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Film Comment July--August 2018 Vo.l 54 No.4

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United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
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in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

EVEN AS SOMEONE WHO GREW UP treating each Spike Lee movie as an event, I have to admit that it’s been a while since the filmmaker has truly occupied cinema’s center stage. In fact, neither Lee nor any of his films have ever occupied the cover of Film Comment across the three decades he has been a tirelessly bold and relentless voice behind the camera (and in front, and “in the media”). That changes with his latest movie, BlacKkKlansman, a searingly focused and controlled work that deploys a conventionally structured story but is accompanied by Lee’s critical reevaluation of the history of film and America—a consistent mission throughout his revolutionary career (dating all the way back to his work as an NYU student). Not that Lee is some new discovery in…

4 min
the lost world

IT ALWAYS BEGINS WITH AN IMAGE AND A SOUND. IT’S LIKE WHEN I was a kid… the long car trips from Italy to Germany, at night in the backseat. I would fall asleep and lose sense of time. Waking up, not knowing where I was, even before opening my eyes I would listen to sounds that generated images, shapes, characters in my head. I very much liked abandoning myself to that first confusion to create my “films” from random sounds and evoked images. For Happy as Lazzaro, the initial sound was that of a city clogged with traffic: engines, horns blowing, tires screeching; whereas the first image was a lone wolf moving among cars unseen. The wolf trots through traffic, maybe running away, until I lose sight of it. Who is…

2 min
burden of truth

THE UNSEEN AND UNSPOKEN CONVEY multitudes in The Load, the first narrative feature by Serbian director Ognjen Glavonic. Set in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the height of the Kosovo War, the film, a standout in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, follows Vlada (Leon Lucev), a middle-aged man hired to transport a truckload of unspecified cargo from Kosovo to Belgrade. In any other context a seemingly mundane task, Vlada’s mission from the start carries an air of unease; the desolate, overcast Serbian landscape, littered with burning cars and barricaded bridges, resembles nothing less than an apocalyptic wasteland. A distinctly quiet film (often all that can be heard is the roar of Vlada’s truck and the sound of bombs exploding in the distance), The Load is a work driven…

2 min
law of the land

JIA ZHANGKE’S ASH IS PUREST WHITE OPENS and closes in the world of Chinese small-town gangsters, the world of jianghu. It is the narrative of a woman, Qiao (Zhao Tao), who begins as a gangster’s moll, is soon betrayed, but finds her independence by staying true to the code of the underworld. At Cannes, I spoke with Jia about the film, which Cohen Media Group will distribute in the U.S. Because Ash Is Purest White is a melodrama centered on a female character, I wondered if it was influenced by the 1940s Hollywood “women’s picture” genre. No, I think the film was influenced mainly by the Hong Kong Triad films of the 1980s and ’90s—John Woo and Johnnie To. What I wanted to express is jianghu as an integral part of Chinese…

1 min
nothing sacred

As any 21st-century person with a heart knows, one of the few positives about the social media age can be the platform it gives us to come together and celebrate (very) recently deceased artists and celebrities. However, this also often results in the kind of “this one hurts” grandstanding that reveals more about the person going through supposed distress than the person being memorialized. And nothing more effectively helps one ascertain the true motivations behind such performative mourning than when the grief-stricken journalist somehow manages, despite damp eyes and shaking hands, to gratefully, graciously let the world know of his or her devotion by linking to that special, singular interview, the one that inextricably tied the writer and the artist together forever. It’s the kind of thing no one wants…

3 min
payback time

Hyenas Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1992, Thelma Film AG, with the support of the Cinémathèque Suisse THE ACCLAIMED SENEGALESE FILMMAKER DJIBRIL DIOP Mambéty said that he started the second of his only two features, Hyenas, because he “had to find one of the characters from Touki Bouki,” his electrifying 1973 portrait of two disaffected lovers on the run. In that film’s final minutes, Anta, a young woman, had sailed away from her lover, her family, and her home in Dakar in hopes of finding renewal in Europe. The character Mambéty chose for his next film, Linguère Ramatou (Ami Diakhate), also fled Senegal in her youth, but it’s her anger that sears and illuminates this story. When Hyenas begins, she returns to her old village, Colobane, after many years away, “richer than the World Bank.”…