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Film Comment January - February 2017

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

At least one outstanding movie of 2016 won’t be found in our annual Top 20 list of the year’s best films— but we hope we’ve made up for that by putting it on the cover of the issue you’re holding. Like many films that are released in the waning days of December without prior festival play or ample advance screenings, Martin Scorsese’s Silence was not previewed by quite as many of the critics participating in the poll as other candidates were. Oddly enough, something similar occurred in 2013 with Scorsese’s previous feature, The Wolf of Wall Street, and, as was the case then, the discussion (or at least the numbered ranking) of cinema that grips critics at the end of year feels like it’s missing a crucial element. Besides executing an…

3 min
the inner sanctum

News, views, conversations, and other things to get worked up about Novels can be a very important influence. two of them I really love. One, from the aesthetic point of view, is maybe the best and the most original novel of all time: Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma. The second is the most lucid novel ever written on politics, Lucien Leuwen—it’s an unfinished novel; he just couldn’t finish some of the small parts. It’s a portrait of the kingdom of Louis Philippe in 1835. It was the time of the restoration of the king, but he was a moderate king. On his right side he had the more legitimate party, and on the left side the more bourgeois, which wanted this kingdom of rich people, and then more on the left,…

2 min
class act

Alison Maclean’s return to feature filmmaking demonstrates her enduringly incisive curiosity about the cinematic gaze and mischievous sense of humor. NEARLY 25 YEARS AGO, ALISON MACLEAN’S debut feature, Crush, led off the September/October 1993 issue of Film Comment, praised for its “cruel but truthful” angle on female friendship. Much has changed since that Sundance Institute-incubated film, and since Maclean’s 1999 Billy Crudup–starring follow-up Jesus’ Son formed a kind of one-two punch in scruffy-dude recovery films with You Can Count on Me (whose director sees his own filmic renaissance this year). But the Canadaborn, New Zealand–raised, New York–dwelling director’s return to feature filmmaking, The Rehearsal, demonstrates her enduringly incisive curiosity about the cinematic gaze and mischievous sense of humor. The shifting terrain is that of identity formation and performance, evergreens that Maclean gives…

3 min
next steps

Nocturama tracks a band of young men and women as they commit acts of violence in Paris and then hide out overnight in a mall. Given France’s recent experiences with terrorism, did you have problems shooting any of the material? No, not at all, in fact we shot [in 2015] before the November attacks and after the January attacks. For example, we were even allowed to shoot a real car blowing up in the middle of the city. People are very sensitive and fragile, of course, but I think everybody understood that the film has nothing to do with what we lived through. The reasons are different, the targets are different; it’s not about ISIS. The second half of the film, in the mall, is like a remake of Romero’s Dawn of…

1 min
waving and drowning

As the long haul of an embattled new administration looms for the home country of this magazine, it has become ever more tempting to view the movies through a couple of extreme lenses. On the one hand, movies can seem frivolous, amid the drumbeat of presidential controversy. And at the other extreme, movies end up being analyzed for their sociopolitical import: determining what was the first movie of the Age of Trump, for example, or parsing whether Captain America: Civil War was a clever harbinger of times to come. (Hopefully not, since we find superhero skin-tights less than flattering.) Like everyone else, we’ll be trying to chart a path that balances the pleasures and artistic accomplishments of movies with the engagement the world demands of us whether we like it…

2 min
between two fires

Pabst could only have hit on such deep wells of visual resourcefulness as long as he was wor king in the service of a strong and deeply held moral idea. Westfront 1918, G.W. Pabst, 1930, Deutsche Kinemathek in collaboration with BFI Kameradschaft (Comradeship), G.W. Pabst, 1931, Deutsche Kinemathek BETWEEN 1930 and 1931, g.w. pabst made two films about groups of men with dangerous jobs. Both dealt directly with the war in the aftermath of which Pabst had matured as a filmmaker, and both looked ahead presciently to the war that would displace him and derail his career. In Westfront 1918, a harrowing adaptation of Ernst Johannsen’s 1929 novel Vier von der Infanterie that climaxes in one of cinema’s most immersive and savage battle scenes, the men are a group of German infantrymen in the trenches…