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Cinema Scope Issue 72 - Fall 2017

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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editor’s note

As the world continues to implode at an alarming pace, for what it’s worth we still have cinema and, at this time of year, film festivals to distract us from whatever puerile nonsense is being tweet-stormed on any given morning. A fair number of articles in Issue 72 (and others from recent issues) cover works premiering in North America at what could be the last-ever Toronto International Film Festival, while over at cinema-scope.com right now you can find, oh, let’s say more than 150 or so pieces on other films making their continental debuts. (TIFF has gone under the circumcision knife this year, so I can’t promise at the time of writing that we will reach the magic number of 200 again, though we’ll do our very best.) In the…

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the new workout plan

William K.L. Dickson’s Sandow (1894) is a three-part documentary study of the Prussian muscleman Friedrich Wilhelm Muller, who adopted the more flamboyant nom de plume after he dodged the draft and joined the circus. Sandow’s placement on undergraduate film studies curriculums the world over owes to its unique historical value: it was the first commercially exhibited kinetoscope. The Sandow shorts are also mesmerizing on their own terms, however. Film historian Charles Musser identifies Dickson’s rapt, focused images of his subjects running through poses as a fleshy predecessor to the so-called “cinema of attractions,” and the parallel between Muller’s fine-tuned physiognomy and the device recording it is suggestive: the strongman and the medium are both flexing their muscles. All of which is to say that Denis Côté’s latest work, which vividly fixes…

access_time15 min.
ahead of its reflection

“Now I am in front of a rock. It splits. No, it is no longer split. It is as before. Again it is split in two. No, it is not split at all. It splits once more. Once more no longer split, and this goes on indefinitely. Rock intact, then split, then rock intact, then split, then rock intact, then split, then rock intact…” —Henri Michaux “Forms, ideas, and sensations intertwine as though they were a single, dizzyingly proliferating entity.” These words on Henri Michaux, from Octavio Paz’s introduction to Miserable Miracle, the “exploration” of mescaline from which Ben Russell has borrowed the above as the epigraph to his mining film Good Luck, might well have been written about the body of work Russell has produced over the last two decades.…

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all tomorrow’s féeries

Over the course of two months in 1988, a 28-year-old Pierre Léon completed his debut feature, Deux dames sérieuses, adapted from Jane Bowles’ only novel (Tennessee Williams’ favourite, no less). This would seem to have been an impossible task, given the dense modernist source, Léon total’s lack of experience, and no budget to speak of. Taking his cues from Werner Schroeter’s Weiße Reise (1979), Léon already knew that cinema was capable of mapping and tracing the most incredible journeys with minimum expenditures. An entire world was contained in one room, with Renaud Legrand’s paint job constituting all of the production’s set design. The cast was comprised of Léon’s friends and family, as well as a group of filmmakers and colleagues from Libération, where he worked back then as a classical-music…

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inner and outer space

An old face—skin drawn tautly over jaw and cheekbone, thinning grey hair, eyeballs quivering like tadpoles—is the central image in Wang Bing’s Golden Leopard winner Mrs. Fang. The naked, sober image of this face, which belongs to Fang Xiuying, the film’s bedridden 68-year-old protagonist, is studied at length and in close-up; the camera’s prominence imbues Fang’s pallid features with a kind of unclouded solemnity. The abstract concepts of death and illness are summoned to reality here, glimpsed in the twitch of an eyelid or in the grimace on Fang’s petrified lips. Before the full subject of the film—the bare intimacy of approaching the death of another human—is revealed, we see the grandmother in a few brief glimpses around her home in her village of Maihui, in China’s Zhejiang province. Wang shoots…

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the land of terrible legends

Narimane Mari’s 2013 film Bloody Beans concludes with a query: “What is worth more, to be or to obey?” These words, invoked in succession by a handful of the film’s adolescent protagonists, are taken from Antonin Artaud’s “Petit poeme des poissons de la mer,” an allegorical 1926 text by the French dramatist in which a school of fish refuse to submit to the question’s nested dialectic and are summarily killed for their defiance. Though Mari never reveals the fate of her film’s children, a ragtag group of boys and girls who for the majority of the movie’s runtime are seen ecstatically re-enacting instances of wartime violence and colonial aggression in a nocturnal flight through the villages and cemeteries of coastal Algiers, the rhetorical repercussions of Artaud’s parable nonetheless seem to…