Amy Taubin

  • Chantal Akerman

    “I MUST PHOTOCOPY THIS because soon there won’t be a trace,” says Chantal Akerman to her mother, Nelly, in the double video projection that is part of the daughter’s piece To Walk Next to One’s Shoelaces in an Empty Fridge. (First shown at the Centre Pompidou in 2004, the installation was at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York this past summer.) The object they are perusing—the daughter having drawn her chair close enough to put her arm around her mother’s shoulders as they sit at Nelly’s kitchen table—is the diary of Chantal’s maternal grandmother, Sidonie Ehrenburg, who was murdered at Auschwitz

  • Jonas Mekas

    JONAS MEKAS, now eighty-two, has lived—and continues to live—many lives. For six decades his work in film, video, and poetry has been largely diaristic, so one’s first impulse is to approach it through his remarkable biography. For those familiar with avant-garde film, Mekas needs need no introduction: He is the indispensable archivist, curator, fund-raiser, and proselytizer for a genre of moving-image work that is precariously poised between the art world and the art film. It is largely through his efforts to create an infrastructure for avant-garde film—he founded the Film-Maker’s Cooperative,


    Establishing shots don’t work for me. When I think about a situation in a film, it’s like a memory, and I never remember it as an establishing shot. I immediately put myself in the middle.Lucrecia Martel

    The first image in La Niña Santa, or The Holy Girl, the second feature film by Argentine director Lucrecia Martel, is of a bevy of adolescent girls crowded onto the screen, their faces so alive and so close to the camera lens that we want to touch the cheeks the film has proffered. The girls themselves are not complicit in this frustrated desire. They are entirely absorbed in listening to a

  • Michael Almereyda

    Michael Almereyda’s new documentary, William Eggleston in the Real World (at MoMA, January 17 and 19), begins with footage shot five years ago in Mayfield, Kentucky, where Eggleston was carrying out a commission from director Gus Van Sant to photograph the latter’s place of birth. Eggleston’s brilliantly colored, discomforting images have influenced not only photographers but some of the most subversive American filmmakers, including Van Sant, David Lynch, and Almereyda himself. Although best known for his New York–based fiction films—the contemporary, zip code 10021 Hamlet (2000) and the East

  • Amy Taubin


    1. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater) Fragile, passionate, exquisitely wrought, Linklater’s modern epistemology of love is a perfect movie.

    2. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller) The posthumous restoration of Fuller’s semiautobiographical World War II picture is “termite art,” but on an epic scale.

    3. Infernal Affairs trilogy (Andrew Lau and Alan Mak) An identity-blasted Hong Kong cops-and-gangsters saga that combines the glamour and moral conundrums of Jean-Pierre Melville’s policiers with the tragic weight of The Godfather.

    4. A Talking Picture (Manoel de Oliveira) Angry and despairing, it’s

  • recent Asian cinema

    THE NEW WAVES of Asian cinema—from the three Chinas, Japan, and, more recently, Korea and Thailand—that have thrilled so-called specialized audiences over the past twenty years have gathered into a tsunami of sufficient force to propel the occasional Asian film to the top of the box-office charts. Moviegoers have gradually become acclimated to the hyperbolic pace and emotions (either glacial or boiling) and the fractured narratives of Asian film through the Hollywoodized hybrids of John Woo and Ang Lee, not to mention Quentin Tarantino. And although the eroticized longueurs of Wong Kar-wai’s

  • Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis

    JACKIE CURTIS made brilliant entrances, and although he sometimes overstayed his welcome, his final exit, in 1985 at age thirty-eight, came much too soon. Heroin, to paraphrase Lou Reed, was the death of him. Craig Highberger’s documentary portrait, Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis, which opens at New York’s Film Forum this month, takes its title from one of Curtis’s wryly class-conscious self-descriptions. The film would be a pedestrian affair if not for the vivacity of its subject, whose multiple incarnations—both on and off stage and screen—are evoked through

  • Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

    STRANGE TO SAY, at the very moment the rock-critical establishment finally discovered the ephemeral genius of avant-disco pioneer Arthur Russell (the adulation is lost on Russell, who died poor, of AIDS-related illness, in 1992), I found myself joining the millions who had plunked down their twenty bucks for St. Anger, the 2003 album by Metallica, a band that had always been—how shall I put this?—outside my sphere of reality. What activated my desire for this particular fetish object, which I probably will never play, was the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, by Joe Berlinger and

  • Amy Taubin


    1. K Street (Steven Soderbergh) Turning DC into an analogue of Warhol’s Factory, Soderbergh’s ten-part HBO series proves that fact and fiction are inoperable categories and performance the only reality.

    2. Elephant (Gus Van Sant) An achingly beautiful meditation on the Columbine massacre. As disassociated as an anxiety dream and elusive as the horror it references.

    3. Play Dead; Real Time (Douglas Gordon) Flanked in memory by Chris Marker’s pachyderm tribute Slon-Tango and the monumental Serras that have graced the same space, Gordon’s site-specific video installation at Gagosian had a

  • Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand

    SOMETIME IN 1969, during the making of Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper introduced his costar and producer, Peter Fonda, to Bruce Conner, the San Francisco–based artist and avant-garde filmmaker best known for the 16 mm found-footage collages he began showing in the late ’50s. “Bruce’s work was not soiled by any desire to make features,” writes Fonda in his deliriously earnest 1998 autobiography, Don’t Tell Dad. Fonda goes on to describe Conner’s visits to his home in LA. “We screened his movies and talked about our dreams. After watching his films—which I could do for hours—we often played music

  • American Splendor

    AMERICAN SPLENDOR, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s tatty, tender, volatile, and, yes, splendid biopic of Harvey Pekar, takes its name from the series of underground comic books that Pekar began publishing in 1976. Issued just about annually, the comics are autobiographical. Their subject is the daily life of a working-class autodidact who supported himself for nearly four decades (even after he achieved underground fame) working as a file clerk at a Veterans Administration hospital in Cleveland.

    A connoisseur of marginalia, Pekar homes in on quotidian details of social interaction as

  • Spider

    DAVID CRONENBERG’S SPIDER stars Ralph Fiennes as a mentally disturbed man whose web of defenses unravels when he’s transferred from an asylum to a halfway house in the squalid East End London neighborhood where he lived as a child. The film—which premiered at Cannes in May and opens this month in New York and Los Angeles—is adapted from the 1990 novel of the same name by Patrick McGrath, who also wrote the screenplay. An astonishing balancing act, Spider is both faithful to the novel and a distinctly Cronenbergian work. In both form and meaning, it is the most impeccably realized and rarefied

  • Amy Taubin


    1. Spider (David Cronenberg) Adapted from Patrick McGrath’s novel, Cronenberg’s first-person masterpiece is a reverse ghost story set in a derelict corner of London haunted by the specters of its protagonist’s traumatized psyche.

    2. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard) An elegy for love and its failures, it’s also an essay on history, memory, and resistance—as sad and beautiful as anything Godard has ever made.

    3. Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow) Existential anxiety goes digital as Snow explodes the boringly secure enclaves of the nuclear family and the office drone.

    4. The Fast Runner (

  • Marjorie Keller

    Marjorie Keller has been making films for over a decade; Daughters of Chaos is her most recent work. With it, she is established as a major filmmaker, perhaps the only major filmmaker the American independent film has produced since the end of the ’60s.

    At this critical moment, a part of the feminist movement feels the need to avoid the solidification of a stable or cohesive position. Instead it favors strategies of negation, contradiction, opposition, disjunction; of making visible the invisible, the barely visible, the repressed, suppressed, overlooked. In this these feminists neither claim

  • Valie Export

    Valie Export is a Viennese performance artist and video- and filmmaker. Her work is expressionist, the body her primary field of articulation. Invisible Adversaries, a feature-length film, made in 1976 on a grant from the Austrian government, horrified the authorities with its feminist position, visceral sexual imagery and negative critique of Viennese society. The filmmaker was subjected to a police investigation; the scandal guaranteed the film a long run in Vienna but unfortunately it has only been screened two or three times in the U.S.

    During the early ’50s, the commercial film industry

  • Jean-Luc Godard

    Sauve Qui Peut/La Vie, which has received the, I hope, ironic, but perhaps carelessly sexist translation Every Man For Himself, is Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature in five years. Godard is saying that it is his first narrative film but it seems more like a return to and continuation of his earlier work from the mid-’60s, specifically Two Or Three Things I Know About Her and A Married Woman. There is one immediately discernible difference—having taken rapid fire as far as he could, Godard has shifted his strategy in the opposite direction to leisurely pacing. Sauve Qui Peut is marked by passages

  • Jean-Pierre Gorin

    Slow-and-stop-motion is also used in Poto and Cobengo, a documentary by Jean-Pierre Gorin, ex-partner of Godard. Gorin is more successful with slow motion than Godard because he uses it not only for rhythmic punctuation, but also to emphasize his subjects’ isolation from the world around them.

    In 1977, the media gave extensive coverage to a set of seven year old twin girls who were said to have invented a complex, private language. Fantastic speculations were entertained by some: that they were possessed, that they came from an alien planet, that they were geniuses. Gorin, searching for the right

  • Robert Breer

    The term “New American Cinema” was coined in the early ’60s for a rapidly growing body of work and filmmaking practice. For the past 15 years it has been used alternately with “underground film,” “avant-garde film,” “independent film” and “experimental film.” As a heading it is no more or less misleading than any one of them. The films of the New American Cinema are predominantly non-linear, non-narrative, closer to poetry than to prose, and related more to issues of painting and sculpture than to literature in any form. Unlike Hollywood filmmaking, each film is the work of a single maker who

  • Ernie Gehr

    Ernie Gehr’s Serene Velocity, 1970 and Still, 1971, are regarded as maJor films of the New American Cinema. Although Gehr continued to make films throughout the ’70s, he showed no new work between 1971 and 1979. In the past year he has released two films. (Untitled) and Eureka, both dated 1974.

    (Untitled) was filmed from the window of a sixth-floor loft facing Houston Street. Gehr shot the cars in the street below from the widest variety of angles possible through this single window frame. He filmed with the window opened, closed (through glass) and screened (through wire mesh), varying both the