The new issue of Screening the Past features a special section, “Aesthetic Issues in World Cinema (Part 1),” edited by Adrian Martin, opening with Nicole Brenez‘s essay on “Political Cinema Today,” and proceeding with two pieces on Claire Denis (by Kath Dooley and Saige Walton), Sarinah Masukor on Philippe Grandrieux’s Un lac (A Lake, 2008), Julie Banks on Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence (2004), Anthony Macris on Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange (1971), and more.
Then there are five new essays outside that package, including Shohini Chaudhuri‘s “Documenting The Dark Side: Torture and the ‘War on Terror’ in Zero Dark Thirty, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Standard Operating Procedure“; nine books reviews, plus Part 4 of Bill Routt monumental study of “Ford at Fox”; and Jean-Baptiste Thoret‘s 2000 essay on Michael Mann and Donald Phelps‘s 2001 piece on Ben Hecht.
We pretty much wrapped the Vancouver International Film Festival last week, but David Bordwell‘s posted a last dispatch in which he offers his takes on Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son (“It’s impossible to dislike this warm, meticulously carpentered film”), Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin (“a dread-filled panorama, with bursts of violence staged and filmed with an impact that reminds you how sanitized contemporary action scenes are”), Johnnie To‘s Blind Detective (“screechingly peculiar”), Jean-Luc Godard‘s The Three Disasters (his contribution to 3x3D; “his dispersive poetic musings take on a new vitality”), and Manoel de Oliveira‘s Gebo and the Shadow (“at once an engrossing story and an exciting exercise in what cinema can still do”).
Mother of George and 12 Years a Slave are just the most recent in a remarkable run of films this year by and about African Americans, films that range in genre from the urban realism of Fruitvale Station and light romantic comedy of Baggage Claim to the high-gloss historic drama of Lee Daniels’ The Butler and the evocatively gritty pot comedy Newlyweeds. The diversity of these films isn’t reflected just in their stories and characters, but in the wide range of skin tones they represent, from the deepest ebonies to the creamiest caramels.
The fact that audiences are seeing such a varied, nuanced spectrum of black faces isn’t just a matter of poetics, but politics—and the advent of digital filmmaking. For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone.
That embedded racism extended into the aesthetics of the medium itself, which from its very beginnings was predicated on the denigration and erasure of the black body.
In “Why I Once Gave Up Horror Movies Entirely,” novelist and filmmaker Clive Barker looks back for the Hollywood Reporter at a time when a first bout of depression kept him away from the genre he’d so dearly loved. “It wasn’t, you understand, that I came to believe any of these fictions were real. It was that I understood for the first time why they carried such authority over our imaginations, even when they dressed up in cheap theatrics. They were psychically true.”
Pedro Costa in Athens
Alex Needham talks with Kenneth Anger for the Guardian: “There is a third volume of Hollywood Babylon [the controversial book of film industry scandals that Anger published in 1959] but it can’t be published because of a very nasty group who call themselves Scientologists.”
At Movie Morlocks, Susan Doll explains why you should catch Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black (1963) tomorrow night on TCM.
James Schamus’s Focus Features “built its enviable track record by making smart movies in the space between the tentpoles and the tadpoles, but that position has become unstable territory,” writes Frank Digiacomo in the new issue of New York.
IN OTHER NEWS
Criticwire‘s Sam Adams talks with Jamieson McGonigle about No Eulogies, his effort to revive Andrew Dominik’s truly revival-worthy The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). Dominik will be on hand for the December 7 screening at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image.
Kickstarter projects to know about: Bryan Poyser is taking The Bounceback, his “outrageous and heartfelt comedy about love and revenge in Austin, Texas on a road show and we need your help!” And Jörg Buttgereit, Andreas Marschall, and Michal Kosakowski are working on a horror trilogy, German Angst.
New York. “Get Thee to MOMA’s To Save and Project Festival!” exclaims Farran Nehme. Actually, she doesn’t. I’ve added the exclamation mark. You would, too, if you’d read her annotated list of recommendations.
If you’ve read Michael Guillén‘s interview with Ninetto Davoli here in Keyframe today, and you’re in Houston, you’ll want to be seeing what you can of the Museum of Fine Arts‘ Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective, still on through Sunday.
A new restoration of Nosferatu (1922) opens in London on Thursday as part of the BFI’s months-long Gothic season (the Monstrous strand is on through November. It’ll also screen at New York’s Film Forum on November 4 with live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner. At any rate, writing at Artinfo, Graham Fuller admire’s F.W. Murnau‘s “eloquent use of visual grammar (not least frames within frames) and intricate weave of subjectivities.” But the film also “reeks vomitously of anti-Semitism, as did Stoker’s tale. In this respect, it was no different to Paul Wegener and [screenwriter Henrik] Galeen’s The Golem (1920), which subtly subverts the Jewish legend, and G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), in which Louise Brooks’s promiscuous Lulu—bane of bourgeois respectability—noticeably keeps a menorah in her flat.”
Vienna. The Jerry Lewis retrospective that’s been organized by the Austrian Film Museum within the framework of the Viennale is not only already underway but it’ll also be running through November 24. This’ll be “the first attempt in decades to stage an extensive overview of Lewis’ work as actor and director, in 35mm prints only.” Here‘s more background; and the schedule’s here.
IN THE WORKS
“Australia’s top Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce are to head home,” reports Patrick Frater for Variety. “They will star in Strangerland, an Oz mystery drama about a couple whose teenage children go missing in the Outback.”
Dennis Cozzalio‘s “Fearsome Halloween Classic Horror Frame-Grab Quiz (1931-2013).
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE