Amy Taubin

  • 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

  • David Fincher, Mank, 2020, UHD video, black-and-white, sound, 131 minutes. Foreground: Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). Background: Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).
    film December 03, 2020

    Chasing Kane

    IN 1925, Herman J. Mankiewicz, theater critic and reporter for the New York Times and for the New Yorker in its first year, and the author of quite a few mostly failed Broadway plays, all of which qualified him for a seat at the Algonquin Round Table, received an invitation from MGM studios to move to Hollywood and be well paid to write for the movies. Pictures had not yet learned to talk, but soon they would, and in the meantime, Mankiewicz’s talent for narrative structure and succinct intertitles was in demand. Movie production, which until the end of World War I had been the work of hundreds

  • I May Destroy You, 2020–, still from a TV show on HBO. Season 1, episode 8. Arabella (Michaela Coel).

    Amy Taubin

    Amy Taubin is a contributing editor of Artforum.

    1

    THE HANDY, AFFORDABLE-TO-EVERYONE, MOVING-IMAGE CAMERA

    Dziga Vertov’s idea that the motion-picture camera could speak truth to power and therefore was essential to democratic social and cultural aspiration found ample traction in the 1960s, when an army of filmmakers waged resistance with 16-mm and analog video newsreels. This tradition today manifests in the countless nonfiction works largely shot with small video and cellphone cameras, among them two of the great movies of the year, Garrett Bradley’s Time, which focuses on activist Fox Rich

  • Lili Horvát, Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, 2020, 35 mm, color, sound, 95 minutes. Marta (Natasa Stork).
    film October 09, 2020

    Critical Distance

    FOR CINEPHILES, CRITICS, AND INDUSTRY FOLK, the end of summer is announced by three overlapping North American film festivals: Telluride, Toronto (TIFF), and New York (NYFF). I usually make do with the last, although this year I had committed to going to TIFF before it became clear that “going” meant watching links in my own apartment—the same links that were shown to the paying public. There’s something to be said for not having to dash from theater to theater every day, for being able to turn off an indifferently received movie and queue up the next without even breaking for coffee. Yes, the

  • Garrett Bradley, America, 2019, three-channel 35 mm transferred to 4K video projection, black-and-white, sound, 23 minutes 55 seconds. Production still.

    CLOSE-UP: LOST AND FOUND

    AT FIRST GLANCE, Time, 2020, and America, 2019, two moving-image works by Garrett Bradley being showcased this autumn, have almost nothing in common. Time is a feature-length documentary portrait edited from two decades of low-tech video diaries kept by Fox Rich, a Louisiana mother of six and a justice-reform activist, as she struggled to win her husband Rob’s release from the prison where he was serving a sixty-year sentence. America is a multichannel installation of luminous, often ecstatic beauty, the touchstone for which is the 1913 Lime Kiln Club Field Day, created by and starring Bert

  • Michael Almereyda, Tesla, 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 102 minutes.

    ELECTRIC DREAMS

    WHEN MICHAEL ALMEREYDA was about sixteen, he often visited the much older comic-book artist Alex Toth, who lived in Hollywood, chain-smoked, and talked endlessly about Nikola Tesla, visionary inventor of the mechanism that, 135 years later, still harnesses and distributes alternating current. Our illuminated world is the world that Tesla brought into being just before the dawn of the twentieth century. You might presume that the credit should go to Thomas Alva Edison, but you would be wrong. In 1980, Almereyda dropped out of Harvard to finish a screenplay about Tesla that was then optioned as

  • Michael Almereyda, Tesla, 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 102 minutes.
    film August 21, 2020

    Electric Dreams

    WHEN MICHAEL ALMEREYDA was about sixteen, he often visited the much older comic-book artist Alex Toth, who lived in Hollywood, chain-smoked, and talked endlessly about Nikola Tesla, the visionary inventor of the mechanism that, 135 years later, still harnesses and distributes alternating current. Our illuminated world is the world that Tesla brought into being just before the dawn of the twentieth century. You might presume that the credit should go to Thomas Alva Edison, but you would be wrong. In 1980, Almereyda dropped out of Harvard to finish a screenplay about Tesla that was then optioned

  • Taghi Amirani, Coup 53, 2019, DCP, color and black-and-white, sound, 121 minutes.
    film August 19, 2020

    Plot Twist

    A REVELATORY INVESTIGATIVE DOCUMENTARY that is dense with detail and yet drives like a thriller, Taghi Amirani’s Coup 53 tells the story of how Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s only democratically elected prime minister, was driven from office and replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who would rule as an absolute monarch until he was sent packing by the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Since this is a story about Iran, it is also about the CIA and Big Oil. But the largely new wrinkle that Amirani’s film uncovers is the role that the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) played in maintaining what

  • Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods, 2020, DCP, color, sound, 156 minutes. Melvin, Eddie, Paul, Otis, and David (Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, and Jonathan Majors).
    film June 15, 2020

    Apocalypse Vow

    IN DA 5 BLOODS, history repeats itself not as farce but as tragedy compounded. Financed by and now streaming on Netflix, this fiercely intelligent and emotionally go-for-broke Spike Lee joint overwhelmed my small screen and me as well. Colliding hearts and minds, it arrives as a much-needed exorcism, but I suspect that, like Lee’s most urgent movies—Do the Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992), 25th Hour (2002), BlacKkKlansman (2018), the anomalously tender Crooklyn (1994), the documentaries 4 Little Girls (1997) and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006), and whichever you might

  • film May 19, 2020

    À La Modal

    THE EDDY, a sensational eight-episode Netflix miniseries, is named for a jazz club in Paris’s thirteenth arrondissement, home to a polyglot sextet led by American ex-pat Elliot Udo (André Holland). On good nights, the music induces euphoria in the club’s devoted audience, and perhaps you as well. (Wear good headphones and turn up the sound.) There are also nights when nothing lands, and, even worse, when the dive’s owners, Elliot and his best friend Farid (Tahar Rahim), are terrorized by henchmen for a Serbian mob boss. The Eddy is a jazz musical with a thriller edge, and it’s also a dense

  • Alexander Nanau, Colectiv (Collective), 2019, 2K video, color, sound, 109 minutes. Tedy Ursuleanu.

    KILL OR CURE

    IF YOU EVER GET SICK IN ROMANIA, hightail it to Vienna. That was my immediate takeaway, near the end of January—almost to the day that the first Covid-19 case was diagnosed in the United States—from Alexander Nanau’s Collective (2019), a chilling investigative documentary about the endemic, engulfing corruption inside Romania’s health system. Anyone who has seen Cristi Puiu’s true-story-based narrative The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)—a foundational title of the New Romanian Cinema that follows a dying old man as he’s rejected by hospital after hospital—has already gotten an eyeful of what