Nick Pinkerton

  • film July 20, 2017

    Family Circus

    TIZZA COVI AND RAINER FRIMMEL’S MISTER UNIVERSO, a simple, modestly scaled road movie made with delicacy and feeling, centers on the quite self-centered Tairo Caroli, a lion tamer in a small Italian circus who is in the habit of having his commands followed. We are introduced to Tairo preening in the mirror before a performance—he’s handsome if a little husky in his sequined shirt, still carrying some baby fat. Though Tairo makes his living stepping into a cage with big jungle cats to whom he plays “Daddy,” there is still much of the little boy about him, the tantrum-prone brat who bedevils

  • film July 14, 2017

    Super Mario

    THE CINEMATOGRAPHER TURNED DIRECTOR is a dicey proposition: For every success story such as Jack Cardiff’s or Nicolas Roeg’s, there’s Gordon Willis’s with Windows (1980) or Christopher Doyle’s with Warsaw Dark (2009), or other examples that aren’t even distinguished by true awfulness. And then there is the curious case of the Italian Mario Bava, whose cinema is so radically, disorientingly, sumptuously eye-filling that I all but gave up trying to categorize it years ago. These films are beyond understood categories of taste—they merely are.

    The newly refurbished Quad Cinema on West Thirteenth

  • film July 06, 2017

    Haunted House

    TO ATTEND ONE’S OWN FUNERAL, hiding in the church gallery, like Tom Sawyer and Joe, is a cherished American boyhood dream, and something close to the jumping-off point for David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, a leap into the blue which lands very far from its point of origin.

    The film stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a young couple, never named, whose life together in a suburban ranch-style house is cut short when he is killed in an automobile accident just a few feet from their driveway. She says her goodbyes to his cold body on the mortuary slab, but his soul, or something, isn’t quite ready to

  • film June 16, 2017

    Going Ape

    SINCE THE CINEMA has faced such a long struggle for respectability as an art form, it’s only understandable that some of its advocates resent being reminded of its unbreakable bond with the lowest common denominator. How else to explain that we’ve been so many years without a proper survey of the monkey movie, a storied subgenre—a few years in my youth alone rendered up Monkey Trouble (1994) and Dunston Checks In and Ed (both 1996)—which simultaneously recalls the step-right-up fairground provenance of the movies and the undignified, tire-swinging, feces-smearing ancestry of humankind?

  • film June 02, 2017

    The Importance of Being Ernst

    ERNST LUBITSCH WAS BORN in booming Berlin in January 1892 and died much too young in Hollywood, California, in 1947. He was a German Jew of age to have served in one World War and to have been a likely civilian casualty of a second, but by dint of luck and talent he avoided both. While living through the multiple ructions that rocked the European continent in the first half of the twentieth century and the wider world-historical earthquake of these years, he remained almost single-mindedly committed to producing wry, light, sparkling comedies that reflect the values of graciousness and grace.

  • film May 10, 2017

    The Heart of Maryland

    WALKING OUT OF BALTIMORE’S NEWLY RESTORED PARKWAY THEATER, I was in a daze after having watched a 35-mm print of Agnès Varda’s magnificent Vagabond (1985)—the first time analog film had been shown in the building in more than forty years. I then stumbled into a neighboring McDonald’s and queued up behind a slim older gentleman clad in head-to-toe Comme des Garçons who just happened to be the director of Pink Flamingos (1972). It is on the occasion of such pure strikes of Stendhal syndrome that having devoted one’s life to cinema seems like a not entirely worthless undertaking.

    I had been twice

  • film April 14, 2017

    Lies, All Lies

    IF, LIKE SOME OF US, you have grown comatose through repeat exposure to the cluster of festival fodder clichés often grouped under the unsexy sobriquet “slow cinema,” there’s reason to feel antsy at the opening of By the Time It Gets Dark, the second feature by director Anocha Suwichakornpong.

    Stick with it. After rolling out a few fragmentary, ambiguously related scenes, the movie settles into something like a straightforward narrative: Two women arrive at a rental home in the Thai countryside to rusticate. They are age-appropriate to be mother and daughter, but in due time it’s revealed that

  • film April 10, 2017

    Czech Please

    THE ENORMITY OF INTERNATIONAL FILM HISTORY is daunting; you might devote a decade to seeing everything from 1932 alone and never, ever get to the bottom of it. In the face of such bounty, the response is often inexcusable apathy—see, for example, the almost total absence of pre-1950 cinema from Netflix, which, having driven the video store into extinction, now uses its market dominance to push its mediocre-to-awful original programming. With such epidemic cultural amnesia running amok, the work of repertory programmers provides a valuable corrective: Witness the Museum of Modern Art’s fourteen-film

  • film April 07, 2017

    Young Love

    “A WHILE BACK, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.” This is how the nineteen-year-old Arthur Rimbaud bade adieu to his carefree salad days at the opening of A Season in Hell (1873)—for none are quite so attuned to the evanescence of youth as the truly young, who can actually feel the stuff slipping through their fingers.

    It is on such a note of sober contemplation that Michal Marczak’s docufiction All These Sleepless Nights, a film that is most of the time very far from sobriety, begins. Krzysztof Baginski, a pale kid

  • film March 31, 2017

    League of His Own

    IN A STORM-TOSSED MODERN WORLD, Wesley Snipes’s Twitter feed is an island of calm. It’s heavy on nostalgia—with production photographs from the set of White Men Can’t Jump (1992), for example—and rather profound conversation prompts (“At what age did you realize the world you live in was not your friend?”), as well as ice-cold troll executions and sage declarations that merge the Afrocentric and humanist, a typical sampling being: “Every ethnicity is absolutely beautiful and worthy. I’m simply reminding my brothers and sisters WE ARE OF ROYALTY.” He seems like he’s in a good headspace, which is

  • film March 24, 2017

    Great Migrations

    MIGRATING FORMS IS NEW YORK’S WEIRD FILM FESTIVAL. I say this with the greatest of affection, for through the years it has, often well ahead of the curve, provided a theatrical showcase to up-and-comers working in all manner of moving-image mediums: Ed Atkins, Ian Cheng, Jacob Ciocci, Laida Lertxundi, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Zhao Liang, and many more others than I can at this point remember.

    Tradition holds that around this point one has to mention that Migrating Forms is the reincarnation of the New York Underground Film Festival, but by the time of its eighth edition it has very much taken

  • film March 08, 2017

    Of Montreal

    IN HIS NEWLY PUBLISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Director’s Cut, the filmmaker Ted Kotcheff, a son of Toronto’s Cabbagetown slums, recalls his response to reading his friend Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravtiz for the first time, in the late 1950s, when the two Canadian expats were cohabiting in London. “‘Not only is this the best Canadian novel ever written,’ I declared, ‘but one day I am going back to Canada and make a film out of it.’ We then both laughed at the absurdity of the idea because, of course, there was no Canadian film industry whatsoever at this time.”

    By the time

  • film March 02, 2017

    Mountain Out of an Anthill

    AS THE CULTURAL CONVERSATION breaks down into spasms of splenetic indignation, the fear of being misunderstood runs to epidemic levels. In such an atmosphere, it is an increasing rarity to encounter artworks that come packaged without an instruction manual meant to clear up any potential confusion. And if you, like me, are bored to the point of catalepsy by the resulting parade of self-defining artwork that stretches limitlessly toward the horizon, perhaps you’ll make the ideal viewer for Argentinian director Eduardo Williams’s crackling The Human Surge, a dense snarl of a movie that only gets

  • film February 24, 2017

    Canadian Makin’

    AFTER THE EMERGENCE of alluring Canadian production subsidies in the late 1990s, moviegoers of the aughts became inured to watching downtown Vancouver fill in for AnyCity, USA, in a parade of multiplex productions that managed to extract bland back-lot anonymity from location shooting. But Anthology Film Archives’ twelve-film series “Gimme Shelter: Hollywood North” pays tribute to a very different, pioneering era of runaway production, part of an ongoing sesquicentennial celebration of our neighbors above to be followed by “1970s Canadian Independents,” beginning at Anthology on March 9.

    The

  • film January 26, 2017

    Bruce Almighty

    BRUCE LEE IS AMONG THE HANDFUL OF MOVIE STARS to attain a celebrity beyond mere stardom. Not long after his premature death in 1973, he joined the elite ranks of the few figures who would be recognizable from Madagascar to the Amazon basin, such as John Wayne and Muhammad Ali. Lee’s image, like Wayne’s and Ali’s, had political import. A late friend of my father’s, Bill Wood, who was in Iran in the 1970s, once recalled to me how much the Shah’s army loved Lee’s movies: “The first international Asian hero; he emboldened a lot of people, including a few we’d rather not talk about.” (Osama bin Laden

  • film January 06, 2017

    Going Nuclear

    ONE OF THE SCORES of interviewees offering their opinions on nuclear proliferation in Peter Watkins’s The Journey (1987) is a middle-aged Mexican woman in Guadalajara who implores that the presidents of powerful nations might link hands to “go around the world and look at the situation of the people.” This is among the not-inconsiderable undertakings attempted by The Journey, a film little seen in part because of availability issues and in part because of its daunting runtime: 873 minutes, which comes in at a frisky fourteen and a half hours.

    Light Industry, an experimental screening space in

  • film January 04, 2017

    Port Authority

    MARCEL PAGNOL’S MARSEILLES TRILOGYMarius (1931), Fanny (1932), and César (1936)—is one of the most beloved works of early French sound cinema, though it might be more accurate to call its true country of origin Provence. A region as distinct as Scotland is to Britain, Bavaria to Germany, Texas to the United States, the peculiarity of Provence has led some to question if it belongs to France at all; in J.K. Huysmans’s 1891 novel Là-bas, a Parisian character opines that “the coronation of a Valois at Rheims created a heterogeneous and preposterous France . . . uniting the most incompatible

  • film December 23, 2016

    Business as Usual

    HENRY JAMES’S DESCRIPTION of certain doorstop-size nineteenth-century novels—the “large, loose, baggy monster”—applies pretty well to Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, a downbeat comic study of a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship that comes in a bit short of the three-hour mark, and which has as its keystone gag an actual large, loose, baggy monster.

    Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a thirtysomething German professional adrift in professional stasis despite her monomaniacal focus on climbing the corporate ladder at the backwater Romanian branch of a consultancy firm. Her father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek),

  • film December 12, 2016

    Sin City

    GEORGE LUCAS IS BUSY DESIGNING his Museum of Narrative Art, a Xanadu for his legacy. Francis Ford Coppola is now a gray gentleman vintner with a sideline in independent films. William Friedkin pungently adapts Tracy Letts stage plays when he’s making anything new at all. Paul Schrader has gone back underground, working fast, cheap, and dirty, venting spleen on Facebook in his downtime. And Peter Bogdanovich is . . . well, you know. Of the leading lights of the so-called New Hollywood who came to prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s, only Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick, and Martin Scorsese

  • film October 21, 2016

    The Eyes Have It

    THE GENRE DIRECTOR LUCIO FULCI, though a deity for the average Chiller Theatre conventioneer, is probably best known to the wider world for directing the underwater struggle between a zombie and a shark that was used in a commercial for Windows 7, extracted from his 1979 Zombi 2—not actually a sequel, but an attempt to cash in on the success of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), released in Italy as Zombi.

    While Romero and even Fulci’s fellow Italian Dario Argento have, in the main, achieved and maintained a degree of critical legitimacy, Fulci was strictly a cult object for the splatter