Melissa Anderson

  • Michael Moore, Where to Invade Next, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 110 minutes.
    film October 05, 2015

    New York Film Festival: Dispatch 3

    AT THE HALFWAY POINT of the Fifty-Third New York Film Festival, I find myself nostalgic for the fifty-second, which showcased Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language, a puckish disquisition that opens with this stinging pensée: “Those lacking imagination take refuge in reality.” I often think of that aphorism when sitting through a weakly argued and poorly structured documentary, traits that have unfortunately come to define most of the nonfiction movies that secure theatrical release. JLG’s words serve as an especially apt indictment of the corpus of Michael Moore, the man largely responsible

  • Chantal Akerman, No Home Movie, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 115 minutes. Natalia Akerman.
    film September 28, 2015

    New York Film Festival: Dispatch 2

    “THE VOID IS MY DOMAIN,” crows French funambulist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) midway through Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, a 3-D recounting of the stuntman’s August 1974 high-wire promenade between the tops of the Twin Towers. Making its world premiere as the opening-night selection of this year’s New York Film Festival, Zemeckis’s extravaganza unquestionably instills, in the climactic scenes devoted to Petit’s extraordinary stunt, awe-inspiring acrophobia; viewers are convinced that they too are 110 stories above Lower Manhattan. Yet by the time this final act gets underway, the movie

  • Roland Emmerich, Stonewall, 2015, color, sound, 129 minutes.
    film September 23, 2015

    White Lies

    A CAMPAIGN IS UNDERWAY, so the New York Times reported on Monday, to create a national park recognizing the Stonewall uprising of June 1969. As it happens, I read that article while en route to a screening of another commemoration of the legendary queer insurgency: Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall, a ghastly project that places a lily-white muscle twink from Indiana as the tour guide for that pivotal event, with various trans characters and street queens of color assuming secondary roles and providing emotional succor to the Aryan beauty. The casting and story line notoriously ignited another LGBTQ

  • Miguel Gomes, Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One, 2015, color, sound, 125 minutes.
    film September 22, 2015

    New York Film Festival: Dispatch 1

    “WE TELL OURSELVES stories in order to live,” wrote Joan Didion in 1979, a sentiment literalized several centuries earlier by Scheherazade, the legendary fabulist of The Arabian Nights who spins elaborate tales to delay her execution. In Miguel Gomes’s epic three-part endeavor, also called Arabian Nights—one of several titles I caught last week during press screenings for the New York Film Festival, which begins this Friday—storytelling is deployed to prolong the life of another endangered entity: present-day Portugal, a country severely diminished by austerity measures. With the organizing

  • Todd Haynes, Carol, 2015, 35 mm, color, sound, 118 minutes. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett).

    Todd Haynes’s Carol

    Their eyes met at the same instant, Therese glancing up from a box she was opening, and the woman just turning her head so she looked directly at Therese. She was tall and fair, her long figure graceful in the loose fur coat that she held open with a hand on her waist. Her eyes were gray, colorless, yet dominant as light or fire, and caught by them, Therese could not look away.

    —Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt

    PUBLISHED IN 1952, when sapphic couplings depicted in high and low culture commonly ended in misery, ignominy, or suicide—and when same-sexing itself was a criminal

  • Stevan Riley, Listen to Me Marlon, 2015, color, sound, 100 minutes. Marlon Brando.
    film July 27, 2015

    Method to His Madness

    IN “THE DUKE IN HIS DOMAIN,” Truman Capote’s notorious 1957 New Yorker profile of Marlon Brando (1924–2004), the writer observes of his subject: “The voice went on, as though speaking to hear itself, an effect Brando’s speech often has, for, like many persons who are intensely self-absorbed, he is something of a monologuist—a fact that he recognizes and for which he offers his own explanation. ‘People around me never say anything,’ he says. ‘They just seem to want to hear what I have to say. That’s why I do all the talking.’ ”

    As the comma-deficient name of Stevan Riley’s latest documentary,

  • Judd Apatow, Trainwreck, 2015, 35 mm, color, sound, 125 minutes. Amy and Aaron Conners (Amy Schumer and Bill Hader).
    film July 15, 2015

    Last Judgment

    TRAINWRECK, a comedy directed by Judd Apatow and written by and starring Amy Schumer, tries to be all things to all people, making strenuous efforts to ensure that long-marginalized special-interest groups—those wholly underserved audiences like sports fans and Billy Joel enthusiasts—don’t feel excluded by a film about a woman’s dating foibles. Fans of the lead’s savagely funny Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, will find little of what distinguishes that sketch show—its anatomizing of both the pathologies of sexism and the entitlement of certain straight white females—in this wheel-spinning

  • Chaitanya Tamhane, Court, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 116 minutes. Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar).
    film July 13, 2015

    Poetic Justice

    IN AN ARTICLE in Forbes India earlier this year, writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane called his movie Court a “complete subversion of the courtroom drama.” Set in Mumbai, where the filmmaker was born in 1987, Court contains no dramatic scenes of gavel-hammering or eleventh-hour confessions. Suffused with a pointed, cool, never didactic despair, Tamhane’s narrative-feature debut exposes India’s highly dysfunctional judicial system, one still upholding scores of laws dating back to British rule almost seventy years after independence.

    Entangled in this web of legal and bureaucratic absurdity is

  • Orange Is the New Black, 2013–, production still from a TV show on Netflix. Season 3, episode 6. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren and Poussey Washington (Uzo Aduba and Samira Wiley).
    film June 29, 2015

    Women In Revolt

    DAVID SIMON, the creator of The Wire (2002–2008), famously said of the origins of that lauded Baltimore-set HBO program: “Our model when we started . . . wasn’t other television shows. The standard we were looking at was Balzac’s Paris or Dickens’s London or Tolstoy’s Moscow.” Orange Is the New Black, the hit Netflix series created by Jenji Kohan, has a less exalted literary prototype: Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir of the same name, chronicling her year in stir. But the show, whose third season recently became available for gluttonous, single-sitting consumption, has consistently stood out for its

  • Matías Piñeiro, The Princess of France, 2014, color, sound, 66 minutes. María Villar and Julián Larquier Tellarini.
    film June 25, 2015

    L Words

    IN MATÍAS PIÑEIRO’S elating The Princess of France, the precise attachments, romantic or otherwise, among the constellation of characters may be deliberately confusing, but the performers themselves, all part of the writer-director’s regular troupe, are exceptionally vivid. The third of Piñeiro’s ludic riffs on Shakespeare, following Rosalinda (2011) and Viola (2012), The Princess of France loosely revolves around the reunion of Victor (Julián Larquier Tellarini), who’s recently returned to Buenos Aires after a sojourn in Mexico, with the cast he directed in Love’s Labour’s Lost a year ago; he

  • James Ponsoldt, The End of the Tour, 2015, 35 mm, color, sound, 106 minutes. David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace (Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel).
    film June 14, 2015

    BAM Fam

    THE SEVENTH ANNUAL BAMcinemaFest begins with a Judd Apatow veteran impressively portraying a beloved, bandanna-ed dead author and ends with two newcomers who are naturals in front of the camera—at least that of the iPhone 5s. In between these bookends are twenty-one other feature-length works (both narratives and documentaries), plus four revival screenings, a handful of shorts, and, just announced, a sneak preview of Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America. Its titles plucked, as in previous editions, mainly from Sundance and South by Southwest, BAMcinemaFest offers a distillation of American-independent

  • Berry Gordy, Mahogany, 1975, 35 mm, color, sound, 109 minutes. Tracy Chambers (Diana Ross).
    film June 06, 2015

    Ross Dressing

    MAHOGANY, THE DIANA ROSS VEHICLE from 1975 that has launched a thousand drag tributes, is the first and only film directed by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, which financed the movie; it was originally slated to be the seventeenth feature helmed by Tony Richardson, the British New Wave stalwart. According to an article in the New York Times from February 1975, Richardson—best known for Look Back in Anger (1959), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), and Tom Jones (1963)—was sacked midway through Mahogany’s production because the Motown impresario, who had managed Ross’s