COLUMNS

  • A Tribeca Tale

    Amy Taubin on the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival

    FOR TWO DECADES, the Tribeca Film Festival has preserved more than a trace of its improvisational origins. Conceived in 2002 as a response to flagging creative energy and property values in zip codes 10007 and 10013 in the aftermath of 9/11, the festival projected an image of New York as a filmmaking hub where moviegoers could mingle with and size up the products of directors and actors like festival founder Robert De Niro, whose offices were and still are in TriBeCa. It was kind of homey, even if you lived forty-five minutes away by subway. The lineups were eclectic—a smattering of big-star

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  • Unhappy Together

    Stanley Kwan’s Rouge and the end of history

    REAL THINGS ARE ALWAYS UGLY. Murmured by a character in Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (1987), these words double as a commentary on the director’s broader filmography, marked by restless expeditions across the gossamer boundary between fiction and reality. Content at times to dwell inside comforting, cathartic artifices, such as the thundering melodrama of Lan Yu (2001), at others Kwan turns a more skeptical eye on the conventions of genre, as in his snaking metafiction Center Stage (1991). This conflicted attitude toward the templates prescribed by commercial filmmaking was characteristic of the New

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  • Remain in Light

    Rediscovering Dore O.’s cinema of the self

    THE IMAGES MOST ASSOCIATED with the German filmmaker and artist Dore O. are of a woman, face-up like Millais’s Ophelia, drifting phantasmally over ocean waters, her body a gauzy projection superimposed onto a blue backdrop of restless movement. The woman is twentysomething Dore herself in her second film, Alaska (1968), a supple succession of beachy still shots and double exposures whose femininity and softness feel deceptive. Staccato editing rhythms and a menacing drone agitate these ethereal visions. And is the woman fading, or coming into view? The images now carry an awful prescience in

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  • Ink Trap

    Bylines and betrayal in Xavier Giannoli’s Lost Illusions

    DOES THE WORLD have any more need for the Young Man from the Provinces? That figure, as aptly defined by the critic Lionel Trilling, describes a plethora of characters who populated nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, from Stendhal’s Julien Sorel and Flaubert’s Frederic Moreau to Dickens’s Pip and Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. He (and it is almost always a “he”) “stands outside life and seeks to enter,” according to Trilling; possessed of talent and ambition but devoid of money or pedigree, he relies on his cunning and wit to ascend the social ladder. The fortunes of the Young Man from the

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  • Tristes Tropiques

    Jordan Cronk on the 75th Cannes Film Festival

    FOR ITS DIAMOND JUBILEE, the Cannes Film Festival marked the occasion the same way it does every year: by celebrating itself. Indeed, only at Cannes could an opening night video introduction by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, quoting at one point from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, double as a tribute to a medium—and, by extension, a festival—finally returning to relative normality after two years of pandemic-related setbacks. (“We are Cannes,” festival director Thierry Frémaux reportedly said when asked how he managed to arrange Zelenskyy’s cameo.) With none of the health

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  • Under the Pink

    Angelyne’s prescient art of self-promotion

    NOW THAT THE TRUE IDENTITY of the eccentric Los Angeles personality Angelyne has been exposed, one crucial question still remains: Is she a celebrity, or is she a performance artist? Best known for appearing on a series of eye-popping billboards across LA, beginning in 1984 and peaking in the ’90s with two hundred simultaneous ads, she is a self-made, heavily augmented pin-up who became famous for being famous when Kim Kardashian was still in preschool. Barbie-like, almost comically pneumatic, she was never advertising anything on those billboards other than her own existence, making the whole

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  • Descent Proposal

    Anthony Hawley on Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il Buco

    LISTEN CAREFULLY inside the cavernous dark of the theater and you’ll hear the gossamer symphony accompanying the opening sequence of Michelangelo Frammartino’s newest feature, Il Buco: interstitial beads of water echoing softly as they fall into pools; the hushed stridulation of crickets; a crescendo of insects buzzing about as night yields to nautical dawn; and, eventually, a chorus of cowbells, followed by something like a distant cry. Only as the sun rises does it become apparent where the camera rests: nestled inside a hole in the ground, peering up at the sky, rocks, and weeds, and then at

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  • PLEASURES OF THE TEXT

    Erika Balsom on Ruth Beckermann’s MUTZENBACHER

    AT THE START of Ruth Beckermann’s MUTZENBACHER (2022), text appears over an image of the repurposed industrial space that will serve as the film’s sole setting. It announces a casting call: The director seeks men in Vienna between the ages of sixteen and ninety-nine to participate in a film about Josefine Mutzenbacher, no previous acting experience required.

    But who is Josefine Mutzenbacher? In the anglophone world, the name is not widely known. For many German speakers, however, it is loaded with cultural significance. Josefine Mutzenbacher, or The Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself

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  • Bread and Roses

    Revisiting The Wobblies amid a labor resurgence

    ARE WE TIRED of leftist infighting yet? The revolutionary fervor of two years ago is gradually dissipating into directionless, incessant debate over the correct path forward. Ours is not the first generation of radicals to be divided or silenced by liberal figureheads. A silver lining emerges, however, in the resurgent labor movement taking on Amazon and Starbucks, among other corporate and institutional giants. In recent years, a reawakening of worker militancy has rippled across the art world, resulting in widespread organizing efforts in the museum field.

    New York’s Museum of Modern Art—whose

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  • Norse Majeure

    Robert Eggers’s berserk bildungsroman

    DIRECTED BY ROBERT EGGERS and cowritten with Sjón, the Icelandic novelist and poet responsible for the Björk lyric “I’m a fountain of blood / in the shape of a girl,” The Northman is set within the stark corners of Viking life and expansion during the tenth century, evoking the era’s sundry pieties and incessant cruelty—a lucid vision of the eternal strangeness of us skin-encased fountains of blood looking to myth for aggrandizement and purpose. The film’s protagonist is a Norse pagan warrior who identifies as a “bear-wolf” and plucks a man’s throat out with his teeth. Despite being a force of

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  • Dark Tide

    Wu Tsang trains her sights on Moby Dick

    “THE WHITENESS OF THE WHALE,” the famous forty-second chapter of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, smuggles a mini-disquisition on whiteness into the elaborate racial narrative of the novel’s whole. Published in 1851, Melville’s book presents a picture of race just a few years before the US Civil War. The picture is thoroughly, tragically modern—such that, one hundred and seventy-odd years later, a fairly superficial treatment of its themes still lands with impossible weight. Which is to say that Wu Tsang’s new feature film, Moby Dick; or, The Whale, manages to maintain the novel’s nauseous sway

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  • RESIDENT EVIL

    James Quandt on Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s The Girl and the Spider

    “ALLES GEHT KAPUTT,” a plaint uttered late in The Girl and the Spider (2021), conjures the controlling theme of this precisionist study in entropy and dissolution. The word kaputt, with its connotations of utter exhaustion or failure, repeats five other times in the film, variously applied to a pair of glasses, a sound system, a pair of shoes, a door, and, most tellingly, a discarded down jacket, its yawning seams shedding a soft rain of feathers as a reminder that everything eventually falls apart. The opening image of an architectural plan for a four-room flat segues, assisted by a subtle

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