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Film Comment September - October 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

3 min
editor’s letter

LET’S IMAGINE THE STORY OF RIP VAN WINKLE TRANSPLANTED TO THE WORLD OF moviemaking, movie exhibition, and movie journalism. Let’s say that our guy has fallen asleep in 1995 and awoken today. What would he find? He would, of course, find that the then-impending “digital revolution” has come to pass and that absolutely everything he knew about movies has been either reconfigured or obliterated. And if he woke up after July 8, he would realize that film exhibition was about to undergo a massive shift. That was the day the story broke that Paramount had reached an agreement with AMC Theatres to shorten the theatrical window for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse to a mere 17 days, after which they will be available on…

13 min
opening shots

MUST - SEE MOVIES : THE ASSASSIN | EXPERIMENTER | THE FORBIDDEN ROOM | WHEN ANIMALS DREAM HOT PROPERTY | Fatima Mother Courage THROUGH THEIR PRODUCTION COMPANY—Istiqlal Films, inspired by the Arabic word for “independence”—Philippe Faucon and partner Yasmina Nini-Faucon have amassed multiple portraits of young people, especially immigrants, in France. Fatima adds another trim chapter to Faucon’s catalog of social dramas with its affecting, highly focused story of a hard-working first-generation Moroccan mother, Fatima, and her two teenage daughters in Lyon. Where other family stories might relegate Fatima to a mere tragic, taciturn role, Faucon gives her a voice, no doubt empowered by the script’s source, two books by Fatima Elayoubi. Fatima (Soria Zeroual) cleans houses to put Nesrine (Zita Henrot) through her medical studies and to support Souad (Kenza Noah), who keeps…

5 min
fade out

THERE ARE CERTAIN PERFORMERS WHO BRING TO THEIR ROLES A gravitas, an elegance, and a sense of importance by their mere presence. No matter how trivial or inane the film may be, these actors remain class acts. And my friend Christopher Lee was a class act. Christopher Lee’s mother (famous for her beauty) was the Italian Contessa di Sarzano, and through her he could trace his bloodline back to the Borgias. His father was an officer in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and was “one of the best shots in England.” Through his father he could trace his bloodline back to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor. Not only did Christopher often play counts and lords, he was an aristocrat by birth. He was also an actor to his core. He was…

3 min

“Somebody might be watching.” In the prologue to Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, these are the parting words of an old flame calling on a private detective she once walked out on, but now needs. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 adaptation, the song “Vitamin C” by the German group Can shadows this scene. Though the story is set in sundrenched Southern California, the infectious track, recorded in 1972 in Cologne, a city straddling both sides of the Rhine, captures the mood: darting eyes, endless loops, suspicion along the shoreline. After the title splashes across the screen in italicized neon, bookended by cymbal crashes from drummer Jaki Liebezeit, the beat shuffles along for six minutes, long enough that the rights to “Soup,” the song “Vitamin C” bleeds into on the LP Ege Bamyasi,…

3 min

To the uninitiated, Laurie Anderson’s career looks like a series of contradictions and improbabilities—and, in truth, that’s what it is. The renowned performance artist, who came of age during the Seventies heyday of New York’s downtown art and music scene, had a pop hit in 1981 with “O Superman,” an eight-and-a-half-minute halfsung, half-Vocoder fictional telephone conversation whose main “hook” (if you could even call it that) was borrowed from a Jules Massenet opera. The thematic concerns and formal strategies of “O Superman” are apparent in Anderson’s new feature-length work, The Heart of a Dog, an incredibly wise yet never maudlin meditation on loss, technology, terrorism, surveillance, family, love, and Eastern philosophy. In her unmistakable oratorical style—characterized by a lilting, cooing extension of syllables that you’ll either love or hate—Anderson narrates a…

7 min

I WATCHED Cherry 2000 (87) AND Miracle Mile (88) AS AN AFTERNOON double bill, with a break of maybe five minutes between the two. I recommend this. The films do not overlap in subject matter, period setting, or cast, and the tone differs: Cherry 2000 is authentically and chaotically deranged, while Miracle Mile stays true to a cheeky but serious attitude. But taken together they evoke a bright, pulpy energy that feels quintessentially of the mid-Eighties, even as they look back to movies from a previous era. Both films were directed by Steve De Jarnatt, and remain his only feature directorial credits (he’s done a lot of television work since then). A dropout from the AFI in the Seventies, De Jarnatt garnered industry attention with his short Tarzana, a noir homage…