Cinema Scope Issue 80 - Fall 2019

With unparalleled depth and breadth, Cinema Scope is one of the most respected English-language publications on film worldwide. Cinema Scope unites experienced critics from across North America with up-and-coming writers. Packed with reviews, essays, festival reports, and interviews, we’re geared to cinephiles looking for an intelligent forum on world cinema. “Advocates for a passionate, poltical and purist engagement with the movies”—The New York Times

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4 Issues

in this issue

3 min
editor’s note

On a certain fine day in August, the unthinkable happened — actually, two unthinkables: 1) a jury awarded Pedro Costa the main prize at a major festival, and 2) all the reviews of a Pedro Costa film were raves. This utopian state lasted until around the same time that award was announced to the press—which I am sure was no coincidence—and, yes, it was good old Variety, still toiling mightily under the institutional memory of Todd McCarthy (Locarno jury, 2000), that did not let me down, launching their review of Vitalina Varela with this critical equivalent of a velvet-gloved slap to the face: “Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small…

21 min
no god but the unknown

“Of course it was beautiful; but there was something more than beauty in it, something more stingingly splendid which had made beauty its handmaiden.”—Jack London, Martin Eden Pietro Marcello’s decade-long evolution from idiosyncratic film essayist to grand narrative storyteller represents one of the most significant artistic flowerings in contemporary cinema. Recently unveiled in competition at Venice, the Italian filmmaker’s fifth feature, Martin Eden, is momentous in ways that many Marcello enthusiasts may not expect: distinctly big, dramatic, and affecting, it confirms Marcello’s burgeoning talents and marks the belated arrival of a singular artist to the international art-house stage. More impressively, it does so without sacrificing the beauty, rigour, and intelligence that has built Marcello’s reputation as one of European cinema’s foremost fusionists. Indeed, one can draw a mostly straight line from…

10 min
natural wonders

In Jessica Sarah Rinland’s 2016 short The Flight of an Ostrich (Schools Interior), a shy, studious eight-year-old becomes transfixed by a nature documentary while her more rambunctious classmates whisper and pass notes around her. “The ostrich is incapable of doing the one thing birds are famous for: they cannot fly,” the documentary’s narrator intones with BBC-inflected authority. Rinland registers the young girl’s enthusiasm in extreme close-ups, first focusing on her eyes and then the corner of her mouth, suggesting a secret smile. The other kids are all framed in wider shots, bored and antsy like the schoolboys in Le quatre cents coups (1959). When discussion turns to the ostrich’s defence mechanisms—its uncommon speed, strength, stride, and agility—Rinland cuts to a close-up of the girl’s ear, underlining the message of the…

35 min
i see a darkness

A moving study of mourning and memory, Pedro Costa’s revelatory new film offers an indelible portrait of Vitalina Taveres Varela, a fragile yet indomitable woman who makes the long voyage from Cape Verde to Lisbon to attend her estranged husband’s funeral, but misses the event itself because of cruel bureaucratic delays. The name and tragic story will be familiar to those who know Costa’s previous masterwork, Horse Money (2014), in which Vitalina appears as one of the ghostly figures alternately confronting and comforting Costa regular Ventura during his soul-searching stay in a haunted sanatorium. Vitalina Varela forms a diptych with that earlier film, extending its intermingling of personal and national trauma while refining Costa’s unique mode of oneiric first-person cinema in which inner voices are theatrically recited like prayers. Ventura…

8 min
woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown

With his first two features, Tower (2012) and How Heavy This Hammer (2015), Toronto-based director and MDFF co-founder Kazik Radwanski established something of a recurring archetype: sad, lonely, and horny men whose unpleasant or uninteresting qualities are accentuated by the director’s unrelenting approach of shooting almost entirely in medium close-ups. The prospect of spending an hour and a half with people lacking in notable virtue, alluring vice, or any apparent interest, may seem like an unproductive exercise in forced empathy—but consider this skepticism a function, as opposed to a fault, of these tightly orchestrated, seemingly soporific character studies. Although Tower’s Derek (Derek Bogart), an aspiring animator afflicted by premature hair loss, and How Heavy This Hammer’s Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem), a neglectful father who wastes his life on an online…

11 min
the taste of summer

“You’ll have to trust me that where it seems like nothing could exist, something always does. And there’s something here.”—Sarah Abbot, Froglight (1997) In 2014, Phil Hoffman published a piece in Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures entitled “Your Film Farm Manifesto of Process Cinema.” The text was a call to action born out of years of teaching and facilitating opportunities for artists hungry to immerse themselves in the physical medium of film at the Independent Imaging Retreat. Hoffman had conceived of this annual workshop with colleagues in 1994 on his property in Mount Forest, two hours northwest of Toronto—a rural haven that earned its nickname of the Film Farm. Though the manifesto’s first lines read more like a challenge than an invitation—“Enter through the big barn doors, without sketches and…