COLUMNS

  • Blonde on Blonde

    Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe nightmare

    TO SAY THAT ANDREW DOMINIK’S BLONDE is a biopic of Marilyn Monroe is not strictly accurate. It would be more precise to say that it is a nightmarish, elliptical horror movie about a beautiful blonde being subsumed, and then destroyed, by an unfeeling industry, and that the blonde’s name happens to be Norma Jean, though people sometimes call her “Marilyn Monroe,” or “slut,” or “sweetheart.” Based on Joyce Carole Oates’s frantic, fragmented, exhilaratingly ugly 2000 novel of the same name, it has passages of true, invigorating brilliance, and about as many moments of baffling mawkishness. Its

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  • Town and Country

    The American auguries of Riotsville, USA

    IT LOOKS LIKE AN IDEAL SMALL TOWN with an ideal Main Street. Hand-painted signs outside the Cut-Rate Supermarket advertise specials on white potatoes, canned hams, and cottage cheese, and a US Army recruitment office banner flies outside City Hall. The camera pans across a row of storefronts—The Fashion Shop, United Tobacco Shop, Corner Drugs—and you notice the flimsiness of the construction, the cardboard walls, the sheet-plastic windows. Your sense of scale becomes confused—are we in the colorful, miniature-model neighborhood of Mister Rogers?—until a lone motorcyclist rides across Main Street’s

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  • A Love Supreme

    Nicolas Rapold on the 79th Venice Film Festival

    BEFORE THE PANDEMIC crashed into our lives, the opioid epidemic was well underway, but both share a legacy of pain and suffering that has yet to be absorbed and properly addressed. So it felt somehow gratifying when the Venice Film Festival awarded the Golden Lion not to any of several fall-season “contenders,” but to All the Beauty and the Bloodshed—Laura Poitras’s sensitively wrought portrait of consummate survivor Nan Goldin. Taking us through Goldin’s numbing family history (her sister’s suicide, parents in furious denial, foster homes) and her many lives in New York in the late 1970s and

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  • Dangerous Liaisons

    Who’s afraid of Doris Wishman?

    HAVING RESURFACED late in life due to a revival of her sex films, an eighty-nine-year-old Doris Wishman, clad in leopard print and wedge sandals, appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2002. Conan is flummoxed by Wishman’s spiky retorts and willfully evasive manner. Affecting sheepishness when asked for the name of her latest (penultimate) film, she finally discloses the title: Dildo Heaven. Sensing discomfort, Wishman asks, “Conan, are you afraid of me?” The other guest, Roger Ebert, enters the fray to discuss Wishman’s work, announcing his familiarity with Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double

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  • Once More, with Feeling

    Nathan Fielder’s artificial hells

    IN EPISODE THREE of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal, an affable woman in glasses, sitting in a Raising Cane’s booth overlooking a vast and lonely soundstage, dips a chicken finger into a tub of sauce, lifts it millimeters from her mouth, smiles at an unseen someone across from her as she jovially bites the air three times, then places the intact poultry prop down. The distance between the zealous extra’s smacking lips and the chicken is negligible, and yet, metaphorically, it encapsulates the entire series’ edging relationship to the meticulous art of connection. 

    The Rehearsal’s stated attempts

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  • City Lights

    Amy Taubin on “New York, 1962–1964: Underground and Experimental Cinema”

    AN UTTERLY AMAZING and necessary series, “New York, 1962–1964: Underground and Experimental Cinema,” curated by Thomas Beard and Dan Sullivan at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, comprises twelve programs of movies—short ones, long ones, and ones in between—all made by filmmakers living and working in New York in those years, all of them programmed at the time by the late Jonas Mekas at the peripatetic Filmmakers Cinematheque, all of them at least mentioned by Mekas in his Village Voice “Movie Journal” column, and almost all of them at one time or another distributed by the Filmmakers Cooperative.

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  • Ashes of Time

    Chan Tze-woon’s past and future Hong Kong

    IN A DUSTY INTERROGATION ROOM in Hong Kong, a young activist is brought in for questioning. The year is 1967. He has been arrested for participating in pro-Communist riots against the British colonial regime. Across the table, his captor asks: “You grow up in our colony. You study in our schools. So then why are you fighting against us?” Minutes later, a voice yells “Cut,” revealing this to be a film set in 2020. The camera doesn’t cut though. Instead, it holds steady on the face of the young actor, an actual student protester in present-day Hong Kong, in an unbroken shot that elides any

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  • A Tribeca Tale

    Amy Taubin on the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival

    FOR TWO DECADES, the Tribeca Film Festival has preserved more than a trace of its improvisational origins. Conceived in 2002 as a response to flagging creative energy and property values in zip codes 10007 and 10013 in the aftermath of 9/11, the festival projected an image of New York as a filmmaking hub where moviegoers could mingle with and size up the products of directors and actors like festival founder Robert De Niro, whose offices were and still are in TriBeCa. It was kind of homey, even if you lived forty-five minutes away by subway. The lineups were eclectic—a smattering of big-star

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  • Unhappy Together

    Stanley Kwan’s Rouge and the end of history

    REAL THINGS ARE ALWAYS UGLY. Murmured by a character in Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (1987), these words double as a commentary on the director’s broader filmography, marked by restless expeditions across the gossamer boundary between fiction and reality. Content at times to dwell inside comforting, cathartic artifices, such as the thundering melodrama of Lan Yu (2001), at others Kwan turns a more skeptical eye on the conventions of genre, as in his snaking metafiction Center Stage (1991). This conflicted attitude toward the templates prescribed by commercial filmmaking was characteristic of the New

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  • Remain in Light

    Rediscovering Dore O.’s cinema of the self

    THE IMAGES MOST ASSOCIATED with the German filmmaker and artist Dore O. are of a woman, face-up like Millais’s Ophelia, drifting phantasmally over ocean waters, her body a gauzy projection superimposed onto a blue backdrop of restless movement. The woman is twentysomething Dore herself in her second film, Alaska (1968), a supple succession of beachy still shots and double exposures whose femininity and softness feel deceptive. Staccato editing rhythms and a menacing drone agitate these ethereal visions. And is the woman fading, or coming into view? The images now carry an awful prescience in

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  • Ink Trap

    Bylines and betrayal in Xavier Giannoli’s Lost Illusions

    DOES THE WORLD have any more need for the Young Man from the Provinces? That figure, as aptly defined by the critic Lionel Trilling, describes a plethora of characters who populated nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, from Stendhal’s Julien Sorel and Flaubert’s Frederic Moreau to Dickens’s Pip and Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. He (and it is almost always a “he”) “stands outside life and seeks to enter,” according to Trilling; possessed of talent and ambition but devoid of money or pedigree, he relies on his cunning and wit to ascend the social ladder. The fortunes of the Young Man from the

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  • Tristes Tropiques

    Jordan Cronk on the 75th Cannes Film Festival

    FOR ITS DIAMOND JUBILEE, the Cannes Film Festival marked the occasion the same way it does every year: by celebrating itself. Indeed, only at Cannes could an opening night video introduction by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, quoting at one point from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, double as a tribute to a medium—and, by extension, a festival—finally returning to relative normality after two years of pandemic-related setbacks. (“We are Cannes,” festival director Thierry Frémaux reportedly said when asked how he managed to arrange Zelenskyy’s cameo.) With none of the health

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