Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Chung Kuo: Cina (China), a documentary commissioned by an Italian television network and the Chinese Embassy in Rome in 1972, “was almost immediately caught up in a diplomatic storm, with the Chinese government banning its exhibition in China and mounting a widespread campaign to have the film suppressed internationally,” notes editor Rolando Caputo, introducing the new issue of Senses of Cinema. Chung Kuo: Cina, now available on DVD from Mr. Bongo (where you can watch a three-and-a-half-minute clip), wouldn’t be screened in China until 2004.
Caputo: “We have on record numerable accounts of the controversy surrounding the film from a western perspective, however, inside views from the Chinese perspective are much rarer. It’s therefore all the more fascinating to read author Alice Xiang’s article in this issue on the means used by Mao’s government of the time to frame its discourse around the film, and equally as insightful is Xiang’s documenting of contemporary Chinese viewers’ responses to the film subsequent to its ban. Along the way, Xiang also offers insights about the nature and status of the documentary ‘image,’ something also pursued by Matthew Abbott’s piece on the United Nation’s sponsored documentary by Abbas Kiarostami, ABC Africa (2001), and, in a different light, Maryann De Julio’s look at Agnès Varda’s ‘self-portrait’ documentary Les plages d’Agnès (2008).”
Among the other features in Senses 67: Brigitta Wagner‘s interview with Matt Porterfield, Chrysanthi Nigianni on Chantal Akerman, Miklós Kiss on György Pálfi, Josh Anderson on William Wellman—and personally, I’m thrilled to see Christian Petzold enter the Great Directors Database. Jaimey Fisher does the honors.
More reading. Girish Shambu points us to several of his recent online discoveries, including an archive of essays by Fergus Daly; and Catherine Grant notes that Erika Balsom’s book, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art, is available as a free download.
Film Comment has dusted off Richard Thompson‘s epic interview with Paul Schrader that originally ran in the July/August 1976 issue. Taxi Driver (1976), Schrader says, was “an attempt to take the European existential hero, that is, the man from The Stranger, Notes from the Underground, Nausea, Pickpocket, Le Feu Follet, and A Man Escaped, and put him in an American context.”
Film Comment‘s also posted its first ever podcast (35’06”). J. Hoberman and Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Act of Killing, discuss Claude Lanzmann’s landmark documentary, Shoah (1985). Hoberman‘s reviewed Criterion‘s Blu-ray release for the magazine, and for more, see Kent Jones‘s essay for Criterion, Sam Adams (AV Club), Chuck Bowen (Slant), and Tom Hall.
The BFI’s restoration of Satyajit Ray’s The Big City (1963) tours the UK in August
For the Hollywood Reporter, Patrick Brzeski talks with Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Paradoxocracy producer Pasakorn Pramoolwong “about facing their own political ignorance, turning censorship challenges into artistic opportunities, and the ongoing struggle for true democracy in Thailand.”
“Every once in awhile a movie sees around the corner to where the culture is heading,” writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. Yutaka Tsuchiya’s docu-drama Thallium Shojo no Dokusatsu Nikki (GFP Bunny) “is certainly ambitious—Tsuchiya says in a program statement that its three themes are ‘surveillance in a marketing-oriented society, characterization of identity and biotechnology’—but it is also briskly paced, smartly edited and consistently engaging, if uncompromisingly disturbing.” And Schilling profiles Tsuchiya for the paper as well.
In Transit, Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin consider two scenes, one from James Foley’s Fear (1996), the other from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Martha (1974): “[T]heir differences serve to project interpretations, one into the other, each film underlining and bringing out a buried aspect of its double.”
“Zombie culture looks to me like a wasteland of imagination-free pandering.” Michael Atkinson is dead serious at Sundance Now.
Michael Brooke in Sight & Sound on Ray Harryhausen: “In his unprecedentedly vivid creation of imaginary universes drawn from ancient myths and legends, Harryhausen could be regarded as a twentieth-century successor to Richard Wagner, with the Sinbad/Jason/Titans films forming his own latterday Nibelunglied. But that suggests a degree of creative megalomania that seems wholly at odds with the personality of what by seemingly universal consent was one of the nicest and most respected men in a notoriously backstabbing business.”
“Truffaut and his films feel like old familiar friends that I’ve grown-up with and appreciate more with each passing year,” writes Kimberly Lindbergs. Also at Movie Morlocks, Greg Ferrara looks back on a career cut short, that of actress Sandy Dennis. And at Sundance Now, Nick Pinkerton‘s written a lengthy appreciation of Elizabeth Hartman (parts 1 and 2).
(Extended) Staircases to Nowhere is The Elstree Project’s oral history of the making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)
In other news. Michael Moore’s posted a statement from Jafar Panahi in which he accepts an invitation to join the Academy: “I am proud to accept the invitation on behalf of the large family of the Iranian filmmakers, who have steadfastly represented the best of Iranian arts and culture despite all the limitations they have been subjected to.”
“Last week’s closing night of the 5th BAMcinemaFest marked a bittersweet moment for a mainstay of New York’s film scene,” writes Brian Brooks for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. “Florence Almozini wrapped her final high profile event as Artistic Director and Founding Curator of BAMcinématek after serving nearly a decade and a half at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where she forged BAMcinemaFest and grew its year-round BAMcinématek, putting Brooklyn on the map as a key corner for film culture.”
New York. The Spectacle Theater and Kino Lorber are presenting a new restoration of Fritz Lang‘s Die Nibelungen (1924) “because there’s ‘epic’ and then there’s epic.” Part I: Siegfried screens on Sunday and next Sunday. Part II: Kriemhild’s Revenge screens July 13, 25, and 28.
Los Angeles. Werner Herzog’s five-channel video installation Hearsay of the Soul will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from July 23 through January 19.
Boston Viewfinder is new, beautifully designed guide to screenings and events happening in the area. Well-written, too, as it’s been created by Mariya Nikiforova and Stefan Grabowski of Balagan and Max Goldberg and features contributions by Fani Avramopoulos, Carson Lund, and Dmitry Martov.
Berlin. The Real Eighties – Neo Noir is on through the end of the month at Kino Arsenal.
In the works. Guillermo del Toro has been tinkering with adaptations of Frankenstein and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, though neither project is anywhere near even the pre-producton stage. As Kevin Jagernauth reports at the Playlist, del Toro hopes to score Benedict Cumberbatch for the former and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for the latter.
Even as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have begun shooting Deux jours, une nuit with Marion Cotillard, they’re received a shot of funding from Wallimage. So, too, has Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini. Aurore Engelen has details at Cineuropa.
John Woo has begun shooting The Crossing, reports Variety‘s Patrick Frater: “Set against the upheavals of revolutionary China in 1949, the film is the story of three couples from different backgrounds who make a fateful voyage on a ship fleeing China to Taiwan. The screenplay is by Wang Huiling, who previously co-wrote Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and who adapted Lust, Caution.”
Critical Theory reminds us that Alain Badiou still wants to make The Life of Plato with Brad Pitt.
This is real. No CGI or VFX. In Saturn’s Rings.
Listening. David Lynch’s new album, The Big Dream, is streaming at Pitchfork.
More browsing? Check in the Film Doctor. And Mike Everleth has this week’s “Underground Film Links.” #1? “It was bound to happen: Art F City has the first ever Vine by Jonas Mekas. You do realize that we are now living in the world as predicted by Mekas in his book Movie Journal, the day when experimental cinema plays daily in people’s homes all over the world.”
Trailer for Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars