Nick Pinkerton

  • Hiroshi Shimizu, A Woman Crying in Spring, 1933, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 96 minutes. Den Obinata and
Sachiko Murase.
    film May 09, 2015

    Listen Up

    JAPAN CAME LATE to sound movies—it was, in the course of the twentieth century, one of the only times that the Japanese came late to anything that had to do with technology. While synchronized dialogue conquered the various Western cinemas with blitzkrieg speed after 1927, the conversion of the Japanese lingered on for well over a decade afterwards.

    This “delay” didn’t come because the Japanese were waiting on the equipment to arrive. The first Japanese sound-on-film production made in Japan is often identified as a long-disappeared 1926 production called Remai (Dawn) by theater director Osanai

  • Jeff Tremaine, Jackass 3D, 2010, HD video, color, sound, 95 minutes. Johnny Knoxville.
    film April 30, 2015

    Three’s Company

    THE ACADEMIC Tom Gunning coined the phrase “the cinema of attractions” to refer to a strain of filmmaking that popped up in the first decade of the invention’s life, which would later serve as an inspiration for the avant-garde. These are films belonging to what is sometimes called “the Méliès tradition,” named for the magician-turned-filmmaker Georges Méliès, an “exhibitionist cinema” of “trick films,” in which narrative is of secondary importance to the realization of fabulous and impossible illusions. In Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011), Méliès, played by Ben Kingsley, is a forgotten man, running

  • Alain Cavalier, Le Paradis, 2014, color, sound, 70 minutes.
    film April 13, 2015

    Paradis Gained

    ALAIN CAVALIER’S LE PARADIS, making its US premiere Tuesday, April 14 at the second edition of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real festival, begins with an almost unbearably moving overture. The first images are of a brown, fleecy peacock chick, sticking close to the shadow of its mother. After a cut, the little bird is seen inside a cardboard box, swaddled in what appears to be bandages. Finally, it lies lifeless at the base of a spindly tree—“In the fresh blue watercress,” intones the director, an invisible presence throughout by way of voice-over and his first-person singular

  • Walerian Borowczyk, A Private Collection, 1973, 35 mm, color, sound, 12 minutes.
    film April 02, 2015

    Object Lessons

    THE FILMS OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK, now receiving a weeklong retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, are among the purest instances of fetishist cinema that I know. Although “Boro”’s movies certainly abound with erotic fixations and substitute phalluses—the altar candlesticks and zucchinis in the “Thérése Philosophe” episode of Immoral Tales (1973), the bedpost in The Beast (1975), the catalogue of verboten vintage erotic paraphernalia in A Private Collection (1973)—I use this phrase not with a solely sexual connotation, but with the broader meaning of fetish: the imbuing of inanimate

  • Bill Ross and Turner Ross, Western, 2015, color, sound, 93 minutes.
    film March 30, 2015

    True to a Point

    TRUE/FALSE, A FOUR-NIGHT, three-day documentary film festival which takes place annually in the central Missouri university town of Columbia, has since its humble beginnings in 2004 acquired a reputation for its curatorial excellence, as well as for the fervid, quasi-mystic loyalty that it inspires in regular attendees—journalists, filmmakers, and most anyone involved in the distribution and exhibition of docs. True/False is scheduled immediately before South by Southwest, where many films and filmmakers decamped to immediately after the party in Columbia ended, and with praise for True/False

  • Kunio Watanabe, Song of the White Orchid, 1939, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 102 minutes. Kazuo Hasegawa and Shirley Yamaguchi.
    film March 20, 2015

    Pretty Hurts

    IN THE LIFE OF SHIRLEY YAMAGUCHI, who died in the fall of last year at age ninety-four, the entire twentieth-century history of the Pacific Rim is reflected.

    An actress, songbird, and legislator who lived and worked in Manchuria, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, Yamaguchi is one of the subjects of a Japan Society film series timed to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. “The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi & Setsuko Hara” is somewhat deceptively named—the nine-feature program focuses on female stars, and so none of the movies are dispatches from

  • Emilio Fernández, La perla, 1947, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 85 minutes.
    film March 06, 2015

    Sky’s the Limit

    THE ROLE OF CINEMATOGRAPHER has its perks, not unlike those of any of the ancillary creative roles in filmmaking. Once you’ve shown that you know your business, you generally won’t lack for work until you’re ready to retire, and you’ll likely have a longer and busier career than a director starting out at the same time, for directors are more celebrated and, at the same time, more liable. The downside, if you consider it one, is that you’ll rarely be taken as seriously as an artist. Writing about the Spanish-Cuban director of photography Nestor Almendros, David Thomson delivered an ultimatum

  • Woody Allen, Manhattan, 1979, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 96 minutes. Mary and Isaac (Diane Keaton and Woody Allen).
    film February 28, 2015

    Angles in America

    BLACK-AND-WHITE CINEMASCOPE is alluring precisely because it doesn’t add up: It’s penthouse and pavement, tuxedo and work boots. ’Scope, at least when it first appeared in 1953, had a lavish connotation; black-and-white was stark, austere, increasingly associated with film’s musty history rather than its bright, varicolored future. The introduction and promotion of the CinemaScope process, which involved the use of anamorphic lenses to shoot and project movies in a new widescreen format that was nearly twice as broad as the Academy ratio that had up until then been the standard, was in part a

  • John Carpenter, Big Trouble in Little China, 1986, 35 mm, color, sound, 99 minutes. Gracie Law and Jack Burton (Kim Cattrall and Kurt Russell).
    film February 07, 2015

    Lost and Sound

    IN TRYING TO PINPOINT what made John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween a cultural flashpoint, you’ll hit a wall if you’re just looking at the subject matter. Knife-wielding psychos were not unknown to cinema since well before, say, Hitchcock’s Psycho—to which the film owes a certain debt. What Halloween has (and Carpenter’s 1976 Assault on Precinct 13, too) is a very particular combination of flourish and minimalism—that is to say, it’s a matter of style.

    The flourish is in the insidious stalking Steadicam, the fact that, as perspicacious Village Voice critic Tom Allen observed, the film “owes more to

  • Kathleen Collins, Losing Ground, 1982, 35 mm, color, sound, 86 minutes.
    film February 06, 2015

    History Lessons

    “B.C. PICTURES and five other major studios announced mainly through the columns that they were not planning to produce any more Black Pictures. There are a few in production, they will be finished. ‘It was discovered that as many ‘Blacks’ went to see Jaws as went to see Sounder?’ […] The industry will of course continue its effort to integrate what has unfortunately been referred to as the white film until an acceptable racial balance has been achieved to the satisfaction of the community at large. ‘In other words, we’re out of work,’ I said.”

    This comes from Rhinestone Sharecropping, a 1981

  • Aleksei German, Hard to Be a God, 2013, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 170 minutes.
    film January 30, 2015

    God Parts

    FIRST LOOKING DOWN into the still water of a pond dusted with lightly falling snow—the photography is pure black-and-white, which is to say there’s nothing but black and white—the frame rears up to look out across a disorderly, frost-crusted landscape with a distinctly medieval aspect, dotted with a few ragged muzhiks. “This is not Earth, it’s another planet,” asserts a narrator, grumbling in Russian, though this claim is up against the evidence of our eyes.

    This is the disorienting opening of Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God, an epic at once claustrophobically immediate and otherworldly. The

  • Bleeding Palm, Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse, 2012, animation, color, sound, 11 minutes.
    film January 24, 2015

    Borscht Belt

    AMONG GROUPS OF BACKYARD, amateur filmmakers, it is common practice to create your own “studio,” an entity in name alone that serves as a password, an ego-bolstering sense of identity, a communally bonding inside joke. When I was making movies with friends in Cincinnati we used the name Technetium Enterprises. I have a friend who started his own BS company, Creatively Bankrupt, when he was at university. And around a decade ago, some kids in Miami, many of them graduates or current students at the New World School of the Arts, a magnet high school downtown, formed Borscht Corp.

    I was thinking