Melissa Anderson

  • Mark Rydell, The Rose, 1979, 35 mm, color, sound, 134 minutes. Mary Rose Foster (Bette Midler).
    film May 22, 2015

    Winning Bette

    NEARLY ALL THE PRESS COVERAGE of Mark Rydell’s The Rose, the 1979 Bette Midler juggernaut, started off by mentioning that the film, about a self-destructive, monstrously talented rocker, was inspired by the too-short life of Janis Joplin—a comparison that Midler was compelled to either acknowledge or disavow when doing the publicity rounds for her debut screen performance. (Prior to Rydell’s project, she’d had a few uncredited movie roles and played the Virgin Mary in a 1971 underground film.) Yet watching The Rose for the first time, thirty-six years after its release, I was perplexed—though

  • Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn, L for Leisure, 2014, 16 mm, color, sound, 74 minutes.
    film May 12, 2015

    Pre-Millennium Tension

    A LUDIC EARLY-1990s time capsule, Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s L for Leisure pays tribute to egghead volubility and good-vibes indolence. Set during 1992 and ’93, the film, lustrously shot on 16 mm, tracks a group of US graduate students during academic-year downtime in idyllic spots around the globe. Though these achronological episodes bear the hallmarks of Whit Stillman’s and Eric Rohmer’s movies, L for Leisure abounds with a buoyant goofiness those forebears lack. Similarly, the details deployed in this Gen-X chronicle—Crystal Pepsi, Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” argument, the flyers

  • Bertrand Bonello, Saint Laurent, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 150 minutes. Loulou de la Falaise (Léa Seydoux), Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel), and Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade). Photo: Carole Bethuel.

    Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent

    BEYOND MERELY RECAPITULATING the high and low points of a celebrated life, Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent distills a mood and a milieu. This heady, sinuous biopic of Yves Saint Laurent (1936–2008), arguably the greatest couturier of the second half of the twentieth century, forgoes the tedious birth-to-death arc found in so many films of the genre to focus instead on the years 1967 to 1977. The time frame may be restricted, but the decade depicted was marked by YSL’s most storied excesses, whether in the atelier, on the runway, at the discotheque—or at the orgy. Bonello, who cowrote Saint

  • Bertrand Bonello, On War, 2008, 35 mm, color, sound, 130 minutes.
    film April 28, 2015

    Sense and Sensibility

    THE CENTRAL FIGURE in the mesmerizing films of Bertrand Bonello is the voluptuary, who may be a seeker or supplier (whether professional or otherwise) of pleasure, and whose respective quest or obligation to satisfy sensual appetites can lead to enlightenment, madness, brutality, decline, or even death. Of the sybarites who have populated the writer-director-composer’s seven feature-length works to date, perhaps none is as towering as the title character in Saint Laurent, a thrilling biopic on the legendary couturier whose release on May 8 occasions the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s welcome

  • Derek Jarman, Will You Dance with Me?, 1984, video, color, sound, 78 minutes. Philip Williamson.
    film April 22, 2015

    Let’s Hear It for the Boy

    THOUGH ONLY SIX YEARS separate Ron Peck’s Nighthawks (1978) and Derek Jarman’s Will You Dance with Me? (1984), two essential documents of gay London, they are chronicles of entirely different eras. Peck’s feature film debuted a year before Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministry began and three before the first known case of AIDS in the UK was reported; Jarman’s footage, which remained unseen until last year, was shot well into those dual catastrophes. While Peck’s film is more or less fiction, it mixes in vérité elements, recording, sometimes ambivalently, the codes and customs of gay nightlife that

  • Chantal Akerman, La Captive, 2000, 35 mm, color, sound, 118 minutes. Ariana and Andrée (Sylvie Testud and Olivia Bonamy).
    film April 15, 2015


    THE SINGULARITY OF Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958)—the passe-partout to unlocking the mystery of cinema’s powers to derange—has never been more eloquently articulated than in Chris Marker’s paradigmatic cine-essay Sans Soleil (1983): “[O]nly one film had been capable of portraying impossible memory—insane memory,” says narrator Alexandra Stewart, whose hypnotic voice-over consists of passages of letters “sent” to her by Sandor Krasna, Marker’s fictional alter ego. This particular missive dilates on Jimmy Stewart’s Scottie, the protagonist of Hitchcock’s crowning masterpiece, who is consumed

  • Frédéric Tcheng, Dior and I, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 90 minutes. Raf Simons.
    film April 09, 2015

    Simons Says

    FRÉDÉRIC TCHENG has been affiliated with two of the more high-profile fashion documentaries of the past decade, both portraits of exceptionally outsize personalities in a profession rife with them. He served as coeditor of Matt Tyrnauer’s Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008), a hagiographic chronicle of the final year of the Italian couturier’s reign, and codirected Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2012), a charming bauble on the peerless fashion editor and epigrammatist. For Dior and I, his first nonfiction project as sole creator, Tcheng focuses on a far less

  • Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 123 minutes. Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) and Valentine (Kristen Stewart).

    Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria

    “YOU CAN'T BE as accomplished as you are and as well-rounded as an actress as you are and still expect to hold on to the privileges of youth.” The admonishment is delivered by twenty-four-year-old Kristen Stewart to Juliette Binoche, age fifty, in Olivier Assayas’s immensely intelligent Clouds of Sils Maria, which he wrote and directed. Technically, it is Stewart’s character, Valentine, a personal assistant, who does the upbraiding, her words aimed at her boss, Binoche’s Maria Enders, an internationally renowned star. Yet so astute is Assayas’s exploration of the unstable boundaries between

  • Abel Ferrara, Welcome to New York, 2014, color, sound, 125 minutes. Devereaux (Gérard Depardieu).
    film March 26, 2015

    Rough Cuts

    ABEL FERRARA’S WELCOME TO NEW YORKa thinly veiled recounting of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s infamous May 2011 stay at midtown Manhattan’s Sofitel Hotel in which only the names have been changed—begins with a lengthy disclaimer, and so will this review. The version of the film set for theatrical and VOD release this Friday—and the only one I’ve seen—is not the one that made its world premiere last year at Cannes (where it was conspicuously not part of the festival’s official selection). More to the point, the most recent iteration of the movie—which, ostensibly to secure an R rating, shaves off

  • Anja Marquardt, She’s Lost Control, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 90 minutes. Ronah (Brooke Bloom).
    film March 17, 2015

    Touch and Go

    SHE’S LOST CONTROL, writer-director Anja Marquardt’s first feature, clocks in at ninety minutes—which, coincidentally or not, is also the duration of a typical appointment with sex surrogate Ronah (Brooke Bloom), the film’s aspirational protagonist. Some of Ronah’s clients have been referred by a psychotherapist, Dr. Alan Cassidy (Dennis Boutsikaris), who feels that certain of his male patients require both the talking and touching cure. Much like a typical therapy session, She’s Lost Control is marked by repetition, clichés, preposterousness, and occasional insight.

    Marquardt’s movie, chilly

  • David Zellner, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 105 minutes. Deputy Caldwell and Kumiko (David Zellner and Rinko Kikuchi). Photo: Sean Porter.
    film March 13, 2015

    Minnesota Nice

    ALTHOUGH ADORNED in a variety of distinct outfits—whether a thick cherry-red hoodie, an “office lady” uniform, or a motel-room bedspread repurposed as a poncho—the title character of David Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter seems never to change her carriage, her shoulders slumped and her eyes always cast downward. Played by Rinko Kikuchi (best known for her portrayal of a deaf Japanese teenager in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s globe-hopping Babel from 2006), Kumiko can barely endure direct eye contact, or any other form of human interaction. Her nights are spent in a cluttered Tokyo apartment,

  • Thomas Cailley, Les combattants (Love at First Fight), 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 98 minutes. Madeleine (Adèle Haenel).
    film March 02, 2015

    Pardon My French

    CELEBRATING ITS TWENTIETH EDITION THIS YEAR, the “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” series points to both the particular problems and pleasurable results of film curation based solely on national origin. As in previous installments, 2015’s roundup of recent Gallic movies is larded with strenuously mediocre (and worse) fare from veterans and newcomers alike, whether behind or in front of the camera. But the program, which this year comprises twenty-two features, continues to serve an important role by providing New York audiences with what may be their only chance to see adventurous, genre-defying