COLUMNS

  • The New Weird

    “RUN ME OVER,” tremble the lips of a masochist to the woman who bullied him in high school. “Please . . . I want you to run me over with your car.” She doesn’t. Because only one thing sexually satisfies her these days: cooking mapo tofu.

    A wildly aspirational genderqueer version of As You Like It, with all roles played by women, in Mandarin and set in a futuristic Taipei where a burgeoning countercultural resistance to social media has resulted in internet-free zones ornamented with anime sprites, Chinese opera, calligraphy, and divinatory paraphernalia—a cinematic parallel to hyperpop.

    A successful

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  • Greener Pastures

    THROUGHOUT MINARI, seven-year-old David Yi is told not to run. He has a heart murmur, so his parents and older sister just want him to be safe. But how could he not run, surrounded by all the open space of rural Arkansas? His grandmother understands, and prefers caring for him in a different way, coaxing him toward neither recklessness nor idleness but instead toward an openness to risk, vulnerability, and failure. It is this different way that shapes the film.

    A coming-of-age story based on director Isaac Lee Chung’s own experience growing up Korean American with his immigrant parents during

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  • Continental Grift

    EL PLANETAbilled as “a comedy about eviction” and the first feature film by artist Amalia Ulman, is loosely based on the real-life Spanish mother-daughter petty-crime duo Justina and Ana Belén. Arrested in 2012, the penniless yet elegant pair posed as wealthy ladies and scammed countless restauranteurs and shop-owners—who’d trusted the apparently well-heeled women to eventually settle their bill­—out of thousands of euros. In El Planeta, lead actor Ulman (who also wrote the screenplay) plays fashion student Leonor who, in the aftermath of her father’s death, can no longer afford her London

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  • Passion Play

    LARISA SHEPITKO began work on The Ascent (1977) when she was recovering from a severe spinal injury and pregnant, seized by an afflatus of fear. “I was facing death for the first time,” the Ukrainian director told an interviewer in June 1979. “Like anyone in such a situation, I was looking for my own formula of immortality.” In doing so, she reached for one of the most immortal tales ever told, transposing the Passion of Jesus to the freezing hinterland of Nazi-occupied Belorussia. A Dostoevskian psychodrama of sacrifice and betrayal, The Ascent is her most visually accomplished film, her

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  • Capitol Records

    Tape recorders, ordinary cameras, and movie cameras are already extensively owned by wage-earners. The question is why these means of production do not turn up at factories, in schools, in the offices of the bureaucracy, in short, everywhere there is social conflict.

    —Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media” New Left Review (1970)

    HOW QUAINT that question seems today.

    The assault on the Capitol on the afternoon of January 6—the first hostile occupation of the building since Washington was sacked and set ablaze by British soldiers in 1814—is one of the most shocking attacks

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  • Caste Away

    “A BRAHMIN MUST BE A CULTURAL SUICIDE BOMBER,” writes Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters (2019). In other words, a brahmin must enter the upper-caste corridors of power to which only they have access, and detonate. Several indisputable facts underscore this statement: Wealth and influence in India are under the sole proprietorship of the upper castes. Maintained primarily through endogamy and nepotism, this hegemony continues to exploit and deplete the labor and emotional reserves of lower caste people. The responsibility of anti-caste work must fall on those that have access to the networks

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  • Blue Velvet

    IN 1929, two years after the setting of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and about seven months after Rainey, the “Mother of the Blues,” made her last recordings, another stylish Southern blues singer—the “Queen” of the genre—cut a song with her new husband. On “When the Levee Breaks,” Memphis Minnie looses her guitar on Kansas Joe McCoy, who starts to sing:

    If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s going to break

    If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s going to break

    And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

    Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, adapted for the screen from August Wilson’s eponymous play by director and dramatist

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  • Tourist Trap

    JAPAN AND UZBEKISTAN have a friends-with-benefits relationship, one that sees the world’s third-largest economy and its sogo shosha investing in and importing the formerly-Soviet Central Asian nation’s resources—some radioactive (uranium), some laxative (dried fruit)—and bolstering a miscellany of Uzbek projects, from industrial modernization to Covid-19 response to tourism. Such a transactional bond doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff from which movies are made. 

    Yet Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Tourism, its national cinema agency Uzbekkino, and a handful of Japanese production companies teamed up

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  • Chasing Kane

    IN 1925, Herman J. Mankiewicz, theater critic and reporter for the New York Times and for the New Yorker in its first year, and the author of quite a few mostly failed Broadway plays, all of which qualified him for a seat at the Algonquin Round Table, received an invitation from MGM studios to move to Hollywood and be well paid to write for the movies. Pictures had not yet learned to talk, but soon they would, and in the meantime, Mankiewicz’s talent for narrative structure and succinct intertitles was in demand. Movie production, which until the end of World War I had been the work of hundreds

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  • John Waters

    Film director John Waters is working on a novel titled Liarmouth. His last book Mr. Know-It-All (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), was just released in paperback.

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    BUTT BOY
    (Tyler Cornack)

    A jaw-dropping, deadpan, bowel-bonkers thriller about a heterosexual dad who after a routine visit to his proctologist becomes a serial killer and inhales his victims up his ass, I kid you not. First a dog, then a child, and finally the very cop who pursues him. The finale takes place inside Dad’s rectum. Ah, they don’t make ’em like they used to!

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    SWALLOW
    (Carlo Mirabella-Davis)

    What can I say? I love movies

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  • Amy Taubin

    Amy Taubin is a contributing editor of Artforum.

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    THE HANDY, AFFORDABLE-TO-EVERYONE, MOVING-IMAGE CAMERA

    Dziga Vertov’s idea that the motion-picture camera could speak truth to power and therefore was essential to democratic social and cultural aspiration found ample traction in the 1960s, when an army of filmmakers waged resistance with 16-mm and analog video newsreels. This tradition today manifests in the countless nonfiction works largely shot with small video and cellphone cameras, among them two of the great movies of the year, Garrett Bradley’s Time, which focuses on activist Fox Rich

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  • James Quandt

    James Quandt, Senior Programmer at TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto, is the editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Austrian Film Museum, 2009) and Robert Bresson (Revised) (Indiana University Press, 2012).

    Of the hundreds of films I have watched during the coronavirus lockdown, most were classics on the Criterion Channel or Kanopy, so my pandemic Top Ten is culled exclusively from the superbly curated 2020 New York Film Festival.

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    THE WOMAN WHO RAN (Hong Sang-soo)

    Hong’s brisk, bucolic social comedy comprises a series of seemingly equable conversations that are inevitably invaded by neighborly dispute,

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