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Film Comment March - April 2017

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United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
$7.90(Incl. tax)

in this issue

3 min
editor’s letter

Each spring, moviegoers are reminded of the long shadow cast by Cannes. That’s not because the next edition of the festival looms on the horizon in May, but rather because now is the time when many of the major films from last year’s edition are finally distributed in American theaters. A number of these appear in the current issue, from our cover story (Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV) to filmmaker features (on Raw and Personal Shopper) right on down to briefer write-ups (Slack Bay and—dating back to Cannes 2014, and arriving now only via streaming—the Syrian documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait) Better late than never, though, and we’re happy to cover Serra’s film at length at a time when it can be seen more widely on the big screen.…

3 min
get lost

News, views, conversations, and other things to get worked up about Iwas like a child ornithologist, because my father gave me a pair of binoculars when I was 8. I kept record books, and then I studied biology. So in a way my past was leading me to become a scientist. On Portuguese TV, there was a series about wildlife called El hombre y la tierra (The Man and the Earth). They went into nests and burrows, and found really strange ways of putting the camera inside. My films develop quite mysteriously. But when I discovered the story of St. Anthony and started researching, perhaps it was through this mythological account that I felt I could tell this story of an ornithologist, which somehow connects with my earlier life. I think this…

2 min
a dirty business

With a title straight from 1970s thrillers and airport paperbacks, Tarik Saleh’s third fiction feature effortlessly pulls off its milieu of corrupt police, lurid backroom scandals, and the seemingly untouchable rich. Its setting might seem a throwback, but of course it’s a situation that endures the world over: daily life under a strongman regime—in this case, Egypt on the brink of the Tahrir Square protests. Cairo is the hometown for a detective, Noredin Mustafa (the excellent, gloriously schnozzed Fares Fares), who’s comfortable in his role of pushing people around and exhibiting supreme disdain for underlings. That is, until a picture-perfect pop singer is gruesomely killed in a hotel room, with an African immigrant maid the only likely witness to the criminal’s escape. Noredin’s investigation leads to a hotel magnate who’s also…

1 min
the great inevitable

The news was so swift and terrible that one might have assumed it to be a trump executive order: Variety reported in early february that Hollywood scalawags are plotting a remake of maren ade’s Toni Erdmann (which ranked first in Film Comment’s 2016 year-end poll). integrity-destroyed director yet to be announced. the announcement sent most right-thinking movie lovers into paroxysms of torment. for non-cinephiles, however, the lede was entirely different, focused instead on the fact that the retelling will mark 79-year-old Jack nicholson’s return to the screen with his first movie since 2010. Because many critics observed that Toni Erdmann is, in outline, something like a deconstructed american screwball comedy recast with a father and daughter, the idea of a Hollywood do-over feels something like an ouroboros. While there is rich…

3 min
o, pioneer

An early article inFilm Comment(March/April 1976) described you as “the Italian Aristophanes.” Do you feel a connection to that tradition of comedy, or another one? Thank you for the fine comparison. I’m not used to reflecting on myself, but I can say that art in general should always renew that tradition. Hard times have always inspired works of art, from Aristophanes’s comedies during the Peloponnesian War to Italian Neorealism after World War II. In my movies I’m always inspired by social issues, and this is also very typical for Italian cinema in general and for Italian comedy in particular. In that sense I feel connected to the tradition you are referring to. My movies are not really comedies; indeed, they are grotesque portraits of human beings. Swept Awayhas the vibrant direction and…

3 min
day of the dead

Canoa: A Shameful Memory felipe cazals, 1976, instituto mexicano de cinematografía In 1976, the mexican director felipe cazals finished two films about an episode in his country’s recent past that couldn’t be directly acknowledged or named. The first, Canoa: A Shameful Memory, was a backwoods horror story inspired by an atrocity from 1968, when the townspeople of San Miguel Canoa—a village three hours from Mexico City—killed two visiting employees from a university and maimed three others on the suspicion that the strangers were communist agitators. The second, The Heist (El apando), was a jailhouse drama based on a novel the activist José Revueltas wrote in 1969 during a prison sentence. Revueltas had been arrested the previous year for his involvement in the same student movement the townspeople of Canoa stigmatized. At the…