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Film Comment May-June 2019 Vol. 55 No.3

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
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in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

Every issue of film comment has something to celebrate, as long as there are stellar movies out there for us to crow about—but this time, we also have a very special anniversary to commemorate. The Lincoln Center organization that publishes the magazine you’re holding marks its 50th year of existence in 2019. That’s a full half-century at the heart of film culture, thanks to its indispensable New York Film Festival and cornucopia of year-round programming. You might notice that I’ve been referring to the nonprofit entity in question in a roundabout way. And that is because the milestone brings with it a new name for the institution formerly known as the Film Society of Lincoln Center: we present to you, Film at Lincoln Center. Speaking as an editor, I have…

4 min
lust for life

I thought it was going to be a very sad film. but films choose you rather than the other way around. Cinema is always unpredictable. During shooting I was so happy working with Julieta Serrano, who plays Salvador’s mother [at an older age], that I wrote two more scenes that end up being crucial to the portrait of this man [Salvador, the filmmaker played by Antonio Banderas] and his relationship to the past. Death is all around in the film. But less obvious is the death of sexual desire, which is what Salvador feels and explains why he goes back to his childhood and to the birth of that desire. All this comes back with the monologue “The Addiction” [that I wrote] that he gives to an actor. It talks about…

2 min
broken embraces

Permutations of an impossible romance intertwine in End of the Century, a quietly adventurous, decades-spanning gay love story from Argentine writer-director Lucio Castro. A world premiere at this year’s New Directors/New Films festival, Castro’s debut feature unfolds for much of its opening third in relatively straightforward fashion: one day in Barcelona, Ocho (Juan Barberini) and Javi (Ramon Pujol), a newly single poet and a married television director, respectively, catch each other’s eye on the beach, and later hook up in what seems at first like a fairly typical afternoon tryst. But when they meet up again later that evening, Javi tells Ocho that they’ve actually met before—20 years earlier, just before the turn of the millennium. From there the story leaps backward, to their first encounter as two closeted young men…

1 min
outside the box

Following ROMA’s impressive performance at the Oscars, a prominent member of the Academy Board of Governors named Steven Spielberg announced plans to propose a rule change: namely, that Netflix films are fundamentally made-for-TV and thus ineligible for Oscars. The Department of Justice then issued a warning to the Academy that such a change might not be in compliance with existing regulations. A certain strain of romantic cinephilic idealism has long been invested in protecting the aesthetic integrity of the medium, and so plenty of critics and folks working in exhibition sympathize with Spielberg’s crusade. And the case could be made that Netflix needn’t be worried, as the company hardly requires the imprimatur of an institution such as the Academy to continue its ascent to industrial dominance. Yet this comes at…

3 min
new haunts

In 2017, tsai ming-liang brought his 55-minute VR work The Deserted to the Venice Biennale in a 4K version. Now upgraded to 8K, it screened in April in London as part of the Taiwan Film Festival UK. The director’s regular lead, Lee Kang-sheng, stars as a man living among ghosts in a wrecked apartment block in the countryside. How did the project come about? Three or four years ago, many people were trying to get me to make a VR film. At first I wasn’t interested—I always thought it was just a medium for gaming. [Taiwanese tech company] HTC invited me to do VR because they wanted some proper content. I tried to watch as much VR work as possible. I thought it was so boring—but then one young person asked me…

3 min
iron wills

Adoption & The Two of Them Márta Mészáros, 1975 & 1977 Hungarian Film Archive In the mid-1970s an idea seemed to haunt the hungarian filmmaker Márta Mészáros. A woman with a steady job and a settled routine meets a younger woman whose own life is restless—people call her wayward, consider her a problem—and mobile. Before long the two of them develop an intense sort of intimacy that resists description: tender, familial, jealous. In Adoption and The Two of Them, two of the nine Mészáros films the Hungarian Film Archive is restoring this year, she played with variations on that premise, bringing together her central characters and then wrenching them back apart. Midway through Adoption, for instance, a factory worker named Kata (Katalin Berek) and Anna (Gyöngyvér Vigh), the younger woman she periodically takes in…