The new issue of the multilingual journal La Furia Umana is up and its centerpiece is what essentially amounts to a symposium on the future of cinema. Arguing that digitalization is not a threat to “the Bazinian real,” Steven Shaviro writes that “there is no such thing as an art’s essential formal potentialities. The expressive uses of a medium are not a closed set…. Rather than clinging to older technological and aesthetic modes, film critics need to find new categories and new language that are more adequate to the new modes of experience that we see and hear today.”
In Parallel I–IV (2012–14), Erika Balsom sees Harun Farocki speaking “back across the decades to open a dialogue with another thinker of cinema who, like him, died far too young: André Bazin…. From which functions might film now be liberated? What might film now be free to do? Farocki offers no answers, but we owe it to him to take his questions seriously.”
Paul Grant uses that word “liberated,” too, and argues that one of the beneficiaries of “the seismic shift in just about every aspect of the cinematic-network-apparatus” may well be “the idea of regional cinema.”
Jonathan Beller suggests that Thomas Allen Harris’s Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, Laura Poitras‘s Citizenfour and Lav Diaz‘s Norte: The End of History, “exemplary in their efforts to intervene in, retransmit and de-/recode social process and thus geopolitics are programs—in every sense of that word—whether or not their makers recognize the fact.” And “what they are as texts and methods only makes sense in the context of a world of ambient programs.”
Advice to young filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino, Jerry Lewis, Terry Gilliam, John Carpenter, Paul Thomas Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini, Werner Herzog, Wes Anderson, Sidney Lumet, John Landis, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro and Orson Welles
Before moving on to the rest of the new issue, let’s note—not as any sort of counterargument but simply as a juxtaposition—that, at Chris Marker: Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory, Daniel L. Potter has posted an essay Raymond Bellour wrote in 2000:
Movies were unrivaled and never anything but movies for only a generation or two, depending on when TV started in your local time zone. But since then, despite being surrounded, cinema has continually reinvented itself. And because film continues to be a mirror of the world, as the Lumiere brothers and the first 19th-century moving picture machinery intended, a critic’s job is not just to distinguish between good and bad movies but also to diagnose in certain symptomatic films whatever it is that remains of that intended essence and thus evaluate the state of the movies in relation to all the other image systems from which it is under siege.
Back in LFU 23, you’ll find Steven Shaviro again, here on Jerry Lewis; Sophia Satchell-Baeza on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice; Andrea Luka Zimmerman on her Estate projects; Mónica Savirón‘s interview with Barry Gerson; Carlos Prieto Acevedo on Rodolfo Sánchez Alvarado‘s work on the sounds of Leobardo López Aretche’s El Grito (1968-71); Christine Dériaz on Diagonale 2015 and Austrian film; and Barbara Hammer: “Abstract Strategies. A Tendency.”
In the new Brooklyn Rail, Paul Felten writes about Tsai Ming-liang’s Rebels of the Neon God (1992) and we’ll take a closer look at the piece toward the end of the week.
Also in the April issue, Max Goldberg on J.P. Sniadecki‘s The Iron Ministry, “a thrillingly expansive portrait of China gleaned from the cramped compartments of its trains.” Also, “at their best, the [films from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab] (Sweetgrass, Foreign Parts, People’s Park, Leviathan, Manakamana) remind us that reality, when fully perceived, is always too much—too much to see, too much to hear, too much to bear.
Xin Zhou interviews Egyptian artist Basim Magdy, whose latest short, The Many Colors of the Sky Radiate Forgetfulness, will screen at Art of the Real 2015.
Simone Krug on Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film, the exhibition on view at El Museo del Barrio through June 27. It “casts him in the role of cinematographic auteur to reveal his foundations, influences, collaborations, and legacy as the patriarch of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.”
Chloe Wilcox: “In the exhibition A Group Show at Jack Shainman Gallery, Michael Snow shows and tells us, repeatedly, how and with what his art is made.”
Trailer for the new restoration of René Clément’s Forbidden Games (1952)
“Adam Budak’s first major gesture as the Chief Curator of the National Gallery in Prague was to introduce a Moving Image Department,” writes William Corwin, and the “move is accompanied by a well-deserved tribute to the Godfather of Czech minimalism Stanislav Kolíbal.”
“John Giorno has been a New York icon since he stared in Andy Warhol’s Sleep in 1963.” And Jarrett Earnest interviews him.
J.G. Ballard “loved Mad Max 2, going so far as to anoint it ‘Punk’s Sistine Chapel,'” writes Simon Sellars. In the run-up to the release of Mad Max: Fury Road in mid-May, he presents a “Ballardian primer to the Mad Max Universe, featuring quotes from Ballard interviews and excerpts from my forthcoming book, Applied Ballardianism.”
From Catherine Grant: “Film Studies For Free is thrilled to present an entry dedicated to some of the latest work of one of its absolute heroes: filmmaker, critic, and pioneer (and expert proponent) of the online video essay format, Kevin B. Lee.”
A big, big Pre-Code Blogathon hosted by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry and Danny Reid has just wrapped: Days 1, 2, 3 and 4. And Marilyn Ferdinand has announced that For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon will return on May 13. The goal during its fourth year will be to raise funds to cover the lab costs for the preservation of the comedy one-reeler Cupid in Quarantine (1918).
A few pieces Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted recently:
- “Makhmalbaf and Dostoevsky: A Limited Comparison.”
- “Death and Life [on Alexander Dovzhenko].”
- “Can Films Be Fascist?“
Kracauer. Photographic Archive collects what are essentially snapshots taken by Siegfried Kracauer and his wife, Elisabeth (“Lili”) and they “may be of limited visual interest, yet they have a certain fascination,” writes J. Hoberman for the New York Review of Books. “In his writing about photography, Kracauer… was less concerned with the intention of the photographer than with the logic of the medium—a radical view that prized the unforeseen correspondences and inadvertent revelations that may be found in dated news photos or old family portraits, photographs where initial associations fade and vanish so that the image ‘necessarily disintegrates into its particulars.’ Part of the pleasure of this new book is finding these very sorts of revelations in the Kracauers’ generally artless photos.”
At Reverse Shot, Daniel Witkin suggests that “if the rules of Ozu’s game are too easily known, this obscures the deftness with which he plays it and the magnitude of its stakes. Beginning from his films’ transparent technique and quotidian subject matter, it can be difficult to ascertain the source—outside of some mystic charisma—of their lasting power, especially if we allow that formal rigor alone does not great art make.”
Scarlett Johansson by Johanna Vaude
In his latest column for Film Comment, Nick Pinkerton argues that D.W. Griffith‘s The Birth of a Nation (1915) “embodies a harrowing juxtaposition of that which many of us value most about America—an Arcadian, bucolic tradition, with roots in Emerson and Leaves of Grass—and that which most of us would like to forget about it, a record of historical crime which may not be better or worse than those of other nations, but which is certainly thrown into grotesque relief when contrasted with the ideals that we have never ceased to represent ourselves as believing in.”
Nicole Disser talks with Light Industry founders Thomas Beard and Ed Halter for Brooklyn Magazine.
“There isn’t a better argument for the social value of long-form nonfiction filmmaking than Hoop Dreams,” writes Robert Greene for Criterion. And for Movie Mezzanine, Greene writes: “The story of how Peeping Tom effectively killed Michael Powell’s career in the U.K. is well known, but perhaps Powell was actually trying to slay cinema itself?”
In “All Are Welcome: Religion at the Movies,” a piece for RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm considers a handful of recent films addressing or, in a couple of cases, preaching Christianity. He then reminds us of Ebert’s many pleas for tolerance and wraps by recommending five related films. At the AV Club, Todd Hanson argues the case for Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and Cinephiled‘s Danny Miller considers a variety of depictions of Jesus throughout cinematic history.
John Waters has “finally returned to ‘cinema’ (for the first time since 2004) with Kiddie Flamingos,” a video featuring “several adorable kids playing his infamous characters in a family-friendly version” of Pink Flamingos (1972), and Felix Bernstein, writing at Hyperallergic, “expected nothing more than half-baked entertainment. But there is a small spark of sinister genius in the video, which underscores the benign and childish aspects of camp. Lunacy, of the kind he pioneered, can only sustain itself through children; the only untapped market for whom camp and zaniness still has meaning.”
Alex Zafiris talks with Olivier Assayas for BOMB.
At Bright Lights, Adam Simms “surveys critical films Hollywood produced about the First World War during the years 1925-1930—The Big Parade (1925), What Price Glory (1926), Two Arabian Knights (1927), Wings (1927), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)—and concludes that despite its troubled creation, [Howard Hughes’s] Hell’s Angels  succeeded in capturing the American film-going public’s disillusionment with that war.”
ScreenCrush picks the “25 Best Comedy Movies of the Last 25 Years,” while Splitsider writes up the “20 Best Comedy Movies of All Time.” And Vulture‘s Bilge Ebiri ranks the “29 Greatest Car Movies Ever.”
IN OTHER NEWS
The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that its retrospective I Put a Spell on You: The Films of Bertrand Bonello (April 29 through May 4) “will also feature a presentation of work from Bonello’s recent exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Bertrand Bonello, Résonances.”
Peter Rinaldi for Filmmaker: “Factory 25’s Digging My Own Grave: The Films of Caveh Zahedi might be the most comprehensive collection of an independent filmmaker’s work available in one set: five feature films, over two dozen shorts, a feature-length series of video letters, and a plethora of extras, all housed in a handsome 100-plus page hardcover book … oh, not to mention an actual vinyl record.”
“In the 1920s, Alla Nazimovah was a household name in the U.S.,” writes Robert Garrova at Off-Ramp. “A Russian immigrant, she was one of the first actresses to bring the plays of Chekhov and Ibsen to American audiences. In the early days of cinema, she was one of the highest paid actresses, earning $13,000 a week at one point.” And now a trunk-load of her costumes, long thought lost, has been discovered in an attic in Georgia.
Washington State “has the best-designed film incentive program in the country,” write Lynn Shelton (Laggies) and Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them) in the Stranger, arguing that “every Washington State resident—regardless of their affiliation with the film community—should support Senate Bill 6027, which seeks to expand the program.”
New York. Tomorrow evening at Light Industry: John Schott and EJ Vaughn’s America’s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scull – Contemporary Art at Auction.
Berkeley. The Pacific Film Archives series Mario Monicelli: Satires, Capers & Sendups is on through April 19. Duncan Gray in the Notebook: “In his heyday as a hitmaker, he worked with stars like Anna Magnani, Marcello Mastroianni, Totò, Claudia Cardinale, and Monica Vitti. He once shared a Golden Lion at Venice with Roberto Rossellini, and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film two years in row (and then a third time before the decade was out). Yet very few of his 50-plus films are available in the United States, and though renowned in Italy, his place in the global academy lags considerably behind by his contemporaries.” Which “which makes the Monicelli films touring the American repertory circuit even more welcome.”
Paris. Lumière! Le cinéma inventé, an exhibition on view at the Grand Palais through June 14, is a celebration of 120 years of cinema. Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: “To forge a link between past and present, Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar, Paolo Sorrentino, Xavier Dolan, Jerry Schatzberg and Michael Cimino have revisited the first Lumière film, Workers Leaving the Factory, and refilmed it, each in their own way, on the orginal site of the film premiere in Lyon.”
Berlin. Werner Schroeter would have been 70 tomorrow, when a special program of films will be screening in his memory at wolf.
IN THE WORKS
Wildgrounds summarizes (in English) Julien Gester‘s report (in French) for Libération from the set of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s The Woman in the Silver Plate, the story of a photographer who’s passionate about daguerreotypes and wonders whether the spirit of his late wife is haunting him. The cast features Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Malik Zidi and Mathieu Amalric.
When news broke two years ago that David Lowery would follow up on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints with a remake of Pete’s Dragon (1977), it was hard to know which was more surprising, Lowery’s choice or Disney’s. But if you’re following Lowery’s production diary, you’ll see things are rocking along just fine. What’s more: “Alex Ross Perry‘s Winnie the Pooh writing deal got announced in the trades today, which means that it’s officially time for Disney to increase the vegan offerings at the studio commissary.” That’s right. The director of The Color Wheel (20