In one of his best “Bombast” columns yet—and that’s saying something—Nick Pinkerton first reminds us that part of a film critic’s responsibility is to recognize the limitations of our ability to fully comprehend the historical contexts of films made in times and places we haven’t experienced firsthand. With that disclaimer out of the way, he turns his reflections on the recent Anthology Film Archives series The Italian Connection: Poliziotteschi and Other Italo-Crime Films of the 1960s and 70s into something of a primer:
The poliziotteschi film wasn’t only a reflection of or reaction to the pervasive sense of political despair, but also to contemporary currents in pop cinema, with Don Siegel’s 1971 Dirty Harry—starring no less an Italian-American icon than Leone’s Man with No Name—a particularly important reference point. While Harry Callahan San Francisco PD inspector is hamstrung by plea-bargaining judges who teach constitutional law at Berkeley, in the poliziotteschi the enemy is an endemic, systematic corruption that has spread to the very highest levels of government, implicating capitalists, clergy, and their allies in the mafia.
“I met J.G. Ballard once—it was a car crash.” Zadie Smith was only 23 at the time. “Every book I championed he hated. Every film he admired I’d never seen.” Writing for the Guardian, Smith sketches Ballard’s life up to that meeting and the evolution of her own engagement with his work ever since. And then she turns to Crash: “I was in college when the Daily Mail went to war with the movie, and found myself unpleasantly aligned with the censors, my own faux-feminism existing in a Venn diagram with their righteous indignation. We were both wrong: Crash is not about humiliating the disabled or debasing women, and in fact the Mail‘s campaign is a chilling lesson in how a superficial manipulation of liberal identity politics can be used to silence a genuinely protesting voice, one that is trying to speak for us all.”
“The Fleischers, Max and Dave, took animation in a different direction from Disney in ’30s,” writes Derek Davis at the Chiseler. “What they did will never be duplicated today, because hand-drawn gels are just different from CGI and its relatives. Not saying one or the other is better, but the hand-drawn springs directly from the mind. No machine could think that way.”
B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica) by John Foxx, Karborn and Jonathan Barnbrook
For the New Inquiry, Johanna Fateman writes about Maleficent, “Disney’s first rape-revenge film.” And she focuses specifically on the new rendition of “Once Upon a Dream“: “Who better than [Lana] Del Rey—with her thing for tragic archetypes, her widespread castigation as a fraud, and her rise to stardom despite it—to bring Maleficent’s excavation of female evil, its themes of cruelty, enchantment and transformation, into the present?”
For Artforum, Leo Goldsmith reports on this year’s Flaherty Film Seminar: “Not quite so free-wheeling as a film festival nor quite so focused as an academic conference, the Seminar is named for Robert Flaherty, whose own place and stature within the institution of documentary has ebbed and flowed just as documentary practice itself has migrated among different media: from cinema (independent, experimental, and commercial) to television, contemporary art, interactive media, and beyond.”
John McGrath’s Border Warfare (1990) “is an angry, aggressive, argumentative work, which traces Scotland’s political history as something actively shaped by prolonged and systematic oppression at the hands of the English—their explicitly terrible monarchies, their insidiously tyrannical governments, their openly proud and self-absorbed propertied classes.” Michael Pattison for Sight & Sound: “At two and a half hours, it’s a succinct and persuasive argument for Scottish independence.”
Seattle. Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema arrives at Northwest Film Forum tomorrow and runs through Friday. The Stranger‘s Charles Mudede previews Wojciech J. Has’s The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973): “Because it is about a dream, the film is at once gorgeous and frustrating.”
London. The Institut français’ Philippe Garrel Season is on through July 31.
Brighton. “This year marks not only the 50th anniversary of the Who, but also the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Beach battle between mods and rockers immortalized in Quadrophenia,” writes Gavin Edwards for Rolling Stone. “To mark the occasion, England’s University of Sussex is holding a weekend-long symposium on both the album and the film, from July 10th through the 12th.”
IN THE WORKS
“Allegations of industrial cyber-espionage and mass electronic snooping have been flying hot and heavy between Washington and Beijing recently, but director Michael Mann’s upcoming cyber-thriller imagines an American and a Chinese army officer—two former MIT roommates—teaming up to stop a ruthless, profit-driven hacking network.” Julie Makinen reports for the Los Angeles Times.