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Optimism of the Will

Herbert Norville in Horace Ové’s Pressure (1975)

Cannes is bracing for a seventy-seventh edition that may be more eventful than organizers would like. The festival has announced that it will open its Un Certain Regard program on Wednesday with Moi aussi (#MeToo), a new short film from Judith Godrèche, who has accused directors Jacques Doillon and Benoît Jacquot of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s when she was a minor. Moi aussi will screen for free at the Cinéma de la Plage, the open-air theater on Macé beach.

According to Deadline’s Melanie Goodfellow, though, the French daily Le Figaro is reporting on rumors that a damning round of fresh #MeToo accusations is about to be unleashed and that Cannes president Iris Knobloch “has hired an unnamed crisis management PR firm to help the event weather the potential approaching storm.” On another front, Under the Screens, the Waste: The Collective of Precarious Workers at Film Festivals, an informal union of freelancers launched in 2020, is threatening to strike in protest of labor reforms that would cut their unemployment benefits by more than half. Cannes, the Directors’ Fortnight, Critics’ Week, and ACID have issued a call to “come together around the bargaining table” and get this settled before the festival opens on Tuesday.

In other festival news, Isabelle Huppert will preside over the jury in Venice, where Peter Weir will be awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. Audrey Diwan, who won the Golden Lion in 2021 for Happening, will open San Sebastián with Emmanuelle, “an exploration of pleasure in the post-#MeToo era,” as the festival describes the film cowritten with Rebecca Zlotowski and starring Noémie Merlant. And Cate Blanchett will receive a Donostia Award, San Sebastián’s highest honorary prize.

There was much jubilation all across cinephilic social media on Monday when Justin Chang won the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for his work at the Los Angeles Times, including his essay on Oppenheimer and his review of All of Us Strangers. After writing for the LAT for nearly eight years, Chang left the paper in January for the New Yorker. He’s having quite a year.

Bernard Hill, who passed away over the weekend at the age of seventy-nine, worked with Mike Leigh, Peter Greenaway, Bob Rafelson, and Clint Eastwood, but he was best known for playing Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) and King Théoden in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003). “Both parts drew on his grave, peremptory air, and his ability to be simultaneously fallible and resolute,” writes Ryan Gilbey in the Guardian. “It was his fearsome yet pitiful performance as the jobless laborer and single father Yosser Hughes, in Alan Bleasdale’s tragicomic BBC series Boys from the Blackstuff (1982), that made him a television star. The role came to define not only Hill but an entire era. Yosser’s plaintive, hectoring catchphrase—‘Gizza job’—was parroted everywhere from the Kop to the corner shop, the playground to the dole queue.”

We also lost artist and filmmaker Narcisa Hirsch this past weekend. She was ninety-six. When several of her films screened in January as part of To Save and Project, MoMA’s festival of preservation, the programmers noted that “Hirsch’s passions have encompassed the cosmic and the quotidian: the sexuality and integrity of the human body; the still and moving image; a sound composition by Steve Reich, an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, and a Neapolitan love song; the four archetypes of man, including that of ‘the alchemist’; the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; and the concept of the Aleph, in which ‘each second represents an instance of life from birth to death.’”

This week’s highlights:

  • Black and British, Tony (Herbert Norville), the teenage son of Trinidadian immigrants, wanders London in search of a future in Horace Ové’s Pressure (1975). The new restoration opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music today, and at Reverse Shot, Nicholas Russell observes that the film is “a digressive, musically driven bildungsroman told through a series of vignettes that glimpse slivers of contemporary West Indian British life. Ové shoots London as alternately drab and vibrant, the interiors brightly lit like stage sets, while handheld cameras follow Tony and his compatriots into the outside world, public spaces suffused with pedestrian onlookers and a soft haze . . . Unlike most films that outline a nascent radical awakening, Pressure functions by accretion.”

  • A Letterboxd contributor fellow cinephiles refer to as JPM has posted a translated transcription of a conversation between Víctor Erice and Pedro Costa that producer Paulo Bronco moderated at LEFFEST in Lisbon last fall. It’s an extraordinary exchange of ideas. Erice suggests that the rupture in Spanish history that began with the Civil War kept Luis Buñuel from becoming the sort of anchor Manoel de Oliveira was for Portuguese cinema. As an “orphaned” filmmaker, he envies the sense of community Costa has found. Meantime, with the transition from celluloid to digital, cinema is “losing the weight of reality,” says Erice. “I have in this sense a pessimistic view, but I always have very close to my bedside the words written in prison by Antonio Gramsci, who said ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.’” For more from Costa, turn to Othon Cinema, whose most recent interview is with experimental filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky.

  • On the Criterion Channel, we’re presenting Lizzie Borden’s “trilogy of films about New York feminisms,” as So Mayer calls them, prompting director, editor, and writer Jessica Dunn Rovinelli (So Pretty) to ask Borden in Filmmaker, “So, what interests you most about filming women?” With Regrouping (1976), “I wasn’t thinking of the word ‘gaze’ then,” says Borden, “but I was a woman looking at women.” In Born in Flames (1983), “‘bodies’ was part of a theme of the film—labor. Working Girls [1986] is different again because while it is about naked bodies—women working in a brothel—I wanted to shoot it in a way that makes the women’s bodies almost prosaic.”

  • Opening one week after The Matrix had become an instant pop-cultural phenomenon, Go (1999) wouldn’t find its audience until its release on DVD. “But as nostalgia for the indescribably bizarre and fleeting Y2K era reaches its peak, it looks better than ever,” writes Paul Schrodt at the top of his oral history of Go’s making for GQ. Schrodt talks with director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), screenwriter John August (Big Fish), and several cast members, including Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant, and William Fichtner. “Doug’s aesthetic, his work style, is quick and dirty, get it done, figure it out,” says August. “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. A lot of run-and-gun. And that was very true to what we ended up doing.” As for Liman, “Go is the favorite of all my movies I’ve ever made.”

  • In the Guardian, Charles Bramesco revisits the sixteen “fever dreams of delusion, brainwashing, public violence and other forms of deviant psychology” from the 1960s that make up our new program on the Channel, Hollywood Crack-Up: The Decade American Cinema Lost Its Mind. “These bursts of celluloid madness come from a not-so-remote time when governmental credibility had hit an all-time low and the culture-war rift yawned wider than ever; when the disillusionment of a mistreated youth generation exploded into student protests against an overseas war colored by unsavory political imperatives . . . Calamity was in the air. Surely, somehow, we can find it in ourselves to relate.”

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