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Film Comment November - December 2016

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

WHO ARE YOU GONNA believe, me or your own eyes?” These words of wisdom from noted semiotician Groucho Marx come to mind in a year when, as the cliché has it, reality has been stranger than fiction. As this magazine goes to press, the country is still reeling from the alarming sight and sound of Donald J. Trump both making shocking statements and dismissing their vile import—not just in the particular case of the Access Hollywood recording, but across months of incitements to violence, racist and belittling statements, and outright contradictions of the public record. You might expect this magazine to be a refuge from the noxious Trumposphere, but when a post-Bush version of Borat seems to come to life and walk among us, encouraging and burlesquing the worst tendencies of…

4 min
tropical malady

ONE THING I TRIED TO DO ON THE LOST CITY OF Z WAS NOT look at other movies. I used to have a lot of screenings of movies for the crew before we started making the film. For Two Lovers I think we watched A Short Film About Love by Kieslowski and Vertigo. And then for The Immigrant we watched La strada. For The Lost City of Z we watched nothing. Instead, we started by looking at the jungle as a projection of protagonist Percy Fawcett’s desire, not as necessarily a tangible adventure movie. Z is only a stand-in for everything else that he wanted. It’s a form of escape from the rigidity of the class structure and the expectations put upon him. “So we looked at a lot of paintings.…

2 min
healthy appetite

WHEN JULIA DUCOURNAU WAS SHOOTING her theatrical debut feature—a (deep breath) veterinary-school-hazing coming-of-age cannibal dramatic thriller—she kept bumping into the crew for another film production at the local bar in Liège, Belgium: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl. As readers will recall, Liège is home base for the Dardennes, and The Unknown Girl could be an alternate title for Ducournau’s Raw—which watches an unassuming straight-A student discover carnal (and carnivorous) urges that she never knew she had. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves: Raw has teeth even before its drama of greasy adolescent awakening enters the transgressive territory allowed by genre. Justine (Garance Marillier) is just moving into her college dormitory as the film begins, and while apprehensive about following in the footsteps of her too-cool sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf),…

3 min
rich and strange

You play Howard Hughes in Rules Don’t Apply, and you direct Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich as Hollywood ingenues. Hughes is a longstanding interest of yours—you talked about him in an interview 25 years ago in these pages. A long time ago when I came to Hollywood, I found the subject of Howard Hughes what I have to call amusing. I never got the feeling that he was a bad guy. Most everyone spoke very highly of him. But I don’t know that I ever felt he was a suitable protagonist for a full movie. Ultimately, given the period—1958 was when I first came to Hollywood— I found the predicament of the young person who came to Hollywood more interesting. I guess that’s a longwinded way of saying I found…

3 min
heart in a cage

The Living Idol Albert Lewin, 1957, Cohen Media Group ALBERT LEWIN WAS AN ODD SPECIMEN IN THE HOLLYWOOD of the ’40s and ’50s. A producer who came late to directing at age 47, he completed only six features, wrote novels on the side, and gave the supernatural fantasies for which he’s best known (Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, The Picture of Dorian Gray) a genteel literary flavor that belied their subdued strains of violence and sensuality. His final feature, adapted from his own book, was a prime example of Hollywood exotica. Set in and around Mexico City, The Living Idol centers on a young woman named Juanita as she reckons with the jaguar god to whom her Mayan ancestors were sacrificed. She becomes the object of a distasteful tug-of-war between two…

6 min
just enough

AS GUEST EDITOR OF THE 2004 EDITION OF THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, Lorrie Moore offered the following somewhat broad, unadorned consideration about the form: “A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” Appraising length alone, I see Moore’s point, who in a Paris Review interview three years prior characterized the labor involved in writing a novel—“A novel is a job”—and suggested how a story is, instead, similar in tone to “a mad, lovely visitor, with whom you spend a rather exciting weekend.” Again: duration. Intrigue condensed into a fleeting period of time, or drama sentenced to—wonderfully so—a finite stretch. With that in mind, I would argue that short stories, far more than novels, are nearer…