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Film Comment November - December 2017

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United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
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in this issue

3 min
editor ’s letter

It’s an extraordinary feat by any measure: one director premiering three feature films in major festivals over a single year, while somewhere along the way managing to shoot yet another. That filmmaker is Hong Sangsoo, and his movies The Day After and Claire’s Camera had their world premieres in Cannes, with On the Beach at Night Alone bowing at Berlin (and earning a prize for its lead actress). Hong has always produced work at a healthy clip (21 feature films over his unique 21-year career), but this latest run is something special—partly because they are all set for distribution in the United States, with The Day After and On the Beach at Night Alone playing to packed houses at the New York Film Festival. Now, with On the Beach at Night Alone…

4 min
technicolor dreamcoat

News, views, conversations, and other things to get worked up about When i start a movie, i open a file on my computer that is called “Corpus.” It’s all the films that will influence me. Sometimes I start with three films and finish with 25. When I started [Ismael’s Ghosts], when my producer was despairing, I said, “At last, I will do a film about a film director.” So I had to note 8 ½. I was speaking with Mathieu [Amalric, who plays Ismael Vuillard] about his performance and Mastroianni’s. They are directors, but they are not perfect. They are not so full of poems. They have weaknesses, and you love them because of their weaknesses. Having a film within a film, I had to think of Providence, the Alain Resnais movie,…

2 min
a mercenary adrift

Cai shangjun’s sprawling, stinging character study begins in trash and darkness. In the opening shot of The Conformist, we see a crow, twitchily picking through glistening garbage before realizing it’s trapped inside a closed bin. Suddenly the bird is freed—and a bracing open-air landscape of shantytowns hits the screen, with the animal’s distracted savior, Bo (Huang Bo), early on his own path out of confined circumstances. Not that Bo is a sympathetic hero that we root for. Set in the borderlands of Russia and China—signaled obliquely early on by the Cyrillic language signs as Bo drives through town to grift a gambling den—the story is centered on a man who commits crimes, informs to the police, and poisons the close relationships he develops with women through his violent volatility. He’s actually…

1 min
year of the clown

the star villain of It has rows upon rows of razor-sharp teeth, but anyone who sees the hit movie will leave with precious few bite marks. andy Muschietti’s serviceable adaptation of (about half of) stephen King’s 1986 mega-novel was successfully engineered to appeal to the widest possible audience. and it should come as no surprise that a movie featuring a killer clown named Pennywise would be little more than a jack-in-the-box contraption. but the film felt lacking for those of us raised on King’s demonic tales, and not just because it was missing his folksy prose. the book’s 1,138 pages are less concerned with face paint and red noses than systemic american intolerance and small-town hypocrisy—the monster as recurring social disease manifesting as racism, homophobia, misogyny, and anti-semitism. it’s also…

3 min
domestic terror

You had been working on an Internet-related drama called Flashmob. What happened? The problem was financial. It would have been either an American co-production or at least 50 percent of the film would have been shot in the United States, and the European producers were afraid that we’d lose money and they wouldn’t be able to obtain financing for it. But the real problem was that my female protagonist was a woman in her late twenties/early thirties, who weighed 350 pounds, and I couldn’t find that actress. How did you arrive at the story in Happy End? I took the part of the young girl who poisons her mother that was in Flashmob and adapted it for the new script. I wrote the new script because I wanted to work with Jean-Louis Trintignant…

3 min
le petit showbiz

Grandeur et décadence d’une petite commerce de cinéma Jean-luc Godard, 1986, capricci films Some of the most bombastic scenery-chewing in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980s movies was committed by Godard himself. But Godard’s cameo in Grandeur et décadence d’une petite commerce de cinéma, his elegiac feature from 1986, is mellow and subdued. We see him and an aging fictional film producer named Jean Almereyda (Jean-Pierre Mocky) meet by chance, sit in a car, and fall into a pattern of relaxed, low-key industry banter. “I’ve got to go,” the producer tells him eventually. “My wife is doing screen tests in my office and I’d rather be elsewhere.” They get to talking about screen tests. “That’s nice,” Godard says with a tightlipped smile. “You get to see people.” We see a great many people undergo screen tests…