Graham Fuller

  • film November 19, 2010

    Material Girl

    DREAMY AND ELLIPTICAL in its fractured timeline and visual lyricism, yet so searing and bloody that it’s indelible, Claire Denis’s White Material (2009) hinges on the central conflict of its beleaguered protagonist Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert, steely and obdurate): that the Africa she loves doesn’t love her. The film unfolds in an unnamed country—Congo, Angola, Senegal, or Ivory Coast, perhaps—engulfed in civil war in a nebulous present or recent past. “The horror! The horror!” swirls around Maria as she struggles to bring in the harvest at the coffee plantation she runs on behalf of her feckless

  • film October 07, 2010

    Double Fantasy

    TWO NEW FILMS bookending the life of John Lennon, who would have turned seventy on October 9, elide his momentous trajectory through the 1960s. Although Nowhere Boy (2009), a fictional movie directed by the artist Sam Taylor-Wood, shows how Lennon (Aaron Johnson) met Paul McCartney and George Harrison and brings him to the eve of their band’s departure for Hamburg, the Beatles aren’t mentioned by name. The film nods ironically to the Liverpool glory years in a scene in which drunken young John is turned away from the Cavern Club, but it is concerned with something more primal than creativity

  • film July 16, 2010

    Fire Starter

    THE DAZZLING DOCUMENTARY Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno was conceived when the film preservationist Serge Bromberg was stuck in an elevator for two hours with Inès Clouzot, widow of the legendary French auteur (Le Corbeau, Wages of Fear, Les Diaboliques). She told Bromberg that 185 cans of film—fifteen hours—existed from the project Clouzot had begun in July 1964. Inferno had been granted an unlimited budget by Columbia, but it was aborted after two and a half weeks of the eighteen-week shoot, when Clouzot had a heart attack.

    Bromberg and codirector Ruxandra Medrea Annonier sifted through the

  • film March 02, 2010

    Guilt Complex

    VEIT HARLAN’S HYSTERICAL COSTUME MELODRAMA Jew Süss, seen by twenty million Germans and twenty million other Europeans on its release in 1940, is widely regarded as the most virulently anti-Semitic of the films made during the Third Reich. Directed by Harlan under Joseph Goebbels’s close supervision, it recast Lion Feuchtwanger’s anti-Nazi novel about the life of the Jewish financier Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, adviser to Duke Karl Alexander of Württemburg; Süss was hanged at the behest of his court enemies in 1738. Harlan’s movie-star wife Kristina Soderbaum played the Aryan woman who kills herself

  • film October 20, 2009

    Watch and Learn

    THE ROCK BAND King Crimson once wrote a lovely, lilting song, inspired by and named after Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, that celebrated “the worthy captain and his squad of troopers standing fast,” “the burghers good and true,” and “Dutch respectability.” Viewers of the painting, which depicts an Amsterdam musketeer militia in motion, have shared in that nostalgia for more than three centuries, but in the eyes of Peter Greenaway they—we—are “visually illiterate.” In Rembrandt’s J’Accuse, a companion documentary to his 2006 audiovisual installation Nightwatching and the 2007 feature film of that

  • film September 04, 2009

    Crime and Punishment

    PERHAPS BECAUSE IT GOES AGAINST genre expectations, Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947), which crowns Film Forum’s Brit-noir season, is less often revived than Reed’s The Third Man (1949). Lacking the menace and harshness of most postwar British crime thrillers, the earlier film drifts along on a wave of fatalism and quasi-religious symbolism.

    IRA leader Johnny McQueen (James Mason) accidentally kills a man in unnamed Belfast and is himself shot when he and his men bungle a robbery; the gang botches its getaway, too, and Johnny is stranded on the street. He lurches around the city for the next twelve

  • film July 29, 2009

    Brothers Grim

    NO OTHER FILMMAKERS put pressure on the underprivileged young of mainland Europe as consistently as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Among their works, La Promesse (1996), Rosetta (1999), and L’Enfant (2005) variously trace the steps of a compromised teen or twenty-something negotiating survival in the context of revved-up capitalism, a world in which nearly everyone is grubbing for money. The mood is generally bleak, but thanks to the Dardennes’ blending of Loachian realism with Bressonian asceticism, hope and grace are often attained.

    On paper, Lorna’s Silence (2008), their latest film, isn’t a

  • film June 19, 2009

    Bitter Candy

    THE TITLE OF THE SUPERB British thriller Brighton Rock (1948) derives from a long, hard, sticky pink candy. With the word BRIGHTON imprinted across its length, the confection is a kind of civic talisman sold at the seafront of the southern English town that was once a mecca—part regal, part seedy—for London day-trippers. Graham Greene and the playwright Terrence Rattigan wrote the screenplay, though Greene said his original treatment was the basis for the film. It was based on his metaphysical 1938 novel, in which it’s implied that an informer is killed when a stick of the phallic candy is rammed

  • Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls

    Julian Schnabel’s decision to follow his elliptical 1996 biopic of Jean-Michel Basquiat with a film about Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas might intimate a morbid allegiance to the cult of the dead artist. But beyond vague structural similarities between the two films, there is little in Before Night Falls (which opened Dec. 22) to suggest that the cinematic possibilities that drew Schnabel to Arenas were the same that had drawn him to Basquiat.

    Schnabel’s self-conscious, intermittently beautiful movie about Basquiat’s rapid rise and fall seemed prompted as much by the painter-turned-Director’s desire