ZINIO logo

Film Comment January - February 2016

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

2 min
editor’s letter

Welcome to film comment’s annual end-of-year jamboree. Jamboree? I think that’s a good word for it since it feels like we’re throwing a big party to celebrate cinema in all its diversity—and inviting an all-star cast of contributors and colleagues to join us by sounding off in list form on their favorites from the past 12 months. It’s been our tradition for 15 years now, and so in this case, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. That’s why longstanding readers will notice that we’ve revived one of the year-end package’s features, Terra Incognita, which was abandoned in 2014 but has returned by popular demand. This guide to films our contributors have cited before most of us have even caught a whiff of them is a handy heads-up to what’s next…

13 min
opening shots

THE BOOK OF LIFE Basking in the afterglow of In Jackson Heights, the irrepressible Frederick Wiseman is making another movie in New York. Last fall, the filmmaker was spotted shooting at the flagship 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library, the nation’s third-largest public library (after the Library of Congress). Reports have placed Wiseman at a talk by awardwinning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and, yes, a meeting or two. The film would be Wiseman’s 10th documentary in the city (his first was Hospital, in 1970, at Metropolitan in East Harlem) and his 41st in all. ANGST IN HIS PANTS From Holy Motors to Sparks: Leos Carax is angling to direct a musical, developed in close collaboration with the cult American band. He has picked his two leads— Adam Driver as a stand-up…

6 min

WHEN WE FIRST SEE KATHARINE HEPBURN IN HER SECOND FEATURE, Christopher Strong, she’s in the driver’s seat, her speedometer pushing 80—right before she accidentally runs a motorcyclist off the road. “Is there anything I can do?” she asks in that signature Bryn Mawr honk, as the man dusts off his tuxedo. “Not unless you’re over 21,” he says, “and can raise your right hand and swear you’ve never had a love affair.” He’s just come from a raucous (and decidedly pre-Code) scavenger-hunt party where the grand prize will go to the person who can produce one of two endangered species: a woman who fits the aforementioned description, or “an attractive man who can swear he’s been married for over five years, has always been faithful to his wife . .…

3 min

Made for Les Films du Garage, Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay is the first documentary to trace the origins of industrial music, beginning in the late Seventies with the formation of the British band Throbbing Gristle and their umbrella label, Industrial Records. Co-directors Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins produced, shot, edited, and distributed the documentary on their own and, as such, the production credits that tail Industrial Soundtrack list only a handful of names, while the licensing information for the music and video clips scroll on for several minutes. For such a small-scale production, Industrial Soundtrack boasts an impressive roster of interview subjects, but Ravalec and Collins do their film a service by keeping it concise and not digressing too far beyond the genre’s first wave. Inspired by avant-garde art…

3 min

In Nathaniel Dorsky’s slim, gracefully written, and revelatory book Devotional Cinema, he observes: “When cinema can make the internalized medieval and externalized Renaissance ways of seeing unite and transcend themselves, it can achieve a transcendental balance. This balance point unveils the transparency of our earthly experience. We are afloat.” That sense of transparency is explored not only in Dorsky’s films but in this exhibition of 36 luminous stills from works he has made over several decades. It is rare for stills to retain such a poetic aliveness, equal to that found in the films themselves. Five stills are from Hours for Jerome (66-70/82), Dorsky’s radiant early two-part film invoking the seasons, which he has called “an arrangement of images, energies, and illuminations from daily life.” In Hours for Jerome (Part 1)…

7 min
make it real

YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT FROM THIS SEASON’S DISPIRITINGLY SAMEY, WELL-HEELED awards candidates. You wouldn’t know it from the thumbnail-friendly titles recommended by Netflix. You wouldn’t know it unless you were somehow able to see for yourself, either at film festivals, or at fleeting weeklong runs at the art house, or through targeted searches online, spurred by critical testimonials or social-media chatter. But the truth is that 2015 was another phenomenal year for nonfiction film. For several years now, the most consistently adventurous, unpredictable, intelligent, and downright exciting films have been works of nonfiction. While narrative features have long operated within, or provocatively pushed against, established genres and aesthetic modes, the nonfiction form is in the midst of inventing new genres and modes, which are expanded, exploded, refined, and interrogated as they…