Amy Taubin

  • William Klein, Muhammed Ali, The Greatest, 1974, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 94 minutes.
    film March 09, 2018

    Accept No Substitutes

    EVEN IF YOU’VE SEEN WILLIAM KLEIN’S Muhammad Ali, the Greatest (1974) online or at a museum or festival, they are no substitutes for seeing it right now in a theater with an audience, just like you’ve seen Black Panther (2018). Take your kids, or any kids you know, to see a real-world hero. Muhammad Ali is one of the best films in “The Eyes of William Klein,” a retrospective at Quad Cinema of narrative and documentary features and shorts by the ninety-year-old photographer and filmmaker.

    In a documentary made for the BBC (not part of this series) to coincide with the filmmaker’s 2012 retrospective


    OPENING WITH the explosion of a champagne cork that unleashes a chain reaction of casual domestic violence mixed with drunken laughter, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Acht Stunden sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day)—a five-episode series made in 1972 for Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the largest of Germany’s regional television broadcasters—identifies the good guys and the meanies in the first two minutes. It was Fassbinder’s first major TV work; in the previous seven years, he had made fourteen feature films as well as numerous plays that defined him as not only the most prolific but also the

  • Errol Morris, Wormwood, 2017, still from a TV show on Netflix. Episode 1. Frank Olson (Peter Sarsgaard).

    Errol Morris’s Wormwood

    EVERY WHICH WAY, Errol Morris’s Wormwood is of the moment, and not only because it’s a crime series made for binge-watching. There’s the distrust of all government and law enforcement; the obsessive search for a secret or overlooked piece of information that could reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth; and even the renewed focus on the Korean War and its aftermath.

    When I began watching Wormwood (the six-episode Netflix series, rather than the roughly four-hour movie version that played briefly at Metrograph in New York and at a few other theaters), I still was in the throes of what

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread, 2017, color, sound, 130 minutes.
    film December 29, 2017

    Tailor Swift

    HOW TO DESCRIBE Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnificently daft Phantom Thread, a movie as precise as it is delirious. To borrow from Stanley Cavell, it’s a comedy of courtship, marriage, and remarriage. Comedy, however, may be too clear-cut a designation for this story about the intimate life of a couple from first attraction to a precarious arrangement of power, for which no one would write a lifetime warranty. Beyond the dazzling performances of Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, and Lesley Manville; the swooping and/or oddly angled luminous 35-mm cinematography by Anderson himself; and the almost

  • Agnieszka Holland with Kasia Adamik, Spoor, 2017, 2K video, color, sound, 128 minutes. Priest Szelest (Marcin Basak) and altar boy (Szymon Kontyka).

    Amy Taubin

    1 SPOOR (Agnieszka Holland with Kasia Adamik) A primeval forest in Poland is the battleground for the no-holds-barred struggle of a woman who risks everything to protect the creatures that live there from a corrupt, death-dealing, patriarchal status quo. The greatest film by a world cinema master.

    2 QUEST (Jonathan Olshefski) A remarkably intimate portrait of the Rainey family of North Philadelphia, who welcomed Olshefski and his camera into their home over ten years with a kindness and generosity of spirit that make the documentary a unique gift to audiences.

    3 GET OUT (Jordan Peele) Racism

  • Anita Thacher, Anteroom, 1982, 35-mm color slide projection, brass doorknob and plate, sound, 108 x 144 x 3".
    film November 25, 2017

    Sliding Doors

    WORLDS COLLIDE in Anita Thacher’s radiant Anteroom. The 1982 installation has been exactingly re-created at Microscope Gallery, using all but obsolete analog technology, specifically two slide projectors synced by a Tascam that uses audio tape to queue the slides changes. I’m beginning with the technology because the analog “imperfections” enhance the particular physicality of the piece, which not only is ravishing to the eye but also elicits an associative, elusive, and unstable sense of one’s own interiority.

    Thacher, who died in September, began her career in the early 1960s as a painter and

  • Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus, 1959, 35 mm, color, sound, 100 minutes.
    film September 14, 2017

    Music to My Ears

    THE ROSTER LIVES UP TO ITS TITLE: “The Whole World Sings: International Musicals.” I wish I could spend a week at the Quad seeing all thirteen features in the series organized by the theater’s programmers in collaboration with Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri. Whether bittersweet, semitragic, joyous, or somewhat deranged, almost every one of these films will lift your spirits as you enter a fall season that looks to be as depressing—I’m not referring only to culture—as this summer was.

    Screening in a new digital restoration, Chantal Akerman’s 1986 Golden Eighties (aka Window Shopping) is a study

  • Top of the Lake: China Girl, 2017, still from a TV show on SundanceTV. Episode 6. Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss).

    Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl

    MATERNAL DESIRE surges through Jane Campion’s six-hour TV miniseries Top of the Lake (2013) and its sequel, Top of the Lake: China Girl (2017). In the original, Sydney-based detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) reluctantly returns to the wilderness town in New Zealand where, at age fifteen, she was gang-raped and impregnated. Her mother is seriously ill, and despite their prickly relationship, Robin wants to help. But she’s soon drawn into the investigation of the statutory rape of twelve-year-old Tui (Jacqueline Joe), who takes refuge alone in the dense mountain forest surrounding the

  • Stanya Kahn, Stand in the Stream, 2017, HD video, color, sound.
    film August 31, 2017

    A River Runs Through It

    STAND IN THE STREAM, the title of Stanya Kahn’s recent hour-length video, has taken on an extra layer of associations in the final two weeks of its exhibition at MoMA PS1. So has the opening image of a policeman in a heavy-duty military-like jacket and helmet standing, his back to the camera, on a beach next to some kind of motorized, perhaps amphibious vehicle. I think I’ve seen something like it on TV, ferrying stranded Texas flood victims to safety. Or maybe not.

    Kahn lifted the title from a bit of dialogue in Bertolt Brecht’s Man Equals Man (1926), an early play about the dehumanizing effect

  • Bennie and Josh Safdie, Good Time, 2017, 35 mm, color, sound, 100 minutes. Nick Nikas and Connie Nikas (Bennie Safdie and Robert Pattinson).
    film August 14, 2017

    Runs in the Family

    IN THE SAFDIE BROTHERS’ GOOD TIME, Robert Pattinson does an end run around the cops and anyone and anything that comes between him and the nowhere to which he’s headed. He’s literally on the run almost every time we see him, and when he’s not running, his adrenaline is jacked up so high it looks as if he is. As Connie Nikas, a petty criminal with a long rap sheet on a mission to save Nick (Benny Safdie), his younger and in every way slower brother, from the system, Pattinson jettisons almost everything that made him a romantic leading man—good manners, cultured diction, languorous grace, and,

  • Ingrid Jungermann, Women Who Kill, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 93 minutes.
    film July 28, 2017

    Murder, She Wrote

    A LOVING SATIRE OF MATING AND MORES among Park Slope lesbians, Ingrid Jungermann’s Women Who Kill combines romantic comedy and murder mystery, and a dollop of psychodrama, and lightly stirs it into a summer movie treat. (Since crucial scenes take place in the fraught, rule-bound environment of the Greene Hill Food Co-op—actual name and location employed—a cooking metaphor is apropos.) Jungermann, the director, writer, and star of her debut feature, plays Morgan, a character so awkward and insecure that no one could regard the woman who conceived and embodied her as narcissistic or overreaching.

  • Jim McKay, En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day), 2017, HD video, color, sound, 90 minutes. José (Fernando Cardona).
    film June 21, 2017

    Magnificent Seven

    IT SEEMED LIKE OLD TIMES and yet it was, urgently, right now at the world premiere last Sunday of Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day). Long one of the most promising New York independent filmmakers, McKay made his mark with two no-budget movies, Girls Town (1996) and Our Song (2000), both depictions of female Brooklyn public high-school students, most of them African American and Latino. They were anti–Beverly Hills 90210 movies—exemplary for their depiction of the liminal condition of underprivileged teenagers whose futures are uncertain no matter how ambitious and talented some