J. Hoberman

  • Cristian Mungiu, Beyond the Hills, 2012, 35 mm, color, sound, 150 minutes. Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) and Alina (Cristina Flutur).

    Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills

    BEYOND THE HILLS, Cristian Mungiu’s new film, is in some ways the quintessential expression of the Romanian New Wave that broke at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival with the international premiere of Cristi Puiu’s Death of Mr. Lazarescu and reached its high-water mark two years later with Mungiu’s Palm d’Or–winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

    Like 4 Months, Beyond the Hills dramatizes the predicament of two young women living under patriarchal law, in a manner that is part suspense thriller, part ordeal, and part procedural. (The procedures are weirdly analogous: an abortion in 4 Months, an exorcism

  • Garry Winogrand, New York World’s Fair, 1964, gelatin silver print, 11 1/8 x 14".

    Garry Winogrand

    “It has been forty-six years since Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), America’s preeminent photographer of the social landscape, erupted out of moma’s epochal “New Documents” show.”

    It has been forty-six years since Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), America’s preeminent photographer of the social landscape, erupted out of moma’s epochal “New Documents” show. Winogrand’s métier was the urban ensemble, and no photographer had a better instinct for the found arabesque. Though only a fraction of Winogrand’s work was published during his lifetime, now his colleague and friend the photog- rapher Leo Rubinfien (with the help of O’Toole from SF moma and Greenough from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC) has selected

  • Werner Schroeter, Der Bomberpilot, 1970, 16 mm, color, sound, 65 minutes. Werner Schroeter and Carla Aulaulu.

    J. Hoberman

    1 “Werner Schroeter” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) The late underground genius of the Neue Kino got a massive, massively deserved retrospective, complete with his early work in Super 8. Schroeter’s great period may have fallen between 1969 and 1973, but the radically pragmatic, wonderfully obsessive films he made in those few years more than suffice to put him in the pantheon. Reseeing his 1972 masterpiece, The Death of Maria Malibran, in a beautiful new 16-mm print was for me the year’s peak cinematic event.

    2 Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman) and Tabu (Miguel Gomes) The year’s best imaginary

  • Still from Miguel Gomes’s Tabu, 2012, 16 mm and 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 118 minutes. Left: Young Ventura (Carlota Cotta).

    Miguel Gomes’s Tabu

    Every landscape is located nowhere.

    —Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

    AN UNPREPOSSESSING WHITE MAN—bearded, wearing a pith helmet, and identified as a “melancholic creature”—stands alone in the bush at the center of the screen. Where is he? Where are we? A woman materializes—a projection of the nowhere-man’s past. African tribesmen watch as the explorer stands by the riverbank and (offscreen) jumps in to be devoured (also offscreen) by crocodiles, so we’re told. Cut to a frenzy of tribal dancing possibly cribbed from a 1930s travelogue, followed by a nocturnal shot of a

  • Filmstrips from Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight, 1963, 16 mm, color, silent, 3 minutes 13 seconds.

    CLOSE-UP: DIRECT CINEMA

    NOT THE CAMERA BUT THE PROJECTOR; not a representation but the thing itself, a ribbon of once-living stuff preserved in celluloid coursing along, flashing before our eyes: It was neither Muybridge’s 1879 motion studies nor the Lumière brothers’ 1895 actualités nor even Peter Kubelka’s imageless flicker film Arnulf Rainer (1960) that truly manifested the very essence of cinema but the film-object Mothlight, a three-minute-thirteen-second motion-picture collage assembled and printed by Stan Brakhage at more or less the moment this magazine came into being.

    Something like the Stone Age epitome of

  • From left: Cover of Eh! #4 (June 1954). Artist unknown. Cover of Madhouse #4 (September/October 1954). Iger Studio. Cover of Whack #3 (May 1954). Norman Maurer.

    Mad magazine’s early imitators

    The Sincerest Form of Parody, edited by John Benson. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2012. 208 pages. $25.

    WRITING A FEW YEARS BEFORE the advent of the counterculture, Marshall McLuhan recognized Mad magazine as a primer in dissidence: “The ten-year-old clutches his or her MAD (‘Build up your Ego with MAD’) in the same way that the Russian beatnik treasures an old [Elvis] Presley tape obtained from a G.I. broadcast.” However prescient, McLuhan was looking in the rearview mirror: The comic book that twenty-seven-year-old Harvey Kurtzman created and thirty-year-old William Gaines began publishing in the

  • Sid Grossman, Coney Island, ca. 1947, black-and-white photograph, 9 3/8 x 7 7/8".

    “The Radical Camera”

    PART OF OUR TIME? Herewith “some ruins and monuments of the thirties” that Murray Kempton’s book overlooked: “The Radical Camera,” a survey of the work of New York’s Photo League, a socially minded artists’ collective that was born in the New Deal and expired during the Cold War, explores two not unrelated historical artifacts. The first we might call People’s NYC, the streets and tenements of Depression-era Manhattan’s prole picturesque neighborhoods (Harlem, the Lower East Side, Little Italy) and playgrounds (Times Square, Coney Island); the second is a particular mentalité, a belief that

  • Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, This Is Not a Film, 2011, still from a color video, 75 minutes.

    Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film

    Who would seriously contend that the collection of intersecting lines above the text is a pipe?

    —Michel Foucault, “This Is Not a Pipe” (1968)

    THIS IS NOT A FILM certainly is one—but, as Samuel Beckett, or Abbott and Costello, might say, “Watt is Knott?”

    Few presentations at Cannes last May were less ostentatious and no event, not even the expulsion of Lars von Trier, was more dramatic than the appearance of Jafar Panahi’s first-person essay, a home movie produced under house arrest by a filmmaker sentenced to six years in prison and banned for twenty from making films (and giving

  • Aleksandr Andriyevsky, Robinzon Kruzo (Robinson Crusoe), 1947, still from a stereoscopic black-and-white film in 35 mm, 85 minutes. Robinzon Kruzo (Pavel Kadochnikov).

    Aleksandr Andriyevsky’s Robinzon Kruzo

    WAS ONCE, LONG LONG TIME AGO, great big Cold War joke—Russian claim to have invented lightbulb, radio transmitter, and even TV set. Also, to have developed feature-length 3-D movies shown without special glasses—which, in fact, they did!

    The Soviets won that virtual space race by five years. The first postwar stereovision fiction feature was neither House of Wax (1953) nor Bwana Devil (1952) but rather the 1947 Soviet production Robinzon Kruzo, adapted from Daniel Defoe’s classic. And thanks to the lenticular screen developed by engineer Semyon Ivanov, no glasses were needed to experience

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2011

    Ten scholars, critics, writers, and artists choose the year’s outstanding titles.

    SVETLANA ALPERS

    Imagine that you are listening to a spirited conversation between a French art historian and a German painter. De Rouget and Daimler, as they are called, are at lunch on a recent October Sunday near Pontarlier. It is where Degas vacationed briefly in 1904 and where absinthe is made. In Il était plus grand que nous ne pensions: Édouard Manet et Degas (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Scala/Collection Ateliers Imaginaires), Éric Darragon, author of a subtle biography of Manet and writings on contemporary German

  • Jack Smith, Normal Love, 1963, still from a color film in 16 mm, 95 minutes.

    Jack Smith’s posthumous career

    AMONG THE MANY EVOCATIVE ELEMENTS to be found in “Thanks for Explaining Me,” the recent exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in New York devoted to the work of Jack Smith (1932–1989), was the unmistakable sound of the artist’s voice, at once somnolent and hysterical. Even before one had fully entered the show, Smith could be heard loudly complaining about art-world corruption.

    Smith was famous long ago for his scandalous 1963 film Flaming Creatures, and like an insanely protective parent, he took steps to ensure that none of his subsequent work would ever leave the nest. Thus, as positioned by curator

  • The Ernie Kovacs Show, 1955–56, still from a TV show on NBC. Ernie Kovacs.

    Avant la Letterman

    THE FIRST DOZEN YEARS of American network television hardly lacked for lowbrow brilliance—Lucille Ball, Burns and Allen, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, the cast of Car 54, Where Are You?, to name only those performers whose product has enjoyed the hardiest shelf life. Their comedy had its roots in radio, vaudeville and burlesque, Hollywood and the Catskills—and then there was Ernie Kovacs (1919–1962), a comic for whom TV created its own reality.

    Kovacs was purely televisual. Though he served his apprenticeship in radio and stock theater, his work was essentially connected to