Nick Pinkerton

  • film February 27, 2014

    Tales of the City

    “I NEVER KNEW the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm,” begins the narrator of The Third Man (1949). He’s referring to the most recent war—though cinema itself had missed Vienna in its sparkling heyday. The city has never been a European film capitol on the order of Paris, Rome, Berlin, Stockholm, or London. By the time movies had entered their early maturity, the days of Vienna as the center of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and crossroads of a cosmopolitan empire were already over, the Dual Empire having taken its Humpty-Dumpty fall and been permanently

  • film February 07, 2014

    Hell Hath No Fury

    “I NEED HIM like the axe needs the turkey.” This is Barbara Stanwyck’s spurned card sharp in Preston Sturges’s The Lady Eve (1941), speaking of a man she loves, and loves to hate. Such a bloodthirsty sentiment is typical of “Vengeance Is Hers,” BAMcinématek’s twenty-film program that highlights a particular aspect of female desire—the desire for revenge.

    Stanwyck’s target, a socially incompetent ophiologist (Henry Fonda) who has thrown her over, gets off relatively easy: She marries the dunce. We may chalk up this light sentence to the fact that The Lady Eve is a Valentine’s Day screening, for

  • film January 03, 2014

    Play It Again

    THE VIDEO ESSAY has become an increasingly popular critical approach in the past decade, but we’re still catching up with Los Angeles Plays Itself. Thom Andersen’s “city symphony in reverse”—an essay movie clocking in at just under three hours—first appeared in 2003, when the CalArts professor and filmmaker was sixty years old. Andersen had spent most of those years in Los Angeles, and his intimacy with the city, as well as his grudgingly proprietary relationship to it, is evident in his narration text, laconically read by filmmaker Encke King. King’s narration interprets and interrogates the

  • film December 23, 2013

    Lights, Cameras, Action

    A VISIT TO THE OPULENT, often garish International Film Festival of Marrakech (FIFM), which ran for nine days at the beginning of this December, invites one burning question: Are heaps of money all that it takes to create a real film festival?

    Now in its thirteenth year, FIFM was created by order of His Majesty the King Mohammed the Sixth, Commander of the Faithful, who has been on the throne for approximately fourteen years. (His son, Prince Moulay Rachid, is the festival’s president.) The Moroccan royal family have heaps of dirhams to throw around, and they’ve put some of their money into a

  • film December 12, 2013

    In Rare Form

    LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… What, exactly? This much we do know: Migrating Forms, the phoenix that rose from the ashes of the New York Underground Film Festival, is now in its fifth installment—and its first at BAMcinématek, having up until now called Anthology Film Archives home.

    Programmed by co-directors Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry, this year’s Migrating Forms slate combines a selection of new work by experimental media artists with choice retrospectives. In previous years the revivals have put a spotlight on such varied figures as Jean-Pierre Gorin, Georges

  • film November 10, 2013

    Comic Justice

    DIRECTOR GREGORY LA CAVA found an ideal outlet for his talents in the screwball comedy of the 1930s and helmed two of the period’s indisputable pinnacles, My Man Godfrey (1936) and Stage Door (1937), both of them startling feats of plate-spinning stagecraft and tragicomic prestidigitation. He was also instrumental in transferring W. C. Fields’s persona from vaudeville stage to screen—and before that had been one of the first figures in American cinema to make the leap from animation to live-action comedy.

    While the effect of this transition is the first thing mentioned in most existing writing

  • film October 11, 2013

    Maine Attraction

    LOCATED ROUGHLY HALFWAY between Portland and Bangor on the Maine coast, Camden is the very definition of a picturesque New England seaside town. The prim harbor is gaily dotted with spruce vessels, the last rays of setting sun lighting the declivity atop Mount Battie form a vision of beauty, and so forth. For these reasons and others, little Camden’s population swells over the summer—and since 2005, at the tail end of Vacationland season, it has been host to the Camden International Film Festival.

    In nine years, CIFF has found a place among the elite of documentary fests. It draws an audience

  • film September 30, 2013

    Stage and Screen

    WE BEGIN IN AN UNDERGROUND WARREN WITH EARTHEN WALLS. The camera, approximating the POV of a little boy whose father is about to lead a small army into battle, cranes to peer at various roughnecks preparing for the fray, sinister in guttering candlelight. The accents are Irish. The setting might be frontier America; it might be after the Apocalypse. As the party emerges aboveground, a crane shot reveals a vast, multistoried timbered structure, part beer hall, part tenement, whose overcrowded population sends up a riotous clangor. Arriving at the building’s main door, an ogreish member of the

  • film September 09, 2013

    Everything Is Illuminated

    IN THE BEGINNING there were movies, and for a moment, we’re told, they were enormous, consuming, everything. Throughout the twentieth century, though, those towering movies and the great, unified masscult audience that they served were brought down to size by a thousand little cuts, by television and cable and video games and home theaters. Then finally, mercifully, the digital revolution and the Internet, Netflix and VOD and illegal downloads, killed the movies stone dead, as they would everything.

    The Everything Is Festival completes the cycle: Having defeated the cinema, the Internet has become

  • film July 12, 2013

    Once Upon a Time

    THE OCCASION IS NO MYSTERY. Because of his forthcoming new film, The Canyons, Paul Schrader—subject of UCLA Film & Television Archive’s eighteen-film retro—is in the news again. No Schrader film in years has had such a press buildup, thanks to its Kickstarter campaign and Stephen Rodrick’s on-set tell-all for the New York Times and a string of teaser trailers pitching The Canyons as a here-and-now meditation on moving pictures after cinema, set in an era of ubiquitous point-and-shoot exhibitionism where, per a bit of voice-over, “nobody has a private life anymore.”

    Schrader had once briefly

  • film June 19, 2013

    Mobile Home

    BORN IN THE DYING YEARS of the Victorian era, scarcely a decade apart, the automobile and the movie camera are almost exact contemporaries. Ever since, their destinies have been interwoven, together creating an age of The Windshield and The Screen.

    At various times it’s been asserted that the essence of moving pictures is the chase, the car chase in particular being the vein with the richest history. Anthology Film Archives’s “Auto-Cinema” program is distinctly not interested in that sort of car movie, but rather in movies where filmmakers variously use the car as a dramatic staging ground. Even

  • film May 31, 2013

    Weird and Wonderful

    “THEY HAVE THAT SAYING ‘Keep Austin Weird’—and Austin’s great, but people move to Austin to be weird. It’s just something in the water here.”

    This was comedian “Bobcat” Goldthwait, introducing his fifth film, Willow Creek, playing on the largest of Baltimore’s Charles Theatre’s five screens to an audience that included the city’s patron saint of indigenous strangeness, John Waters. And during the five-night, four-day Maryland Film Festival, ample weirdness was in evidence, in afterparties and on the screen.

    Now in its fifteenth year, the MDFF has distinguished itself as a showcase for American

  • film March 29, 2013

    Columbia Pictures

    “IT’S ALMOST LIKE everyone you see on the street is in a contest to see who can be more positive, who can smile the biggest,” said a director, visiting from a grimmer part of the world, who was introducing his film at the True/False festival. His documentary considered failed utopianism, but I can say no more—this was one of six, color-coded “secret screenings,” premieres not making their official festival premiere, their anonymity guarded by a festivalwide pact of silence. These unique screenings are among True/False’s trademarks, along with the busker musicians who play before every film, and

  • film February 25, 2013

    Fast, Cheap, and Under Control

    THE MIDCENTURY JAPANESE avant-garde is an undeniable presence in New York City right now. The Museum of Modern Art’s “Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde” show, in conjunction with a film program on “Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960–1986,” wraps up this week, just as Anthology Film Archives prepares to screen “Rituals in the Avant-Garde: Film Experiments in 1960s–70s Japan.”

    With a program highlighting gems amid the trashy cinematic gewgaws of Shintoho Company, Japan Society’s “Into the Shintoho Mind Warp: Girls, Guns & Ghosts from the Second Golden Age of Japanese Film,”

  • film April 17, 2012

    Messy and Vital

    “THE ABSURD IS THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF ALL MANKIND,” says a man who identifies himself as SuperBarrio Gomez, declaiming to the slums of Mexico City while wearing the flamboyant uniform of a masked lucha libre wrestler, as though to illustrate his own point. SuperBarrio Gomez is one of hundreds of subjects in Austrian Michael Glawogger’s sensory overload Megacities (1998), a sui generis global-symphony film that displays its author’s intrepid, incurably curious camera and his dab-handed editing from the opening set piece sequence, which follows a train through Mumbai’s Govandi slums, breaking