Amy Taubin

  • Jean-Luc Godard, 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (2 or 3 Things I Know About Her), 1967, 35 mm, color, sound, 87 minutes. Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady).

    JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930–2022)

    QU’EST-CE QUE LE CINEMA? Posed in the title of André Bazin’s multivolume collection of essays, this question guided Jean-Luc Godard through more than sixty years of filmmaking, yielding the most beautiful, provocative, tender, irritating, glamourous, exhilarating, and emotionally and intellectually complicated works in the history of motion pictures, supreme among them the wildly personal, decade-in-the-making Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–98).

    To ask “What is cinema?” is to focus attention—perceptual, kinetic, associative—on the object in question rather than on peripheral considerations such as

  • Jerzy Skolimowski, EO, 2022, 4K video, color, sound, 88 minutes.
    film November 23, 2022

    Hit the Road, Jack

    THE WORLD HAS SELDOM if ever seemed at once as ravishingly beautiful and beset with menace and cruelty as in EO, where it is imagined by Jerzy Skolimowski through the eyes—no, the entire perceptual system—of a donkey. EO (named for the hee-haw sound these animals make) performs in a circus with Kasandra, a young woman who dotes on him like Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a love that is nurturing and tinged with eroticism. When Kasandra abandons him, riding off on the back of a motorcycle with the man who abused him, EO trots after her, but in dodging an oncoming car, he loses her

  • Nikyatu Jusu, Nanny, 2022, 2K video, color, sound, 98 minutes. Aisha (Anna Diop).

    THE DEEP END

    TWO OF THIS YEAR’S most compelling and finely wrought films plumb the depths of the mother-child dyad and the anguish of separation from family, culture, and self. Alice Diop’s Saint Omer and Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny focus on ambitious, intelligent women of Senegalese descent who live, respectively, in France and the United States. Nanny is a cross-cultural psychological thriller spiked with horror. Saint Omer is a courtroom drama adapted in part from the transcripts of a trial of a woman who left her infant daughter on a beach at the water’s edge so that “the sea would carry her body away.” Yes,

  • Annie Ernaux, The Super 8 Years, 2022, Super 8, color, sound, 60 minutes.
    film October 21, 2022

    Peaks and Valleys

    ON THE CLOSING NIGHT of the sixtieth New York Film Festival, Elegance Bratton, whose first narrative feature, The Inspection, was receiving its US premiere in this prestigious slot, tried to express how thrilled he was to be thus honored. Bratton is a charmer, and his stage presence is such that I wouldn’t be surprised if he had plans to adapt The Inspectioninto a Broadway musical. (I think he should.) But on this occasion, he conveyed his excitement at standing on the very stage and speaking into the same microphone as Martin Scorsese had on a previous evening by looking out at some seven

  • Marie Kreutzer, Corsage, 2022, 35 mm, color, sound, 114 minutes. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps).
    film September 30, 2022

    New Beginnings

    THIS YEAR’S DENSELY PACKED New York Film Festival, its sixtieth anniversary edition, just added a special event in honor of the late Jean-Luc Godard. The US landing point for most of the feature films the director made between 1963 and 2018 and the site of an extensive retrospective of his work in 2013, the festival will screen, during its first week, Godard’s final film, The Image Book, on a continuous loop in the amphitheater of the Elinor Bunin Center. Admission is free, but the quality of projection, and particularly the audio—which is crucial to the film—is, as I write, yet unknown. The

  • Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo, 1958, 35 mm, color, sound, 128 minutes. John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart).

    THE ART WE LOVE

    AMY TAUBIN

    An empty green frame, four and a half by three feet, made of two-inch-wide transparent green acrylic, is suspended from the ceiling about two feet forward of the window to the left of the desk where I write. It was fabricated for a film I made in 1977 but never finished. Bad idea from the start. The green frame was a gesture toward an often-cited scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo in which Scottie (James Stewart), the retired detective, waits for Judy (Kim Novak) to return from a hair-and-makeup session that he hopes will complete her transformation into Madeleine, the object of

  • Barbara Rubin, Christmas on Earth, 1963, double 35 mm projection, color, sound, 29 minutes.
    film July 29, 2022

    City Lights

    AN UTTERLY AMAZING and necessary series, “New York, 1962–1964: Underground and Experimental Cinema,” curated by Thomas Beard and Dan Sullivan at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, comprises twelve programs of movies—short ones, long ones, and ones in between—all made by filmmakers living and working in New York in those years, all of them programmed at the time by the late Jonas Mekas at the peripatetic Filmmakers Cinematheque, all of them at least mentioned by Mekas in his Village Voice “Movie Journal” column, and almost all of them at one time or another distributed by the Filmmakers Cooperative.

  • Anna Jadowska, Woman on the Roof, 2022, DCP, color, sound, 97 minutes. Mira (Dorota Pomykala).
    film June 29, 2022

    A Tribeca Tale

    FOR TWO DECADES, the Tribeca Film Festival has preserved more than a trace of its improvisational origins. Conceived in 2002 as a response to flagging creative energy and property values in zip codes 10007 and 10013 in the aftermath of 9/11, the festival projected an image of New York as a filmmaking hub where moviegoers could mingle with and size up the products of directors and actors like festival founder Robert De Niro, whose offices were and still are in TriBeCa. It was kind of homey, even if you lived forty-five minutes away by subway. The lineups were eclectic—a smattering of big-star

  • David Cronenberg, Crimes of the Future, 2022, 2K video, color, sound, 108 minutes. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux).

    GROSS CLINIC

    DAVID CRONENBERG’S Crimes of the Future is a stunning film: visually, emotionally, viscerally, and narratively. It is both hallucinatory and intensely real—an echo chamber of Cronenbergiana colliding with a city whose three-thousand-year history can be mined but never contained. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it is Athens, as location and inspiration, that makes Crimes a new direction for Cronenberg, even as it is possibly his magnum opus. The movie, which takes its title and thankfully little else from one of the director’s early experimental films, is set in an indeterminate future that

  • Nikyatu Jusu, Nanny, 2021, DCP, color, sound, 97 minutes. Aisha (Anna Diop).
    film February 04, 2022

    Born Again

    “WOW NANNY,” I texted to one of my Sundance critic pals—she on the West Coast, me on the East—after I had viewed Nikyatu Jusu’s debut feature, which a few days later won the grand prize in the festival’s US Dramatic competition. Except for a few screenings in seven “Satellite” locations across the US, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival was entirely virtual. Given that the decision to put everything online was made only two weeks before the January 20 opening date, it was amazing how smoothly things went. I streamed about thirty-five of the festival’s ninety-eight features without a glitch, and

  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Memoria, 2021, 35 mm transferred to 4K video, color, sound, 136 minutes. Jessica Holland (Tilda Swinton).

    Sleepless Nights

    FIRST, WE SEE A ROOM. It is dark, too dark to make out details or even the colors hinted at in various shades of gray. There seems to be a bed and perhaps a person asleep under the covers. Just when your eyes are intent on the little that can be seen, you hear—could it be?—a sonic boom, a sound so loud and dense that it vibrates through your entire body. When we say a film is kinetic, we are usually describing the effect of its images on the viewer. But the kineticism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria is auditory. So overwhelming is its impact that it would be ridiculous to say we watched

  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Memoria, 2021, 35 mm, color, sound, 136 minutes. Jessica (Tilda Swinton).
    film December 21, 2021

    Sleepless Nights

    FIRST, WE SEE A ROOM. It is dark, too dark to make out details or even the colors hinted at in various shades of gray. There seems to be a bed and perhaps a person asleep under the covers. Just when your eyes are intent on the little that can be seen, you hear—could it be?—a sonic boom, a sound so loud and dense that it vibrates through your entire body. When we say a film is kinetic, we are usually describing the effect of its images on the viewer. But the kineticism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria is auditory. So overwhelming is its impact that it would be ridiculous to say we watched