James Quandt

  • James Quandt

    DEAD SOULS (Wang Bing) Wang’s epic eight-hour-long documentary about the Maoist reeducation camps of the 1950s collects the clandestine testimony of survivors in a heroic act of historical witness.

    2 THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) A surging requiem for a world addicted to its own annihilation.

    UN HOMME MARCHE DANS LA VILLE (1950) (Marcello Pagliero) The revelation of the mini-retrospective dedicated to the Italian-French auteur Pagliero at II Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, this neorealist noir set in Le Havre deserves classic status.

    THOMAS BAYRLE (New Museum, New York) The films and videos

  • IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES

    GÉRARD DE LAIRESSE’S 1668 painting Allegory of the Five Senses arrays a quintet of emblematic figures in a Baroque setting full of statuary, arcades, and flora to represent the faculties of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. The Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel might find much to admire in the tableau, since many aspects of it accord with her own art: the painting’s sense of fleshiness and abundance (the director’s corporeal frames exemplify her aesthetic of profusion); its attention to varieties of hair (a marked Martel motif, along with teeth); and its inclusion of a half-hidden monkey,

  • James Quandt

    1 “THE BOAT IS LEAKING. THE CAPTAIN LIED.” (Fondazione Prada, Venice) This exhibition, curated by Udo Kittelmann, ingeniously interlaced work by Thomas Demand, Anna Viebrock, and German director Alexander Kluge, offering a bracing reminder of the latter’s wit, compassion, political acumen, and formal audacity.

    2 JEAN VIGO (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy) The restoration of Vigo’s tragically abbreviated oeuvre, including a reference print of L’Atalante (1934), proved the high point of this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, though his silent short À propos de Nice (1930), a film stubbornly

  • FINAL CUT

    THE TITLE of Abbas Kiarostami’s posthumous film, 24 Frames (2016), both announces the nature of the work—consisting of two dozen shots, all but one statically filmed with a fixed camera—and deviously invokes Jean-Luc Godard’s famous pronouncement, “Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames a second.” Godard’s formulation, like so much imagery that will soon prove obsolete in relation to movies, referred to celluloid; Kiarostami in fact abandoned that medium long ago for digital filmmaking, in which separate frames do not actually exist. Never mind that the increasingly postmodernist

  • João Pedro Rodrigues

    “THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS we shouldn’t try to understand,” declares the eponymous bird watcher in João Pedro Rodrigues’s The Ornithologist—including, one surmises, the film he’s in. The most conventional of the Portuguese auteur’s protagonists, who have included a libidinous, latex-encased garbage collector seeking rough sex amid the rubbish (O fantasma [2000]) and an aged drag queen mortally poisoned by silicone breast implants (To Die like a Man [2009]), the solitary ornithologist nevertheless undergoes one wild ride after crashing his kayak on an annual trek to survey birds in a remote

  • SHOT IN THE DARK: THE FILMS OF ALBERT SERRA

    “DON’T YOU LIKE THIS HALF-LIGHT?” Casanova inquires of his servant as they travel by carriage through a dim Carpathian forest in Albert Serra’s Història de la meva mort (The Story of My Death, 2013). Like his libertine protagonist, the Catalan director is a connoisseur of obscurity. Shooting his films almost exclusively using available light, which is often scant or even absent, Serra revels in a low-lumen setting—the final scene of his Cant dels ocells (Birdsong, 2008) transpires in a nocturnal murk that renders it indiscernible—so the candlelit interiors of Versailles, the site of

  • Abbas Kiarostami

    ABBAS KIAROSTAMI’S grievously premature death this past July transformed two of his final works, the art installation Doors Without Keys, 2015, and the film Like Someone in Love (2012), into inadvertent requiems. To discern portents of mortality in the last creations of artists whose expiry is untimely—Mozart’s unfinished Requiem being the most famous and vexing example—is a perilous game, but that has never stopped critics from reading Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) or Pasolini’s Salò (1975) as auguries of their makers’ own willed demise. Though Kiarostami’s optimistic humanism, his

  • James Quandt

    1 JEAN-MARIE STRAUB AND DANIÈLE HUILLET (Museum of Modern Art, New York) MoMA’s comprehensive retrospective, awaited for decades, proved that the deracinated duo were, like Bresson, the most voluptuary of ascetics.

    2 FROM THE BRANCHES DROPS THE WITHERED BLOSSOM (Paul Meyer) The much-abused term restoration finds authentic meaning in Belgian director Paul Meyer’s long-forgotten 1960 portrait of immigrant coal miners in the Borinage: an emergent classic of neorealist cinema.

    3 SIERANEVADA (Cristi Puiu) Puiu’s brilliant, baleful comedy about a Romanian family gathering could be retitled Waiting

  • Paul Meyer’s Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre

    THE ANNALS OF NEOREALISM must now account for an emergent classic, Paul Meyer’s Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre (From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom, 1960), shown only sporadically during the more than half-century since it was made, often miscategorized as a documentary, and finally surviving as a single worn 35-mm print and a damaged camera negative, from which the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique has managed to produce a revelatory restoration. Few discoveries rewrite film history, but From the Branches should at the very least force an auspicious entry into the inventory of unheralded

  • OPERATIC TENOR: STRAUB AND HUILLET’S SICILIA!

    JEAN-MARIE STRAUB has frequently quoted D. W. Griffith’s plaint “What the modern movie lacks is beauty—the beauty of moving wind in the trees.” Ironically, it was an arboreal breeze that gave Danièle Huillet, Straub’s wife and the coauthor of their films, such grief while she was editing the final sequences of their 1999 masterpiece, Sicilia! As revealed in Pedro Costa’s documentary Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (2001), the fastidious Huillet obsesses at the editing bench over a barely there palm frond that, stirred by Sicilian wind, intrudes into a corner of the composition. Exclaiming

  • SQUARE FOOTAGE: THE RETURN OF THE ACADEMY RATIO IN CONTEMPORARY CINEMA

    FRANK TASHLIN’S The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) opens with a jape as brazen as the mock money shot in which a tightly attired Jayne Mansfield swivels past an awestruck milkman, prompting the phallic bottle he’s grasping to pop its top and gush its creamy contents all over his hand. Introducing the mammary-mad masterpiece, ’50s everyman Tom Ewell strolls onto a soundstage to inform us that Girl was “photographed in the grandeur of CinemaScope”—the relatively new wide-screen process devised by Hollywood in its attempt to woo viewers away from their television sets—even though the image

  • Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

    IN HIS TRILOGY of immurement—This Is Not a Film (2011), Closed Curtain (2013), and now Taxi—Iranian director Jafar Panahi, banned from making films and placed under house arrest (until very recently, we surmise), has evaded government embargo by surreptitiously shooting movies in, respectively, his apartment, his beachfront home on the Caspian Sea, and a cab traversing the streets of Tehran, transforming his own physical and artistic detention into a metaphor for his country’s psychic imprisonment. (The persecuted Turkish auteur Yilmaz Güney similarly turned his ordeal of incarceration

  • Manoel de Oliveira

    REMEMBRANCE TRUMPS REVELATION in Manoel de Oliveira’s Visit, or Memories and Confessions— “a film by me, about me”—that the venerable Portuguese director completed in 1982 and then decreed could not be shown until after his death, whether in characteristic deference to nineteenth-century literary tradition (cf. the compulsorily posthumous autobiographies of Mark Twain, John Stuart Mill, and Anthony Trollope) or in observance of an equally obsolete modesty. By the time the cinematic testament was exposed to the world after Oliveira’s decease at the age of 106 this past April (at screenings

  • Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe

    THE ENTOURAGE of sponsors swanning in tenue de soirée into the Miramar cinema at last year’s Cannes Film Festival to attend the awards screening of Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe—the young Ukrainian director’s debut feature had just taken three major prizes in the Critics’ Week sidebar—were doubtless unprepared for the film’s violent and innovative nature. The initial shock of encountering a work made entirely in sign language without subtitles or voice-over, coupled with the film’s escalating brutality and explicit sex, quickly prompted audible unease among the benefactors and

  • SONGS OF SORROW: SATYAJIT RAY’S APU TRILOGY

    SHORTLY AFTER the death of SATYAJIT RAY in 1992, a trove of materials related to the great Bengali director’s Apu trilogy (1955–59), universally acknowledged as a summit of world cinema, was assembled in London in preparation for a restoration of the three films. But a fire at the film laboratory in July 1993 burned all of the original negatives to varying degrees, and the project had to be abandoned. As decades passed and digital technologies advanced in leaps and bounds, the Criterion Collection (in collaboration with the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles) began to explore the possibility of completing the restoration. This month, after years of intensive research followed by painstaking physical repairs to and digital scanning of the damaged negatives (supplemented, where necessary, by archival prints), Janus Films is releasing the meticulously—even miraculously—restored trilogy.
     
    To mark this momentous occasion, Artforum asked TIFF Cinematheque programmer JAMES QUANDT, who organized a major retrospective of Ray’s films for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, to consider the Apu trilogy’s place within the director’s work half a century after the films’ completion. We are also pleased to present a previously unpublished interview with Ray (the transcript having only recently been unearthed, serendipitously, from our archives) conducted in Calcutta in October 1989 by Artforum publisher ANTHONY KORNER.

    SATYAJIT RAY’S APU TRILOGY, comprising Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1957), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959), is a Bengali bildungsroman chronicling the early life of Apu, a boy from an impoverished Brahmin family who moves with his parents from their rural village to the holy city of Benares, then alone to Calcutta, where he attends university, marries, and ends up wandering the countryside after his beloved wife dies in childbirth. Though long celebrated as a summit of the Indian master’s neorealist lyricism, the triptych is not as unassuming and transparent as has traditionally

  • Jessica Hausner’s Amour fou

    The tide buries us all in the end.

    —a Maltese guard, in Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes (2009)

    ALLES IN ORDNUNG, the German phrase for “everything’s okay,” implies that all is in order—tidy and organized, in its proper Teutonic place. The young female protagonists of Jessica Hausner’s cinema attempt to impose such order on their surroundings, even as murder, mishap, and malady disrupt the strictly regulated Ordnung of their respective settings: a suburban Viennese home ruled by punitive parents (Lovely Rita [2001]); an alpine inn managed by unsmiling task-masters (Hotel [2004]); a pilgrims’

  • James Quandt

    1 GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE (Jean-Luc Godard) Godard’s thrilling valediction bids farewell to the word and the world, its 3-D effects evoking both the antic (GoPro) and the antique (stereoscope).

    2 AMOUR FOU (Jessica Hausner) One of the great films about the nature of love, Hausner’s precisionist chronicle of the suicide pact between Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel draws on the paintings of Vermeer and Marie-Denise Villers and brilliantly employs lieder by Mozart and Beethoven—the most telling use of period performance since Straub-Huillet’s 1968 Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach.

    3 HORSE

  • TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: THE FILMS OF JEAN-PIERRE AND LUC DARDENNE

    ANDRÉ BAZIN’S acerbic comparison of film festivals to religious Orders—the capitalization is his—with their analogous rituals, moral obligations, and ceremonies, remains apt six decades after he first made it, in the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma. At Cannes, the festival largely the target of Bazin’s witty derision, the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have, since the appearance of La promesse in the 1996 Directors’ Fortnight, joined the empyrean of directors who have won the Palme d’Or twice, and their films have taken on the aura of holy relics, so universally revered are

  • Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language

    AND SO, ADIEU. Jean-Luc Godard’s leave-taking from cinema and life began many years ago, his valedictory impulse intensifying in the trilogy of war requiems he initiated at the turn of the century. The mournful Godard found the end in our beginning, proclaiming the fin du monde as the new millennium commenced. In Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love, 2001), its French title announcing its lamenting mode, Godard’s sense of political futility and aesthetic impasse seemed almost suicidal, so insistently repeated was the film’s final refrain: “Maybe nothing was said.” Notre musique (2004) was set in

  • Joaquim Pinto’s What Now? Remind Me

    A LIE, A FIRE, and—most drastic—a smile inaugurate Joaquim Pinto’s self-commemorating diary film E Agora? Lembra-me (What Now? Remind Me). (Both query and command, and tenuous in tense, the title in its very unwieldiness imparts Pinto’s precarious state.) In sotto, dolorous voice-over, the Portuguese director introduces himself: “My name is Joaquim. My life is uneventful.” His unadorned declaration—first name only, the simplest diction—prepares us for the mundane events that his film will entail, just as the opening sequence in which a gray-green slug hauls its soft body