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Film Comment May - June 2017

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

in this issue

3 min
editor ’s letter

Quick question” was the subject heading of the e-mail in my inbox, though a full answer would be anything but quick. The query, and variations on its theme, has been looming for years now: how will publications handle movies—fullfledged, honest-to-God major motion pictures— that are available solely on streaming with no theatrical release? The past few months have seen a number of high-profile films slated for non-theatrical destinies, potentially including new films by Bong Joon-ho, Martin Scorsese, and Noah Baumbach. The question naturally arises: how should you review a piece of cinema that never sees the dark of a theater? In most publications, only theatrically released films receive conventional reviews, while other streamed Entertainment Product is treated within TV or streaming coverage of one variety or another (or disappears from critical…

3 min
search history

“Julian created wikileaks in 2006 with this idea that the Internet was going to change how we understand information and how journalism works. Here we are, 10 or 11 years later, seeing how this has changed in all kinds of ways. I was trying to capture not just what was happening, but a portrait, in comparison to citizenfour. More about what makes Julian tick in terms of how he thinks about the world. In a way, the film is a portrait of a dystopian moment: the Internet, this tool for democratization, is now being utilized for these dark, dystopian, and in many ways, fascistic purposes. It raises a new set of questions for journalists in dealing with sources. “There are some things about The Parallax View that are interesting—this idea of…

2 min
making ends meet

Clusters of 18- to 19-year-old boys: some rough trade, some effeminate, carousing in bars and cafés, loitering by docks, flirting with older men with intent but mild indifference. To a certain kind of moviewatcher— those who’ve thrilled to Pasolini, Fassbinder, and Kenneth Anger—these are familiar images, but we’ve never seen them quite as we do in Patric Chiha’s Brothers of the Night. This extraordinary documentary immerses the viewer in the nights of young Bulgarian Roma men working gay-for-pay in Vienna to send money back to their families, bathing its subjects in an extreme visual stylization that grants them a cinematic status that approaches the mythic. Moving between an exquisite kind of vérité that captures the men in their nocturnal element and staged, highly artificial tableaux that heighten their butch sex…

3 min
in the beginning

I watched your filmLumière!at the Toronto Film Festival with your live commentary—a truly eye-opening showcase of the Lumières’ filmmaking. The innovations reminded me of what Stanley Donen told me once, that his ingenuity in musicals was because “the snow was fresh.” Sometimes we cry about our lost love of cinema, but I’ve been taking care of the Lumière films for the last 25 to 30 years, and I feel something new now, which makes me very optimistic. Because of our digital civilization, because of what cinema became, these films are more and more important. It’s not only curiosity about the origin of cinema, blah blah blah... There is some connection between the past and what cinema should continue to be—that simplicity. Do you have these movies in the back of your mind…

1 min

it’s one thing for a hollywood studio to remake a foreign animated film as a live-action, special-effects spectacular, hoping to reach new audiences accustomed to a particular, american visual vernacular, as Paramount tried to do with its catastrophic recent release Ghost in the Shell. it feels like another thing entirely for walt disney studios to raid its own shelves of iconic animated films—or in industry parlance, “known properties” with “prime awareness level”—and remake them by taking out the one thing that made them truly special: you know, the classical animation. Following the massive success of last year’s The Jungle Book redo, disney hit an even bigger jackpot this spring with the international juggernaut Beauty and the Beast, spiffed up with the rote visual language and tiresome cgi of the moment—plus mediocre…

3 min
bohemian rhapsody

From Saturday to Sunday gustav machatý, 1931, czech national Film archive The films the czech director gustav machatý made between the late ’20s and early ’30s are exercises in what it takes to achieve intimacy on screen. Machatý had a genius for extreme close-ups, which suited the intense kinds of passion, desire, and suppressed anguish he tended to have his female characters feel. Born in 1901, he made all of the movies for which he’s now known before he turned 35; he fled Europe for Hollywood in 1936 and never managed to fully reassemble his career. In each of his three most important movies, a transformative erotic experience befalls a young woman—the provincial girl played by the beauty queen Ita Rina in Seduction (1929); the 18-year-old Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler) who…