COLUMNS

  • The Iceman Cometh

    Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland takes a leap of faith

    GODLAND HAS TWO TITLE CARDS: one in Icelandic, the other in Danish. Hlynur Pálmason’s new film exists in the tension between these two languages, which are really two worlds: one wild and unforgiving, the other cramped, rationalistic, “modern.” The film follows Lucas (Elliot Crosset Hove), a Lutheran priest dispatched from Copenhagen to build a church in a remote settlement on the Icelandic coast. It is the nineteenth century, and Iceland is still ruled from abroad, and everything about Lucas sets him at odds with the land to which he has been sent. The priest does not speak Icelandic, and cannot

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  • Ecce PoMo

    The depthless hyperreality of Noah Baumbach’s White Noise

    EARLY IN NOAH BAUMBACH'S ADAPTATION of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), a college professor with ambitions to build a career in the academic study of Elvis Presley, asks his colleague Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) to attend his next lecture on the King. In the sixteen years since Jack founded the college’s Hitler Studies department, he has become one of the world’s preeminent scholars of the Führer, and Murray hopes his presence might lend some much-needed prestige to the Elvis project. Jack drops by the lecture, and the two professors have a good-natured verbal duel on the

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  • Entre Nous

    In search of Annie Ernaux

    IN THE WINTER OF 1972, around the time Manhattan gallerygoers were immersing themselves in Memory—a sprawling installation comprising over a thousand tiled photographs and several hours of tape-recorded text amassed by the American poet Bernadette Mayer—the French writer of memory Annie Ernaux and her then-husband, Philippe, bought a Bell and Howell Super 8 camera. Mayer, who died this year and who in life seemed ahead of the future, once imagined “a computer or device that could record everything you think or see, even for a single day”—a thought Ernaux would echo across space and time: “Someday,

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  • Horse Power

    Travis Jeppesen on the 59th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival

    ALTHOUGH THE GOLDEN HORSE traditionally serves as the most coveted launching pad for Chinese-language filmmaking, this year, because of political tensions that have boiled over into official policy, there was a noticeable absence of films from mainland China. Given the brain drain currently afflicting the major cultural capitals of the mainland and Hong Kong, traditionally the intellectual beating heart of the region, it seems obvious that Taiwan, with its rich and dynamic cultural landscape—including an outsized filmmaking tradition that can comfortably stand its ground alongside South Korea

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  • Empire State of Mind

    Sam Mendes’s humdrum ode to movie magic

    IF SAM MENDES’S VISION for Empire of Light was to pay tribute to the faded glory of moviegoing for the era of Covid and streaming behemoths, he could have stopped at the three-minute opening-credits sequence and released it as a standalone piece. Here, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s plaintive piano score plays as Roger Deakins’s camera observes the detritus of a multiplex in the morning: a turned-off popcorn machine, an unoccupied ticket booth, a dusty room stocked with projection equipment. Hilary Small (Olivia Colman), the duty manager at the Empire Cinema, on England’s South Coast, enters

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  • What It Takes

    Christopher Glazek on All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

    IT JUST TAKES ONE: a single dose that forever halts your breath; a killer product that hatches a monstrous fortune; a dead-set activist who barricades herself across history’s turnpike, lying flat, blocking traffic, screaming, “STOP.”

    In our timeline, there is only one Nan Goldin. A singular woman, she is largely responsible for the moral earthquake that in recent years has shaken the foundations of art and philanthropy. For decades, the art world operated as a high-end laundry service: In exchange for cash, museums and galleries would gently scrub the reputations of wealthy families such as the

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  • Hit the Road, Jack

    Jerzy Skolimowski discusses his donkey odyssey

    THE WORLD HAS SELDOM if ever seemed at once as ravishingly beautiful and beset with menace and cruelty as in EO, where it is imagined by Jerzy Skolimowski through the eyes—no, the entire perceptual system—of a donkey. EO (named for the hee-haw sound these animals make) performs in a circus with Kasandra, a young woman who dotes on him like Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a love that is nurturing and tinged with eroticism. When Kasandra abandons him, riding off on the back of a motorcycle with the man who abused him, EO trots after her, but in dodging an oncoming car, he loses her

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  • Hungry Heart

    Luca Guadagnino’s tender cannibal romance

    IF ’80S CINEMA experienced a “cannibal boom” by way of Italian exploitation flicks, the ’00s/’10s zeitgeist’s deviant gourmand was the libidinous vampire. At a time when many complained sex was disappearing from film, a glut of horny American mainstream cultural phenomena (most notably True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and The Originals) took cues from Anne Rice and transferred desire onto the undead. The vile parasites, once mythical scapegoats for pestilence in pockets of Eastern Europe, were rebranded as soulful fuck machines and brooding suburban classmates, dousing normie sexuality

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  • High and Dry

    An absurdist homage to Battleship Potemkin

    A ROMANIAN FILMMAKER who regularly deflates Romanian myths of national greatness, Radu Jude recently graced the New York Film Festival with a compact, farcical essay on the material basis of historical memory, or, to use Trotsky’s term, “the dustbin of history.”

    The Potemkinists takes the form of a conversation between a would-be public artist and a prospective state patron. Those familiar with Jude’s tricksy, appalling account of a staged historical pageant, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018), will recall considerable screen time devoted to a similar debate. Indeed,

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  • THE DEEP END

    Amy Taubin on Nanny and Saint Omer

    TWO OF THIS YEAR’S most compelling and finely wrought films plumb the depths of the mother-child dyad and the anguish of separation from family, culture, and self. Alice Diop’s Saint Omer and Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny focus on ambitious, intelligent women of Senegalese descent who live, respectively, in France and the United States. Nanny is a cross-cultural psychological thriller spiked with horror. Saint Omer is a courtroom drama adapted in part from the transcripts of a trial of a woman who left her infant daughter on a beach at the water’s edge so that “the sea would carry her body away.” Yes,

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  • Oh! The Horror

    Charlie Fox’s top ten scary movies

    In the spirit of the Halloween season, we invited Charlie Fox—writer and devotee of all things spooky—to recommend his top ten favorite scary movies. His list, dare we say it, is positively bewitching.

    THE INNOCENTS (1961) Jack Clayton (Prime Video)

    An extremely sinister adaptation of The Turn of the Screw (and inspiration for Kate Bush’s eldritch serenade “The Infant Kiss”) in which psychosexual anxieties galore flow from repressed governess Deborah Kerr onto her eerie little charges Miles and Flora amid the shadows and cobwebs of a haunted gothic estate. Inaugurated with the archetypal

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  • Peaks and Valleys

    A second look at the 60th New York Film Festival

    ON THE CLOSING NIGHT of the sixtieth New York Film Festival, Elegance Bratton, whose first narrative feature, The Inspection, was receiving its US premiere in this prestigious slot, tried to express how thrilled he was to be thus honored. Bratton is a charmer, and his stage presence is such that I wouldn’t be surprised if he had plans to adapt The Inspectioninto a Broadway musical. (I think he should.) But on this occasion, he conveyed his excitement at standing on the very stage and speaking into the same microphone as Martin Scorsese had on a previous evening by looking out at some seven

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