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Five Events

Ousmane Sembène’s Ceddo (1997)

In his editor’s notes at the front of the past few issues of Cinema Scope, Mark Peranson has given readers fair warning that not only is the magazine in dire straits financially but he, too, has been simply worn out after putting in twenty-five years of what amounts to volunteer work. On Wednesday, Peranson previewed his notes for what will be the final issue. “Ultimately,” he writes, “what makes me saddest about ending this endeavor is the chance that the space will not exist for a certain kind of filmmaker’s work to be treated with the intellect and respect that they deserve in print.”

Cineaste and Film Quarterly forge ahead, Notebook offers spectacular design and a refreshing editorial voice, and Outskirts extends hope that it’s still possible to launch and sustain a magazine in print dedicated to substantial film criticism. But for a quarter of a century, Cinema Scope enlivened a vital and very specific space, to use Peranson’s word, and it could well be a good long while before that space can even begin to be refilled—if it ever can be.

More immediately for now, Sundance is heading into its final weekend and Rotterdam has opened with Jonathan Ogilvie’s Head South, the story of a teen who starts a post punk band in 1979 Christchurch. “Pleasant but awfully thin,” finds Dennis Harvey in Variety, and the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calls Head South “a sweet-natured entertainment.” Attendees can look forward to live talks with Sandra Hüller, Marco Bellocchio, Billy Woodberry, Debbie Harry and Amanda Kramer, Anne Fontaine, Bill Plympton, and other artists and filmmakers.

The Berlinale has added three films to next month’s program, including Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Chime, and SXSW has announced that its 2024 edition will open on March 8 with the world premiere of Doug Liman’s Road House, a reimagining of the 1989 Patrick Swayze vehicle that did fine in theaters but ultimately found its dedicated fan base after it was released on home video.

Liman’s movie stars a beefed-up Jake Gyllenhaal, and it’s evidently testing well, but as he explains in a guest column at Deadline, Liman will not be on hand for the premiere. “I signed up to make a theatrical motion picture for MGM,” he writes. “Amazon bought MGM. Amazon said make a great film and we will see what happens. I made a great film.” And what’s happened? Road House is headed straight for the streams.

“If we don’t put tentpole movies in movie theaters, there won’t be movie theaters in the future,” Liman warns. “Amazon will sell more toasters if it has more subscribers; it will have more subscribers if it doesn’t have to compete with movie theaters. A computer could come up with that elegant solution as easily as it could solve global warming by killing all humans.”

We’re doing something a little different with this week’s five bullet points. Each of them is tied to a series sure to draw audiences into their respective theaters.

  • “Serge Daney has always been the most important film critic in my personal pantheon,” Nicholas Elliott tells Max Levin at Screen Slate. Elliott has translated Footlights, a new collection of pieces Daney wrote for Cahiers du cinéma between 1970 and 1982. Working with Madeline Whittle, Elliott has also programmed Never Look Away: Serge Daney’s Radical 1970s, the series opening today at Film at Lincoln Center and running through February 4. These are films Daney writes about in Footlights, and “in their various ways,” says Elliott, “they all embody a kind of mule-headed formal and ethical singularity that I describe as ‘hardcore.’ Films that are nearly frightening in their rejection of compromise.” Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1976) certainly fits the bill, and you can read Daney’s notes on Pasolini’s final film at MUBI’s Notebook.

  • Ceddo (1997) also screens in the series and at the Harvard Film Archive, too, as part of Ousmane Sembène, Cinematic Revolutionary, the retrospective running through February 25. “Sembène’s cinematic works were experiments in militancy, subversion, and disruption; counter-images confronting the history and continuations of global capitalism and colonialism,” writes Matene Toure for Verso Books. “Through his filmmaking and overall cinematic framework, Sembène realized the dream of a unified and borderless Africa which its political leaders have yet to produce.”

  • Following a run in New York, Skip Norman Here and There has arrived at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Originally from Baltimore, Norman studied at the DFFB Film School in Berlin, where he made his own films in the late 1960s and found collaborators in such German filmmakers as Harold Farocki and Helke Sander. When he returned to the States, he worked primarily as a cinematographer, and the series wraps at the end of February with Haile Gerima’s Wilmington 10—U.S.A. 10,000 (1979), which, as Jonathan Mackris points out at Screen Slate, features interviews with “various wrongfully imprisoned Black political radicals and activists, connecting their activism and imprisonment to a longer history of political violence against Black people in the United States. It’s a fitting closer, in that it summarizes in brief the ideas we can trace throughout Norman’s career: Black radicalism, internationalism, and the pursuit of an antiracist future.”

  • Iranian Film Festival New York is on at IFC Center through Tuesday, and at RogerEbert.com, Godfrey Cheshire, who cofounded the event with Armin Miladi of Daricheh Cinema, writes about the challenges facing filmmakers in Iran over the past couple of years, several New York premieres, the tribute to the late Dariush Mehrjui, and the spotlight on Mani Haghighi, who will be on hand to discuss his work and present his latest feature, Subtraction (2022). “Directed with Haghighi’s consummate visual skill—his rainy nighttime Tehran is worthy of any film noir—the film to me is most fascinating for how it skids between genres without signaling where it may end up,” writes Cheshire. “It’s a mystery, a psychological drama, a surreal family study, a romance, a tragedy . . . it keeps you guessing.”

  • Since the Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday, there’s been a lot more chatter about those who were not nominated than about those who were. For the Guardian, Leigh Singer has put together a ranked list of twenty of the most egregiously overlooked performances, and a couple of them—Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), for example—reappear in the Museum of the Moving Image series Snubbed 2: The Performances, which opens today and runs through March 10. Suggestions for further reading: Justin Chang’s ranking of the ten nominees for Best Picture in the Los Angeles Times, Time’s Stephanie Zacharek on the ambitions of Greta Gerwig and Bradley Cooper, and—Oscars aside—Leonardo Goi in the Notebook on what all the best-of-2023 lists reveal about the current state of cinema.

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