Nick Pinkerton

  • 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

  • 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,