“The Disappearance of Kristen Stewart (and Other Mysteries in Contemporary Art Cinema)” is the title of a new piece, sparked by a viewing of Olivier Assayas’s “excellent” Clouds of Sils Maria, by Tom Paulus at photogénie:
There are two points I want to make, the first of which I will not develop and finally only has a tangential relation to this essay. My question is this: if cinematic modernism had run its course by the late seventies, as the form’s most important chronicler Andras Balint Kovacs has argued, then why are its devices at the level of both narrative and visual style—elliptical narration and narrative ambiguity; alienation as a major theme; dominance of ‘realism’ as a stylistic effect; foregrounding of the author as shaping consciousness; the idea of the film belonging to an ‘oeuvre’; autobiographical inspiration etc.—still so prominently on display in today’s art cinema and do we see many of today’s auteurs, both Western and non-Western, self-consciously inscribe themselves in that tradition? In other words, are today’s ‘new’ cinemas a continuation of rather than a break with postwar European modernist cinema? Let’s put a pin in that one for now. My second question is more immediately relevant to the problem raised by Assayas’s distinction between a cinephile cinema that finds its inspiration in other movies and a personal cinema that is true to life and pertinent to contemporary reality. It is this: if an auteur cinema is supposed to start from an original perception of and reflection on the world, how does the auteur create the content through which these perceptions and reflections can be made salient?
Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted a new survey of low-budget, high-concept science fiction.
From Canyon Cinema: “This month, Lewis Klahr sent us a ‘graph’ linking the disparate figures and films that have influenced his particular style of elliptical storytelling, bringing them all into a very personal constellation. Take a look on our website.”
“What Are Movies Good For?” That’s the question Stuart Klawans posed in the Nation well over a week ago, and somehow, I missed it. Fortunately, Movie City News caught this survey of one of the season’s main events: “Toward its conclusion, this year’s New York Film Festival gave such an overpowering answer to that question, with the world premiere of Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour, that it almost undid every other case the NYFF had been making.”
In his latest splendid column at Grantland, Mark Harris, prepping us for awards season, explains “the Balls Argument: If Academy voters had any balls, they would give the Best Picture Oscar to ‘X.’ However, Academy voters have no balls. Therefore, they will give Best Picture to ‘Y.’ … ‘X’ movies are more to my personal taste than ‘Y’ movies—but the least of them still reassure and flatter their target audience by congratulating it for its worldview in exactly the same way that ‘Y’ movies do.” Exactly.
Guest editors Parviz Jahed and Amir Ganjavie introduce a new issue of Film International, “dedicated to the problematic aspects of contemporary independent Iranian cinema. Our hope is to investigate the works of notable independent Iranian directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi and Asghar Farhadi as well as the underground movies that are produced and distributed without the permission of the authorities and which are subjected to censorship and intense governmental pressure.” And two essays are now online: Sara Saljoughi‘s “Jafar Panahi’s The Mirror: On Political Film in Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema” and Asal Bagheri‘s “The Representation of Men in the Films of Abdol Reza Kahani, Houman Seyedi and Bahram Tavakoli.”
“Comedians are often our best historians of the present because they are at once intensely invested in and poorly adapted to their moment, at one and yet out of sync with their surroundings and situation,” writes Kristin Ross for Criterion. “Commenting upon the strikingly memorable soundtracks that he designed to accompany all of his important films from Mon oncle (1958) to Parade (1974), Jacques Tati remarked, ‘Well, when people are in strange surroundings, natural sounds always sound louder.’ Each of Tati’s films works to turn the most familiar lived landscapes of postwar French society into strange surroundings.”
“In the feature-length animated film Rocks in My Pockets, the macabre and the whimsical collide when Latvian-born filmmaker Signe Baumane tries to track the history of her psychological turmoil, and that of five other women in her family,” writes Emma Rosenberg. “‘In this crazy world, how do you stay sane?’ she asks. ‘Can I escape my own destiny?’ … The film’s dark, almost difficult-to-swallow subject matter is handled playfully throughout, layering tragedy with whimsical humor in a way that is never quite emotionally draining.”
Also writing for the Baffler, A.M. Gittlitz: “State of Emergence is a zombie movie without zombies. It’s the latest film by the Anti-Banality Union, an anonymous collective that re-edits genre blockbusters as a means of mocking their clichés and composing their own radical theses in the process. The result of this experiment is unsettling above and beyond their source material, and it cuts to the core of our angst over today’s emerging and intermingling global crises.”
Joy Horowitz for the Los Angeles Review of Books: “Imagining the possibilities of a bearded Ol’ Blue Eyes singing ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ with ‘glued-on payes’ is among the many pleasures in Barbara Isenberg’s Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical.”
Don Hertzfeldt (Everything Will Be OK, It’s Such a Beautiful Day) has a few words on his top ten Criterion releases.
“The first time I saw The Shining it changed my life.” That’s Alexandre Aja, whose most recent film, Horns, opens today. The Los Angeles Times has also got Neil Marshall, the director of The Descent who’s currently teaming up with Darren Bousman on a horror anthology, to write about a formative viewing experience: “Few horror movies have had such a profound effect on me as Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece, Alien. Few movies of any kind have had as much of an impact and influence on the movies I make.”
In his latest “Bombast” column for Film Comment, Nick Pinkerton goes all Halloween on us: “As much as we may try to domesticate horror, it remains a touchy, indigestible subject—is there any other genre for which the discourse that surrounds it involves a punctilious avoidance of discussing the thing itself?”
From Bill Ryan: “As if the Stars Would Wink Out One by One to Hear it Spoken, or The Five Nosferatus.”
Mike D’Angelo at the AV Club: “There’s something uniquely unsettling about the sensation of being followed (which is put to spectacular use in the forthcoming indie horror film appropriately titled It Follows), and [John Carpenter‘s] Halloween  is unrivaled in building eerie tension from the specter of a figure who’s constantly present and staring, no matter where you go.”
Writing for Film International, Wheeler Winston Dixon considers “Sound and Silence in 1960s British Gothic Cinema.”
At the Chiseler: David Cairns on monster movie books, Derek Davis on scary fiction and two profiles: Jim Knipfel on Dwight Frye, who played a “dull-witted, easily spooked, brain-dropping, nasty little hunchbacked bastard” named Fritz—not Igor—in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), and Dan Callahan on The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) herself, Elsa Lanchester.
Having worked out the parameters of “transgressive horror” at the Quietus, Sean Kitching dwells a bit on “ten films in no particular order that go that extra mile to disquiet and disturb.”
“Why is Satan so intent on targeting all these innocent young women perpetually wearing nightgowns?” wonders Clarisse Loughrey at Little White Lies. “What, exactly, is his end game? It’s time to look for answers by revisiting the best and worst (not to mention most sexist) of the genre.”
At the House Next Door, Erich Kuersten writes up “13 Obscure Horror Films to Watch This Halloween.” Contributors to the Dissolve select the best scares that can be streamed right now. Twitch is conjuring its favorite ghosts. And Vulture, well, they’ve been at it all week.
Meantime, John Coulthart‘s Halloween mix Unheimlich Manoeuvres runs just over an hour.
IN OTHER NEWS
Wellesnet‘s Ray Kelly talks with Beatrice Welles, “who has been viewed as an obstructionist by some,” and has “acknowledged she has been wary of past attempts to complete her father‘s work, citing studio re-cuts of some of his finest work.” But of course, as we learned this week, she’s now giving the go-ahead on the complete of The Other Side of the Wind.
Park Chan-wook’s directed an ad for Ermenegildo Zegna
David Cronenberg tells Josef Braun: “I don’t have a rule that says I’m not making more movies, but it would have to be something very seductive to keep me from writing my second novel. Because that’s what I’m doing right now.”
London. Birth of the Method: The Revolution in American Acting runs at BFI Southbank through November 30. For Sight & Sound, Foster Hirsch writes a history of the technique and James Bell has short reviews of a dozen of the films in the program.
IN THE WORKS
“Roman Polanski has said he wants to work in Poland next year despite attempts by the United States to get the Polish authorities to arrest him and start extradition proceedings,” reports Matthew Day for the Telegraph. Says Polanski: “I would like to show my children the land where I grew up.” As Leo Barraclough reported for Variety in June, this next project, “which has the working title of The Dreyfus Affair, is based on Robert Harris’s novel An Officer and a Spy.”
“Seth Rogen has been set to star as Steve Wozniak opposite Christian Bale in Sony’s Steve Jobs biopic,” reports Variety‘s Dave McNary. “Based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, the real-life drama is directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin.”
Bill Murray and Bruce Willis are joining the cast of Magic City, a big screen version of the “Mitch Glazer-created period Miami casino mob series” that Starz cancelled last year, reports Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr.
Hulu “has handed out a 10-episode straight-to-series order for the Jason Reitman-produced comedy Casual, the Hollywood Reporter has learned, marking the Oscar nominee’s first TV foray. Casual revolves around a dysfunctional family with a bachelor brother and his newly divorced sister. Together, they coach each other through the crazy world of dating (online and off), while living under one roof again and raising a teenager.”
Garth Davis, who co-directed Top of the Lake with Jane Campion, will direct Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman in Lion. THR‘s Scott Roxborough: “The drama, based on the memoir A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, follows a street kid from Calcutta (Patel) who is taken in and adopted by a couple in Australia.”
Gaby Dellal will direct Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon in Three Generations, which “charts the interwoven lives of a New York teen transitioning from female to male, her single mother and lesbian music manager grandmother,” reports Jeremy Kay for Screen.
“Ricky Gervais has signed on to write, direct, and star in a remake of the 2009 French comedy Special Correspondents,” reports Alex McCown at the AV Club.
“Oscar-nominated French writer and actor Daniel Boulanger, who made his mark in the French New Wave movement in the 1960s, has died. He was 93.” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Rhonda Richford notes that Boulanger played a cop in Godard‘s Breathless and that his Ernest in Truffaut‘s Shoot the Piano Player kidnapped Charles Aznavour. Among his writing credits are “Louis Malle’s The Thief of Paris, Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Louis Delluc Prize-winner A Matter of Resistance, starring Catherine Deneuve, Costa-Gavras’s Un Homme du Trop and Roger Vadim’s 1976 drama Une Femme Fidele.”
Listening (37’26”). At the Talkhouse Film, James Marsh (Man on Wire) talks with Laura Poitras about Citizenfour.