Let’s begin with David Phelps, writing for the L: “A sign of festival bounty or contemporary shortfall, Migrating Forms (May 11-20 at Anthology Film Archives), New York’s annual recap of what used to be called ‘the avant-garde,’ and now might better be called ‘lo-fi cinema,’ offers about a third of its programming to rep considerations: 35mm prints of Chuck Jones shorts, Fritz Lang‘s Indian diptych, Adachi and Wakamatsu‘s [Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War (1971)], and a 16mm, fade-resistant copy of Raúl Ruiz‘s On Top of a Whale. Nothing better! With zero competition, Migrating Forms is probably the city’s best film festival; in opposition to the usual form of festival gloat, Migrating Forms’ 31 programs over 10 days seem less dedicated to the dubious hagiography of surveying every vein of avant-garde, than featuring its programmers’ own, divergent interests.”
Further in, David segues into an interview: “The highlight for me, critically and otherwise, is automatically Traveling Light, an-hour long record of a day’s train ride by my friend and long-time movie sparring partner, Gina Telaroli.”
“A concern with the politics of land, as well as with the sheer impressiveness of nature on consciousness, runs throughout this year’s lineup,” notes Tom McCormack in his overview for Alt Screen. “Haunted by a horror-movie soundtrack, Jesse McLean’s Remote glances nervously from factory to forest and suburb to sky; cracks in the clouds, gaps in the fences, and the space between branches become abodes of spectral forces. In Fern Silva’s The Peril of Antilles, a hurricane approaches Haiti along with a cholera epidemic, the pathetic fallacy born out by history. Silva’s syncopated editing levies overbearing dread with moments of release. Celebratory music and hints of quotidian rural life punctuate the gathering storm.”
Migrating Forms itself presents a fine selection of reading on several of its offerings this year: Dennis Lim in the New York Times on the opening film, Eric Baudelaire’s The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images, MUBI’s Daniel Kasman on Lang’s The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb, Robert Koehler on Gonçalo Tocha’s It’s the Earth Not the Moon for Cinema Scope, Daniel Trilling in Sight & Sound on Phil Collins, and Collin Beckett for Moving Image Source on Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Palaces of Pity.
Update, 5/16: Reviewing Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Abendland at the House Next Door, Ela Bittencourt wonders if it’s “a metaphor for contemporary Europe? Following glum economic news, some critics have espied in its title an allusion to decay and decline. Perhaps, but watching the nocturnal going-ons in factories and in hospital wards, in whorehouses or at an anti-nuclear protest, I was not so sure that the film delivered one particular message. This is partly because Geyrhalter, whose background is in photography, has a patient and a discerning eye when it comes to capturing the prose of life and rendering it strange. In one early scene, a nurse feeds a tiny human infant attached to a tangled network of tubes. Her soft patter and the baby’s cherry-red skin seem almost menaced by the life-saving machines. By the time the infant is back in the incubator, and the lights go off, leaving it to its precarious breathing, you may find yourself holding your breath as well. From the start then, this movie is more broadly about ‘the human factor’ in an increasingly mechanized world.”