Cinema Scope Issue 85 - Winter 2021

With unparalleled depth and breadth, Cinema Scope is one of the most respected English-language publications on film worldwide. Cinema Scope unites experienced critics from across North America with up-and-coming writers. Packed with reviews, essays, festival reports, and interviews, we’re geared to cinephiles looking for an intelligent forum on world cinema. “Advocates for a passionate, poltical and purist engagement with the movies”—The New York Times

Cinema Scope Publishing
4 Issues

in this issue

4 min
editor’s note

A lot has happened just in the past few months in the film biz, considering that a fair number of us still aren’t supposed to leave our homes for non-essential reasons, cinemas still remain closed in many places at the time of writing, and publications still insist on releasing top-ten lists before the year is over. We are going through the process of forced adaptation, which is, pace Sontag, like a foreign object entering a body and the body having to react and adapt, hopefully for the positive, which is what is happening metaphorically in the film world right now. The idea of a vaccine presumes that once we have reached herd immunity, things can go back to the way things were… is that the way it will work in…

15 min
the play for tomorrow

One of the best known of Steve McQueen’s early video works is Deadpan (1997), a four-minute, 35-second loop in which the artist simultaneously places himself in harm’s way and in film history. The piece is a recreation of the famous Buster Keaton stunt from Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) in which the façade of a two-story wooden house falls in on Buster. The performer isn’t crushed by the falling structure because he is standing in the exact position for the window to fall around him, engulfing Keaton in destruction but sparing him as he displays his trademark unflappability. In McQueen’s version, the event is shown from multiple perspectives—profile, ¾ angle, bird’s-eye—as well as being fragmented into close-ups of the artist’s feet, face, and torso. The dangerous stunt is repeated as a loop,…

16 min
the crowd is dead, long live the crowd!

for RMC 1. It was a total coincidence and yet it felt freighted with meaning: when I returned to the cinema at the end of August after months of suffering with the small screen, the first two films I saw began with crowd scenes. The streets of London were eerily empty as I walked to the Genesis, but as soon as Les misérables (2019) began, the streets of Paris were full. France had won the 2018 World Cup and the city was alive with celebration. The image of so many young people of colour waving so many French flags was a succinct and spectacular way for director Ladj Ly to stage the problem of national belonging and its relation to race, coloniality, and inequality. Since the Revolution, the body politic of France has…

22 min
all the fountains of the great deep

Artists who write clearly about their work run a serious risk: that they will be taken at their word. In much of contemporary art this dynamic has descended to the point that the work, the sensuous object, functions as little more than an illustration of the artist’s statement, a vestigial offering to the market. Anxiety over the uncertain presence of an audience demands that whoever arrives in the role of beholder must not walk away without the supposed satisfaction of knowing precisely what they have encountered. I begin here for two reasons. The first is that the Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Pelechian is the author of one of the great autotheoretical texts, “Montage-at-a-Distance, or: A Theory of Distance” (my quotes from the piece throughout this essay will draw from Julia Vassilieva’s 2015…

15 min
minority report

The “About the Author” section of Armond White’s new critical anthology does not disappoint. In the space of four short paragraphs, White is identified as “esteemed, controversial and brilliantly independent” as well as “The Last Honest Film Critic in America”; his résumé comprises “auspicious tomes” that are “essential for anyone who loves pop culture.” These collected works, including 1995’s actually essential The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World, affirm that “White practically invented the art of music video criticism.” His Lincoln Center seminars on that topic (a few of which are still viewable on YouTube) are memorialized in language borrowed, humorously if not deliberately, from the opening of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” No less than the Misses Morkan’s annual dance, we are assured, these lectures were…

11 min
f for fake

“I am very happy to accept this award in the spirit in which the screenplay was written—which is to say, in the absence of Orson Welles,” snarks Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz in the recreated newsreel that caps off Mank, as he receives the Best Screenplay Oscar he acrimoniously shared with Welles for Citizen Kane (1941). It’s hardly necessary to point out that, while Welles himself (as capably impersonated by English actor Tom Burke) is only an intermittent physical presence in David Fincher’s film (which he directed from a decades-old script by his late father Jack Fincher), the entire enterprise exists under his shadow. Welles aficionado Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote of “how mythical and ideological a creature Welles remains [as a cultural figure], a site for the acting out of various…