James Quandt

  • Jacques Nolot

    IN THE FILMS OF JACQUES NOLOT, weakness of the flesh implies bodily decline as much as unbidden desire. Nolot’s unflinching camera looks with equal asperity and tenderness on the corpse of an old woman with its hairless vagina, spreading breasts, and wizened skin; aging drag queens in erratic mascara and tortuously extruded bosoms prowling the periphery of a porn theater; and the filmmaker’s own naked corpulence, its mottled sag blue-lit and afflicted in a nighttime kitchen. While Nolot’s protagonists, acted by the handsome director as obvious versions of himself, gloat that “other people’s

  • Alexander Sokurov, Alexandra, 2007, still from a color film in 35 mm, 90 minutes. Far right: Alexandra (Galina Vishnevskaya).
    film May 26, 2008

    Elegy to the Chechen Republic

    New York

    ALEXANDER SOKUROV'S SINGLE-TAKE Russian Ark (2002) ends when the seemingly exhausted camera comes to rest on a slate-gray waterscape, one of the director's many apparitional images of the lost Russian soul. In his latest work, Alexandra, Sokurov again broods on his nation's anguished being, but with a new simplicity and directness. Like the babushka after whom the film is named, Alexandra is purposeful and forthright, occasionally prone to obviousness in its striving for clarity. Suppressed are the sfumato effects, the murmuring obscurity, the trancelike attenuations and abeyances of time, the

  • Alexander Sokurov’s Alexandra

    ALEXANDER SOKUROV’S single-take Russian Ark (2002) ends when the seemingly exhausted camera comes to rest on a slate-gray waterscape, one of the director’s many apparitional images of the lost Russian soul. In his latest work, Alexandra, Sokurov again broods on his nation’s anguished being, but with a new simplicity and directness. Like the babushka after whom the film is named, Alexandra is purposeful and forthright, occasionally prone to obviousness in its striving for clarity. Suppressed are the sfumato effects, the murmuring obscurity, the trancelike attenuations and abeyances of time, the

  • James Quandt

    JAMES QUANDT

    1 These Encounters of Theirs (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet) Straub-Huillet’s final feature, a declamatory pastoral about gods and mortals, has a grandeur and passion that make Huillet’s death last year all the more grievous.

    2 Pour vos beaux yeux (Henri Storck) The eyes have it in Storck’s 1929 ocular minimasterpiece, lost for four decades and now beautifully restored by the Cinémathèque Française.

    3 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu) Already the subject of critical backlash, Mungiu’s grim Palme d’Or winner at Cannes treats abortion less as an issue than as a

  • TWICE-TOLD TALES: THE FILMS OF HONG SANG-SOO

    I don’t think you really understood the film.

    —Yong-sil, in Tale of Cinema (2005)

    YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO HANG OUT with Hong Sang-soo. So cringe-making is the Korean director’s acuity about social relations—the petty vexations, vanities, and evasions that constitute most so-called alliances—that one can only infer that he spends much of his time noting others’ foibles for use in his films. Hong never exempts himself from this inquisition; indeed, his seven features can be read, if reductively, as a project of autoexcoriation. His work teems with Hong look-alikes, alter egos, and surrogates, most of

  • 12:08 East of Bucharest

    HAILING FROM the land of Urmuz and Ionesco, Corneliu Porumboiu, the director of 12:08 East of Bucharest, boasts that “we Romanians have, in a way, invented absurdity . . . or least we’ve made an art of it.” The tone of Porumboiu’s wry little satire, which won the Camera d’Or for best first film at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, shares enough with compatriot Cristi Puiu’s quasi-absurdist masterpiece of 2005, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu—world-weary humanism, dark humor, stylized verism, the unassuming capaciousness of a down-home comédie humaine—that the two directors have been enlisted as the

  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul

    What’s given bears fruit as pleasure.

    —From the Aditta Sutta

    THERE IS NO MORE generous vision in contemporary cinema than that of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. So rapturous is his desire to share everyday delight in sun streaming through wind-whipped trees, a mass aerobics dance in a Bangkok park, a dentist in a glittery green jacket crooning a Thai country tune, a wild orchid riding in the backseat of a car like a petulant child, that even the cynical critic resistant to bliss finds himself yielding to nothing less than sheer, unaccountable joy. The precredit sequence of Apichatpong’s latest serene

  • James Quandt

    JAMES QUANDT

    1 Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa) An arte povera epic, the final film in Costa’s “Vanda” trilogy portrays the abandoned inhabitants of Lisbon’s suburban slums, achieving grandeur with minimal means.

    2 Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Another serene enigma from the master of Thai tales of transmutation. The film’s title, combining the somatic and the temporal, reflects the director’s twin preoccupations.

    3 Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke) Jia, poet of displacement in the new China, returns to the tone of his early feature Xiao Wu (The Pickpocket, 1997) in this melancholy portrait

  • View of “Tacita Dean. Analogue: Films, Photographs, Drawings 1991–2006,” Schaulager, Basel, 2006. Photo: Tom Bisig.

    Tacita Dean

    DESCENDING TO THE BASEMENT of the Schaulager—Herzog & de Meuron’s sand-encrusted bunker with its slashing gash of a window—one was beset by a sound that seemed oddly antique, like that of typewriter keys or rotary phone dials: the whir and clatter of a film projector. It was apparent in that sound, now threatened with obsolescence, that Tacita Dean’s retrospective (organized by Theodora Vischer) was called “Analogue” for both polemical and nostalgic reasons. “Analogue, it seems, is a description,” the artist writes in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, “a description, in

  • Jean-Luc Godard at the Centre Pompidou

    Last spring, after months of controversy, Paris witnessed the opening of a complete retrospective of the films of Jean-Luc Godard, accompanied by the filmmaker’s first foray into multimedia installation. Artforum dispatched film scholar James Quandt and artist-critic John Kelsey to the Centre Pompidou to assess Godard’s much-anticipated exhibition.

    JAMES QUANDT

    Everything in life is like that—unfinished.

    —Viveca Lindfors in Joseph Losey’s The Damned

    THE JEAN-LUC GODARD EXHIBITION in Paris is a shambles, a ruin. A seemingly haphazard assemblage of hastily gathered and cursorily installed

  • STILL LIVES: THE FILMS OF PEDRO COSTA

    THE SINGLE MOST SHOCKING INSTANT in any film at Cannes this year was not Paul Dawson sucking back a sluice of his own cum in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, Sergi López suturing his freshly flayed face with a home sewing kit in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, or the assorted sub-Borowczyk provocations in György Pálfi’s Taxidermia, including a hard-on that doubles as a blowtorch, a speed-eating contest that ends in voluminous puking, giant cats devouring the entrails of their exploded owner, and the autotaxidermy that serves as the film’s flesh-abasing finale. None of those scandal-mongering

  • Cristi Puiu

    We’re just a bunch of miserable people, mister.

    ––Mr. Lazarescu

    THE CINEMA OF death has a new classic to stand with Maurice Pialat’s La Gueule ouverte, Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes, and Derek Jarman’s Blue: Cristi Puiu’s Death of Mr. Lazarescu. At first glance an unlikely candidate for the canon, this 153-minute study in protracted mortality is the first of a half-dozen “stories of love” planned by thirty-eight-year-old Romanian director Puiu, who modeled his cycle, with its singularly unfetching title Six Stories from the Bucharest Suburbs, on Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral