Nick Pinkerton

  • 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

  • film April 15, 2016

    Lazar Tag

    IN 1971, before it had a first run in its native land, Plastic Jesus was confiscated by the Yugoslavian government of Josip Broz Tito, and its young director, Lazar Stojanovic, was thrown in the clink by a military court for “anti-state activities and propaganda.” His stay lasted several months or a few years, depending on the account, but at any rate it was plenty of time to think over what he’d done. Well, Tito died before the dawn of MTV, Yugoslavia began its anguished atomization not long after the fall of Communism, and now Stojanovic is presenting the New York premiere of his Belgrade

  • film April 08, 2016

    Border Patrols

    THROUGH THE YEARS so many films have been said in reviews and calendar copy to “blur the boundaries” between documentary and fiction filmmaking that we might reasonably expect that the work is done by now, and that those lines—never a legally well-defined border to begin with—are well and truly blurred, there’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, and that a handful of tropes of representation that were once given to constitute documentary realism were a fluke in the history of the medium rather than its essence.

    If there’s still some purpose for boundaries, it must be to determine what

  • film April 01, 2016

    No Future

    THERE ARE THE ARTISTS that you admire, and then those who you feel, right in the solar plexus, right between the eyes. When it comes to filmmakers, I couldn’t count every name in the former category, but the tally of the latter probably comes in at less than a dozen. It’s here that a tendency to gush comes in, and as someone who has been known to state when in my cups that the scene of Slim Pickens’s gutshot death in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) is enough to justify the whole of the American experiment, it is perhaps irresponsible for me to try to write about Sam Peckinpah.

    The complete

  • film March 29, 2016

    Cracking the Code

    IF YOU WERE TO DEVISE the platonic ideal of a pre-Code movie it would probably look quite a bit like Tay Garnett’s 1930 barrelhouse melodrama Her Man, which transposes the Frankie and Johnnie story—then recently recorded to great acclaim by musician Jimmie Rodgers—to a blind tiger in Havana, where the dregs of all nations congregate and copulate.

    While Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein has made pre-Code his bailiwick for years, the Museum of Modern Art gets to plant its flag on Her Man, which will be playing at Fifty-Third Street along with four other Garnett films and Chester Erskine and

  • film March 16, 2016

    New to You

    NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS, jointly cohosted and coprogrammed by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, has through its forty-five-year history acted as a slightly chancier analog to the New York Film Festival, willing to roll the dice on properties who are as-yet unproven, at least with NYC audiences.

    As I am far from the first person to note, the status of a “New Director” has never been conferred according to a hard-and-fast law. (The criterion has in the past half-jokingly been stated as “New to us.”) To take one example, I first became aware of the film work of

  • film March 04, 2016

    That Obscure Object of Desire

    THE AMORPHOUS MIGRATING FORMS FESTIVAL is regular in nothing, not even in calendar placement—its seventh installment arrives a year and some change after the last, which fell in December of 2014. Closest in spirit to the programming at Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Light Industry, Migrating Forms may be said to cater to the slim Venn diagram overlap between the new-media-hip Rhizome crowd and the old-school Film Comment cinephile.

    Reflected in the title of the fest, which emerged from the ashes of the former New York Underground Film Festival, is an ambition to adapt the idea of a festival to a culture

  • film February 10, 2016

    Dead Can Dance

    IF YOU CALL IT FILM NOIR, they will come. At least this is the conventional wisdom in repertory film programming, where it has been proved time and again that postwar noir is money in the bank. This goes for the American films with the French names and the German Expressionist lighting, as well as various international equivalents in crime melodrama (the British “spiv” film, French movies by Becker and Melville). The Museum of Modern Art was turning them away at the doors for “Mexico at Midnight: Film Noir from Mexican Cinema’s Golden Age” in 2015, and now they’ve gone to the other powerhouse