Barbara Kruger


    WHEN ONE FILM FOLLOWS ANOTHER in quick succession, when a chorus emerges from a collection of seemingly disparate voices, you start to make connections, linking together comfortable segues and queasy common tendencies. You become not the spectator of a single film but the audience for a cinematic anthology which itself is a work, a particular type of curatorial accomplishment replete with themes and subtexts. After I’d seen about twenty-five films at this season’s New York Film Festival, certain thematic confluences began to rise subtly to the surface like a cup of coffee cursed with last week’s

  • “Forty Deuce,” directed and adapted by Paul Morrissey from the play by Alan Bowne

    The transposition of a play to the cinema or television can be a tricky one trading in the static long view of the theater for the cuts and framing alterations of film and video. In the case of film the conversion all too often results in a distanced picturing of expository speech and gesture, while video performs a relentless process of miniaturization, setting tiny actors adrift in the text of a play in the same way that it turns almost all practitioners of dance into minuscule Thumbelinas. There are exceptions, of course, two of the more recent being Robert Altman’s cinematic adaption of

  • “Fury Is A Feeling Too,” written and directed by Cynthia Beatt

    Fury Is a Feeling Too, 1983, is a film about the mouth and eyes of a foreigner. The mouth must re-form itself by embracing new sounds and sometimes uncomfortable modulations. The eyes view apparently familiar social phyla which on closer inspection disclose specifically different national histories. It is this position of “foreigner” that Cynthia Beatt seems to occupy. A British subject born in Kingston, Jamaica, she lived in the Fiji Islands, was raised in England, and moved to Berlin in 1975. Fury Is a Feeling Too, which she directed, wrote, and appears in, is a semiautobiographical encapsulation

  • “American Pictures” (part one), written, directed, and photographed by Jacob Holdt

    In this era of rhetorical inversion it is no coincidence that an administration engaging the rallying points of religion, bootstrap individualism, and bodily fitness in fact works to elevate intolerance, undermine civil rights, and accelerate the pollution of the food chain. An unrelenting shower of sloganeering to exalt “optimism” and a fuzzy, unspecified notion of “the future” has enveloped the American spectator in a calculated frenzy; the intent is to erase “gloom and doom” from the public eye—to preserve the nation’s fertile fantasy life.

    One project countering this effort is American Pictures

  • Su Friedrich

    Su Friedrich’s The Ties That Bind, 1984, is a scrutiny of both a mother/daughter relationship and the demands of national identity. That the nation delineating this identity is Germany in the ’30s and ’40s ominously multiplies the problematics of nationalism: the ties that bind are not only the supposed benevolences of motherhood, but also the repressive dictates of the Fatherland. Friedrich, the daughter of a German Catholic mother and an American serviceman, traveled to Germany in 1982 to shoot footage of its monumental sites of oppression—Dachau, the Berlin Wall, and so on. She juxtaposes

  • “The Business of Being an Artist,” directed by Dieter Froese and Kay Hines

    Projects which concern themselves with the wild and crazy (yet somberly romantic) world of art are usually humorlessly cloying homages: self-appointed executors of a demiarchic kind of bohemian royalty. Emerging out of the PBS/Bloomie’s presentational phylum, they approach their objects with an awe usually reserved for the landing of a mother ship. We are shown artists stalking their studios with the prowess of a noble savage at a theme park. What is sorely needed is a more critical survey of esthetic practice, one that places artistic activity in a broader context of economic and educational

  • Shirley Clarke

    One hand on hip, drink perched precariously in the other, he declares, “I was wild, black and crazy and I had white-boy fever.” Collapsing into a confidential baritone, he whispers “I love you Richard, trust me. I’m going to fuck you up.” We are watching Jason Holiday ( Aaron Paine), a middle-aged black male hustler, as he alternates between poignant reflection and spasmodic giggling fits. Acting out for the camera like Veroushka on a roll, he is an intelligent man playing cat and mouse with his own sanity. And this Jason is not just a struggling, troubled guy, but a cinematic object, good

  • “Scrubbers,” Directed By Mai Zetterling

    “It ain’t fun to rot in prison and have shit thrown on your head,” bemoans a young woman as she is led back to her cell. Such pungent musings are the stuff of Scrubbers, a film by Mai Zetterling, which abruptly displaces some of the hackneyed clichés of the women’s-prison genre. It introduces clarity and wit into this sadly predictable arena of semi-circuitous T and A, which is usually marked by a glowering absence of presence (or vice versa).

    The film ostensibly concerns Annetta (Chrissie Cotterill) and Carol (Amanda York), two young women who have escaped from a minimum-security jail only to

  • Sherry Millner

    Crime Around The Collar, a film by Sherry Millner, concerns itself with the emergence of the computer criminal and the widespread incidence of corporate crime. In presenting the statistic that “for every person murdered by a thug, six workers are killed by their boss at the workplace,” Millner emphasizes not only hazardous working conditions, but also the stubborn unaccountability of corporate crime, and the boardroom’s indulgence in price-fixing, tax fraud, embezzlement, and the manipulation of the stock exchange—what Al Capone called “the legitimate rackets.” And when Millner asserts that it

  • Krieg Und Frieden/War And Peace

    Krieg und Frieden/War and Peace is a thoughtful critique of the escalation toward nuclear war. Made by a collective comprised of Stefan Aust, Heinrich Boll, Axel Engstfeld, Alexander Kluge, and Volker Schlöndorff, it joins the growing list of film and television projects that unfortunately seem to be merely prefacing the upcoming apocalypse. Combining conventional narrative segments and current-events and war footage with an unusually intelligent and facetious voice-over, it focuses on the American plan to “entertain” the “European theater”—or, in other words, on the enactment of a “limited

  • Sharon Greytak

    Sharon Greytak’s Czechoslovakian Woman (1982) consists of eight filmed black and white photographs, which document a woman’s funeral in Czechoslovakia in the ’60s. Staggered pans and zooms are executed over the photographs while subtitles present a text in phonetic English. Some Pleasure on the Level of the Source (1982) follows a little girl as she jumps rope, colors a rectangle red, has her eyes covered, sits with her hands in her lap and pushes her hair back sultrily. In The Living Room (1983) we watch two women tell anecdotes about joining the marines and making magnesium bombs. This segues

  • “The Golden Eighties,” directed by Chantal Akerman; “Heart Like a Wheel,” directed by Jonathan Kaplan

    With a number of exceptions, this year’s New York Film Festival was comprised of a cinema entertaining that great theme of themes: man’s terrible struggle with his terrible freedom. The “great” European directors Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Alain Tanner, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Andrzej Wajda portray the gargantuan responsibility of it all: the painful quandaries of history, the infinity of the spiritual, the charms of esthetic formality, the romantic immortalisms of sexual otherness. Carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, these are “great” and ambitious men, artists who mediate