Over the past several months, the Brooklyn Rail has given a section of each issue over to a guest art editor, and this time around it’s Amei Wallach, an art critic who’s co-directed, with Marion Cajori, the documentary Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine (2008) and whose Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here begins a two-week run at New York’s Film Forum next week. “For better or worse,” she writes, “a film about art shares an artmaking process with the artist who is its subject. At its best, through its lies, a film inhabits a truth or two.”
Wallach has put together a strong collection of pieces addressing the challenges of documenting art and its making on film. For André Bazin, notes Angela Dalle Vacche, the “art documentary was a paradoxical project, for it combined two extreme and allegedly incompatible definitions of creativity. The value of art lies in its power to produce the most unique forms, as well as in the way it can channel the maximum of self-expression. Yet, in the case of the documentary film in general, art’s subjective creativity meets the most supposedly ‘objective’ of nonfictional genres. Given such high stakes, how could anyone dare to plan an art documentary about a sacred monster like Pablo Picasso?” And yet, “Bazin did not hesitate to celebrate Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso (1956),” and she explains why.
Introducing his interview with Christo, Jarrett Earnest suggests that it’s “useful to approach the five films [David and Albert Maysles] made with Christo and Jeanne-Claude as love letters. Which is to say, objective truth counts for very little in their mission: to convey an impossible feeling from one person to another.”
Hans Namuth’s Jackson Pollock ’51, narrated by the artist and featuring “distracting, dated music by composer Morton Feldman,” is nonetheless “as compelling today as it was when it was shown for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in June 1951,” writes Phyllis Tuchman.
Gregory Zinman: “Conceptual multimedia artist John Baldessari’s Six Colorful Inside Jobs (1977) is both a document of and a vehicle for a conceptual serial painting. Shot on 16mm and alternately displayed or projected as video, the work’s material hybridity extends to its subject matter: it is a painted artwork that can only be conveyed by film. It is also a documentary film about the process of painting that, through the process of its own recording, becomes the actual, completed artwork.”
Joyce Beckenstein reviews Marielle Nitoslawska’s Breaking the Frame, “a study of [artist Carolee] Schneemann’s perceptions of and through time.” Nancy Princenthal, who’s writing a book about Agnes Martin, admires Mary Lance’s doc, Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World.
Susan Delson talks with Nadine Covert, who joined the Program for Art on Film, launched by the Getty Trust and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1984, and became its manager in 1992, overseeing the production of experimental films and videos.
Also in the new November issue: Jaimey Fisher, author of the first book-length study of the work of Christian Petzold, previews The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule, a series running at MoMA from November 20 through December 6; Rachael Rakes reviews Daredevils, “artist, poet, and performer Stephanie Barber’s first feature-length film”; and Zhou Xin talks with Jia Zhangke about A Touch of Sin.
Jason Evans and Stefan Pietsch’s wonderful project This Long Century, “an ever-evolving collection of personal insights from artists, authors, filmmakers, musicians and cultural icons the world over,” has just been updated with entries from Matt Porterfield, who’s posted photographs shot by his grandfather (“I am haunted by the similarities between the subjects that interest us and the way we organize the frame”); Lewis Klahr, with a “short sketch” (2’25”) for his new film, Color Diary; and Iain Sinclair, with “some rough notes about my 70×70 film curation, while the project was still cooking.”
In his latest “Flashback” column for Criterion, Peter Cowie recalls a few meetings he had back in the early 70s with Otto Preminger, who had by then “realized that to survive in Hollywood one had to have an iron will and an unquenchable optimism.”
Writing for Artforum, Howard Hampton notes that William Wyler was “a consummate professional who fell into critical disfavor when the auteurists began ranking directors like prize fighters… As Kent Jones pointed out recently, its grossly unfair to make an also-ran out of someone who was able to deliver studio films as intelligent and affecting as The Best Years of Our Lives , The Letter (1940), Dodsworth (1936), and Carrie (the wrenching adaption of Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, 1952). Wyler had his faults, but Best Years is something of a revelation. It isn’t fully a great film…, but what makes it mesmerizing is how Wyler and his team were able to incorporate naturalistic tendencies and strikingly modern visuals within the framework of what could easily have been a sentimental three-hour Public Service Announcement about the difficulties of soldiers returning to civilian life.” More on Best Years from Eric Henderson in Slant.
“With the release of Fruitvale Station, 12 Years a Slave…, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, [Lee Daniels’ The Butler], 42, Blue Caprice, and the upcoming Black Nativity, 2013 may go down in the scriptures as the greatest year for black actors, directors, and themes in Hollywood history,” writes James Wolcott, suggesting that the “national conversation” about race many have called for is happening on screen.
Also in the December issue of Vanity Fair: In an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir, The Fat Lady Sang, a followup to his 1994 autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans looks back on a day in Paris in 1966 when Alain Delon introduced him to Madame Claude, who, at the time, ran one of the world’s most upscale network of call girls. A few pages further in, Evans submits to the Proust Questionnaire.
IN OTHER NEWS
Bruno Dumont, James Gray, Abbas Kiarostami, Nicolas Winding Refn, and philosopher Régis Debray will be conducting masterclasses at the Marrakech Film Festival (November 29 through December 7), reports Sarah Salovaara for Indiewire.
Jonathan Demme, Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Spike Jonze, John Hurt, Álex de la Iglesia, and Italian comedian Checco Zalone will be taking part in “Movie Talks” at the Rome Film Festival, reports Beth Hanna at Thompson on Hollywood. That fest opens on Friday and runs through November 17.
The Stockholm Film Festival opens today, and Ai Weiwei’s on the jury. But of course, he’s not there. As Tom Sullivan reports for the AFP, he’s designed a “Ming Dynasty style chair—shipped from Beijing for the 12-day event” that will remain empty. In a video message played for the press yesterday, he said, “I feel sorry I can’t come…. I’m still living under a kind of soft detention. My passport is still in the authorities’ hands.”
The AP reports that “cinemas in Sweden are introducing a new rating to highlight gender bias, or rather the absence of it. To get an A rating, a movie must pass the so-called Bechdel test, which means it must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.”
IN THE WORKS
“Hal Hartley wants to finish a trilogy,” writes Ryan Lattanzio at Thompson on Hollywood. “And so he has turned to Kickstarter for his latest project Ned Rifle, a third and final chapter to conclude the stories told in Henry Fool (1997) and Fay Grim (2006). Original cast members Parker Posey, James Urbaniak, and Liam Aiken are onboard to star.”
Paolo Sorrentino will direct Michael Caine in In the Future, reports Nick Vivarelli. Also in Variety, Dave McNary: “Julianne Moore has come on board Still Alice, starring as a university professor in an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s novel.”
Craig Keller’s posted his new feature, Fait Accompli: Episode 1: Caused, for our viewing pleasure. Looking forward to catching up with it.