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Film Comment May - June 2015

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

THIS ISSUE PROVIDES FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT FILM COMMENT HAS GOT NOTHING against a good sequel—provided it isn’t a retread but actually expands upon and deepens the original. Last year’s “Made in Hong Kong II” midsection was a 22-years-on follow-up to guest editor David Chute’s fondly remembered May/June 1988 Midsection “Made in Hong Kong.” And, likewise, this issue’s 30-page blowout on South Korean movies (guest-edited by the tireless Goran Topalovic) picks up where contributing editor Chuck Stephens’s 2004 “Korea Prospects” left off—with a shift in focus to the commercial mainstream cinema of the last 10 years. Why do it? Quite simply because in recent decades Asian cinema has become a major force in the movies, one that can’t be ignored. And Korean filmmaking in particular has demonstrated a vitality and excitement that’s jaw-dropping,…

6 min
obstacle courses

HOT PROPERTY | K IT’S NOT CLEAR HOW A GENUINELY FAITHFUL adaptation of a Franz Kafka novel might strike viewers accustomed to the reductive cliché of the “Kafka-esque.” Kafka’s work can be at once stark and protean, deeply reliant on the sense of resistance and mystery built up in its prose, and so the makers of K seem to acknowledge the necessity of taking certain liberties: their adaptation of The Castle is set in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia—a place windswept and desolate, indoors and out. Welsh filmmaker Emyr ap Richard and Darhad Erdenibulag, who hails from Inner Mongolia, co-direct Kafka’s tale of a stranger, K, who arrives in a baronial village purporting to be a land-surveyor and must struggle mightily to prove his legitimacy. Like him, we glimpse little more than the insides…

2 min
blood sport

ALEX COX’S 10,000 WAYS TO DIE | The Moment of Truth BULLFIGHT MOVIES ARE A SMALL GENRE—fortunately for most of us. Sometimes they’re vehicles for declining American stars, marred by obvious mismatches between footage of bulls and matadors in the ring, and close-ups and medium shots of the actor as the hero with his cape and sword, shot on another day, elsewhere. The Moment of Truth was the first film Francesco Rosi made entirely outside Italy. For a serious, politically minded director, a bullfight movie might seem a strange choice. But Rosi applies the same visual aesthetic to this Spanish story from 1965 that he had demonstrated in Salvatore Giuliano (61) and Hands over the City (63). Rosi favors wide shots with groups of people; the protagonist is established as part of…

2 min
editorial assistant

SITE SPECIFICS | aotg.com (Art of the Guillotine) “I’VE MADE THE MISTAKE OF MEETING some of the subjects in the middle of the editing process . . . You get opinions about them and you just don’t want that kind of baggage,” Mr. Death editor Karen Schmeer once said of her experiences working with Errol Morris. This simple yet intriguing comment comes from a Manhattan Edit Workshop held in 2009, and it’s just one of many interviews with professionals to be found on Art of the Guillotine, a sprawling educational resource for editors of all stripes. Started in 2007, AOTG collects news items on software and facilities, and posts comprehensive tutorials for those who are looking to break into cutting features and commercials, or just assemble footage they shot in a…

2 min
being and nothingness

IN THE MOMENT | Carole Lombard in Mr. & Mrs. Smith HER INTRODUCTION IN Mr. & Mrs. Smith couldn’t be less innocent: the camera tracks in to the bed where she pretends to be sleeping, until it reaches an extreme close-up of her opening her eye and looking straight to the camera. An Upper East Side wife who suddenly learns that her marriage isn’t legal, Carole Lombard’s character, Ann, becomes a conflicted, empty figure. Lombard and her magnetism fill this void with her modern persona and comedic genius: once she enters the frame, our eyes go straight to her, and cannot look away until she exits. She’s an actress who seems to be aware of herself acting, and who nurtures her talent from the joy of that selfconsciousness, which is never ironic,…

2 min
restoration row

THE ITALIAN STRAW HAT & TWO TIMID SOULS René Clair | 1928 | Cinémathèque Française SPINELESS FIDGETY GROOMS, nervous young brides, steely grande dames, hot-tempered men of wide girth, mischievous children, mustachioed bureaucrats, lawyers and justices full of hot air, levelheaded women and their doddering, droopy-eyed husbands... Look long and hard enough at any shot in René Clair’s two adaptations of a 19th-century vaudeville playwright named Eugène Labiche, which were the great comic filmmaker’s final silent features, and it takes on the character of a cartoon strip. Watch the films move, on the other hand, and what emerges is their thrilling and curious pace. Born in Paris two years before the turn of the century, Clair had a special gift for stretching out a scene, heightening tension, and piling stress upon stress. Neither…