Tony Pipolo

  • Zachary Treitz, Men Go to Battle, 2015, color, sound, 98 minutes. Henry Mellon (Tim Morton).
    film July 05, 2016

    Universal Soldier

    NOTWITHSTANDING ITS SOMEWHAT GRANDIOSE and perhaps misleading title, Zachary Treitz’s Men Go to Battle is an earnestly conceived, modest achievement. The screenplay, cowritten by Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil, no doubt speaks for the lives of many lost and alienated young men in mid-nineteenth century rural America for whom enlistment in the Civil War may have seemed a temporary reprieve from their mundane lives. Not that the movie overtly declares such a message. On the contrary, it strives, almost too self-consciously at times, to avoid preaching, melodramatics, and explicit psychologizing, as

  • Avishai Sivan, Tikkun, 2015, black-and-white, sound, 120 minutes.
    film June 09, 2016

    After Life

    THE HEBREW PHRASE TIKKUN OLAM literally means repair of the world. Strict Orthodox Judaism considers the term a call for “wiping out all forms of idolatry,” whereas contemporary, pluralistic Rabbis take it as a “commandment for people to behave and act constructively and beneficially.” At first glance, Avishai Sivan’s riveting new film Tikkun might appear to embody a tremulous tension between the more severe biblical reading and the less Orthodox one, even as it transcends sermonizing and moves toward domestic tragedy.

    But Sivan, inspired by yet another interpretation of tikkun, complicates the

  • Gabriele Mainetti, They Call Me Jeeg, 2015, color, sound, 112 minutes.
    film May 31, 2016

    Pope Star

    GIVEN THE DOWNBEAT TONE of much of the Italian cinema represented in this year’s Open Roads series, it may not be mere coincidence that several entries pay tribute to the benevolent social reformism espoused by Francis, the current Pope. Gianfranco Pannone’s The Smallest Army in the World, the most earnest of the lot, is an engaging, if officially endorsed look into a world rarely glimpsed: the training of young men who comprise the Swiss Guard, protectors of the Pope and the Vatican for six hundred years. Produced by Vatican Television, the documentary follows the experiences of eleven men from

  • Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet

    Few filmmakers in cinema history adhered to so rigorous an aesthetic as husband-and-wife team Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. From 1963 until Huillet’s death in 2006, they turned literary, operatic, and political works into idiosyncratic filmic texts—in French, German, or Italian—prioritizing the distinct properties of image and sound over such conventions as professional acting and psychological realism. Attuned equally to the emanations of the natural world and the nuances of language, they fused leftist ideology with unorthodox form in a manner

  • Christian Braad Thomsen, Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 109 minutes. Lilo Pempeit and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
    film April 25, 2016

    Divide and Conquer

    IF EVER A FILMMAKER’S life and work are a cri de coeur for psychological scrutiny, it is Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s. Both the title and chapter headings of Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands indicate that Danish director Christian Braad Thomsen takes this plea seriously. At the heart of his revelatory documentary, which he also narrates, is an interview he conducted with Fassbinder in 1978 during the Cannes Film Festival where Fassbinder’s Despair was featured—an interview which Thomsen says he “dared not watch” for thirty years. Visibly depleted, Fassbinder sits, a drink in one hand and a

  • Randall Wright, Hockney, 2014, color, sound, 113 minutes. David Hockney.
    film April 21, 2016

    Shades of Cool

    THE FACE IS ICONIC: a Capote puckishness flaunting a Warhol cool, eyes alert with faux innocence, starkly framed by round, oversized, black-rimmed glasses, which, like the ones worn by silent clown Harold Lloyd, could easily pass for fake; everything topped by shocks of brilliant blonde—apparently dyed. This is David Hockney—painter, draughtsman, photographer, stage designer—in his brazen, flamboyant posture as naughty boy—one of Pop art’s quintessential stars.

    Occasionally, time can be kind, so while that era’s glitz and hipness has faded, Hockney’s art looms larger and clearer than ever. At

  • Ross Lipman, Notfilm, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 125 minutes. Alan Schneider, Buster Keaton, and Samuel Beckett.
    film April 02, 2016

    Not I

    IN 1964, the great playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett began his only venture into cinema. The twenty-two-minute Film, as it was eventually titled, was a collaborative effort of formidable talents. Directed by Alan Schneider, the premiere American interpreter of Beckett’s plays, it starred silent comedian Buster Keaton, was photographed by On the Waterfront (1954) cinematographer Boris Kaufman, and produced by Barney Rosset, legendary founder of Grove Press, the first US publisher of Beckett and such other figures of the European avant-garde as Genet and Ionesco. It premiered at the Venice

  • Alexander Sokurov, Francofonia, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 87 minutes.

    Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia

    ALEXANDER SOKUROV’S new movie, Francofonia, is both exhilarating and profoundly ruminative. Although it is ostensibly about the threat that hung over the Louvre under the Nazi occupation, its subtitle, An Elegy for Europe, suggests a broader compass. More ambitious than Moscow Elegy (1986–88), Sokurov’s ode to Andrei Tarkovsky, but more accessible than the sublime Elegy from Russia (1992), the movie is laced with the mordant wit of Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2000), Sokurov’s takes on Hitler and Lenin, respectively, and confirms his zest for formal invention. But unlike Russian Ark (2002), his

  • Douglas Sirk, La Habanera, 1937, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 98 minutes.
    film December 21, 2015

    A River Runs Through It

    FOR THOSE STILL IMMUNE to the glories of Douglas Sirk’s cinema, the twenty-five-film retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (most in 35 mm) is a rare opportunity to see what they’ve been missing. Included are four films from the 1930s that he made in Germany as Detlef Sierck, but also such rarities as Mystery Submarine (1950), The First Legion (1951, one of his loveliest, most underrated films), and Take Me to Town and Meet Me at the Fair (both 1953). Among cinephiles and film historians, Sirk’s reputation has soared since the 1960s, when the Dictionnaire du Cinéma declared him the

  • Lewis Klahr, Sixty Six, 2002–15, HD video, color, sound.
    film December 07, 2015

    Going Klahr

    BASED IN LOS ANGELES, where he teaches film in the theater department at CalArts, Lewis Klahr is one of America’s most prolific avant-garde filmmakers. Drawn to narrative as well as short, lyrical “odes” of purely visual and audio associations, his style might be described as a form of mobile tableaux rather than animation—a term he rejects. Devising a highly original mise-en-scène, Klahr’s images, taken from popular culture sources—e.g., magazines, comic books, catalogues, photos—are cut out and placed against backdrops, then manipulated in various ways, at times inserted and withdrawn, as if

  • Nicolas Pereda, Minotaur, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 53 minutes.
    film September 30, 2015

    New York Film Festival: Projections

    OF THE MORE THAN FIFTY WORKS in the “Projections” sidebar at the fifty-third New York Film Festival, nearly forty are in one digital format or another. At this point, of course, this is less surprising than the fact that eight films are in 16 mm and five in 35 mm. As always, there are familiar names as well as new ones; and as is to be expected, the works vary not only in focus and style but in merit as well. Against those digital pieces enamored of postmodern pretensions, there are plenty of artists for whom the digital is not a route to facile thinking but an opportunity for exciting new ways

  • Mélanie Laurent, Respire (Breathe), 2014, color, sound, 91 minutes. Sarah and Charlie (Lou de Laâge and Joséphine Japy).
    film September 08, 2015

    Teenage Daydream

    A BOLD, BRILLIANTLY ACTED study of adolescence, French director Mélanie Laurent’s second feature, Breathe, is riveting from beginning to end. Tracing a friendship from its initial euphoric harmony to sadistic betrayal and horrific tragedy, the film is not only a bracing antidote to mindless entertainments about teenage libidos but is virtually a clinical profile of a psychological stage defined by many professionals as a borderline condition. At no other threshold of the individual’s development is schizoid behavior almost the norm, or are so many aspects of the personality in upheaval. Crises