“Vertical Cinema is a series of ten newly commissioned large-scale, site-specific works by internationally renowned experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists, which will be presented on 35 mm celluloid and projected vertically with a custom-built projector in vertical cinemascope.” The 90-minute program has been traveling to various venues for just over a year now and, in the new issue of the bilingual film quarterly desistfilm, Julian Ross talks with Dutch curators Sonic Acts (Lucas van der Velden and Gideon Kiers) about “screen formats, scale and the limitations they seek to conquer curating moving image media. The conversation continued with Japanese filmmaker Takashi Makino, with whom Lucas and Gideon collaborated for the film Deorbit (2013) as members of the Dutch media art group Telcosystems.”
Also in English in desistfilm 007: Ross posts his 2012 conversation with the late Peter von Bagh; Tara Judah writes about Patrick Keiller’s London (1994), Robinson in Space (1997) and Robinson in Ruins (2010); José Sarmiento Hinojosa interviews Jeanne Liotta, “one of the best avant-garde filmmakers of all time”; Joe McElhaney revisists Paul Morrissey’s Mixed Blood (1985); and Lauren Bliss places Mad Max (1979) in the context of George Miller’s oeuvre and other Australian films in which “the land rises up and turns against its inhabitants, either causing insanity or death.”
“Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I’ve been waiting for The Grapes of Wrath,” writes the New York Times‘ A.O. Scott. “Or maybe A Raisin in the Sun, or Death of a Salesman, a Zola novel or a Woody Guthrie ballad—something that would sum up the injustices and worries of the times, and put a human face on the impersonal movements of history. The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past. But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us.” Is it? Scott has opened up a discussion with a panel that includes Ken Burns, J. Cole, Debra Granik, Justin Simien and David Simon.
Andrew Grossman in Bright Lights:
As commercial cinema was preparing its total commitment to sound, one startling, unique, and admittedly mystifying critique of the “new” audiovisual consonance did emerge from an unlikely source—the American filmmaking partners James Sibley Watson Jr. and Melville Webber. Today Watson and Webber are best known for their shorts The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) and Lot in Sodom (1933), both acknowledged classics of the interwar American avant-garde (and, in the case of Sodom, of early queer cinema). Watson and Webber’s nearly forgotten seven-minute 1930 sound short Tomatoes Another Day (aka It Never Happened), however, has more far-reaching ramifications than do Usher and Sodom, films entrenched, respectively, in once fashionable Caligarism and the formalistic dynamism pioneered by the Futurists. Transcending any particular aesthetic agenda or modernist trend, Tomatoes instead offers a broad (if bewildering) critique of the ideology of audiovisual congruity, a critique more trenchant now during the reign of late capitalism than it was at the tentative cusp of talkie cinema.
“Lars von Trier’s films have been created in a state of intoxication,” writes Nils Thorsen for Politiken. “While writing his manuscripts he has put himself in a special state by drinking a bottle of vodka a day and taking ‘a drug,’ he says, saying that this has been his way of entering a ‘parallel world’—a special state in which ideas develop. Now that he’s sober, Lars von Trier’s afraid that he has run dry as an artist and can only make ‘shitty films.”
With the New Republic turning 100 this year, David Thomson looks back on one of his favorite films of all time, Alain Resnais‘s Hiroshima mon amour (1959), and how Stanley Kauffmann responded to it in those pages and, along the way, briefly considers the work of another film critic for the magazine, Manny Farber.
“Few shots in cinema are as iconic as the closing moments of John Ford’s The Searchers, with the departure of Ethan Edwards framed through a doorway, while The Sons of the Pioneers intone a heartfelt, repeated ‘Ride Away’ before the screen turns black when the door is closed.” Christoph Huber riffs.
IN OTHER NEWS
“Crocodile, Filipino director Francis Xavier Pasion’s drama about a mother’s search for the body of a daughter attacked by a crocodile, won the Tokyo Filmex Grand Prize,” reports Patrick Frater for Variety. “Jury chairman Jia Zhangke announced the prize Saturday at the festival’s main venue in Tokyo’s Yurakucho Asahi Hall. The film earlier scooped the best film prize at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.”
Perhaps you’ll have seen that the editors of Cahiers du Cinéma have posted their 2014 top ten and that Sight & Sound has begun rolling out the results of its year-end poll. Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted his ballot and added a few remarks.
Here in Keyframe, Kevin B. Lee not only writes but has also made a video about his top ten first features of 2014.
Hilary Mantel, Jeanette Winterson, David Nicholls, Lena Dunham, Michael Morpurgo, Eimear McBride, Shami Chakrabarti, Naomi Klein, Ian Rankin and Margaret Atwood write up their books of the year for the Guardian. And the Washington Post‘s put up its “best books of 2014” package.
The Film Doctor‘s posted a round of “ephemeral links.”