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Film Comment January-February 2020 Vol. 56 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.

United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
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in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

SO LONG, 2010S—WE HARDLY knew you. I’m only half-kidding: one noticeable fact about the past 10 years is that they haven’t taken a precise shape in the minds of many moviegoers. They don’t seem to conjure the same ready-made (and admittedly reductive) conceptions as the 1970s, or the 1940s, or the 1990s for that matter. Accordingly, the issue you are holding is our attempt to make sense of the 2010s in cinema—to identify some of the key films, trends, and artists that changed the movies (for the better, mostly). We’ve recruited an illustrious cast of critics, programmers, and filmmakers to share their favorite films and their observations on the decade, leading off with essays by Dennis Lim, Amy Taubin, Devika Girish, and R. Emmet Sweeney. All of which is accompanied by…

4 min
serious moonlight

OZU’S I WAS BORN, BUT… IMPRESSED ME LONG AGO. I don’t know any film title that is more beautiful. I Was at Home, But… feels for me like a modest, everyday variation. In the “But” are all the doubts, questions, everything, which seem impossible to solve forever. I have a little drawing, which was a postcard I got while writing the script. I put it on the first page of the script because it was so perfect—beautiful. It’s a mother and two children on an island. We cast all the children from their schools, or on the street, or skater places, or whatever. Some of them are ballet dancers. In the film I did before, The Dreamed Path, one of the main characters was played by a dancer. I saw that it…

2 min
as fate would have it

Affectless voiceover relays Belonging’s sordid details over fixed-frame shots of eerily unpopulated key locations—all lit in the manner of a neon-soaked neo-noir, and filmed with obsessive, forensic precision. TURKISH WRITER-DIRECTOR BURAK ÇEVIK’S structurally audacious second feature opens with an ominous passage that looms over the remainder of its 72 minutes. A brief bit of voiceover, addressed directly to the speaker’s aunt, cryptically alludes to a family tragedy. Soon after, a voice later identified as Onur proceeds to recount that same tragedy, narrating his one-night stand with a woman named Pelin (the filmmaker’s aunt), their unexpected reunion four months later, their subsequent plans to marry, and finally, the events leading up to their murder of Pelin’s mother. The senseless crime is firmly rooted in fact, but rather than stress its personal origins, Çevik…

1 min
all you can eat

Bow down, worthless earth-lings. In case you weren’t already feeling oppressed enough, here come media conglomerates to finish the job. It’s been a slow build, but in just the last year, the entertainment-industrial complex has projected the evolution of mainstream culture into one hydra-headed, artistically uniform product. Disney, Apple, and Netflix are pros at giving us what we think we want, dangling enough shiny baubles to distract from the dramatic decline in interesting, risk-taking movies and television. Do you find yourself dreading the inevitable question: “What are you watching these days?” It might be because with the onslaught of content coming down the conveyor belt, we’ve all become Lucy Ricardo, trying to stuff new products into our hats—or queues—for safe-keeping, hoping to devour them at some later, never-to-come date. But…

3 min
devil’s playground

“In recent years, I’ve been increasingly obsessed with the certainty that it’s only through fiction that true empathy can emerge … Fiction allows me to try to conquer your imagination and make visible what’s in your mind.” WINNER OF THE SPECIAL JURY PRIZE IN Cannes’s Un Certain Regard sidebar, Albert Serra’s radical exploration of sexual pleasures Liberté will be released this year by Cinema Guild. I spoke with Serra at his company Andergraun Films’ headquarters in Barcelona. Liberté explores certain forms of sexual pleasure that imply an abandonment of the self. You’ve mentioned the writings of Catherine Millet as an influence. Yes, she describes an abandonment of one’s own body for the sake of pleasure, but also an abandonment of any sort of morality. What’s interesting is to consider the price you pay…

3 min
broken homes

Brussels Transit moves between fictional reenactments of the couple’s early years in Belgium and scenes in which the camera itself seems to be the one drifting through Brussels estranged. Brussels Transit Samy Szlingerbaum, 1980 Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique THERE IS A DAZZLING LONG SHOT A THIRD OF THE WAY INTO this melancholy experimental feature by the Belgian director Samy Szlingerbaum (1949–1986). It opens on a faded “Apartment for Rent” sign taped to a window. In voiceover, Szlingerbaum’s mother, Malka, has been giving an account in Yiddish of the chain of stopovers—Lodz, Warsaw, Prague, Paris—that brought her and Szlingerbaum’s father from Poland to Belgium in 1947. In Brussels, she says, they eventually moved into an apartment vacated by a Jewish tenant who’d left for England. “It was a stroke of luck to find that,” she…