Film

  • Sorry Not Sorry

    THE TIME TO DO THE RIGHT THING is now or never. The urgency coursing through Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You makes it a perfect movie for the blazing summer of resistance. When Riley’s debut feature played in Sundance in January, it seemed like African-American lysergic futurism. Six months later, even its most surreal moments are less prophetic than terrifyingly close to ordinary life in 2018—maybe with the exception of the human/horse gene-editing thing.

    What Riley brings to his first feature film is twenty-seven years of making music as the leader of the Oakland political hip-hop collective

    Read more
  • Creative Nonfiction

    ONCE THE BLAZING FURNACE OF THE NORTH OF ENGLAND, Sheffield’s steel mills had for the most part gone cold by the 1980s. It was around this moment of postindustrial bottoming out that the city was reinvented, via much public money, as a haven for the arts, one outgrowth of this being the founding of the nonfiction Sheffield Doc/Fest in 1994. Through the course of the quarter-century since, the reputation of Doc/Fest—the largest festival of its kind in England and one of the largest in the world—has waxed and waned, as festival reputations tend to do, though this year was held up for particular

    Read more
  • Women About Town

    WHENEVER I WATCH Allan Moyle’s teen girl coming-of-age screwball comedy Times Square (1980), I remember the real-life story of Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick and the radically queer underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin meeting in the psychiatric hospital to which, in the early 1960s, their respective families (Sedgwick’s was Boston Brahmins, Rubin’s middle-class Queens Jews) committed them for drug use. One of Warhol’s most memorable screen presences, Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971. In 1963, at age seventeen, Rubin made Christmas on Earth—the all-time most subversive American avant-garde

    Read more
  • Girl Power

    A TERRIFIC PREVIEW of the summer’s hot independent movies and a place to make discoveries, this year’s BAMcinemaFest is one of the best in the series’s ten-year history. The films show only once, with the directors doing a Q&A after each screening. The sold-out opening night has Boots Riley presenting his debut feature, the dark, delirious Sorry to Bother You, which at Sundance seemed like Black Futurism but six months later is more like a prophecy fulfilled—maybe not today, but probably tomorrow. The visuals are as eyeball-rattling as a comic strip; the soundtrack by Tune-Yards and Riley’s

    Read more
  • The Royal Treatment

    WE TAKE IT FOR GRANTED—or should, at least—that access to the motion picture apparatus at the highest levels of authority indicates a certain advantage of birthright. If feature fiction filmmakers’ publicity doesn’t make a point of mentioning that they didn’t grow up more than comfortable, it’s a pretty safe bet that they did. Hollywood nepotism and garden-variety privilege march through top-ranked film schools every year, and then there’s the case of Count don Luchino Visconti Count di Modrone. There aren’t many defectors from the ruling class coming from this high in the ranks; as such, their

    Read more
  • FRENCH, OPEN

    THOSE WHO SAW last year’s BPM (Beats per Minute), Robin Campillo’s pulsating drama about the Paris branch of ACT UP in the early 1990s, will never forget Adèle Haenel. She plays Sophie, the headstrong dyke member of the activist group. Fury burns in her gleaming green eyes. Her whistle at the ready, Sophie—tall, toned, physically solid—leads her comrades as they storm the headquarters of a drug company and shout, “Melton Pharm, assassin!” At one of the coalition’s weekly meetings, fake blood still staining her T-shirt, she vents her frustration with the improvised tactics of some of

    Read more
  • Heart and Soul

    IN ADDITION TO HOSTING the American premiere of what may be the best new film of 2018 from anywhere, this year’s Open Roads at the Film Society of Lincoln Center pays tribute to four key figures of the past. Roberto de Paolis’s film Pure Hearts (about which, more below) is, at the very least, a sign of hope that the Italian cinema that gave rise to the beloved the Taviani brothers (Paolo and the recently deceased Vittorio), maverick director Marco Ferreri, and the elegant but largely underappreciated actress Valentina Cortese—not to mention the formidable masters who preceded them—still lives.

    Read more
  • Off Topic

    OF ALL THE PRESSURES weighing on a major film festival, the most urgent—and in some ways the most absurd—is the one to be topical. How does a behemoth like Cannes meet the moment, and what would that even mean? As the most powerful film showcase and marketplace in the world, Cannes doubles as an annual referendum on the state of the art and the industry, and two framing narratives dominated this year’s pre-festival coverage. The first stemmed from the festival’s ongoing battle with Netflix, with Cannes positioned as the stubborn old guard defending the sanctity of the cinematic experience against

    Read more
  • All Work and No Play

    IF THERE IS A SINGLE, OVERRIDING THEME in Tony Zierra’s Filmworker (2017), it is that the life of Leon Vitali, the subject of this documentary, has been more or less divided between the twenty-odd years before he met Stanley Kubrick and the nearly fifty years since. Every talking head in the film, including Vitali’s, testifies to this fact, so much so that it makes us question the reality of every aspect of the man’s life that is not related to Kubrick. Late in the doc, for example, we hear Vitali’s children voicing not very happy memories about their father’s psychological (when not physical)

    Read more
  • Driver’s Seat

    PERHAPS A LAST LOOK at downtown New York’s inspired and inspiring, anarchic, penniless 1970s art scene, before attention shifted to the capitalist, power-shouldered 1980s, Sara Driver’s Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017) is an archival treasure trove. It is also an illuminating if narrowly cast portrait of the formative period in the twenty-seven-year life of an artist who absorbed and synthesized a visionary moment uptown and downtown to produce some of the most complicated and thrilling paintings of the second half of the twentieth century. Driver begins her

    Read more
  • Code Red

    “YES, SHE POISONED A WHOLE TOWN, BUT . . . ,” a friend texts me after watching the recently released Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country (2018), and it is a popular response to Ma Anand Sheela, the true heroine of the show. The six-episode film presents an extraordinary amount of footage from the four years of Rajneeshpuram, a sixty-three-thousand-acre ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, established in 1981. The five thousand people who lived at Rajneeshpuram wanted to be with their Bhagwan (the Hindi word for “God”), Rajneesh, who is better known by the name Osho. The Rajneeshees flipped

    Read more
  • A THIN LINE

    ONE OF THE PRESENTING symptoms of my Shelley Duvall fandom is amateur numerology. The actress, among the most totemic and inimitable performers of the New American Cinema, was born on the seventh day of the seventh month of 1949. She made seven films with Robert Altman, the director with whom she remains the most closely affiliated. The greatest of their collaborations, 3 Women, was released in 1977.

    I focus on the dominance of seven in Duvall’s life and profession only to confirm what I already believe about occult signifiers: They mean nothing. Despite the lucky number, a hazy sense of

    Read more