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Film Comment

Film Comment March-April 2019 Vol. 55 No.2

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

ONE YEAR AGO, WE FEATURED Black Panther director Ryan Coogler on the cover of Film Comment and wrote about how the record-setting film broke new ground in the realm of genre. For our March/April issue, we are drawn inexorably back into that realm, looking now at another corner of the universe through Claire Denis’s eyes in her terminal space journey High Life. And that’s far from the last we’ll hear from adventurous filmmakers pushing into reality-bending genres: James Gray’s intergalactic effort Ad Astra premieres this year, Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die looms, and closer at hand, Jordan Peele’s Us opens up fresh horrors in March (following his foray into science fiction with the series Weird City). What on earth (or off it) is going on? “Genre” of course…

4 min
to each her own

ARTISTIC INFLUENCE AND INSPIRATION ARE SO DIFFICULT TO pin down or measure that you can’t even really describe them as phenomena. They’re bound up with life, with experiencing the passage of time and coming to terms with ceaseless change. It’s not a matter of academic pursuit. It’s about staying open, seeing and hearing and feeling and describing more and more all the time. A life of movie-watching gave me a wide array of possibilities for aesthetic choices on paper and in preproduction. For instance, the look. I told my DP, Wyatt Garfield, that I wanted to do what Jim Jarmusch and Fred Elmes did to get the particular softness of Paterson, which meant vintage Cooke Prime lenses and pieces of vintage stockings over the back element of the lens. Wyatt got…

2 min
burning bright

THE TITLE OF ROBERTO MINERVINI’S DOCU-mentary—still undistributed in the U.S.—refers to a 19th-century spiritual, but might as well have been spoken aloud by his resilient Louisiana and Mississippi subjects. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? looks partly at two young brothers and at steadfast members of the New Black Panther Party as they canvass and protest, but its central, inspiring, and heart-wrenching personality has to be Judy Hill. She’s the proprietor of a bar that may go under, tough-love listener to many, and a survivor herself of so much, as we learn. Outspoken yet also strong enough to be vulnerable in her openness, Hill has experienced the ravages of drug addiction and yet still draws upon reserves of strength to comfort others. As shown most recently by The…

1 min
cut it out

For those of us who have already been dubious about the Oscars—who have long felt that pitting films against one another in a highly publicized TV death match just might, I dunno, devalue the whole art form or something—the ever-spiraling outrage over the particulars of this year’s ceremony may have evoked more eye rolls than anger. Nevertheless, when it was announced that the Academy had planned to shunt some of its awards to commercial breaks, namely insignificant little categories like Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography, even we snobs had to call foul. We may be under no illusions about the ultimate worth of an awards body that bestowed top honors on Braveheart, Crash, and Slumdog Millionaire, but at least the pretense of value has long been sustained in acknowledging…

3 min
overnight to distant cities

IN LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, AN EMOtionally wayward man searches for his former lover across southwest China. With only memories to guide him, his waking life soon opens upon a 3-D dream world. Director Bi Gan spoke about the film in anticipation of its April 12 release. Could you tell us about your connection to your hometown of Kaili? This is a place I was born in, a place I grew up in, and a place I’m still living in. My first film, Kaili Blues, is very much about the gloomy days of Kaili, whereas Long Day’s Journey Into Night is about the darkness of Kaili. It’s in the southwest of China, where you have a lot of minorities, including the Miao people. I integrated the music and harmony of the…

2 min
it takes a village

Fad’jal Safi Faye, 1979, Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) THE SENEGALESE FILMMAKER AND ETHNOGRAPHER SAFI Faye’s second feature—an intricate portrait of a rural village that weaves between staged scenes and observational footage—goes by three names. “Fad’jal” refers to the town at the film’s center, a coastal farming and fishing community where Faye has family roots. Its name derives from a pair of words that roughly translates to “come and work.” In France, the movie got a subtitle—Grand-père, raconte-nous (“Tell us, Grandpa”)—to emphasize the long scenes of live storytelling that organize it. Working and listening become the film’s two competing sources of momentum. Under a tree, an elderly man teaches a group of children about the village’s past. Reenacted scenes from its history—the birth of its female founder, the arrival years…