COLUMNS

  • Not My Man

    NICK BROOMFIELD SAYS that his latest documentary, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, is his most personal. I don’t agree, but then again, the “personal” is always complicated. In 1968, twenty-year-old Broomfield visited Hydra, the sun-bleached Greek island bohemia where real estate was cheap, dope plentiful, and open relationships were cultivated. There, Broomfield took his first acid trip with LSD supplied by Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman about a decade his senior who’d acquired it from a London friend of her lover Leonard Cohen. Ihlen, Cohen, and Axel—Ihlen’s son from a defunct marriage—had

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  • Class Canceled

    WHAT IF YOU COLLECTED SOME SEXY RICH KIDS and abolished not just their trust funds but money itself? The Society, Netflix’s ten-episode YA drama, spins off this premise. Set in a Greenwich, Connecticut, mock-up called West Ham, The Society begins with a smell. The town reeks. It’s TV, so the smell is maybe symbolic, the sins of derivatives-trading, pipeline-investing parents karmically rerouted to their own homes. No worries: The teens, bratty and smoldering, will be sent on a camping trip until the aroma is gone. But after a rockslide forces the bus to turn around, they’re dropped back in West

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  • Now and Then

    IN 2011, the acclaimed visionary filmmaker Béla Tarr declared he was retiring from making movies, and so the recent announcement that he would premiere a new work at this year’s Wiener Festwochen, in Vienna, was met with surprise and, naturally, great anticipation. This new work demonstrates that Tarr has not exactly turned away from filmmaking so much as he has decided to leave feature films behind, having taken narrative cinema as far he could in terms of the form’s expressivity.

    Tarr has always sought to challenge and extend the conceptual and aesthetic elements of contemporary cinema in order

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  • Reason Being

    IN A NORTH INDIAN VILLAGE, a Muslim man is lynched to death after being accused of storing beef in his fridge. Consuming beef is not only prohibited in orthodox Hinduism but it is outlawed in many states of Hindu-dominated India. Framed sitting on a bed in his courtyard, the victim’s Hindu neighbor justifies this grisly murder. Off-camera, we hear the filmmaker point out that the government later ran forensic tests on the meat in the man’s fridge and confirmed that it was mutton, not beef. The neighbor is adamant: “How we can just believe that?”

    This is a scene from Vivek (Reason), the latest

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  • Pretty Pictures

    THE BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC’S film programming department remains one of the few institutions that has responded empathetically and responsibly to the heightening conversation around representation within the medium. Their year-round programs have consistently highlighted under-seen female directors, should-be-canon entries from black filmmakers, foreign delights, and more. The annual BAMcinemaFest, now in its eleventh year, is no different in range and spirit, showcasing festival favorites (fresh from Sundance and elsewhere) and ripe-for-discovery underdogs to a New York audience. All screenings

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  • Hope Against Hope

    LINCOLN CENTER’S ANNUAL “OPEN ROADS” SERIES, now in its nineteenth edition, is a precious opportunity for New Yorkers to see new Italian cinema. Over the years, my experience has been that, even when the quality varies, this national cinema rarely avoids pertinent subject matter and, in the case of narrative films, consistently provides stellar performances. One anxiety that emerges loud and clear this year is a lack of hope, and the dismal future that working-class Italian youth face. Given the conviction and heart of these films, it’s hard to conclude that the concern is the obsession of just

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  • WET DREAM

    SEXY. David Hockney luxuriates in the word, adding extra sibilance to the adjective, one he applies to a friend, the American model Joe MacDonald, who sits with him in a hotel room in Geneva in June 1973. Their flirty conversation occurs early on in Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash (1974), a partly scripted, partly improvised quasi documentary about the English painter, then at the height of his fame and recently broken up with Peter Schlesinger, the subject of some of Hockney’s best-known works. Fact embellished by fiction (and vice versa), A Bigger Splash, protean in structure, explores fluid

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  • Cannes of the Dead

    TYPICALLY A PRESSURE COOKER of divided interests and divergent opinions, the Cannes Film Festival concluded its seventy-second edition last Saturday on a rare note of unanimity: a Palme d’Or for the film that happened also to be the critical and popular favorite. The South Korean director Bong Joon-ho took the festival’s top prize for his virtuosic social satire Gisaengchung (Parasite), which was welcomed across the board as a return to form and perhaps even a career peak after a pair of conceptually elaborate if somewhat unwieldy international coproductions, Snowpiercer (2014) and Okja (2017).

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  • Well, Well, Weltschmerz

    WHEN IT COMES TO THE WILD WORLD of European genre cinema, a few national strains—UK horror, Italian everything—have tended to dominate repertory screen time and suck up critical oxygen. However, recent years have revealed something of the depth of the dark-horse Teutonic tradition, which has produced an abundance of films giving evidence of repressed rage and verboten desires howling for release behind the official, open-for-business facade of West Germany.

    The 2015 documentary Cinema Perverso: The Wonderful and Twisted World of Railroad Cinemas examines the checkered legacy of the cinemas opened

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  • PUBLISH OR PERISH

    THE ACADÉMIE FRANÇAISE, that venerable body of forty “immortal” academicians charged with policing the French language to prevent the infiltration of Anglo-Saxon words and Gallic neologisms, has been in the news lately because of its inability to fill four of its seats—prized positions that Balzac, Zola, and Verlaine once pursued and were denied. Olivier Assayas, whose own passionate concern with the preservation of French culture is evident again in his new film, Non-Fiction, would recognize the académie’s crisis as the ancien régime succumbing to the inexorable advance of modernity. Ironically,

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  • FANTASY FUTEBOL

    THE FIRST FEATURE-LENGTH WORK by the occasional collaborators Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, the delirious Diamantino (2018) centers on a disgraced, spectacularly dumb soccer superstar, his IQ not much higher than his body-fat percentage. The sports-celebrity-industrial complex is merely one target of this robust, rollicking satire, which exposes the idiocy engulfing the world—especially Europe—more nimbly and effectively than anything Michael Moore or the editorial board of The Guardian could ever concoct.

    Although Diamantino premiered a full year ago, winning the grand prize at the

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  • In the Palm of His Hand

    IF ONE IS PRESSED TO EXPLAIN the sensual and often masochistic beauties particular to postwar Mexican cinema, there are perhaps a half-dozen passages in Roberto Gavaldón’s La otra (The Other One, 1946) that could do the job in a trice. Tempting as it might be to go with the sequence of a footsore manicurist María (Dolores del Río) numbly negotiating the streets of a rain-plashed Mexico City while dreaming of a wealth beyond her reach, or the rooftop idyll between María and her cop boyfriend (José Baviera) that owes something to the yearning working-class romanticism of Frank Borzage, or the

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