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Surprises Abound

Chantal Akerman’s Toute une nuit (1982)

Sundance opens next Thursday, the Berlinale will set its full program the following Monday, and on Wednesday, SXSW rolled out the bulk of its 2024 lineup. The festival will open on March 8 with 3 Body Problem, a sci-fi series based on the novel by Liu Cixin. When the English translation appeared in 2014, eight years after it was first serialized in China, the story of how one woman’s actions during the Cultural Revolution come to a head at a crucial moment for humanity found champions in such disparate readers as Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and George R. R. Martin.

David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the creators behind Game of Thrones, the hit HBO series based on Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, have teamed up with writer and producer Alexander Woo (True Blood) to oversee 3 Body Problem for Netflix. Other highlights in the SXSW lineup include a Centerpiece Screening of The Fall Guy, an action comedy starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt and directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde), and the world premiere of Babes, the first feature from Pamela Adlon (Better Things).

At a press conference in Seoul on Friday, Bong Joon Ho led an ad hoc coalition of artists and filmmakers calling for an investigation into the roles of the South Korean police and media in the death of Lee Sun Kyun. On December 27, Lee—the star of several high-profile Korean dramas who also appeared in four films by Hong Sangsoo and is best known for playing the wealthy father in Bong’s Parasite (2019)—was found dead. Only forty-eight, he had left behind “a memo akin to a suicide note.”

Facing charges of illegal drug use, Lee was essentially put on public trial, paraded before the press each time the police called him in for questioning. In an excellent overview of the case for the Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Sun notes that Lee’s “fate could have a chilling effect on the perception of South Korea as a cultural and artistic mecca to be envied—and to do business with.”

This week’s highlights:

  • Chantal Akerman’s Toute une nuit (1982), screening on January 23 and February 4 as part of MoMA’s To Save and Project festival, “showcases her talent for orchestrating a particular pas de deux: lovers uniting or separating,” writes 4Columns film editor Melissa Anderson. Spanning “the wee hours of one summer night,” Toute une nuit “boasts a cast of dozens of performers . . . Despite the anonymity of her dramatis personae, Akerman brilliantly conjures a sense of narrative tension throughout every chapter—the viewer is invited to fill in backstory where none is overtly presented and to imagine what happens next after a scene ends. Surprises abound.”

  • A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), the two films Edward Yang made between A Brighter Summer Day (1991) and Yi Yi (2000), are “underseen ensemble comedies” that “feature the late Taiwanese director at his angriest, funniest, and most cynically romantic,” writes Vikram Murthi for the Nation. “They both use large, interconnected ensemble casts and the visual language of farce to further explore Yang’s abiding thematic concern: an ever-changing Taiwan stuck between tradition and Western-influenced modernity.”

  • Film Comment is running Katie Kirkland’s interview with Miko Revereza, whose Nowhere Near “marks the latest entry in the filmmaker’s rich body of work exploring his and his family’s experiences living as undocumented immigrants within the United States.” Nowhere Near screens in Berlin on Sunday as part of the Unknown Pleasures festival. FC also has Mitchell Abidor’s recently rediscovered notes on a conversation he had with Robert Bresson in the summer of 1979. “Bresson stressed the role of memory—of personal memories—in his films,” writes Abidor. “In Diary of a Country Priest, for example, he tried to recreate the light that fell on his childhood home, and the way he remembered people entering rooms.” Up to that point, there had been “no projects he was unable to make,” but Bresson did tell Abidor that he had “prepared a film of the Book of Genesis from the creation until the Tower of Babel,” which was never realized.

  • For the Notebook, Leonardo Goi talks with Takeshi Kitano about his latest feature, Kubi, an adaptation of his 2019 novel about a power struggle between warlords in sixteenth-century Japan; working on the costumes with Akira Kurosawa’s daughter, Kazuko; and his hopes that the 1994 bike accident he was involved in might improve his painting or even “have an impact on my soul, or rather my psyche.” No such luck, says Kitano. As for the role of humor in his work, even in a film as grisly and serious as Kubi, “laughter has a rather devilish side to it, I think. Whenever people are nervous there is always a devil walking about.”

  • At Crooked Marquee, Sean Burns revisits Charley Varrick (1973), “the story of a laconic bank robber who outfoxes the cops and the mob” which “reunites the 1971 Dirty Harry all-star team of director [Don] Siegel, screenwriter Dean Reisner, costars Andy Robinson and John Vernon, and composer Lalo Schifrin.” But Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, turned the project down, and the role of Charley Varrick went to Walter Matthau “during that wonderful stretch of the 1970s when a man with a self-described ‘face like a catcher’s mitt’ could become a bona fide movie star . . . It’s a cold, hard world in Charley Varrick, rendered with Siegel’s characteristic, stripped-down precision. The director came up in the editing rooms of the Hollywood studio system, and is often attributed as saying that if you shake a movie hard enough, eight minutes will fall out.”

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