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Film Comment November-December 2019 Vol. 55 No.6

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

IN MY EARLIEST DAYS AT THE MAGAZINE, some of the greatest lessons I learned came during the editorial process for essays by Kent Jones. When Kent wrote something for an issue, it was an event, an opportunity to discover films and filmmakers through expert eyes, in new ways. And in observing his exacting self-edits up close, I saw firsthand his precision of language and thought when expressing himself on a movie or wrestling with some conundrum of film history or interpretation. It’s no secret to any lover of movies and reader of film criticism that the struggle to maintain a similar level of quality is ongoing, partly by virtue of the decades-long decimation of arts journalism and with it even the possibility of career critics. Sometimes the most frightening result…

6 min
modern poison

IT’S A REMARKABLE, CHILLING TRUE STORY ABOUT THE LAWYER, Rob Bilott, who disclosed the practices of DuPont, particularly around Teflon. He comes from a different perspective—a defense attorney for the industry—and it becomes a decades-long and grueling process to reveal this story. That’s not really the kind of movie I’m typically known for. But I have always liked a handful of great whistle-blower films and the ’70s paranoia films, most of which were shot by Gordon Willis. It was something that fit into an interest I already had. There’s an investigative aspect to the story, but what was really challenging dramatically was that it’s all thirdhand information, unlike a journalist story [such as] All the President’s Men or The Insider. Rob’s story is more about using the legal process to get…

2 min
out of place

WHEN WE FIRST REPORTED LAST YEAR on a new Japanese-Uzbek co-production to be directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the notion seemed unusual if tantalizing. Now To the Ends of the Earth exists and has been making the rounds, if not to the ends of the earth, then at least to the main slate of the New York Film Festival, following Locarno and Toronto screenings. Starring pop idol/actress Atsuko Maeda, it’s the gathering story of a Japanese TV journalist shooting a travel show in Uzbekistan and feeling the stress of relentless production schedules and existing as a foreigner in an unfamiliar country. While the past few years of Kurosawa’s unstinting output have increasingly found him testing the dramatic boundaries of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, his latest returns him, with aching poignancy,…

2 min
the buck stops here

TRACY LETTS APPEARS IN TWO FILMS THIS fall: Ford v Ferrari, as automobile scion Henry Ford II, who’s pushing to build a better race car, and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, as a book editor. Letts is also a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright (August: Osage County) who has adapted three of his own works for the screen. I spoke with the master of playing what the Coen Brothers call “the Man Behind the Desk”—among other roles. You play these establishment guys in a psychologically astute way that seems to come from having dealt with those types of people for years. It’s interesting—my father was a university professor. He was very intelligent, and he was also a masculine presence. He’d been in the military, and yet he also had his own insecurities, his own flaws…

3 min
rude awakenings

The films Tomás Gutiérrez Alea made before and after the twisting, ironic Memories of Underdevelopment show what a wide range of tones, styles, and modes of address he could use. Five films by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), A Cuban Fight Against Demons (1972), The Art of Tobacco (1974), The Last Supper (1976), The Survivors (1979) Academy Film Archive in association with Cinemateca de Cuba THE CUBAN DIRECTOR TOM¾S GUTIÈRREZ ALEA (1928-1996) gave strenuous thought to the relationship in revolutionary filmmaking between content and form. His films try out such varied approaches to that subject that none of them seems representative. It was his fifth feature, the fictional portrait of a sneering Havana intellectual Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), that came to loom over his reputation in the U.S., but the…

7 min
do you hear what i hear?

IN SERGEI LOZNITSA’S STATE FUNERAL, SOVIET CITIZENS congregate throughout the country in March 1953 to honor the passing of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. Entirely archival, the footage for the film derives from a movie called The Great Farewell, which draws on dozens of filmmakers who captured the four days of public mourning that followed Stalin’s death. That early film had been shelved and was scarcely seen until the ’90s, whereas Loznitsa’s premiered in September in Venice before coming to North America for the Toronto and New York film festivals. State Funeral gathers that raw material, shot on both black-and-white and color film stock, into an effectively linear synchronicity of disparate shoots all witnessing a similar procession of reverence and solemnity: from workers…