Did You See This?

Undone and Remade

Patrice Lumumba in Raoul Peck’s Lumumba: Death of a Prophet (1991)

The week began with a reminder that awards season is far from over. Christopher Nolan, who won the Directors Guild of America’s top award earlier this month, was in London on Sunday evening, when Oppenheimer won seven BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Director, Best Leading Actor for Cillian Murphy, and Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr. Oppenheimer looks pretty well set for a big night when the Oscars are presented on March 10.

Which brings us to Los Angeles, where the repertory scene is thriving. Jason Reitman is heading up a coalition of more than two dozen filmmakers who are taking over the Village Theater in Westwood, which Josh Rottenberg describes in the Los Angeles Times as a “ninety-three-year-old movie palace that has been a favorite site for movie premieres since its opening in 1931, with a 170-foot white Spanish Revival/Art Deco tower that has long served as a beacon for film lovers in search of old-school Hollywood glamour.” The new owners include Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Lulu Wang, and Chloé Zhao.

The LAT’s Mark Olsen talks with Micah Gottlieb, the artistic director of Mezzanine, and producer Sarah Winshall, cofounders of the Los Angeles Festival of Movies, whose inaugural edition will open on April 4 with Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow. Also lined up are Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge 3, the new restoration of Chantal Akerman’s Toute une nuit (1982), and a conversation with Kim Gordon and Rachel Kushner. “Film festivals in LA are often defined in relation to the commercial film industry,” says Gottlieb. “We wanted to create a space for the kinds of films that either don’t usually play in LA or, if they do, they may not get the platform that they deserve.”

Before turning to this week’s highlights, we need to note the passing of editor Tom Priestley, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972). The son of novelist and playwright J. B. Priestley, he also edited Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby (1974), Blake Edwards’s The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), and Roman Polanski’s Tess (1979). Priestley was ninety-one. On Wednesday, Micheline Presle, who appeared in films directed by G. W. Pabst, Abel Gance, Marcel L’Herbier, Jacques Becker, Fritz Lang, Jean Negulesco, Joseph Losey, Elio Petri, and Jacques Demy, passed away. She was 101.

  • Raoul Peck’s Lumumba: Death of a Prophet (1991), opening today at Brooklyn Academy of Music, is “at once a memoir of the director’s childhood in the Congo (then newly independent after nearly a century of brutal Belgian rule),” writes Blair McClendon at 4Columns, “and an attempt to find, if not the corpse of Patrice Lumumba (the independence leader who served as prime minister for less than three months before being executed), then at least some trace of his ghost.” As J. Hoberman notes in the New York Times, Johan Grimonprez’s “expansive documentary Soundtrack to a Coup d’État elaborates on American complicity in Lumumba’s overthrow,” and it screens on Thursday as part of Doc Fortnight 2024 at MoMA.

  • African Futurism: The World of Jean-Pierre Bekolo, this month’s series at the French Institute Alliance Française, wraps on Tuesday with the U.S. premiere of We Black People (2021), a “fake ethnology film” on the history of a Black community in Colombia. Introducing his interview with Bekolo for Screen Slate, Steve Macfarlane notes that the series will soon travel to Rochester, Harvard, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and beyond. “Today the pressure is on Africans to pretend that they are professionals making clean professional films,” says Bekolo, adding that “for Africans it’s always this idea of catching up. It’s bullshit. People live where they are with what they have. Catching up to what? There’s not enough freedom in the minds of these filmmakers.”

  • James Gray always gives a great interview, but Glenn Kenny is an especially sharp interrogator. At the Decider, Kenny winds Gray up and turns him loose on the five films in the Criterion Channel program James Gray’s New York. There’s a lot here, including comparisons between Italian and Russian cultures in the city, the real-life killers Gray has been around, and his work with cinematographers Tom Richmond and Darius Khondji. Luchino Visconti is a looming presence, too, and Gray says that when he made We Own the Night (2007), “I was really obsessed at the time, and I still love it more than life, Visconti’s film, Rocco and His Brothers. And the degree to which Visconti’s pictures talked about the larger ideas of history and politics and economics and culture and class having a greater say in the unfolding of our lives than our own ability to shape it.”

  • In very different ways, Michael Imperioli, who’s interviewed by Ryan Mangione for November, and Jodie Foster, who’s profiled in the Atlantic by Jordan Kisner, talk about what Elaine Aiken, an acting teacher Imperioli studied under, called “being private in public.” For Imperioli, having “a method for accessing a sense of privacy while you’re forced to be in public is immensely valuable for an actor.” Foster remembers walking onto a set relieved that her mother, who exerted considerable control over the early phases of her career, stayed behind in the trailer. “She couldn’t get inside my body and take that experience from me,” says Foster. “She could take a whole bunch of experiences from me, but she couldn’t take one. There’s a deliciousness to loneliness.”

  • In a remarkable essay for the New Yorker, Becca Rothfeld writes about transformations of the human body and weighing consent against risk. Her starting point is the work of David Cronenberg, whose “chief innovation is his capacity to recognize that whether lusting and falling in love are more like body horror or more like reincarnation is merely a matter of emphasis. Like [Octavio] Paz, he knows that desire invents another body for our bodies. But like Ovid, he asks: Why should we expect desire to leave us intact? Why wouldn’t it tear us apart with its talons? . . . To be sure, it is uncomfortable to stand on the precipice of metamorphosis, but unless we are willing to assume genuine risk we cannot be undone and remade.”

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