Film Comment

Film Comment March-April 2020 Vol. 56 No.2

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Film Society of Lincoln Center
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en este número

3 min.
editor’s letter

YOU MIGHT THINK THAT FILM Comment folk run a tidy side hustle placing canny bets on the Academy Awards. But more often than not, we’re busy championing movies that don’t already have tens of millions of dollars—in box office, in marketing, in production costs—behind them. These are movies that we believe represent the best in moviemaking today, wherever it’s happening, and which deserve and reward your attention. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the Academy catching up to what we had been saying for months: Bong Joon Ho and Parasite are the real deal. Sure, Cannes had honored Bong’s barn burner with the Palme d’Or last May, but when we put the movie on the cover of our September-October issue, it was not the obvious choice. Some were anticipating…

4 min.
public intellectual

THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION I MADE WITH MY CO-SCREEN writer Maurizio Braucci when we decided to adapt Jack London’s Martin Eden was to bring the story from Oakland to Naples, in the south of Italy. Since it involves an archetype, like Hamlet or Faust, we felt we could reshape Martin Eden to our image. But in Italy we don’t have the tradition of Stevenson, Melville, and Conrad, and we don’t have the American oceans, so we had to embrace the spirit of Pasolini, Carlo Levi, Ignazio Silone, and the Mediterranean Sea, which is hardly a pool compared to the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Our Martin Eden is a countryman sailor. By mingling fiction scenes with archival footage from different eras, I’ve tried to merge popular cinema with experimental cinema. And…

3 min.
up all night

What the Ross Brothers nail is the sense of home and belonging, and really the emotional freedom and safety, that The Roaring 20s provides for its patrons—which anyone blessed with a reliable local can immediately relate to. THE MOVIES ARE GRACED WITH MANY FINE scenes and moments in bars, but how many films grab a stool and stay, start to finish, in one sozzled setting? Enter Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, or should I say: enter The Roaring 20s—the dive bar where Bill and Turner Ross’s site-specific documentary takes place. Except, it’s a little more complicated than just one specific site… but we’ll get to that. For starters, know that the Ross brothers have filmed a delightful and suitably bittersweet look at a bar’s final night before shutting up shop. Cozy and dim,…

1 min.
sells like indie spirit

A typical visit to the Sundance Film Festival elicits a number of commonplace observations. There’s the perennial sound and fury of effortful branding in Park City. And, especially in the age of The Streaming Giants, there are extremely flexible definitions of “independent film” despite what’s hawked in promotional materials. (Everything seems summed up in the cringe-inducing “LEGIT” stickers offered to local sponsors and, just in case you missed them, advertised in festival trailers.) As for the movies, there’s a persistent sense of “calling card” adequacy to many of them, as if they were made to demonstrate proficiency more than excellence. On the positive side, you have adventurous movies like Zola and Time, but it’s possible to wonder whether an awful lot of time and money are concentrated on selling independence…

3 min.
profile in courage

“Part of what I wanted to do was to show Fox Rich as a mother—to show the sacrifices a mother makes, and to show also these private moments that she took for herself that many women feel like they don’t have the right to take.” GARRETT BRADLEY’S TIME IS A FIRST-PERSON documentary, though the first-person storyteller is not Bradley but rather Fox Rich—a Louisiana mother of six who for 21 years worked ceaselessly to have her husband Robert released from prison, where he was serving a 60-year sentence without parole. Bradley built her film out of Fox’s videotapes, transforming movie diaries into an intimate and epic film, where past and present flow together like memory, all time bound up in a single purpose—to reunite a family so they can love one…

2 min.
store of knowledge

What Warrington Hudlin ended up making with Street Corner Stories was both a glinting inversion of the campus documentary and a patient, precise film about work. Street Corner Stories Warrington Hudlin, 1977 Yale Film Study Center WARRINGTON HUDLIN MADE HIS FIRST FILM IN 1974, when he was a senior at Yale. He wanted to document what he later called the “split-consciousness experience” that shaped how he and other black students and university employees related to an inhospitable and often hostile institution. The result was an anthology of candid, incisive interviews. Hudlin called it Black at Yale: A Film Diary. The Film Study Center at Yale restored that film in 2017. Now the Center has given the same treatment to Hudlin’s second New Haven documentary, a bustling 1977 portrait of a convenience store at the corner…