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Film Comment

Film Comment July-August 2019 Vol. 55 No.4

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

THE SUMMERTIME BLUES CAN strike when you least expect it—or actually, fairly reliably, if you lock eyes on the numbing parade of franchise product that saturates movie theaters and marketing airspace. It goes without saying that Film Comment continues to support a film culture with greater horizons than those implied by the latest risk-minimizing industrial output. Within this issue alone we are proud to feature the latest from Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch alongside sensational Cannes prizewinner Mati Diop, sui generis poet of alienation Nadav Lapid, and gleefully anarchic satirist Nelly Kaplan. There are also essays on the independent legacies of United Artists (founded 100 years ago) and Third World Cinema Corporation (an artist-led effort to bring diversity to film production), and on the beloved couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee…

4 min
community building

WHEN I WAS APPROACHING THIS VILLAGE AND BUILDING this community, I was doing a lot of research into theosophy and anthroposophy. I was staying far away from paganism and thinking spiritually about this place. I was looking at a lot of theosophical artists like Frantisek Kupka, Remedios Varo, Hilma af Klint. And I was reading The Golden Bough [by James George Frazer] while I was writing the script. I love that book, and the first script I wrote was twice as long as what we ended up shooting—so much of it was just this anthropological tour through the village. The first cut was three hours and 40 minutes. I really liked The Wicker Man and films like The Blood on Satan’s Claw as a kid—but I had never felt the urge…

2 min
a history of violence

KLEBER MENDONçA FILHO AND JULIANO Dornelles’s new film has been likened to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and indeed both Bacurau and Márquez’s Macondo—remote, isolated towns in Brazil—have histories marked by turmoil, corruption, and political violence. Bacurau takes place in the country’s sertão, or backcountry, which in fiction has been represented mostly as wild, bewildering, and parched. It is Brazil’s Wild West, if you will. In Mendonça and Dornelles’s film, the rural community is mysteriously targeted by heavily armed and murderous foreign white tourists. The stunned Bacurauans have no choice but to defend themselves—and this they do with gusto. Among the unforgettable scenes is one in which a vulnerable elderly black farmer shoots his white assailant—a scene whose B-film gore elicited gasps in Cannes, but also applause. Yet…

3 min
cracking the code

THE WHISTLERS FOLLOWS A POLICE INVEStigator (Vlad Ivanov) who ships out to the Canary Islands and gets embroiled in dirty business—which happens to involve a long-distance language consisting entirely of whistles. I talked with soft-spoken filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective; Infinite Football) in Cannes, where his feature was appearing for the first time in Competition. I understand that the idea for The Whistlers came to you from a television show you saw shortly after completing Police, Adjective. Yes. Right away I was attracted by the language. I tried to read some things about it, and I even wrote a draft of the script, but I didn’t like it, so I did When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism [2013]. I wrote another draft or two before The Treasure [2015], and I came…

1 min

On the eve of the Cannes premiere of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino implored the press not to give away the surprises of his latest film. “I only ask that everyone avoids revealing anything that would prevent later audiences from experiencing the film in the same way,” he wrote, in a statement that—like most statements made by anyone these days—seemed perfectly reasonable to some and monstrously presumptuous to others. The debate over so-called spoilers is hardly new, but what apparently rankled was the director intimating that there’s no appropriate or delicate way to delve into a film’s plot specifics with any care or justification. But this is the kind of peevish situation where nobody really wins. Some might argue that if a movie doesn’t hold up on…

2 min
orchestral work

Cairo Station & The Land Youssef Chahine, 1958 & 1969 Misr International Films LATE IN THE 1960S, IN THE AFTERMATH OF EGYPT’S DEFEAT IN the Six-Day War, Youssef Chahine took up a long-planned project: an adaptation of a novel by Abd al-Rahman al-Sharqawi about a group of farmers in the 1930s who resist the routing of a road through the land on which they’ve staked their lives. He had just finished a demoralizing and contentious Egyptian-Soviet co-production, People and the Nile (1968); this next film, The Land (1969), was a kind of showcase for his own expansive, generous sensibility. Rather than concentrating on any one plot or building to any one climax, he spun a vast web of episodes linked by complicated lines of cause and effect: bursts of state-sanctioned violence; imprisonments; tense…