Nick Pinkerton

  • 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

  • film February 05, 2016

    True Hollywood Story

    JOEL AND ETHAN COEN’S HAIL, CAESAR! is the most deliriously enjoyable photoplay to open wide in what’s thus far been a pretty barren new year—and also a seriously funny comedy of ideas, a film of Das Kapital and Capitol Studios, of hermeneutics and the dialectic, all given the bickering story conference treatment.

    An ensemble piece set in the twilight of the studio-system era, Hail, Caesar! concerns the goings-on in and around the lots of Capitol. The backbone of the story—and the foreman on Capitol’s production line—is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the studio’s head of physical production, a

  • film February 02, 2016

    Middle Men

    PABLO LARRAÍN’S THE CLUB is a purgatorial piece of work—I say this as a recommendation. It begins with an image that combines paradisal peace and deferred satisfaction. A man stands on the beach with his dog. The man describes circles in the air with a furry object attached to a pole by way of a string, and the dog, a greyhound, gives chase, back and forth, leaping and snapping, round and round and round.

    The dog is in training for the regular local races that are the sole entertainment outlet for a group of four older men, including the trainer, Vidal (Alfredo Castro, a frequent Larraín

  • film January 20, 2016

    You Don’t Know Jack

    TO THOSE UNFAMILIAR with the name Jack Cole, he is probably best introduced through some names that should be known by even the casual student of Hollywood razzle-dazzle. Cole was a performer and choreographer, today considered the father of American jazz dance, and a direct line can be drawn from him to Bob Fosse, who would marry Cole’s onetime assistant and collaborator, Gwen Verdon. In Hollywood, Cole established himself as a go-to for star-making routines for actresses, even or especially those who were untested as dancers. He was the architect of Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame”

  • film January 07, 2016

    First-Come, First-Served

    THE IDENTITY of the Museum of the Moving Image’s First Look festival, spread across three weekends in January, is tied to its very firstness—after the holiday debauch and hangover, it’s New York’s premiere festival showcase of the new year. Come its fifth iteration, the fest’s identity has also gelled in some other important ways, as it emphasizes the experimental and noncommercial documentary. In many cases, sorry to say, this will also be the last look that a NYC theatrical audience gets at these movies.

    In its short life, First Look has snagged a few significant New York premieres—Mati Diop’s

  • film December 30, 2015

    All’s Welles

    IT’S PART OF THE STOCK COMEDY on actors that certain soaring parts in the Shakespeare folio fire the ambitions of young performers seeking immortality: Think Richard Griffiths’s old ham Uncle Monty in Withnail and I (1987), bemoaning that he “will never play the Dane.” Orson Welles knew that Shakespeare wrote for all the ages of man, and by the middle of the 1960s he was past the age of being fitted for black tights and strutting the boards with Yorick’s skull in hand. In a 1969 interview with filmmaker and Hollywood historian Peter Bogdanovich, Welles would define his limits as an actor as

  • film December 23, 2015

    Joy to the World

    DAVID O. RUSSELL’S JOY, a biopic of home-shopping television personality and Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), focuses on its subject’s early years of struggle, though toward the end we get a glimpse of Joy as the self-made tycoon of later days, installed in her office behind the imposing desk from which she runs her empire, which doubles as a buffer from the world.

    It’s a potent image, recalling the conclusion of Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (1956), in which Dorothy Malone, scion of Texas oil royalty, is left alone in her deceased father’s office, shouldering a new

  • film December 10, 2015

    Monuments of Passaic

    A TALE OF REHABBED JUNKIES shot on junky, rehabbed video equipment, Nathan Silver’s Stinking Heaven is a singularly bleak smash-up psychodrama. Silver’s fifth completed feature since 2009 comes in at a slender seventy minutes; he works at a brisk clip, and like the much larger filmography of South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo, Silver’s work thus far can be experienced as a series of evolving drafts, reworkings that give the feeling of working toward something rather than acting as a testament. In addition to Stinking Heaven, this year Silver premiered a four-minute squib of a short, Riot, a reediting

  • film December 03, 2015

    A Kind of Loving

    ANY OVERVIEW of the career of Antonio Pietrangeli has to ask what might have been, for the Italian director died prematurely, very much in his prime, and before he could cement his legacy. The last feature that he lived to see to completion, I Knew Her Well (1965), was his most popular and remains among his best-regarded, a bittersweet comedy-drama starring Stefania Sandrelli as a teenaged provincial proletariat freshly arrived in Rome, oblivious as showbiz vampires feed off of her youth and beauty, tossing her a few nugatory, ultimately unsustaining rewards in return.

    Unlike, say, Jean Eustache,

  • film November 20, 2015

    Fury Road

    A RETELLING OF THE EVENTS of the January, 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War, in which a ragtag force of some hundred able-bodied British Army regulars successfully defended a remote supply depot from a vastly superior force of Zulu warriors, the 1964 film Zulu means a great many things to a great many people. It provided the great Welsh screen star Stanley Baker with a signature role as Lieutenant John Chard, and definitively broke through his thirty-year-old cockney costar, Michael Caine. It inspired a young Afrika Bambaataa in the Bronx River Projects to create his Zulu Nation

  • film November 09, 2015

    Under the Skin

    WITH REFERENCES, direct or implicit, to famous native sons Adolf Hitler, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and Sigmund Freud, Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement may be the most Austrian movie ever made. The filmmaker’s latest formalist documentary even features an appearance by Fritz Lang—not the Vienna-born director of the Dr. Mabuse series, but a forlorn-looking small-arms enthusiast with a fondness for bulky sweaters, whose subterranean firing range also affords him acoustics to exercise his sweet tenor and bemoan the opera career he never had.

    In interviews, Seidl has been mentioning an in-the-works

  • film November 05, 2015

    Pop Eye

    WHEN THE CINEMATIC whatsits of Seijun Suzuki were rediscovered by American cinephiles in the late 1990s, through both a touring retrospective and the Criterion Collection’s home video releases of his noir-inflected signature films Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967), the typical reaction was one of giddy bafflement. Even if we weren’t quite sure what these pop-addled movies were up to, we knew they weren’t sitting still.

    Now Suzuki is on the move again, with a 35-mm print-heavy retrospective beginning November 6 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, coming from the Freer and Sackler

  • film October 15, 2015

    Life Worth Living

    THE WORK of the French director Maurice Pialat belongs to that category of films for and by the walking wounded, films that touch on the insoluble outrages of existence—the fact of our impermanence and our embarrassing inability to face up to it, the mortifying discrepancy between what we say and what we do. These disheveled, glowering movies are unreconciled to the world, and in their cussed opposition there is a measure of consolation. Brusque and bracing, Pialat’s films aren’t so much clean “slices” of life as ragged, gouged-out fistfuls of the stuff.

    The Museum of the Moving Image’s Pialat

  • film September 09, 2015

    Swede Smell of Success

    IT’S BECOME SO CUSTOMARY for clickbait headlines to presumptuously refer to movies and filmmakers that the reader has “Probably Never Heard Of” that we tend to lose sight of what constitutes genuine rarity and undiscovered territory. To wit: I can’t say if you’ve heard of Hasse Ekman, subject of the retrospective “The Other Swede in the Room” which begins on September 9 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but I do know that not a one of the ten films playing are available on domestic home video—I’ve only been able to watch a handful of them—and if you haven’t seen any of Ekman’s deft,

  • film August 28, 2015

    Grace Period

    ÉRIC ROHMER’S last completed feature, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in fall of 2007, when its director was eighty-seven years old, slightly less than three years before his death. The basis of the film was L’Astrée, a seventeenth-century pastoral novel by Honoré d’Urfé that concerns a protracted misunderstanding between Céladon, a shepherd of high birth, and Astrée, the woman whom he loves in spite of a feud between their families. The couple are torn asunder by Astrée’s jealous suspicions, and Céladon, played in Rohmer’s film by Andy Gillet, finds

  • film August 07, 2015

    Cutting Edge

    CHINESE MONEY, implicitly or explicitly, has become a major factor at the contemporary multiplex—hacked Sony e-mails revealed a round of anxious self-censoring before the Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels began shooting, while Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation arrived in cinemas with the stamp of the government-run Chinese Movie Channel among its many sponsors. It remains to be seen how recent economic tremors will impact investment in movies, but for now investors seem eager to throw yuan into film projects—so long, that is, as they aren’t Chinese independent cinema.

    In contrast to the emergence of

  • film July 24, 2015

    Golden Days

    PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL. This lesson unites film noir from the United States and its south-of-the–Rio Grande equivalent, the Mexican ciné negro—though the degree of pride, and the manner of its expression, vary in ways that say something about masculine self-image. The protagonist of US noir is often something of a schlump patsy, dumber by half than he thinks he is, obliviously backing into a way-over-his-head situation. The ciné negro protagonist acts like a matador when in fact he is the bull; he’s every bit as oblivious, yes, but twice as arrogant as he strides toward oblivion.

    In Roberto

  • film July 02, 2015

    Ford Motors

    A DILEMMA IS AT THE HEART of John Ford’s cinema: You are going on a long journey. You must decide what to take with you and what you will leave behind; if you will travel alone, or in company. Sometimes this journey crosses physical space—the plains and deserts and mountains of the American West, say—though even standing in a single spot, one passes through time, the length of a life and the lives of generations.

    In Ford’s film of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) there is an extraordinarily moving scene in which, as the Joad family load up their jerry-rigged moving truck for the long, hard

  • film June 01, 2015

    Life in Movement

    THE PROGRAM of Movies of Local People that will play at the Museum of Modern Art in early June is one of several newsreels produced by the traveling filmmaker and entrepreneur H. Lee Waters. Waters photographed communities in the southeast United States (mostly North Carolina) and then sold them back a chance to see themselves on the silver screen, posing and goofing for the camera or otherwise just going about their business, in a limited engagement at a local venue. This particular edition happens to have been made among the black community of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for screening at the