Amy Taubin

  • 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

  • Arthur Jafa, AGHDRA, 2021, digital video, color, sound, 85 minutes.
    film December 10, 2021

    Oceanic Feeling

    WE’RE IN A JUKE JOINT on a boardwalk overlooking the gulf, now transformed into a sea of magma. The 45s are warped, the turntable spins erratically. We sit on metal chairs and watch the waves of blackness. This is how the world ends—for me, and maybe for you.

    Arthur Jafa’s AGHDRA, an eighty-five-minute moving image and sound installation, is on view in a cavernous warehouse at 439 West 127th Street. Formerly Gavin Brown’s uptown gallery, the building has been sold, and who knows to what purposes its new owner will put it. But right now, Jafa has returned to the space where in 2016 he showed Love

  • Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog, 2021, DCP, color, sound, 127 minutes. Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch).
    film November 19, 2021

    Dog Eat Dog

    “FOR WHAT KIND OF MAN would I be if I didn’t help my mother, if I didn’t save her?” Jane Campion’s unsparing The Power of the Dog opens with this question, spoken in voice-over by teenaged Peter Gordon (Kodi Smit-McPhee), one in the film’s principal-character quartet. Something in the words and the timbre of Peter’s voice instantly called up a memory of Psycho’s Norman Bates and his affectless “A boy’s best friend is his mother,” an association confirmed by the first sight of Codi—tall and skinny, with gestures that are blatantly femme, or in the lingo of the times (1925), a Nancy boy. But if

  • INTERVIEW: YOU’LL BE MY MIRROR

    SOMETIME IN 1963, or perhaps it was late 1962, I found my way to a downtown loft where the Dream Syndicate—the configuration of La Monte Young, John Cale, Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise, and Marian Zazeela—was playing weekly concerts. The sound produced was massive—tones sustained for impossible durations at impossible volumes, so that you felt as if you were inside the sound and that the connection between ear and brain was transformed. These concerts shaped my aesthetic even more than the similarly aggressive, expanded time in movies by Andy Warhol, Ken Jacobs, Michael Snow, and Barbara Rubin,

  • Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog, 2021, DCP, color, sound, 127 minutes. Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch).
    film September 24, 2021

    Cats and Dogs

    EVEN WITH the New York Film Festival kicking off tonight with Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, I thought I had had enough of festivals, at least until 2022. Wild horses could not have dragged me to see Frances McDormand, whose every performance is more forced than the last, assay Lady M, although I would have liked to see Denzel Washington’s interpretation of the character whose name must not be spoken except within a performance of “the Scottish play.” (Were you under the impression that the “don’t speak his name” shit began with Voldemort?) And then, early yesterday morning, I went to a

  • Dash Shaw and Jane Samborski, Cryptozoo, 2021, 4K video animation, color, sound, 95 minutes.
    interviews August 23, 2021

    Dash Shaw

    BEST KNOWN as a graphic novelist—Bottomless Belly Button (2008); Body World (2010), New School (2013); Cosplayers (2014)—Dash Shaw has also made two animated feature films. The first was My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (2014), an outsider’s vision of teenage angst which employs Titanic as a disaster movie template. The second, Cryptozoo (2021), again riffs on a Hollywood blockbuster, Jurassic Park, using his distinctive manner of drawing and painting that has become more sophisticated and complex in the years since High School. A cartooning major at the School of Visual Arts (he

  • Leos Carax, Annette, 2021, DDCP, color, sound, 120 minutes. Henry McHenry and Ann (Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard).
    film July 07, 2021

    Sound and Fury

    LEOS CARAX’S ANNETTE IS A MONSTER, a misery, an astoundingly raw movie/musical theater hybrid. It was the first film I saw in a screening room after fourteen months of pandemic isolation so circumstances may have played a part in my being so bouleversé. Also, I was sitting in the first row, the screen was very wide, and Carax doesn’t stint on close-ups. In any case, this is a film about a man who is fucking angry, and his anger went straight to my solar plexus, shaking me around for two hours. It also unleashed a torrent of associations, most of them cued by the director. In the end titles,

  • Andreas Fontana, Azor, 2021, DCP, sound, color, 100 minutes. Yvan De Wiel (Fabrizio Rongione).
    film April 28, 2021

    Adventure Time

    IN THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY EDITION of New Directors/New Films, the hippies pull more weight than the politicos, to borrow a ’60s dichotomy. There is a lot of journeying in these films—too much of it for my taste—couched as quests for spiritual enlightenment, or undertaken to discover the unity in all things, or to let go of the traumas of the past by, well, I’m not sure what means. ND/NF, which is jointly curated by programmers from the Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center, is devoted to first and second independently produced features by directors from an ever-expanding world cinema.

  • Ana Katz, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet, 2021, DCP, black-and-white, sound, 73 minutes.
    film February 26, 2021

    Being There

    THE PRIZES WERE AWARDED a month ago, some very big deals have closed in recent weeks, and the Sundance Film Festival has closed its streaming platform, hopefully never to be used again—at least not as the primary means of connecting Sundance’s chosen movies to Sundance audiences. Having covered the festival for thirty-two years, the place—Park City, Utah—and my ten-day routine there is stamped into my neurological pathways, so it’s no wonder that I had flashes of déjà vu while sitting at home watching four or five movies a day on my desktop. One evening, checking in by phone with my Sundance