Cinema Scope Issue 84 - Fall 2020

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

As this strangest of years plods not-so-merrily along, so as well do we, much lighter in the pocketbook but with all the resilience of an army of Mulans. (I think that metaphor makes sense, as I cannot currently afford to pay $30 to see a Disney film on Disney+ on my Apple computer, and I gather it is problematic.) Reading the reports from Venice, which against the odds is taking place as I type, I sense a much-desired reawakening from the critical community, as reflected in the outrageous trade reviews for some films that have no business being in there. But by now I’ve figured out that’s all a matter of opinion and, anyhow, who can blame them; I’m getting a bit stir crazy myself and could use reconnecting with…

23 min
the act of living

“The night scares me so much,” confesses a courageous Yazidi pre-teen girl to a therapist, remembering the period when she and her younger sister were captured by ISIS. Anyone who was seen crying would be killed, they were told; it turned out to be a vacant threat, but the sisters were still beaten, and now they are attempting to exorcise their memories by drawing pictures of them. Does it help? We never find out. The night continues to haunt her, but is the day any better? No sun shines on Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno, which finds the Italian filmmaker back on the road and on unfamiliar ground (and water, again, so much water) after two award-winning films shot in his home country (Sacro GRA, 2013; Fire at Sea, 2016). Notturno was…

14 min
i lost it at the movies

“It’s all planned, but it isn’t thought out,” wrote Pauline Kael in her review of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), a nifty bit of critical jiu-jitsu turning John Cassavetes’ much-theorized—and, during Kael’s reign at The New Yorker, much-derided—technique of spontaneous improvisation within a dramatic framework against him. For Kael, Cassavetes’ singular talent was for conveying the inchoate agony of “intense suffering from nameless causes;” however, watching this approach deployed in a character study about a schizophrenic wife and mother subjected to shock treatment, she perceived only sadistic indulgence masquerading as empathy. Hence Kael’s disparaging assessment of A Woman Under the Influence as a “murky, ragmop movie” punctuated by moments of “idiot symbolism,” and built around a performance by Gena Rowlands that was “enough for a half dozen tours de…

15 min
open ticket

One of the most surprising things about Ulrike Ottinger’s new documentary Paris Calligrammes is how accessible it is. Some cinephiles may be familiar with Ottinger based on an 11-year period of mostly fictional productions that were adjacent to the New German Cinema but, for various reasons, were never entirely subsumed within that rubric. Others are quite possibly more aware of her later work in documentary, in particular her commitment to a radical form of experimental ethnographic cinema. In either case, Ottinger’s films, often difficult to see in the first place, are extremely demanding, in terms of their duration, their bizarre narrative and performance styles, or some combination thereof. However, Ottinger’s new film is a different sort of animal. It’s biography as intellectual history, and although it explains quite a bit about…

18 min
a pierce of the action

In his Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes identified two elements at work in the act of viewing photographs. On one level was what he labelled the studium, which he defines as a sympathetic interest on the part of the viewer, “a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, but without special acuity…To recognize the studium is inevitably to encounter the photographer’s intentions, to approve or disapprove of them, but always to understand them, for culture (from which the studium derives) is a contract between creators and consumers.” The second level of engagement he called the punctum, “that element which will break (or punctuate) the studium. This time it is not I who seek it out (as I invest the field of the studium with my sovereign consciousness), it is this element which rises…

14 min
movies for robots

Given the right-wing accelerationism that has marked the response to the pandemic carried out by the governments of my country, state, and city (New York City, where a death toll approaching 25,000 ostensibly constitutes a successful response to the virus), it has been a troubling time to engage with Inventing the Future, the new feature by Isiah Medina. Based—a word I use advisedly and with the blessing of the film’s credits—on Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ 2015 book of the same name, one of the more visible texts to emerge from the tendency towards a tech-driven, future-oriented thinking on the left over the last decade gathered under the name accelerationism, it is a film whose complicated relationship with time in terms of both form and content rhymes with a sense…