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Film Comment May-June 2018 Vol. 54 No.3

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

The furore erupted, right on schedule. Just before Cannes announced its Competition lineup, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos updated his company’s position on screening Netflix movies at the festival: no content for you! You may already be familiar with this ongoing dispute, either from reading the news or… from reading this space one year ago, when Netflix and Cannes butted heads over the exhibition and distribution of Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories. The latest chapter featured the topsy-turvy spectacle of a multibillion-dollar conglomerate accusing Cannes head programmer Thierry Frémaux of seeking “to define art by the business model,” while giving him a conciliatory pat on the head: “I do have faith that Thierry shares my love for cinema.” In language redolent of a United Nations censure of a rogue state,…

4 min
louder than a bomb

I’VE BEEN WORKING WITH MERRILL GARBUS AND NATE BRENNER [of Tune-Yards] since December 2015 on the score, even before I was in the Sundance Lab. As far as I was concerned, for the last three years we were gonna be shooting “in the next three months.” We were able to talk about different music influences, which were weirdly, like, the score for Suspiria and the original Wicker Man. The Wicker Man, with that eerie feeling and the twist at the end, is the sort of Twilight Zone thing I’m a fan of. I was also inspired by Emir Kusturica: Black Cat, White Cat; Underground; Time of the Gypsies. He has this beautiful chaos that happens in Black Cat, White Cat, and you know it’s people living in poverty, but there’s optimism…

2 min
maternity leave

Clad in a full-length coat and wild-haired, Scary Mother’s Nato Murvanidze cuts a figure out of expressionist painting, looming and grimacing; the prose she reads aloud makes Bruno Schulz sound grounded. WHEN STRUCK BY INSPIRATION, THE fugitive writer in Scary Mother simply rolls up her sleeves… and scrawls notes on her arms. The habit doesn’t endear Manana (Nato Murvanidze) to everyone, and when she disappears for days at a time, her husband worries she’s taken leave of both their kids and her senses. Ana Urushadze, the Georgian writer-director of this darkly comic first feature, reflects Manana’s fervid focus back onto the world, walking us through the cramped psychological landscape of Soviet-era living ruins, and into the amniotic red chamber in the back of a stationery store where Manana secludes herself. You can…

1 min
the very idea!

Good, committed criticism should never feel like it’s trendy, so it can be especially riling for the good, committed critic when his or her work is swept up in a cultural conversation that makes it seem like it is. We all know the feeling, for instance, every time we are accused of taking part in that invented phenomenon called a “backlash,” just for daring to dislike a film that has been deemed in some way culturally significant (with such awards-reapers as La La Land, The Imitation Game, or The Reader it is often hate at first sight for many of us). It’s part of the perpetual parallel battle a critic might wage against the very notion of the job. Another alarming way of minimizing criticism surfaced in the responses to…

2 min
weird science

“At some point, it’s hard to establish a border between actor and non-actor. And you know, they’re all actors as much as I am a non-actress, too. There’s very little difference.” MRS. HYDE MARKS ISABELLE HUPPERT’S second feature with director Serge Bozon, following Tip Top. She plays Mrs. Géquil, a frumpy science teacher for underprivileged high-school students, in a tale that takes an odd, electric turn into the fantastical. You’ve spoken of looking for authenticity as an actor. How did you find that in this film? It’s absolutely possible, even if the film is not realistic at all, [as] within this completely imaginary world of Bozon. It depends on what you call authentic: [Mrs. Géquil] has her own way of being authentic, actually. She can be very funny, but she is also a…

3 min
red eye

The nightmarish sequences that dominate the beginning of Fragment of an Empire are full of arresting visions of soldiers clashing at night and bodies caked with frost. Fragment of an Empire Fridrikh Ermler, 1929, EYE Filmmuseum, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and Gosfilmofond of Russia AMONG EARLY SOVIET FILMMAKERS, FRIDRIKH ERMLER (1898-1967) was both one of the most politically exemplary—he had fought in the Revolution, during which he was tortured by the Whites—and one of the most committed to striking a naturalistic tone. His final silent feature, Fragment of an Empire, centers on a shell-shocked World War I veteran named Filimonov who lives through the Revolution in oblivious seclusion and comes back to reality after a decade to find Russia greatly changed. It was a fanciful premise, but Ermler was so determined to…