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Film Comment

Film Comment January-February 2019 Vo.l 55 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.

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United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
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in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

YOU’D BE FORGIVEN FOR DISPLAYING symptoms of whiplash after the past few months in the film world, much less the past year or several years. From distribution to production to exhibition to (let’s not forget) the films and filmmakers themselves, there’s been a series of constant shifts and changes, some good, some bad, some hard to qualify. Many of them hit us right where we live, quite literally, as in the closing of home streaming service Film- Struck, already a legendary resource in its own time. The nature of moviegoing continues to evolve, and as it ever was in the history of motion pictures, it’s a strange and brutish tango between catering to the wishes of moviegoers (actual and perceived) and precisely monopolizing the pathways of their consumption. We do our…

4 min
wartime out of joint

SINCE MY TEENS, I’VE BEEN A KEEN READER AND CINEPHILE. I shared this with Harun Farocki, my teacher, friend, and collaborator. Transit is dedicated to Harun. He gave me Anna Seghers’s 1944 novel, upon which it’s based. Growing up in West Germany, I was discouraged from reading Seghers because she was a communist. Transit follows refugees fleeing Nazism, stranded in Marseille. This parallels today’s European refugee crises and rising neo-Nazism. Writing the film, I experimented with narration, thinking of Defoe and Sterne’s first-person (often unreliable) narrators. While shooting, I played the voiceover but had the actors improvise different actions, creating a disjunction. Anachronisms also do this—Transit’s 1944 characters are filmed in contemporary Marseille. The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973) and Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s…

2 min
bark park

PARQUE DE LOS REYES IN SANTIAGO IS HOME to Chile’s first skate park and—in Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff ’s wonderful nonfiction film—two resident stray dogs. Los Reyes (“The Kings”) watches Fútbol and Chola, a furry shepherd mix and some kind of labrador respectively, as they hang out, play, and generally coexist with the people who are also hanging out and playing on the lawns and concrete ramps. Rather than create a Disney fantasy out of the setup, Perut and Osnovikoff weave together a couple of stories that don’t let us forget the reality underlying this urban oasis. Amid the good humor of canine rumpus, the lives of a few teenage skaters are represented on the audio track through conversations among friends, one of whom struggles with drugs—a situation that seems…

1 min
checking it twice

Ah, the winter months, when sleigh bells ring-a-ling their way past December and into the wastelands of January and February—or not, depending on where you live and what role/havoc climate change has played in your local weather system. ’Tis a time of list-making and prize-giving, when films are deemed naughty or nice, and the book is slowly closed on 2018 forevermore, that we may never need contemplate these films again, and also that we might make way for new product. It is a magical moment when proprietary discs and links carpet-bomb the homes of twinkle-eyed voters across the land, and when critics in sundry joyous organizations put on their party hats to join in the apple-cheeked fun of award-giving and merrymaking, allowing themselves a winner-take-all rest from the nasty business…

3 min
into the clockwork sunset

ONE OF THE MOST UNCOMPROMISING and versatile cinematographers working today, Bruno Delbonnel resumed his collaboration with the Coen Brothers with their six-part Western anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, shot over 10 weeks. What was your underlying macro-concept for the film? Our first question was whether we should have an aesthetic difference between each chapter—a very big concern that we only resolved at the end, during the color grading. At the beginning, there was this desire to have six different universes. So the second question was: is this a whole or are these six short films? Ultimately, the visual motif of the book [which links the chapters] made it clear that it was a whole. Of course, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs deals with themes that constantly return in the Coen Brothers’…

2 min
the naked truth

Nude on the Moon Doris Wishman (as “Anthony Brooks”), 1961, 4K preservation by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) THE INTREPID EXPLOITATION FILMMAKER DORIS WISHMAN remembered the “nudies” she made in the early 1960s with an almost nostalgic fondness. “You know that these pictures had no sex at all,” she told an interviewer in 1974. “There was no contact, there was no kissing, hand holding, nothing.” Voyeurism—abstracted—was the fantasy they both promised and burlesqued. A guileless astrophysicist and his “professor” spend the second half of Nude on the Moon exploring a lunar nudist colony with dumbstruck wonder, taking pictures and scribbling notes about the women who stroll around them with languid indifference. Wishman shot the film in Florida. She had started out in the distribution business; she turned to directing after her first…