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Film Comment January-February 2018 Vol. 54 No.1

For over 50 years, an award-winning mix of international news, interviews, and critical reviews has kept Film Comment’s readers in touch with the state of movie art. Find out why Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino subscribe.

United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
$7.90(Incl. tax)

in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

WE ALWAYS NEED GOOD movies, but last year, we really needed them. We went to see them because they helped us forget the variety of turmoils affecting the country and world, and we turned to them because they helped us make sense of the mess. And we also saw them because they were just plain good. Whatever the case, 2017 had a way of focusing our attention on the creative and original voices that the magazine has a tradition and a track record of championing. Our annual poll of contributors, showcased in a special section of this issue, features films by newcomers alongside veteran directors in what amounts to a time capsule of the year’s best. The race went to the swift this time, with the forward momentum of Good Time…

4 min
party line

WE READ THE ACCOUNTS LEFT BY KHRUSHCHEV AND Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, and a few other people at the time about the events of Stalin’s death, and his behavior. They all lived in fear, but they had to do terrible things to each other or to each other’s families just to get to that inner circle. And yet they all lived close to each other, in these apartments that Stalin put them in. So it’s a strange kind of social club, as well as a gang of politicians. Larry Sanders is my all-time favorite comedy show—it’s that sense of the one guy at the center who is flawed and holds that kind of power. If Larry goes, then everyone else goes as well. There’s an office politics that goes on, except that…

2 min
fighting the tide

DESPITE THE CONSIDERABLE LINEAGE OF noteworthy films produced by artists outside their native milieus, a film by an outsider working in a foreign locale still tends to be met with a hint of skepticism. With Life and Nothing More, Spanish-born director Antonio Méndez Esparza becomes the latest to negotiate the perils of creative and cultural cross-pollination. Esparza’s follow-up to his 2012 Cannes Critics’ Week winner Aquí y allá finds the 41-year-old filmmaker confidently embarking upon his first Stateside production. Set in a small, mostly African-American town in upstate Florida, Life and Nothing More follows the daily travails of frustrated single mother Regina (Regina Williams) and her teenage son Andrew (Andrew Bleechington), whose growing criminal record threatens to set him on a path similar to that of his incarcerated father. Enter Robert…

1 min

There’s never a shortage of films spring-loaded with messages and takeaways and just oodles of relevance. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of this year’s selection, and it’s fitting that a film so insistent on emblazoning its themes across the screen centers on provocations writ large across actual billboards. With Edgy Dialogue scripted to inflame by director Martin McDonagh, it’s a movie about small-town recriminations that barely seems to exist in an actual place, despite the conscientious title, and that pours on the calculated outrages and mindless motivations. The unimpeachable Frances McDormand provides more integrity than the picture deserves, but more characteristic is Sam Rockwell’s putupon Deputy Doofy. Another crowd-pleaser of the season is little more than an advertisement for itself: James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, about the making…

2 min
modern painter

Shooting Fruitvale Station, Mudbound, and Black Panther requires quite a variety of styles. I look for cinematography that is invisible to the project, that feels like it’s in service to the story but doesn’t feel so stylized that you’re noticing the cinematography itself. It should feel like [the filmmakers] are all speaking the same language. With Fruitvale Station, we wanted it to feel very much like a documentary. We never wanted it to feel like we had a wide shot and a close-up and we were cutting between the two. If we did more than one shot in the scene, we didn’t want the camera in a place where it would have been seen from the other shot. Ryan [Coogler, the director] said, “Can we step up the handheld? Can we…

2 min

The Long Island Four Anders Grafstrom, 1979, Museum of Modern Art MIDWAY THROUGH THIS ODD CREATION—AN OUTRÉ NO Wave musical shot in New York on Super-8 with the blessings of the East Village performance venue Club 57 and directed by the 23-year-old Swedish art director Anders Grafstrom—a trio of Nazis take a boat ride up the Hudson. We are ostensibly in 1942. The three spies in question have snuck into New York under orders to bomb West Point, a task for which they’ve reluctantly pulled themselves away from drinking and playing pool in Manhattan. (A fourth agent, seduced by America’s charms, has abandoned the mission altogether.) “If I had a choice I would always be on this boat,” one murmurs to himself in voiceover. “I would always be on my way to…