Darrell Hartman

  • film November 13, 2012

    Morality Play

    PIER PAOLO PASOLINI’S so-called Trilogy of Life, which Criterion is reissuing today on Blu-Ray and DVD, consists of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974). The explicit sexuality of these adaptations was what got everybody talking at the time, but what sets his medieval tales apart from his other work is that they represent Pasolini the filmmaker (he was also a poet, novelist, and critic) at his most optimistic.

    These were Pasolini’s most commercially successful films, and they were gleefully raunchy without being anywhere near as stomach-turning as Salò (

  • film January 13, 2012

    Language Games

    PEOPLE TALK ABOUT HOW this or that director has a good eye. In the case of the experimental filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, it’s just as much about the ear. Gorin, a French-born émigré based in California, has that ear cocked toward outsiders; his films are stories from the fringes of American culture, told by a guy who refuses to tell them the way anyone else would.

    Gorin’s digressive, liberated take on the documentary “reads” more like an essay or a diary than like journalism. Loose, spontaneous, and lacking any pretension to objectivity, Gorin’s films are sometimes more about Gorin than you want

  • film November 11, 2011

    Gardner Variety

    ROBERT GARDNER, who is eighty-seven and the subject of a Film Forum retrospective that begins this week, is perhaps best described as an anthropologist who has made film his medium. Specializing in people and places that are at a remove from the modern world—and therefore endangered, if not lost altogether by now—he coaxes cultures into revealing themselves through their own sounds and images.

    Gardner stays behind the camera, but as you watch his artful films about tribes of Ethiopia and New Guinea, the intelligence of this elite filmmaker is almost tangible, as is his curiosity, and perhaps a

  • film June 20, 2011

    Gone Roeg

    PAST IS PRESENT in the cinema of Nicolas Roeg. To simply call those extratemporal sequences that punctuate his work “flashbacks” is to downplay the role that images of what came before play in his films. Such “digressive” framing devices are, in many ways, the emotional and visual keystones of Roeg’s work.

    In his heyday, from the 1970s until the mid-’80s, Roeg was known as an envelope pusher. He employed nonlinear editing as part of an ambitious attempt to bridge space and time, cutting frames together with an eye toward enriching the interplay of associations in the viewer’s mind. Thus a gesture

  • film September 15, 2010

    Street Smart

    LIONEL ROGOSIN’S On the Bowery (1957) inhabits two netherworlds: Manhattan’s storied skid row and the nascent independent American cinema. Filmed mostly in the shadows of the old Third Avenue elevated train, Rogosin’s frank depiction of proletarian down-and-outers was deplored by establishment critics of its era as dispiriting and inept, even anti-American. To watch it now, as with walking today’s Bowery, is to see it in more flattering light—in the film’s case, as a daring trip into the wrong part of town that paved the way for John Cassavetes (who singled out On the Bowery as a major influence)

  • film June 15, 2010

    Safety in Numbers

    IS IT IRONIC that 45365 (2009), a more or less home-baked film that celebrates a particularly American ideal of small-town life, never really makes it back to the cradle from which it sprang? Lovingly created by a pair of natives of Sidney, Ohio, 45365 (the town’s zip code) is about to have a theatrical run—in New York, of course—after screening mostly at festivals in cultural hubs like Austin (where it won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize), London, and Turin. It probably won’t, as they say, play in Peoria.

    But the stable, quietly God-fearing America depicted here has broad appeal—just ask any politician.

  • film January 14, 2010

    The Quick and the Dead

    IN PRIPYAT (1999), Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s documentary about postmeltdown Chernobyl, a policeman refers to his beat as a “dead zone.” A handful of elderly residents remain, but most, like a cheerful plant manager and the technician who sneaks the filmmakers into the ruins of her old apartment, now commute to Chernobyl from the outside. In this still-functioning wasteland, radiation clings invisibly to everything, from mushrooms to clothing to abandoned helicopters—the last a poignant image of the state’s helplessness in the face of a disaster it helped create.

    It’s a sad survey, but withered

  • film November 23, 2009

    Young Love

    “I NEVER TIRE of filming with children,” François Truffaut once said. “All that a child does on-screen, he seems to do for the first time.” More than any of the director’s other works, Small Change (1976) is devoted to cataloguing these magically fresh exploratory acts and gestures.

    Made in collaboration with the people of Thiers, a steep-sloped town in central France, Small Change was shot over a two-month school break during the summer of ’75. Truffaut’s workshop approach to filming a group of child nonactors brings to mind Laurent Cantet’s recent film The Class (2008), but unlike that timely

  • film July 22, 2009

    The Old Country

    FEW DIRECTORS MAKE THE FRAME seem more like a prison cell than Ulrich Seidl. Confined to their airtight chambers, his characters lead empty, repetitive lives consisting of cruel, pointless relationships. His camera rarely shows signs of life.

    In Seidl’s documentaries, which have drawn controversy for their staged elements, the subjects sometimes look back into the camera. The girls in Models (1999) lean toward it to check their makeup. The earnest, somewhat pathetic Christians in Jesus, You Know (2003) train their eyes just above it, as if praying for a bolt of lightning—or something, anything—to

  • film June 05, 2009

    Ordinary People

    An obscure gem—or prize scrap—from the golden age of cinema verité, Philip Trevelyan’s 1971 documentary The Moon and the Sledgehammer goes down a rabbit hole and comes up face-to-face with one of the most bizarre and captivating families ever filmed. The Page clan lives without electricity or running water, on a six-acre woodland plot outside London that’s littered with ancient machine parts. They hunt forest creatures and otherwise get by on what the two grown sons earn fixing ancient steam engines.

    The sons, Peter and Jim, work in grubby suits and collars. Peter (who believes his country should

  • film May 01, 2009

    Pole Position

    ONE OF ANNE AGHION’S go-to images in Ice People (2008), her documentary about South Pole scientists, is of tightly lashed tents against a backdrop of towering mountain peaks. When the film’s four main subjects—a pair of geologists and their two undergraduate assistants—aren’t hunkered down inside these wind-whipped shelters, boiling water and struggling to make small talk, they’re digging outside with picks and shovels.

    It’s an earthbound, stubbornly unromantic depiction of Antarctica’s modern-day explorers—the polar opposite, perhaps, of Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World (2007).

  • film March 05, 2009

    Woman with a Movie Camera

    EVERLASTING MOMENTS opens with director Jan Troell’s camera contemplating a distant ancestor: an antique Zeiss Ikon Contessa. Over a wan melody, close-ups of its clicking dials and switches, shadowed lenses, and winking shutter dissolve into one another—an homage to a device with uncanny power and, in this case, a rich backstory.

    Thanks to a lucky lottery draw, it’s the property of Maria (Maria Heiskanen), a working-class housewife and mother in turn-of-the-century Sweden. Early on in Everlasting Moments, which begins in 1907 and unfolds over two decades or so, she takes her prize to a camera

  • film January 01, 2009

    Ray Vision

    JUST AS THE WHEELERS fetishize Paris in Revolutionary Road (2008), posters depicting France and Italy fill the Averys’ suburban home in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger than Life (1956). The decor announces, and perhaps also sublimates, the desire of Ed Avery (James Mason) to broaden his life. Households are torn apart in both films, and no one makes it to Europe. Controversial in its time as an apologue on drug addiction, Nicholas Ray’s midcentury melodrama actually speaks more to the hidden manias of its staid decade than to the dangers of pharmaceuticals.

    Ed, a small-town teacher, complains to his wife,

  • film December 01, 2008

    Home Movie

    FEDERICO FELLINI HAD A TOUGH TIME choosing a title for Amarcord, his splendid satire of provincial Italy in the 1930s. He considered a sarcastic one, Viva l’Italia!, and nearly went with Il borgo (The Village), which, as he later explained, would have captured the sense of “medieval enclosure” in the town depicted in the film, his native Rimini—and suggested that the country was full of equally unevolved burgs. The neologism he eventually settled on (a play on “I remember” in Romagnese dialect) carries an appropriate perfume of the unfamiliar and the untranslatable. But it also brings problems—mainly,

  • film November 05, 2008

    What's Your Take on Cassavetes?

    COSMO VITELLI’S (Ben Gazzara) final advice to his team of strippers in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) is “Be comfortable.” Near the end of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk) begs his wife, Mabel (Gena Rowlands): “Just be yourself!” Rough-edged studies in jostling forces, these two midcareer John Cassavetes films explore why neither is an easy task.

    Cassavetes, who died in 1989, has come to be recognized as a pioneer of outsider American cinema. Known for his detail-oriented household dramas, his petri-dish sets—on which lines were often improvised and amateur

  • film August 27, 2008

    Burning Desire

    GIVEN ALL THE EXECUTION by burning in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1943), it seems only natural to open a discussion of the film by asking what’s at stake. It’s not just witches. The Danish director’s 1943 tale of forbidden love during Europe’s seventeenth-century inquisition puts many things into the, er, crucible: the soul’s fate, the consequences of extreme repression, even narrative coherence. Dreyer unifies them so masterfully in pursuit of higher truth that Day of Wrath is often classified as his best work.

    A reclusive type and a solitary figure in film history—no lofty predecessors

  • film August 04, 2008

    Simple Life

    “ONE THING IS CERTAIN: small budget and simplicity everywhere.” When Luc Dardenne articulated these twin principles—curiously, as though they were one—in his diary in 1992, did he have any idea they would guide him and his brother, Jean-Pierre, so surely into the upper realms of cinematic achievement? Several Cannes victories later, the Belgian duo—the subject of a mini-retrospective that begins at New York’s Anthology Film Archives on Thursday—are responsible for some of the screen’s most disarmingly resonant portraits of modern Europe. And they haven’t availed themselves of much more than a

  • film July 17, 2008

    Auto Focus

    THE MOST CELEBRATED MOMENT in Jacques Tati’s 1971 film Trafic is a wonderfully choreographed multivehicle highway accident. It’s a madcap ballet of scraping bumpers, caroming wheels, and gasping engines that ends with a bunch of dazed motorists emerging in sync from their cars and walking it off. The sequence may be more interesting, though, for what it isn’t: the even more famous pileup from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film Week End. With that apocalyptic wreck, revealed over the course of a nearly ten-minute tracking shot, Godard seemed to be saying that civilization had hit a terminal point—and