James Quandt

  • James Quandt

    1 O acto da primavera (Rite of Spring) and The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira) Oliveira’s 1963 passion play, now restored to glory, culminates in nuclear apocalypse. His latest film—a love story in which the object of obsession is inconveniently dead, and a documentary about both the constituents of cinema and the disappearance of the Douro à moda antiga—deals with a different kind of eradication, bidding farewell to a world the Portuguese master has taught us to cherish.

    2 Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz) The prodigious ex-Chilean’s nesting epic of false, mistaken, multiple, and

  • Left: Eric Rohmer, Le Rayon vert (Summer), 1986, still from a color film in 35 mm, 98 minutes. Right: Eric Rohmer, Ma Nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s), 1969, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 110 minutes. Maud (Françoise Fabian).
    film August 18, 2010

    A Loss for Words

    Love desires nothing but itself.

    —Lycidas, in Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon

    (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, 2007)

    IN HIS LATTER YEARS, the French filmmaker Eric Rohmer—who died on January 11, at the age of eighty-nine—took on the terse, attenuated air of a Jansenist abbot. Lean, austere, his eyes a cool, penetrating blue, Rohmer embodied the rationalism and restraint for which his cinematic style had become famous. The elder statesman of the Nouvelle Vague, born a decade before Truffaut and Godard, Rohmer also served as the New Wave’s sage, resisting aesthetic and political fashion to

  • Pablo Larraín, Tony Manero, 2008, stills from a color film in 16 mm, 97 minutes.
    film May 31, 2010

    Boogie Man

    DISCO AND DANTEAN INFERNO, Pablo Larraín’s Tony Manero portrays a dead-eyed survivor who is “stayin’ alive” during the bloody years of Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Set in Santiago’s bas-fonds of grubby cantinas and crumbling cinemas in 1978, the year Saturday Night Fever was released in Chile and half a decade after Pinochet seized power in a US-backed coup, Manero turns one man’s obsession with his eponymous alter ego into a scary, airless metaphor for cultural imperialism and the psychosis of fascism.

    Despite his rather baroque moniker—Raúl Peralta Paredes O—and his grand aspirations to

  • Eric Rohmer

    Love desires nothing but itself.

    —Lycidas, in Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon

    (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, 2007)

    IN HIS LATTER YEARS, the French filmmaker Eric Rohmer—who died on January 11, at the age of eighty-nine—took on the terse, attenuated air of a Jansenist abbot. Lean, austere, his eyes a cool, penetrating blue, Rohmer embodied the rationalism and restraint for which his cinematic style had become famous. The elder statesman of the Nouvelle Vague, born a decade before Truffaut and Godard, Rohmer also served as the New Wave’s sage, resisting aesthetic and political fashion to

  • Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon

    A BOY WANDERS THE RUINS of bombed-out Berlin, denied solace and sustenance at every turn. Coached to “let the weak disappear” by a pedophiliac black marketeer, a kind of Nazi Erlking who was once his schoolteacher, the child poisons his ailing father and then kills himself, less out of contrition than despair. Young Edmund, who responds to a malign postwar world by leaping to his death, is the protagonist of Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948), long on the list of Michael Haneke’s ten favorite films. Characteristically, the Austrian master chose neither Rome, Open City (1945) nor Paisà

  • James Quandt

    JAMES QUANDT

    1 Wilhelm Noack oHG (Simon Starling) Metacinema machine to end all others: a projector whose celluloid elaborately loops into a helical, neo-Tatlin sculpture while its film presents a record of the mechanism’s fabrication in a Berlin metalworks associated with both the Bauhaus and the Third Reich. Ideal companions: Rodney Graham’s Rheinmetall/Victoria 8, 2003; Moholy-Nagy’s Lichtspiel Schwarz-Weiss-Grau (Lightplay Black, White, Gray, 1930).

    2 Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu) A Romanian police procedural, edited so precisely it seems determinist, becomes a dialectical study in

  • Lisandro Alonso, Los Muertos, 2004, stills from a color film in 35 mm, 78 minutes. Vargas (Argentino Vargas).
    film November 25, 2009

    Ride Lonesome

    SINCE DEBATES OVER AUTEURISM now seem as distant as Madame de Staël, it was hardly noticed at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival, even as the Directors’ Fortnight celebrated its fortieth birthday, that the politique’s monism had created a small crisis. Through caprice, impatience, or sheer fatigue, critics experienced collective irritation with the staunch constancy of several celebrated auteurs. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, even while extending his muted narrative into once unimaginable modes of suspense and melodrama in Three Monkeys, was scorned for relying on his patented long takes and

  • Jia Zhang-ke, 24 City, 2008, still from a color film in 35 mm, 112 minutes. Su Na (Zhao Tao).
    film June 03, 2009

    Imitation of Life

    BABIES DEAD FROM MELAMINE in their milk, Rem Koolhaas’s Beijing hotel up in flames, earthquake victims protesting lax construction standards, workers rioting as the tiger economy tanks: Chinese officials may have pulled off the vast, falsifying spectacle of last year’s Olympics, but the corruption and sheer haplessness of their regime now leaves the country uneasy and teetering. Jia Zhang-ke, chronicler and bard of the new China with his densely poetic films about the dislocation and anxiety caused by Deng Xiaoping’s market “reforms,” had already captured the arrogating power of spectacle in a

  • Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman

    ONE OF THE GREAT FILMS of the decade, Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman induces a mesmeric state akin to that of its dazed eponym, tempting the audience to drift, like her, through the narrative’s proliferating mysteries. Trance film, ghost story, and political allegory, the impossibly dense and allusive Headless inlays every image with enigma so that its simple tale of a woman seized by the belief that she has committed a crime takes on an air of epistemological riddle. The film shares with Antonioni a modernist concern with the tenuousness of perception, its central conundrum reminiscent

  • Jia Zhang-ke’s 24 City

    BABIES DEAD FROM MELAMINE in their milk, Rem Koolhaas’s Beijing hotel up in flames, earthquake victims protesting lax construction standards, workers rioting as the tiger economy tanks: Chinese officials may have pulled off the vast, falsifying spectacle of last year’s Olympics, but the corruption and sheer haplessness of their regime now leaves the country uneasy and teetering. Jia Zhang-ke, chronicler and bard of the new China with his densely poetic films about the dislocation and anxiety caused by Deng Xiaoping’s market “reforms,” had already captured the arrogating power of spectacle in a

  • James Quandt

    JAMES QUANDT

    1 and 2 Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet) and Le Genou d’Artémide (Jean-Marie Straub) The high point of Cannes and of the year, Jean-Marie Straub’s twin farewells—to a past in which political resistance was a matter of life and death, to his beloved partner and codirector Danièle Huillet—employ exquisite images of nature (the Loire shot in precise black-and-white, a sunlit Italian grove in refulgent color), and, more daringly, in the case of Le Genou, a dark screen accompanied by Mahler’s Abschied, to achieve rending nobility.

    3 The Headless

  • RIDE LONESOME: THE FILMS OF LISANDRO ALONSO

    I’m interested in the world of prisoners. —Lisandro Alonso

    SINCE DEBATES OVER AUTEURISM now seem as distant as Madame de Staël, it was hardly noticed at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, even as the Directors’ Fortnight celebrated its fortieth birthday, that the politique’s monism had created a small crisis. Through caprice, impatience, or sheer fatigue, critics experienced collective irritation with the staunch constancy of several celebrated auteurs. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, even while extending his muted narrative into once unimaginable modes of suspense and melodrama in Three Monkeys