Darrell Hartman

  • Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Decameron, 1971, 35 mm, color, 111 minutes.
    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 (

  • Left: Jean-Pierre Gorin, Poto and Cabengo, 1980, still from a color film, 73 minutes. Right: Jean-Pierre Gorin, My Crasy Life, 1992, still from a color film, 98 minutes.
    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

  • Left: Robert Gardner, Forest of Bliss, 1986, still from a color film, 90 minutes. Right: Hilary Harris and George Breidenbach, The Nuer, 1971, color film, 73 minutes. Production still.
    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

  • Nicolas Roeg, Insignificance, 1985, still from a color film in 35 mm, 108 minutes.
    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

  • Lionel Rogosin, On the Bowery, 1957, stills from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 114 minutes.
    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)

  • Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross, 45365, 2009, still from a color video, 93 minutes.
    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.

  • Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 7915 Km, 2008, still from a color film in 35 mm, 100 minutes.
    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

  • François Truffaut, Small Change, 1976, color film in 35 mm, 104 minutes. Production stills. Photos: Hélène Jeanbreau.
    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

  • Ulrich Seidl, Import/Export, 2007, still from a color film in 16 mm, 141 minutes.
    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

  • Philip Trevelyan, The Moon and the Sledgehammer, 1971, stills from a color film, 65 minutes. Left: Kathy Page and Jim Page. Right: Pete Page.
    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

  • Anne Aghion, Ice People, 2008, still from a color film in HD, 77 minutes.
    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).

  • Jan Troell, Everlasting Moments, 2008, color film in 35 mm, 131 minutes. Production stills. Left: Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen). Right: Sigfrid Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt).
    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