Nick Pinkerton

  • 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

  • film October 19, 2016

    It’s All Over

    EDWARD YANG DIED IN 2007, aged fifty-nine, after a long bout with cancer that cost him his opportunity to follow up on his international breakthrough, Yi Yi (2000). By any measure this would be a tragedy, and I am sometimes convinced that film culture has yet to recover from Yang’s passing. Though his films never left his native Taipei, Yang was a cosmopolitan figure unusually attuned to the benefits and perils of twenty-first century globalization and corporate capitalism, who seemed not only inclined but able to explore what effects the unprecedented changes taking place the world over were

  • film October 05, 2016

    Marlen the Magician

    BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. At ninety-one, filmmaker Marlen Khutsiev will be paying a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, presenting a program of his life’s work in cinema, largely unknown to audiences outside of the former Soviet Bloc, though the movies were dropping jaws when they played at last year’s Locarno Film Festival. (The next stop on the tour is the Harvard Film Archive.) They are films never timid in ambition, though external factors often conspired to thwart that ambition, keeping them away from an original intended audience that was very far away from Fifty-Third Street.

    Marlen Khutsiev,

  • film October 01, 2016

    Back and Forth

    IT WAS PERHAPS INEVITABLE that a Michael Cimino retrospective would pop up in the wake of the filmmaker’s death at age seventy-seven in June, but something along the lines of BAMcinématek’s nine-film Cimino series might very well been in the works regardless. After a career that, in the balance, was filled with more setbacks than triumphs, Cimino had recently been the subject of a rehabilitation effort. In 2012 his epic Heaven’s Gate (1980), whose over-budget shoot, box-office failure, and key role in the foundering of United Artists studio had effectively derailed Cimino’s until-then charmed

  • film September 22, 2016

    Breaking the Waves

    WHILE MOST FILM FESTIVALS can’t be accurately encapsulated in anything close to comprehensive fashion, summing up the Toronto International Film Festival would be next to impossible. Founded a year before the Blue Jays, in 1976, as the Festival of Festivals, TIFF—and the city around it—has metastasized in the years since. Today it’s the largest North American festival, lashing together almost every significant title that’s been making the rounds in European and American fests… along with The Magnificent Seven? I don’t think anyone—TIFF employees included—knows just how many movies, exactly,

  • film September 16, 2016

    Wise Guy

    ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ—then just plain Alice Guy—was working as a secretary for Léon Gaumont’s photographic equipment company when the boss received an invitation to an event hosted by Auguste and Louis Lumière, two brothers from Lyon, set for March 22, 1895. The focus of the evening was color still-photography processes, but for an encore the brothers introduced their “projection Kinetoscope,” a machine that projected moving images—in this case, the images of workers leaving a factory. While both Gaumont and Guy-Blaché immediately perceived the commercial possibilities of such a novelty, Guy-Blaché

  • film August 24, 2016

    The Other Woman

    THE CATALAN FILMMAKER José Luis Guerín has been making movies for more than thirty years now, in the process never achieving more than niche notoriety. In part this may be attributed to the elusiveness of his work, which has moved freely between documentary and fiction, the literary and the cinematic, hard narrative and heady philosophy, a series of switchbacks that have made it difficult to scent his trail or predict where he might pop up next. This low profile suits Guerín’s films, which, though often urban in setting, are struck through by deep reserves of solitude—he is particularly taken

  • film July 21, 2016

    Gold Finger

    THE WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE WEB 2.0 YEARS, with their bounty of image, information, and emotion, have been accompanied by the emergence of a pervasive satirical style whose basic tenets are overkill and gluttony. Like the parent who finds you with a cigarette and makes you smoke yourself sick on the whole pack, these are works that say “So you like garbage, huh? Well open wide, ’cause here comes the whole landfill!” Some of the more popular manifestations can be found in the Adult Swim aesthetic (exemplified and transcended by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim), the ZOMFG mashups of TV Carnage and

  • film July 13, 2016

    Piano Lessons

    DIRECTOR LEO MCCAREY was an on-set improviser, routinely jettisoning reams of screenplay to be replaced, he hoped, by happy (and funny) accident. When the muse was proving elusive, he would retreat to a piano he kept at hand for just such occasions, and tickle the ivories until the music coaxed her out of hiding. The atmosphere of collaborative creativity that he fostered during a career that began in the 1920s acted as an incubator to the star personas of Laurel and Hardy and Cary Grant and, in Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), got star performances from two less heralded names, Victor Moore and

  • film July 08, 2016

    Family Ties

    HIROKAZU KOREEDA’S OUR LITTLE SISTER provides more than a few picturesque views—though at bottom it’s about the torturous process that needs to be gone through before those views can be enjoyed, of letting down a fixed smile long enough to relieve a jealously guarded core of anger. The film is set in a family home populated entirely by young women, people who are honestly fond of one another to the point of being mortified at the prospect of causing each other pain. Nary an unkind word that’s said between them isn’t almost immediately regretted, and the presence of aggrieved masculine ego that

  • film June 10, 2016

    Mad World

    ’TIL MADNESS DO US PART is a movie in constant motion, with nowhere at all to go—at times the handheld camera seems literally to be bouncing off of the walls. Even when the frame is still, in the background there are always bodies in listless traffic, shuffling along on their fixed paths. We can infer that we are inside a madhouse; indeed, a closing text specifically informs us that Wang Bing’s documentary was shot between January and April of 2013 at a mental institution in Yunnan Province, in the southwest of China. Save for a brief interlude, the action is entirely kept within the walls of

  • film June 02, 2016

    Binge Drinking

    A WHILE BACK it occurred to me that I should really do something about my drinking. One day in a moment of clarity I looked around and discovered that whole swathes of my life were shrouded in a fog that gave my memories the uncertain, jumbled aspect of a dream, and I couldn’t even trust to my recollections of intimate interpersonal relationships. I think this was about ten or twelve years ago—I can’t recall exactly—and I never did get around to putting a plug in the jug, instead just floating along merrily, merrily, merrily. If any of this, even just the mental fog bit, sounds the slightest

  • film May 18, 2016

    Silver Age

    FOR THE SECOND TIME in as many years, cinephiles and archivists from the world over convened at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, for the Nitrate Picture Show, a weekend-long marathon of movies projected on silver nitrate film. Silver nitrate or just plain “nitrate” is film made of gelatin emulsion laid on a nitrocellulose backing. Until the middle of the last century there was nothing special about silver nitrate projection—nitrate was the only kind of motion-picture film that there was. Nitrocellulose, also known as guncotton, was cheap, durable, and flexible enough to serve

  • film May 13, 2016

    Isn’t She Lovely

    SUNSET SONG, set in the remote, raw northeast of Scotland, is a film of tranquil calm and rending, elemental emotional outbursts—which is to say, it is very much a Terence Davies picture. Davies broke through to international acclaim with Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992), autobiographical films that brought to the screen the texture of his boyhood in the working-class Liverpool of the 1950s and early ’60s, then principally turned his attention to adapting, in a manner that never felt less than entirely personal, the works of other artists: John Kennedy Toole,

  • film May 06, 2016

    Directors’ Cut

    FOR THOSE INTERESTED in the windfall of innovatory midcentury documentary filmmaking, recent weeks have been awfully hectic. The Criterion Collection has just released a four-movie Blu-ray collection of The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates, last month New Yorkers had access to a Film Forum retrospective of the work of Albert and David Maysles, and now Anthology Film Archives is hosting a thirteen-day, seventeen-program, thirty-something-film series dedicated to “Québec Direct Cinema.” 

    To US audiences, the films produced under the auspices of Québec Direct Cinema may be less well known