent, if predictable, short comedy rattling around in a luxuriously textured feature-length container (the velvety cinematography is by Stephane Lafleur), and what keeps it from getting deadly in the home stretch is the combined finesse of its actors, including [Sara] Montpetit, who’s got a sublimated intensity that’s far richer than what’s written in the script, and able deadpan clowns like Steve Laplante and Marie Brassard, both seen recently in Lafleur’s Viking (2022).”

  • The Berlinale is suddenly a festival in trouble. Confirming last month that the 2024 edition would be her last, executive director Mariette Rissenbeek outlined the financial challenges facing the festival. As artistic director Carlo Chatrian told Variety earlier this week, Claudia Roth, Germany’s culture minister, had assured him in March that his contract would be renewed. But then Roth announced a restructuring, a return to the single-director model. “I’ve always said that I was fine with other forms of governance, as long as my freedom in composing the program was preserved,” says Chatrian. Roth’s public announcement “made me completely aware that the conditions for me to go on as artistic director after March 2024 were no longer there.” Hamaguchi, Martin Scorsese, Radu Jude, and Joanna Hogg are among the more than four hundred filmmakers who have signed an open letter of protest: “We strongly demand to prolong Carlo Chatrian’s tenure and repair the damage done to this essential film festival.”

  • The Chicago Reader’s Andrea Thompson previews the Chicago Underground Film Festival, which opens on Wednesday and runs through September 17. “For as small and scrappy and often underfunded as we are,” artistic director Bryan Wendorf tells Newcity Film’s Ray Pride, “when I travel around the country to other festivals or meet programmers from other festivals or talk to filmmakers from around the world, CUFF has a reputation.”

  • Claire Denis will preside over the Official Jury in San Sebastián (September 22 through 30), and her fellow jurors will be Fan Bingbing, Cristina Gallego, Brigitte Lacombe, Robert Lantos, Vicky Luengo, and Christian Petzold. Donostia Awards will go to Hayao Miyazaki and Víctor Erice. Vancouver (September 28 through October 8) has just unveiled its full lineup, and Busan (October 4 through 13) will honor Chow Yun-fat as its Asian Filmmaker of the Year.

This Week’s Highlights

  • We’ve already mentioned Ryusuke Hamaguchi a couple of times, and we’ll soon be taking a look at his new feature, Evil Does Not Exist, which has premiered in competition in Venice and will soon screen in Toronto and New York. The new Cineaste features a substantial excerpt from Eugene Kwon’s interview with the filmmaker, which covers his early work; the influence of scholar and novelist Shigehiko Hasumi, whom Kwon suggests “may be Japan’s answer to André Bazin”; and his deep admiration for John Cassavetes, Robert Bresson, Hong Sangsoo, and Bong Joon Ho. “There is often a sense of poverty of the frame in contemporary Japanese cinema,” says Hamaguchi. “That is rarely the case with Bong’s films, however, which is really striking.”

  • In a dazzlingly designed interactive feature at the New Yorker, Kyle Chayka writes about the pervasive influence of the aesthetic of Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000): “Wong created a cocktail of French New Wave filmmaking, American hardboiled mystery, Chinese modernist literature, and the geopolitics of his own Hong Kong-via-Shanghai upbringing, then channeled those disparate influences into the mundane, domestic story of two not-quite-lovers. The combination is both unprecedented and somehow familiar upon watching, like a forgotten memory.”

  • J. Hoberman’s latest essay for the New York Review of Books isn’t exactly interactive, but there are plenty of embedded links that will take you to hours of engaging viewing. Soundies, “the three-minute musical films made for a bare six years in the 1940s and shown in bars, taverns, and bus stations,” he writes, “are relics of relics. On the one hand, they belong to the century-plus process by which motion pictures traveled from big to little screens and from theaters into life. On the other, they are social hieroglyphs. During their brief life, soundies were as much a part of World War II–era popular culture as zoot suits, Captain America comic books, and early film noir.”

  • The new Film Issue of the Oxford American features Taylor Montague’s conversation with Kasi Lemmons, who appeared in such films as School Daze (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) before she shot her first feature, Eve’s Bayou (1997), in Louisiana. “I saw actors talking about the way that I direct,” says Lemmons, “and they said, ‘Oh, because she was an actor.’ And then I realized, yes, of course it’s because I was an actor that I’m able to know how to talk to actors, and in some ways, I borrowed things that worked for me. I knew that I wanted it to be a private conversation. I knew I didn’t want to raise my voice. I knew the intensity and presence of Jonathan Demme was very important to me. The quiet power of Spike Lee was very important to me. The hand signals that John Woo used to use because his English was still not good when he was doing his first American film, Hard Target [1993], came to be important to my directing later on.”

  • At the Ringer, Adam Nayman takes measure of the impact of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes on the fall festival season, and for the Los Angeles Review of Books, screenwriter and producer Alessandro Camon argues that there is a way out of the current impasse. One of the most sensational points of contention between creators and executives is the role AI will play in various aspects of filmmaking. John Menick argues in a brief and fascinating piece that if we valued AI’s potential for “overcoming human bias,” it could be a constructive tool. But we don’t. In the pursuit of an AI that can replace the human labor that goes into filmmaking, we’re evolving it in precisely the wrong direction.

Subscribe to the RSS feed, and for news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart