Film

  • Bad Boyfriends

    IF YOU'VE HEARD ANYTHING about Let the Sunshine In (2017), it is probably that Claire Denis’s new film is a romantic comedy, and inspired by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, a hyper-referential 1977 book that theorizes the language of love. So why reiterate this? Out of protest. Neither statement provides any real insight into this seductive and subtle film, but both figure as symptoms of the problem that a movie like this—which is to say, one about a mature woman’s sexuality, desire, and happiness—poses for a critical establishment that continues to have firm if misguided ideas

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  • Get Real

    LAUNCHED BY THE FRENCH FILMMAKER AND ANTHROPOLOGIST JEAN ROUCH with Jean-Michel Arnold in 1978 and hosted by the Centre Pompidou for the last four decades, “Cinéma du Réel” is an ideal vantage point from which to survey the landscape of contemporary documentary. Even amid the intensified skepticism about audiovisual media’s relationship to the real, and the proliferation of what’s defined as “documentary” now, this showcase for nonfiction film—broadly conceived—sustains the form’s disciplinary roots in ethnography and sociology even as it explores its outer limits in experimental film

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  • Hiding in Plain Sight

    “THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE,” says Ursula Reuter Christiansen in a new interview that’s included as part of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen revolving around her cult classic short film, Skarpretteren (The Executioner), 1971, along with related artworks, production, and archival material. She began studying under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1965 before leaving her native Germany for a farmhouse on a small Danish island with her husband, the composer Henning Christiansen, in 1970. “It was a shock,” she recalls,

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  • KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES

    TIME IS A METRIC for B-listers, the epigones, the basic. It is not for Grace Beverly Jones. “I’m often asked how old I am—the world likes to know a person’s age for some reason, as if that number explains everything. I don’t care at all. I like to keep the mystery,” the singer-actress-model-supernova declares in her 2015 auto-biography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. (The title repurposes the first line of “Art Groupie,” a track on her 1981 album, Nightclubbing.) For GBJ, age is nothing but a number—as in a numeral and an anesthetizing bit of irrelevant data. And time is but a hollow,

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  • OF TWO MINDS

    THE FIRST BUT PERHAPS NOT THE LAST Steven Soderbergh movie to get a theatrical release in 2018 is Unsane, which was shot on the iPhone 7 Plus with 4K capture and, of course, a kit of add-on lenses and stabilizers, with probably half the $1.2 million budget going to image-enhancing postproduction. As a result, the movie’s initial twenty minutes look exciting—like nothing you’ve quite seen before, certainly not like Sean Baker’s jittery, neon-hued, made-with-love-and-very-few-dollars iPhone 5s Tangerine (2015). By comparison, the nearly subliminal instability, slightly heightened color, and

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  • Between You and Me

    A WOMAN LISTENS TO A PLAINTIVE, MEANDERING KEYBOARD BALLAD performed by a musician, with whom she’s having an affair, for an audience of her alone. Tears run freely down her cheeks as the camera almost seems to move to caress her face and comfort her, the scene running the full four minutes of the song. An amped-up white longhair buttonholes an incredulous black restaurant manager and self-professed Reagan voter at a party and proceeds to harangue him for trying to join the oppressing class. At a civil and quiet memorial gathering, the angry and unreconciled daughter of the deceased lashes out

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  • It Felt Like a Kiss

    A BLONDE IN HOT PINK and a wrap as white as a wrap of pure cocaine steps out into a good-time party on what looks to be a balmy summer night, and sizzles. What she’s looking for is not sex, but a song.

    It’s fair, and obvious, to say she looks like sex; she also looks like Marilyn Monroe, this being Henry Hathaway’s Niagara (1953). Her character, Rose Loomis, is marked from the start as liberated, sexually adventurous, and thus imperiled. Rose is living in a cabin at Niagara Falls with George (Joseph Cotten), her husband, and is sleeping with a man named Patrick (Richard Allan). She and Patrick

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  • Pooch Rising

    LOYALTY IS A PARTICULARLY PRIZED QUALITY throughout Wes Anderson’s filmography—a man’s puppyish longing for his half-sister, who he has loved since she was a girl, in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), or the bonds of fealty that tie together boys’ adventure clubs such as the Khaki Scouts of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) or Steve Zissou’s Belafonte crew in The Life Aquatic (2004). Looking over the nine features that the director has made since 1996’s Bottle Rocket, a movie anchored by one man’s indefatigable devotion to a slightly cracked friend, it is difficult to recall a single instance of a contented

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  • The Goon Show

    OSTENSIBLY A WILD-EYED, CORROSIVE, CONVULSIVE SATIRE, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin (2017) comes off like George Orwell’s Animal Farm staged as a Comedy Central roast. Trading scabrous put-downs and obsequious equivocations about Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) and one another are a Who’s Who of grimly cackling reapers: Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin), and Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs). This crew of vile ideologues and heartless Communist party hacks jostles for position and power

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  • Accept No Substitutes

    EVEN IF YOU’VE SEEN WILLIAM KLEIN’S Muhammad Ali, the Greatest (1974) online or at a museum or festival, they are no substitutes for seeing it right now in a theater with an audience, just like you’ve seen Black Panther (2018). Take your kids, or any kids you know, to see a real-world hero. Muhammad Ali is one of the best films in “The Eyes of William Klein,” a retrospective at Quad Cinema of narrative and documentary features and shorts by the ninety-year-old photographer and filmmaker.

    In a documentary made for the BBC (not part of this series) to coincide with the filmmaker’s 2012 retrospective

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  • Young Folks

    SPUNKY YOUNG WOMEN FACING UNCERTAIN FUTURES leave their marks on this year’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center—two in the smashing directorial debuts by Léonor Serraille (Montparnasse Bienvenüe [2017]) and Léa Mysius (Ava [2017]), and a third in Bruno Dumont’s refreshingly offbeat Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc (2017). Ava is about a thirteen-year-old girl (Noée Abita) whose imminent blindness prompts her to seize what comes with reckless abandon before darkness sets in. At first a pouty Mouchette, she takes up with Juan (Juan Cano), a migrant

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  • It Gets Worse

    IN THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF ANYTHING RESEMBLING A COHERENT AESTHETIC POSITION for most of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, one turned to its “Forum” section for some vestige of curatorial integrity. Here, viewers could take in such promising marvels as the almost four-hour feature An Elephant Sitting Still (2018), the first and last film by Chinese novelist Hu Bo, who took his own life last year at the age of twenty-nine; Grass (2018), yet another feature by the endlessly prolific Hong Sangsoo, who also had a film in Rotterdam (and will likely show work at Cannes and Venice); and, in

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