3.February.2012: The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s complete retrospective of Béla Tarr’s films (“The Last Modernist: The Complete Works of Béla Tarr”) gets underway tonight with screenings of Family Nest, his 1979 debut, and Damnation, his first collaboration with novelist László Krasznahorkai. FSLC will run through the rest of the Hungarian auteur’s works over the next week, culminating in his latest and reportedly last feature, The Turin Horse. When Kevin Lee rounded up critics’ impressions of last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, Andrew Tracy responded with this transcription from a Q&A following The Turin Horse: “Audience Member: Is this really your last film, and if so, why? Tarr: Did you see this?” Enough critics did to rank it second in Film Comment’s poll of Best Unreleased Movies of 2011. On occasion of the FSLC retrospective, R. Emmett Sweeny interviews Tarr for Film Comment. Over at Moving Image Source, Aaron Cutler draws upon ten clips from Tarr’s films to illustrate the director’s moral activation of the gaze: “A terrible sight in a Tarr movie traumatizes because of how it wounds not the eyes, but the mind.”
There are plenty of traumatic sights in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, which after playing TIFF opens this weekend selectively in theaters and from IFC on demand. It rated as Cinema Scope’s seventh best film of 2011 (The Turin Horse was #2). Introducing his interview with Wheatley, Adam Nayman calls Wheatley’s sophomore effort “the key horror movie of the new century so far.” “Working with cinematographer Laurie Rose and editor Robin Smith, both of whom worked on—and the latter starred in—his impressive debut Down Terrace (2010),” Nayman writes, “Wheatley weaponizes the widescreen frame.” Kevin Lee writes for the Chicago Sun-Times that “[Kill List] takes seemingly familiar genre elements and offsets them in ways that can be confounding, but leave an unforgettable impact,” while Eric Kohn simply calls it a “brutally unsettling masterpiece.”But Slant’s Jamie N. Christley isn’t having it, singling out “an ending so gracelessly ironic, O. Henry himself would have thrown up his hands in disgust.”
MUBI Notebook’s David Hudson calls attention to an ongoing retrospective of Stan Brakhage’s films at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, recalling an earlier announcement: “There wasn’t much noise being made about it at the time, and now, several weeks on, there still isn’t, so here’s a second alert.” Get ready for the films with Jim Sheridan’s documentary portrait, Brakhage, streaming right now at Fandor.
Back at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Michal Oleszczyk reports for The House Next Door on the newest offering from a contemporary giant of the American avant-garde, James Benning. “As modest and self-explanatory as its lower-case title suggests,” Oleszczyk begins, “small roads is James Benning’s latest contemplation of American landscape as an awesome man-made sculpture… Less a creator than a supreme student of creation (both natural and man-made), Benning admits to following the reality itself in shaping his latest vision—and thus, the business of each shot allegedly mirrors the business of the road it portrays (the vacant roads are given three minutes of screen time each).”