Stanya Kahn, Stand in the Stream, 2017, HD video, color, sound.


STAND IN THE STREAM, the title of Stanya Kahn’s recent hour-length video, has taken on an extra layer of associations in the final two weeks of its exhibition at MoMA PS1. So has the opening image of a policeman in a heavy-duty military-like jacket and helmet standing, his back to the camera, on a beach next to some kind of motorized, perhaps amphibious vehicle. I think I’ve seen something like it on TV, ferrying stranded Texas flood victims to safety. Or maybe not.

Kahn lifted the title from a bit of dialogue in Bertolt Brecht’s Man Equals Man (1926), an early play about the dehumanizing effect of capitalism. In Kahn’s video the phrase becomes an injunction to action—to enter the stream of life where the personal and the political meet to form a secondary stream, that of images. Modestly, Kahn barely attempts to distinguish her video from the chaos of pictures streaming around her. Instead she incorporates them, so that half of Stand in the Stream is composed of recorded live-streams of footage from activists and other on-the-ground sources—largely political protests and street fighting—alternating with desperate and grotesque chat-room attempts at connection. The other half is home-movie footage—of friends and family, a birth and a death. The material, gathered between 2011 and 2016, is not arranged chronologically, but the entire work is dominated by the decline of Sandra Kahn, the artist’s mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, just as Sandra’s mother had years before. Kahn touches on four generations—her grandmother, her mother, herself, and her son—but it is Sandra’s bravery and self-awareness, even when she has lost the words with which to communicate her experience, that makes Stand in the Stream a particular and memorable work.

My favorite of Kahn’s videos is Sandra (2009), a portrait that weaves together two conversations between mother and daughter. In one, Sandra talks about being involved with a man who could have gotten her into more trouble with the law than her own political radicalism might have. In the other, she matter-of-factly details exactly how she wants her body to be handled after her death. Toward the end of Stand in the Stream, we see Stanya and others carrying out the burial rituals exactly as Sandra described them. I wish that the care Kahn lavished on these images had been applied elsewhere in the work.

Amy Taubin

Stand in the Stream is at MoMA PS1 through September 10.

Pointe Break

08.23.17

Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj, Polina, 2016, HD video, color, sound 112 minutes.


THOUGH POLINA IS DESCRIBED AS A DANCE FILM, it is by no means typical of the genre. Like its titular protagonist, who rejects a career as a Bolshoi ballerina in search of something more vital to her life, the film does not follow the lead of its estimable predecessors. Unlike The Red Shoes (1948), it is not about a ballerina under the spell of a tyrannical impresario. Nor is it like the first episode of Vincente Minnelli’s The Story of Three Loves (1953), which echoes the same fatal attraction leading to the death of the heroine—played by the glorious Moira Shearer in both films. And though it may have something of the ambitious choreographer’s obsession of fusing dance with life that drives Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979), that film too is more grandiose than the modest Polina. As directed by Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj, Polina is ultimately an affecting yet unromantic love story in which Polina’s eventual triumph is really about integrating dance with her poor Russian background and her strong bonds with her father and her fatherly mentor, Bojinski.

The film takes a different path than the Bastien Vivès graphic novel on which it is based. We learn nothing of Polina’s home life in the graphic novel. Her mother appears as an abstract blur in the book’s first four gray frames, spouting advice as she drives her daughter to her first audition, about how she should behave, before signing off with an indifferent, “You’ll be great, Polina,” never (but once) to be heard from again. The film’s account of the father’s struggle to keep the family afloat while dealing with unsavory thugs trafficking in God knows what is nowhere hinted at in the novel, nor are Polina’s memories of hunting with her father, images that recur most movingly in the movie’s final scene.

The book is consumed with the contrasting dance worlds of Polina’s journey—from her rejection of the classical repertoire to her ventures around Europe, earning a living as a barmaid, and finally to her status as a celebrated choreographer. The film eschews this trajectory toward resounding success, deepening not only the flat graphics of the novel but its characterological dimension as well.

Thus, the bulk of the movie is dominated by Polina’s encounters with Bojinski and Parisian choreographer Liria Elsaj, while the final third traces how her seemingly directionless life unexpectedly leads to the blossoming of a newly discovered self. Cheered on by a group of experimental artists and their trainer, Polina improvises a fusion of ballet and natural movements that reveals her unique talent and creative bent.

Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj, Polina, 2016, HD video, color, sound 112 minutes.


At the end, her search, while still ongoing, is poetically captured in the film’s only extended performance—choreographed by codirector Preljocaj. Beginning as a lovely pas de deux invigorated by aspects of modern dance, it is intercut with the fantasized image of an approving Bojinski, and then segues from an audition space to a stage set that re-creates—as a projection of her imagination?—the wintry woods associated with her father and her childhood, replete with the reappearance of a powerful but vulnerable stag. The potent, open-ended nature of this final scene is perfectly in sync with the life of its protagonist.

The film’s actors are utterly at home in the world of dance. If at first Aleksei Guskov’s Bojinski evokes the stereotypical demonic perfectionist—à la Anton Walbrook’s Boris in The Red Shoes—it is soon clear that he is closer to the strict but caring father figure whom Polina comes to love. Juliette Binoche is unnervingly convincing as the French mentor Elsaj, for whom dance is everything, and all about loss—an especially apt message that the young Polina absorbs only later.

Anastasia Shevtsova’s understated performance deftly suggests Polina’s reserve and interiority, rendering her search for an artistic path as much about character exploration as it is about the language of dance. Her love affairs with the two appealing young male leads, Adrien and Karl (Niels Schneider and Jérémie Bélingard), are as seamlessly integrated as they are in her life, highlighting an aspect of dance movies too often strained.

Widescreen cinematography is so commonplace today that the work of DP Georges Lechaptois might easily go unnoticed: It gets right both the dark vastness of Moscow’s spaces and the cluttered density of a Belgian bar, while lending the final dance piece a physical and poetic aura essential to its artistic and psychological impact.

Tony Pipolo

Polina opens in select theaters in New York on August 25 and Los Angeles on September 1.

Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky (2017), color, sound, 119 minutes. Clyde Logan and Jimmy Logan (Adam Driver and Channing Tatum).


LOGAN LUCKY, Steven Soderbergh’s return to theatrically distributed feature filmmaking after an announced retirement, is very far from the grand statement one might expect after a long period of withdrawal and seclusion. In point of fact, Soderbergh has never really disappeared from the scene, and he’s never been so precious in conducting his career to succumb to the eventizing ballyhoo that obsesses a Tarantino or a Nolan, and so he has kept working at something or another at a brisk clip.

His “comeback,” if we want to call it that, is a piece of candy-colored cracker-barrel Americana. It has a heist at its center, which relates it to his quite successful trio of Oceans films, but its setting is Appalachia—Boone County, West Virginia, and western North Carolina, specifically—and, in its interest in the details of lives lived paycheck to paycheck in regions of the country little-depicted in popular cinema, it is closer to something like Bubble (2005), shot in the Ohio River towns of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and Belpre, Ohio, or Magic Mike (2012), with its early scenes of men at work laying Spanish tile in West Central Florida.

Logan Lucky shares the latter film’s star, Channing Tatum, here playing Jimmy, a Boone County native who lost his shot at football stardom years ago when he blew out his knee, and who, when first encountered, is about to lose his job patching up sinkholes under the NASCAR Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s in the immediate aftermath of this professional humiliation that Jimmy comes to his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver)—a bartender who’s learned to practice mixology with one hand after returning from his military service with a rubber mitt—with a plan to rob the Speedway in broad daylight. The undertaking is to be a family affair, with Jimmy and Clyde enlisting the services of their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), a hairdresser and notorious speed-demon, and the three Bang brothers, each of whom brings a different liability—Fish and Sam (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) are not the sharpest crayons in the pack, while safe-cracker big brother Joe (Daniel Craig) will have to be sprung from prison, kept beyond its walls for the duration of the job, and returned undetected with an airtight alibi.

In the planning, execution, and aftermath of the heist, Soderbergh and his screenwriter, a mysterious and possibly fictitious personage credited as “Rebecca Blunt,” make free use of ellipses. They keep the viewer ever-so-slightly out of the loop in the planning stages of the caper, withholding essential information while allowing us teasing glimpses of objects to be employed therein: Why is Mellie painting cockroaches on the coffee table? What are those firefighting helmets in the trunk for? And—after the deed’s been done—what’s up with Jimmy’s apparent change of heart?

Working in the register of the country-fried caper, Logan Lucky displays a great sense of playfulness toward “authenticity” even while trafficking heavily in the very concept, weaving variations on the theme of the counterfeit throughout the film. Its male leads have honest-to-God flyover-country working-class bona fides—Driver is a Marine Corps vet, Tatum an ex-jock Mississippian who can operate a bulldozer without looking like an impostor. He is introduced digging around under the hood of a dinged-up 1983 Ford pickup in the company of his young daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie, giving the most charming, unaffected child’s performance in recent memory), while discoursing on the history of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”—an Appalachian anthem, he notes, that was written by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert at a time when they’d never set foot in the name-checked West Virginia. And yet, counterfeit abounds: Here, we have Georgia locations doubling for the Mountain State; Craig putting on his best hillbilly accent (naked becomes nekkid) while Seth MacFarlane, playing an energy-drink magnate and stock-car team owner, goes limey; passing references to blackface and whiteface; and Sadie appearing at a Little West Virginia pageant in a dolled up JonBenét Ramsey–esque pretense of adulthood. The labored sense of gritty legitimacy that weighs down most recent attempts at the blue-collar American action movie (Hell or High Water being one prominent instance) here becomes the stuff of comedy. Sebastian Stan’s salt-of-the-earth NASCAR driver, profiled in a brief digression, is revealed as a raw-food-obsessed nut, an equivalent to the breed of careerist country musicians who sing about cheap beer and honky-tonks but lives off acai bowls and juice bars. There’s also a good bit where Keough needles Jimmy’s ex-wife’s McMansion-dwelling, Ford dealership-owning husband (David Denman) into taking a stick shift off the lot by mocking his dependence on automatics; authenticity, we see, is strictly a preoccupation for the middle-class.

What Soderbergh understands and revels in, as working-class hero Andy Warhol did, is the fact that authentic homespun American life is shot through with a generous dose of artifice—artificial sweeteners and colors that appear nowhere in nature. Soderbergh is acting as his own DP here under his usual “Peter Andrews” pseudonym, shooting on a RED digital camera with Leica Summilux-C lenses, and these give his widescreen frame—invariably teeming with bright life and incident—an ultra-sharp pellucid, almost glassy deep focus unlike anything in classic, grain-rich 35-mm Cinemascope. In constructing his contemporary Appalachia, Soderbergh gets a sense of everyday life that’s bigger than life. He has, somewhat perversely, made a drive-in movie for the hi-def age, one in which flat screens are ubiquitous—it’s a nice gag that a mounted TV in a hallway plays the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte as background visual noise throughout the film’s mock “prison riot”—in fact an elaborate put-on covering up other subterfuges. The color palette is a combination of cotton-candy pink, My Little Pony band-aids, manicures that glitter like an Arabian Nights treasure trove, the cacophony of sponsorship logos on stock cars, gas stations worthy of Ed Ruscha, and ubiquitous red-white-and-blue gear. This is one of the only movies to take full advantage of the pomp of a major sporting event preshow, replete with an F-14 flyover and LeAnn Rimes belting out the national anthem.

As a schemer and do-it-yourself-er, Jimmy is a figure after inveterate tinkerer Soderbergh’s own wheeler-dealer heart. In lining up the money for Logan Lucky, the director pursued a new distribution model intended to cut out studio participation (and interference) entirely—a model that leans heavily on his preexisting celebrity and the participation of salable celebrities, and so no more practicable and sustainable for most filmmakers than Radiohead album giveaways. While the movie exists thanks to its stars, it’s the bit players who make it play: Along with the abovementioned Denman, honorable mentions are due to Rebecca Koon as a chatty salon patron who comes in for a purple wash and drives a purple El Dorado; eastern Kentucky homeboy Dwight Yoakam as the prison warden; and Jon Eyez as a convict who very nearly walks off with the movie in a single scene. (The credits also list “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia legend Jesco White, star of the cult 1991 documentary Dancing Outlaw and a clear sartorial inspiration for the film, though I failed to catch him in my screening.)

Not every bit of business in this very busy movie lands soundly. MacFarlane, though impeccably cast as a dead-eyed, imminently hateable creep, occupies an amount of screen time disproportionate to what he brings in terms of narrative drive or comic pleasure, and the introduction of Hilary Swank as an agent investigating the speedway heist comes too late to be anything but an invitation to a sequel. Soderbergh seems content to work loose here, to leave a few plot threads trailing off. His decision might seem counterintuitive, as the heist movie is classically an opportunity to show off directorial chops—see, for instance, the first half of Bertrand Bonello’s lubricious, machine-tooled Nocturama (2016), which, in turn, invokes the spirit of Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955). But where those films wear their virtuosity on their sleeves, Logan Lucky feels like the work of a filmmaker with nothing to prove, neither sententious seriousness of purpose nor technical knowhow. Freed from such lofty imperatives, the movie can instead focus on the minutiae that matter—Clyde mixing a martini with dexterous flair, Jimmy’s meet-cute in a mobile medical center, the way Sadie’s mother (Katie Holmes) reaches in from out of frame to twirl one of her daughter’s pigtails—all of which helps to create the larger world in which our story is taking place. Logan Lucky isn’t perfect in every measurement, but it has about it a feeling of jerry-rigged ingenuity that’s ultimately more appropriate than perfection would be.

Nick Pinkerton

Logan Lucky is now playing in select theaters.

Bennie and Josh Safdie, Good Time, 2017, 35 mm, color, sound, 100 minutes. Nick Nikas and Connie Nikas (Bennie Safdie and Robert Pattinson).


IN THE SAFDIE BROTHERS’ GOOD TIME, Robert Pattinson does an end run around the cops and anyone and anything that comes between him and the nowhere to which he’s headed. He’s literally on the run almost every time we see him, and when he’s not running, his adrenaline is jacked up so high it looks as if he is. As Connie Nikas, a petty criminal with a long rap sheet on a mission to save Nick (Benny Safdie), his younger and in every way slower brother, from the system, Pattinson jettisons almost everything that made him a romantic leading man—good manners, cultured diction, languorous grace, and, most of all, middle-class impulse control—to find his way inside a feral, low-life megalomaniac with eyes like headlights, fixed unblinkingly in their sockets and devoid of emotion. It’s the primary reason actors enjoy playing villains—or the kind of antihero that Connie is: Pattinson seems to have checked his superego before each shot and let his id wreak havoc.

Pattinson’s Connie is on a bad trip, and so is the movie—except that it’s so kinetic and exciting to look at and listen to that you just go with it without worrying that you’ll be wrecked in the morning. Its saving grace—besides the riotous beauty of Sean Price Williams’s 35-mm widescreen neon-streaked mega-moving images and a propulsive techno score by Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin), made more immersive by Benny Safdie and Evan Mangiamele’s sound design—is the Safdies’ commitment to showing us the people and places of a marginal New York. Good Time is set almost entirely in a single twenty-four-hour period, and its accelerating dive-toward-doom trajectory (screenplay by Josh Safdie and Ronnie Bronstein; editing by Benny and Ronnie; direction by both Safdies) resembles nothing so much as Martin Scorsese’s 1985 After Hours, albeit Connie is a lot closer to Robert De Niro’s Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1972) than to Griffin Dunne’s uptown nebbish terrorized by cool and/or crazy Tribeca women. The Safdies know their New York pulp movies, so it’s no wonder that Good Time is being compared to early Scorsese and to Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975). To those I’d add Nick Gomez’s unforgettable 1992 no-budget indie debut, Laws of Gravity, which has Peter Greene and Adam Trese as wannabe felons every bit as hapless as Connie and handheld cinematography by Jean de Segonzac that is as vertiginous as Williams’s.

Good Time opens with a close-up of Nick, who is mentally challenged, having a bad time in a city-funded psychiatrist’s office. When the shrink questions him about having thrown a heavy metal object at his grandmother, tears well up in Nick’s eyes and roll down his broad, fleshy face. It’s an astonishing sight, in part because the tears seem to catch both the character and the actor by surprise. While we are wondering what to make of this, Connie bursts into the room, absconds with his brother, and the next thing we know they are donning ski masks and robbing a bank. Connie has a vague John Steinbeck–like dream of saving Nick by taking him to live on a farm. For that he needs money, hence the bank robbery. But if Connie knows nothing about robbing banks, he also hasn’t a clue who his brother is or what he needs. This is literally proved midway through the film when he steals a man, wrapped head-to-toe in bandages, from a hospital room. He thinks it’s Nick, who is indeed in the hospital, where he was taken after he plunged through a glass door at the end of the chase that followed the bank robbery and was beaten up at Rikers. But the guy in the wheelchair who Connie hustles onto an Access-a-Ride isn’t his brother.

Connie takes refuge with the bandaged man in the house of a trusting elderly woman who lives with her granddaughter, Crystal (Taliah Webster, whose mix of curiosity and nonchalance is one of the movie’s joys). After peroxiding his hair piss yellow as a disguise and putting a few unenthusiastic moves on Crystal, Connie somehow discovers (I forget exactly how or when—that’s how much frenetic activity there is in the movie) that the man he stole is not his brother but Ray (Buddy Duress), a jailbird even more delusional than he is. Ray has stashed a bottle of liquid LSD, which he claims is worth a fortune to his drug-dealer boss, in an amusement park that’s closed for the winter. Leaving Crystal as a lookout, Connie and Ray break in; even before they find the acid things get hallucinatory, what with the rides and the lights. When the cops arrive, they mistake the security guard (Barkhad Abdi, the quietest of scene stealers) and Crystal for the vandals—why not? they’re black—leaving Connie and Ray free to hurl themselves even further into the abyss.

This is the Safdies’ biggest movie, and while the budget allowed them to work with the magnetic and gifted Pattinson and to shoot in an array of complex locations, they also held fast to their guerrilla filmmaking method. The outer boroughs of New York have rarely been shown as realistically and phantasmagorically within a single movie. It is the city of millions of people who live on the economic margins and try to stay sane and safe while keeping out of the way of the desperate in their midst—people like Connie, whose nightmares twist his perceptions and make him incapable of having a good time or gifting his brother with a better life. Nevertheless, he’s more to be pitied than despised. The Safdies give the last word to Iggy Pop, in a song he wrote for Good Time. That word is “love.”

Amy Taubin

Good Time is now playing in select theaters.

Jeff Tremaine, Jackass: The Movie, 2002, 35 mm, color, sound, 98 minutes.


THE FILMS THAT WILL BE PLAYING at Anthology Film Archives in “This Is MiniDV (On 35mm)” are collected according to a simple principle, but for this viewer they conjure up a complicated welter of feelings. In keeping with recent (and welcome) developments following the DCP changeover catastrophe, which have raised awareness of projection format and brought us festivals and programs dedicated to nitrate film and 3D restorations, ultra-niche “This Is MiniDV” looks at a brief moment in the late 1990s and early aughts when the digital revolution was only partially complete: almost totally in postproduction, an outlier in production, and in distribution not at all. With 35 mm still the standard for theatrical projection, this meant that even films shot on the wave of consumer-grade standard-definition DV cameras would have to be printed on celluloid if they were to reach a wide audience, and the reels unspooling at AFA are the remaining artifacts of this bygone era.

The program comes courtesy of rep film-listing site Screen Slate, the only website that actually gives me pleasure in checking daily, and it has a particular poignancy for one of my vintage. This comes from the fact that their heyday happens to approximately correspond to my film school undergraduate years, when I was an Earnest Young Man fired with enthusiasm for the cinema—they are a Proustian madeleine of murky palette and digital artifacting. It was a moment where one might still be taught editing by cutting 16-mm stock of a Gunsmoke fistfight on a flatbed Steenbeck while being told in class that the future of the medium was a movie shot by a young Dane on a Sony DCR-PC3 Handycam: Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998).

Vinterberg’s film, which makes flashy use of the Handycam’s lightweight mobility and ability to burrow into the smallest crevasses, is key for several reasons. Concerning an eldest son’s determination to torpedo his father’s sixtieth birthday by letting all those assembled know that the grand old man molested him, it was an early augury of the relationship between the “raw” aesthetic of early DV and touchy subject matter. The return of the (sexually) repressed was hot stuff at the time, hence Miguel Arteta’s Chuck & Buck (2000), which reunites two preadolescent fuckbuddies as very different adults. The movie’s bouncy, twee sound track cues, awkward-pause comedy, and “I’m okay, you’re okay” resolution set the stage for a thousand Sundance abominations to come. Digital was also meant to confer authenticity, something that Michael Winterbottom toys with in his glib Manchester music-scene panorama 24 Hour Party People (2002), intermixing stock footage with original DV material to recapture the immediacy of this period’s incredible creative ferment, as well as to convey the drab gray-brown cruddiness of northern England in the 1970s. (The film’s stations-of-the-cross treatment of Ian Curtis’s suicide is still leering and ghoulish, though this time through I did appreciate the subtle hints of Alan Partridge that star Steve Coogan brings to the character of Factory Records cofounder and Granada Television presenter Tony Wilson.)

The Celebration is also distinguished as the first film to earn “Dogme 95” classification. The term refers to a manifesto signed by Vinterberg and his countryman Lars von Trier that puts forth a list of “Vows of Chastity”—only location shooting, handheld camera, no special effects, and minimal lighting—which, if followed, would supposedly detoxify a film culture corrupted by artifice and filthy lucre. Von Trier is represented at AFA by his Dancer in the Dark (2000), a gallows musical starring Björk that wasn’t Dogme-certified but which did stage its seven production numbers live, capturing them warts-and-all with something like a hundred cameras running simultaneously. When the movie arrived in theaters, its star was coming off as good a three-album run (Debut, Post, Homogenic) as any solo artist has ever had, and Dancer in the Dark is of interest in the sense that any document of a once-in-a-generation talent at her prime must be. Though it should be said that while something like “Hyperballad” has given me insights with lifelong application, there’s little worth mulling over in this dour reworking of the Dennis Potter/Herbert Ross Pennies from Heavens (1978/81), which contains perhaps the silliest courtroom scene in film history and can barely conceal its snide superiority to showbiz razzle-dazzle. (It takes courage to enjoy it, Lars.)

Lars von Trier, Dancer in the Dark, 2000, 35 mm, color, sound, 140 minutes.


Like Protestantism and so many reformative movements, Dogme 95 mostly came down to an excuse to cut corners and not do tiresome things under the guise of purification. It was enormously influential for a spell among young men looking for a creed, as were the jeremiads of blowhard academic and John Cassavetes biographer Ray Carney, but vows of poverty look a little less appealing when the visual impoverishment of cinema is a rule rather than exception. Still, back then Dogme quickly went international, and its challenge was taken up by alleged wunderkind Harmony Korine in his Julien Donkey Boy (1999), an alarming combination of desperate, fraudulent performances and inspired ideas for what to do with a DV camera. Take, for instance, the scene in a thrift store with Chloë Sevigny––not for a moment believable as a working-class Queens girl––given a measure of veracity by the fact that it’s caught with a glasses camera.

The hidden-camera aesthetic is also essential to the two legitimately great American films in the series. The first feature-film spinoff of the MTV show of the same name, Jackass: The Movie (2002) was the apotheosis of a decade-plus of suicidal backyard stunts and skate video culture, specifically the tapes produced by Big Brother Magazine and Bam Margera’s CKY contribution. The Jackass films, which move between pranking passersby and testicular trauma– or vomit-inducing stuntwork, have sometimes been classed up by comparisons to silent comedy, but they have no story lines to speak of, just a series of ingeniously idiotic vaudevillian blackout skits presided over by the deadpan emcee/punching bag Johnny Knoxville. The knockabout American tradition is likewise drawn on in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000), which has Damon Wayans’s adenoidal Ivy League–educated television writer developing a wildly offensive minstrel show in anticipation of being released from his contract in the ensuing fracas, only to wind up with a massive hit on his hands. While weighed down by some rote dramatic passages in its latter half, the movie at its best is a volatile and highly inappropriate piece of gonzo filmmaking with something to offend everyone. Contemporary reviews were tepid—Roger Ebert found the film “perplexing”—but Bamboozled is alive precisely because it gives a sense of being at war with itself: Wayans’s character is persuasive and cuttingly articulate even as he argues against the film’s apparent thesis, while the scenes of the studio tapings of “Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show” express the depths of Lee’s misanthropy, an outright contempt for the gormless masses. And unlike the ham-handed satire of Lee’s Chi-Raq (2015), the movie is a sick comic riot, from Michael Rapaport’s blowhard wannabe ’hood network exec to Wayans’s over-enunciated voice-over reading, “Needless to say, the Mau Maus did not fit into our plans.”

DV gave access to young filmmakers—AFA’s program includes The Forest for the Trees (2003), the debut of twenty-six-year-old Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade. It also acted as an agent of rejuvenation for those not so young. When Agnès Varda made The Gleaners & I (2000), she had her career’s worst debacle just behind her, the woeful, cameo-studded cinephile nostalgia trip A Hundred and One Nights (1994), but the ability to operate as a one-woman crew seemed to refocus and rejuvenate her. Some will also claim Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (2002), a film consisting almost entirely of dashboard-mounted views of the driver (the excellent Mani Akbari) and passengers in a small coupe moving around urban Tehran, as among the Iranian filmmaker’s supreme accomplishments, though it seems to me, while occasionally quite moving, basically a formal experiment exploring DV’s capacity for long takes, particularly suited to shooting with nonprofessional performers without fear of burning through precious film stock.

David Lynch, Inland Empire, 2006, 35 mm, color, sound, 180 minutes.


Pedro Costa was working along not entirely dissimilar lines beginning with his 2000 In Vanda’s Room, shooting hundreds of hours of material on DV with the residents of Lisbon’s since-bulldozed Fountainhas slum. With Colossal Youth, Costa established himself as a trailblazer in digital cinematography, not mimicking the effect of film but exploring the new medium in its own right, while, somewhat atypically in this company, keeping his camera locked down on a tripod. Ventura, a retired Cape Verdean construction worker, is at the center of Colossal Youth and appears in every scene, whereas the sunlit sky appears in almost none—a sliver of blue here, a blown-out window there. Costa gets ravishing low-light images, deep blacks in his chiaroscuro compositions, and a remarkable sense of the patina of rooms which have seen so much hardship, contrasted to the immaculate walls of the new housing project, which have seen none, free of ghosts but also without a soul.

Colossal Youth was released in 2006, by which time digital had begun to make significant inroads in Hollywood productions—take Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, shot with the high-end high-def Thompson Viper FilmStream—and it forms an outlier in the series with David Lynch’s Inland Empire from the same year. Lynch had for years been an analog holdout, cutting films on a reel-to-reel Kern when the rest of Hollywood had long since gone Avid, but when he went digital he did so with the zeal of a true convert, and in a 2006 Wired interview, he can be found rhapsodizing about the computerized future with characteristic “gee whiz” wonderment. (“If we keep our thinking caps strapped on, we could find something beautiful out there in the ether.”) Always attuned to texture like the painter-cum-director that he is, Lynch used his SONY PD-150—formerly a professional-grade camera, which, by that time, had become affordable to consumers—to pursue the possibilities of pixelated impasto, while filtering the tropes of B-noir through an appropriately chintzy-looking twenty-first-century aesthetic. From this breakthrough a straight line can be drawn to Lynch’s ongoing Twin Peaks: The Return, a program that suggests the artist, like the rest of us, has seen something altogether more malevolent emerge from the digital ether in the past decade.

Nick Pinkerton

“This Is MiniDV (on 35mm)” runs through August 22 at Anthology Film Archives in New York.

Philippe Garrel, Le révélateur, 1968, 35 mm, black and white, 67 minutes.


SELF-MYTHOLOGIZATION WAS BUILT into the story of the Zanzibar Group from the beginning. A loose confederation of young amateur filmmakers joined together in the late 1960s around shared radical politics and the patronage of twenty-five-year-old heiress Sylvina Boissonnas, they were named retrospectively for a voyage undertaken by one of their number, Serge Bard. Bard was a dropout from the ethnology department at the university of Nanterre who had crossed the African continent to reach the revolutionary Maoist government of Zanzibar, making a film along the way.

Bard never completed his proposed movie—somewhere en route he converted to Islam, took the name Abdullah Siradj, forswore representative art, and moved to Mecca—but a passion for the idea of flight from capitalist society, as well as violent revolutionary fervor expressed through oblique means, is among the features that unify the Zanzibar films, several of which will play through the month of August at Los Angeles’s Cinefamily theater. Most of the movies were shot in 1968 and 1969, when Boissonnas was willing to spring for 35-mm film stock. Though the dream didn’t last long, going to pieces as revolutions have a tendency to do, including the bloodbath in Zanzibar, it left behind a rich, combative body of work.

Presenting the program will be the multihyphenate Jackie Raynal, former programmer of New York’s Bleecker Street and Carnegie Hall cinemas. She will also be introducing her Barcelona-shot film Deux fois (1969), which opens with the director tucking into a lunch spread before announcing the subjects of vignettes to come, like a table of contents, and proclaiming, “Tonight will be the end of meaning.” The meaning-making interplay between spoken word and image, and a desire to disrupt their accepted relationships, runs through the Zanzibar corpus, such as in Bard’s Détruisez-vous: le fusil silencieux (Destroy Yourself: The Silent Gun, 1969) and Patrick Deval’s Acéphale (1968), a document of youth picking through the post-1968 rubble—the title translates roughly as “headless,” and it contains the exhortation, “It’s time to abandon the bright lights of the civilized world.” Shot on Bard’s old campus shortly before its May ’68 riots spread across France, Détruisez-vous stars Caroline de Bendern as a young woman haltingly discussing the prospect of revolutionary activity with a girlfriend (Juliet Berto), a sullen, quiet young man (Thierry Garrel), or an unseen interlocutor. If the stammering de Bendern is sometimes a less than convincing revolutionary firebrand, we discover this may have something to do with the fact that she is paraphrasing the speeches of a professor, played by Alain Jouffroy, a figure who Zanzibar historian Sally Shafto has identified as “a crucial mentor for these young people.” (De Bendern, an English aristocrat, was disinherited by her grandfather after a photograph of her holding a Vietcong flag on the Boulevard Saint-Michel became an iconic image of 1968.)

Jackie Raynal, Deux Fois, 1968, 16 mm, black and white, sound, 75 minutes.


Détruisez-vous isn’t the proverbial undiscovered masterpiece, but it is of interest as an exploration of the feminine struggle with the macho mode of revolutionary discourse and as an illustration of the impact that Warholian primitivism, then newly introduced to France, would have on the Zanzibar films. The film is also of interest for its communication unhampered by language and the possible influence it would have on Thierry’s brother, Philippe Garrel, whose filmography is marked by a preoccupation with capturing thought in motion.

Garrel was the central figure of the group, and the one who went on to a long and historic career. He’d begun making films before his coevals—his first was completed in 1964, when he was sixteen. Garrel fell in with Bard, Jouffroy, and Raynal at the festival of young cinema at Hyères, where his first feature, Marie pour mémoire (1968), had taken a prize, which he accepted while announcing he was leaving cinema to pursue the business of prophecy. Like most of the Zanzibar gang, he was good-looking, on the periphery of the fashion world, and could’ve been described as a dandy—he wore an Edwardian ruffle and his hair down over his collar. He helped to spread the gospel of rock ’n’ roll while working on the television show Bouton rouge (1967–68) and took to the barricades like a good Cavalier. It was in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the ’68 uprising that he shot Le révélateur (1968) in Germany’s Black Forest with actors Bernadette Lafont and Laurent Terzieff, two parents dragging their young child across a nocturnal rural landscape mostly devoid of habitation. The child seems mostly oblivious to the distress of his parents, though it can’t be said that he is oblivious to the presence of the camera—indeed, he is seen at times to actually direct it, gleefully breaking the fourth wall. (The film is silent, though Cinefamily’s projection will feature live music by Mary Lattimore and Jeff Ziegler, a harpist and multi-instrumentalist who record for the Thrill Jockey label.)

In Le révélateur, one sees Garrel developing the mythopoetic style that reaches full fruition with his La cicatrice intérieure (The Inner Scar, 1972). Both films concern themselves with figures in vast, open landscapes captured in mostly long shots, following their own obscure trajectories that put them on a course of recurring departure and reunion. In La cicatrice intérieure this is combined with cryptic acts of gift-giving: a bowl of fire, a baby goat, a sword. Shot in the most wasted, lifeless locales in Iceland, Egypt, and Death Valley, the film stars Garrel himself; his muse, Nico, who he had met in Rome while he was editing the Boissonnas-financed Le lit de la vierge (1969); and Pierre Clémenti, a pale figure who arrives in a black sailboat wearing nothing but a bow and arrow, his naked form luminous against a backdrop of volcanic rock. Made up of more than twenty sequence shots scored by selections from Nico’s Desertshore album, it is a movie of magnificent desolation, transposing disappointed idealism into a cryptic vernacular of symbols, and in its frigid, distant circumspection, exemplifying Henry James’s dictum: “Morality is hot—but art is icy!” (New Yorkers will soon have a chance to see the titles discussed at a Garrel retrospective at the Metrograph, the most complete ever launched in North America.)

Clementi, whose curious résumé includes Visconti’s The Leopard (1960), Buñuel’s Belle de jour (1967), and an eighteenth-month sentence for drug charges in Rome’s Regina Coeli prison in the early 1970s, was also an avant-garde filmmaker of sporadic but superb output, represented at Cinefamily by his Visa de censure n° X, filmed in 1968 but not completed until 1975. With his glass-cutting cheekbones, Clementi could’ve been a superstar, but he’d become radicalized in the 1960s and would wave off a big offer from Fellini to instead work with Garrel and the Zanzibar crew. Featuring footage shot during Zanzibar’s brief, globe-trotting heyday, the film is a dense, pulsing collage of double- and triple-exposures set to a careening psych-rock sound track by Delired Cameleon Family, whose howls of “Give me more grass . . . Give me more coke . . . Give me more LSD” are well-suited to a work that feels like a yearlong binge compressed into less than an hour.

Etienne O’Leary, Chromo Sud, 1968, 16 mm, color, sound, 21 minutes.


Clementi was working under the influence of many, many illicit substances as well as the Montreal-born filmmaker Étienne O’Leary, who appears briefly in Visa de censure n° X and whose twenty-one-minute imagist avalanche Chromo sud (1968) plays with La cicatrice intérieure. Chromo sud is neon-drenched, occult-obsessed, and unbelievably lurid, lurching from tarot tables to Clovis Trouille canvases to Pigalle sex shops, accompanied along the way by a grating and somewhat nauseating seesaw sound track, which at times gives the impression of heavy breathing. O’Leary composed and performed his scores largely by himself, using prepared piano, tape distortions, and contributions from Nico on harmonium. (Among other distinctions, Chromo sud is the first film to give me tinnitus during home viewing.) Clementi’s and O’Leary’s works, maximalist outliers in largely minimalist company, can be seen as allied to contemporary psych/prog/jazz freak-out music and liquid light-show visuals, and in some ways as counterculture analogs to the proto–music video Scopitones made to accompany yé-yé pop tunes earlier in the decade.

Given how brightly Chromo sud burns for its brief duration, it’s not entirely surprising that O’Leary managed to complete only three films. Daniel Pommereulle’s life as a director wasn’t much longer. Most of his film credits are as an actor—he has a small part as a shepherd in La cicatrice intérieure and appears in Éric Rohmer’s La collectionneuse and Jean-Luc Godard’s Week-End (both 1967), in which he announces “the beginning of flamboyance in all domains, especially the cinema.” He worked principally as a painter and sculptor until his death in 2003. (Les amants réguliers, Garrel’s 2005 reminiscence of the May ’68 moment, is dedicated to him.) He owns a small piece of film history, however, thanks to Vite (1969), which brings to the fore the cosmic imagery threaded through a number of Zanzibar productions. Earthbound scenes—of crossing rocky terrain and wading through mud—shot in Morocco and scored with hectic drumbeats are contrasted with crystalline views of the moon’s surface and the rings of Saturn, filmed through the lens of the Questar telescope. In a body of films united by discontented wanderlust, here is the most far-flung destination of all—a new home, perhaps, far from the bright lights of the civilized world.

Nick Pinkerton

“The Zanzibar Films” runs August 10 through 31 at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles.

Saving Face

08.06.17

Twin Peaks: The Return, 2017, still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 3, episode 12. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie).


CORRECTION: I SAID “WE CAN GUESS” that Miriam’s letter, bearing witness to Richard Horne’s (Eamon Farren) manslaughter of a boy, would make its way to the sheriff and would be believed. But she is not dead—yet. Emerging on all fours from the woods, she is found and taken to the emergency room, where she, uninsured, requires a life-saving operation. Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) delivers the update to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), who says he will pay for it. A bad thought arrives: He could pull a Leland Palmer and suffocate the witness at her bedside. But from now on, “we” will refrain from guessing.

Coma and exposition are two of the several tricks that David Lynch (and Mark Frost, inspired by the ’60s show Peyton Place) borrows from soap operas, where comas provide suspense without camerawork, and sending a messenger to advance the plot is cheap. The borrowing is purposeful, but unnecessary: Twin Peaks: The Return has a budget to dwarf that of the 1990–91 Twin Peaks, and it has shelved the soap we saw there, a show within a show, Invitation to Love. Replacing its communal pulse is Dr. Jacoby’s alt-reality webcast, which keeps time for us: Two or three of its hours equals one day on Twin Peaks. “It’s seven o’clock,” the show begins. “Do you know where your freedom is?” This week’s monologue gets repetitious:

And the fucks are at it again! These giant multinational corporations are filled with monstrous vermin, poisonous, vile murderers, and they eat, drink, and shit money. They buy our politicians for a song. Then these fucking politicians sing as we gag and cough, sold down the river to die. Fuck you who betray the people you were elected to help, elected to work to help to make life better for.

Once a Reaganite, Lynch is changing the tune, in keeping—uncharacteristically—with the current-affairs beat. Tricky to say where his heart lies, but his hearing aid is tuned to the outcry at a new, buzzy pitch. He’s never been this attentive to the miserabilist vagaries of dead-end life, like at the Fat Trout Trailer Park where Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) is not only the manager but also the show’s moral compass. He hands cash to a resident who, troubled with rent, has been selling his blood plasma to the hospital. (Being Canadian, I did not know this was something you could do.) “I don’t like people selling their blood to eat,” Rodd says in the show’s most affecting and tweetable line since Agent Gordon Cole (Lynch) told “those clown comics” to “fix their hearts or die.” The handsome doctor, a melodramaturgical fixture whose role is partly to cure boredom, is no more present than the handsome Agent Cooper, or maybe he too is replaced by Dr. Jacoby. “He’s beautiful,” sighs Nadine with the eyepatch, watching on her desktop from Run Silent, Run Drapes, her too-silent drape store.

Twin Peaks: The Return, 2017, still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 3, episode 12. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie).


Irna Phillips, the “single mother” of American soap operas, began as a daytime dramatist on the radio, with Today’s Children (1933–50), and her resounding success came because she read listeners’ letters. Robert LaGuardia wrote in Soap World (1983) of Phillips’s belief in “time and character, rather than story,” her sense that “people want to become involved with the lives of other people; that viewers follow soaps not just to see what happens next, but to experience—drink in, as it were—the characters, almost as if they lived in the viewers’ homes.” Characters on the shows she wrote for television, including As the World Turns, lived by “moment-to-moment emotions, expressed to each other in quiet scenes.”

Drink in, drink full. Time and character, in their enormous codependency, drive The Return. At last, at the start of the twelfth episode, it’s stated clearly—clearly for Lynch; I assume Frost wrote the scene—that the roads we are traveling bend back, like Laura Palmer’s arms. Limning the origin of the Blue Rose Task Force, Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) says it’s possible that “these answers” (unpreceded, often, by actual questions) “could not be reached except by an alternate path we’ve been traveling ever since.” He seems to mean “alternative,” but what he says is “alternate.” Another soap-opera trick is having a single actor play a good and an evil twin, but here the splitting occurs in a single character, too: Cooper, obviously. Laura, less so.

And Audrey? Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), so singular as a precocious teenager, makes her hotly awaited return not in the eleventh hour, where I expected her, but three-quarters through the twelfth, after a sudden jump cut. She just stands there, and presents as another of the show’s shrill, dispossessed wives: Janey-E (Naomi Watts), wife of Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan); Doris Truman (Candy Clark), who has been in a petty rage since losing her son to suicide; and Sylvia Horne (Jan D’Arcy), ex-wife of Ben and mother, or babysitter, to the disabled Johnny (Erik Rondell). Audrey’s damage is unclear, but we found out in part seven that, after an explosion at the Twin Peaks Savings and Loan, she—like Ronnette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) before her—landed in a coma for some unspecified time, and was visited by Cooper in one or the other of his forms.

Twin Peaks: The Return, 2017, still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 3, episode 12. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn).


Audrey tongue-thrashes her tiny husband (Clark Middleton) for not helping her find her lover, a sober farmer named Billy; and her husband calls a woman she despises, maybe his own lover. This bathetic scene goes on for like forty-five minutes (actually ten), and if Fenn is reprising any character, it’s that of Anna Nardini, Luke’s ex-girlfriend and a sort of evil twin to Lorelai, on Gilmore Girls (2003–2007), in which she also played a totally separate character. The eyebrows and the maraschino lips are there, but something is glazed and doughy in her face, like she’s just been unwrapped from plastic; and some expressiveness has been lost, maybe to the needle. Ditto in the face of MacLachlan. Maybe they’re both frozen in time, and will awake if they kiss. But he does seem evil, and mostly she seems disappointed. Her new characterization spits in the face of her old image—her teenage, dreamy, indefatigable manner and perfervid will to seduce—and of the men (on both sides of the screen) who bought into it. That or more simply: Precocity doesn’t age well.

It’s sad, in any case, but Fenn’s out-of-place performance makes you appreciate the other ones. Even Ashley Judd, playing Ben’s desired assistant, Beverly, seems to have a new, sly ripple in her flattish affect. Likewise with the amateur Chrysta Bell, who plays the FBI’s Tammy Preston with an advanced robotism, but who also displays a surprising range of expression—her facial muscles make the battle to control emotion into a cubist dilemma, or as Don DeLillo would say, her face is avant-garde—when she reacts to a dangerous promotion: She will work with Albert on the Blue Rose Task Force, a latter-day replacement for the disappeared Cooper. The former members of the force, and its forerunner, Project Blue Book, are mostly dead or missing; and William Hastings, the layman who got physically closest to the metaphysical origins of the mystery, finds his head exploded (crushed by a Woodsman, invisible to the others) when he takes the agents and Diane to the dilapidated tract at 2240 Sycamore, where he first found the portal. Any scene can be stolen by Diane, who has the advantage of being played by Laura Dern: casually, brilliantly. “There’s no backup for this,” she whispers, peering through the windshield into the car at Hastings’s mutilated body while the agents recoil.

Twin Peaks: The Return, 2017, still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 3, episode 11. Diane Evans (Laura Dern).


Lynch exacts in every episode, more noticeably in the recent, quieter ones, these little ariosos that balloon, change shape, and deflate. At the Double R Diner, we watch with Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) as drama unfolds among Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick), her daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried), and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), who turns out to be Becky’s dad. Norma’s expressions shift dramatically but none are scrutable. She watches what is happening as if she were remembering it a decade from now. When Shelly’s new crime-boss boyfriend (Balthazar Getty) shows up outside the diner, appearing with his own neo-noirish lighting in his greasy leather, she seems to disappear in a flash, and, on the other side of the glass, rematerialize as her old teen self. Shelly’s glittering transition dissolves into the old Bobby’s feeling crushed as he sees her in love, and Becky instantly wises up to see him not as her father, for a second, but as a fellow broken romantic. Ashbrook and Seyfried could play those dogs with eyes the size of teacups and water wheels in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and their companionship too is doglike, hushed.

Back in the Dakotas, Jennifer Jason Leigh thrills as the gum-smacking, laconic Chantal, henchwoman to Evil Coop, opposite the equally white-trash henchman, Tim Roth’s Hutch. Near the end of episode twelve, Hutch shoots to kill a man—Warden Dwight Murphy (James Morrison)—and Chantal, driving the getaway van while watching Murphy die in front of his child (Luke Judy), licks Cheeto dust from her index finger, seeming to enjoy the orangey tang more than the sight of blood, which makes it sicker. “Next stop: Wendy’s,” says Hutch. Sky Ferreira, the very modern bombshell with an ash-in-ice-cream voice, appears at the Roadhouse at the end of episode nine as one of the locals who, with their unrecurring, relatively heterogenous appearances, make a jangling chorus. She’s a chick on methamphetamine, scratching horribly for too long at a rash in her armpit. She got fired from a burger joint, but it’s okay because she has a new job. Where? asks her friend, and she grins with the reply, At another burger joint. Ferreira has never looked worse, making the before-seen single mom on heroin (Hailey Benton Gates) look like a heroin addict in a Calvin Klein ad.

When I said the web was a substitute for the dream-world, I did not add that being online feels less phantasmagoric and venturesome as we professionalize, try to grow up, and play limited versions of ourselves. Compared to the nightmarish, as they say, state of the world, online feels lighter, more banal, and, at its worst, somehow mere, like being stuck in an anxiety dream. Timelines—on Twitter, Instagram—are rearranged to show us what we already know to see. There is constant refreshing, getting nowhere. It’s like that––or like opening the fridge for the seventeenth time, only to find the same undesirable yogurts––every time Cooper as Dougie wanders on-screen. The eleventh hour threatens to be his last, as the Mitchum Brothers plot to end him, having lost to him in jackpots and again in a bid to collect, from his insurance company, a thirty-million-dollar payment for arson. I could yell through the screen: Wake up! You’re going to die a meme.

But one of the brothers, Bradley (James Belushi), has a dream and, unlike real dreams, it predicts the day. He remembers it bit by bit as the day catches up, and this for Lynch is a clever, if not new, way to build suspense. On a one-way road into the desert, in what looks like an homage to the endgame of David Fincher’s Se7en (1995), Dougie arrives with a box; should the box hold what it did in Bradley’s dream, the brothers will have to forgive Mr. Jackpots. Ding ding ding, the box holds a cherry pie. Table for three, at the Silver Mustang Casino: “Damn good,” says the other brother digging in, and “Damn good,” says Dougie, sounding more like Coop. He still might die a meme. ☹️

Twin Peaks: The Return, 2017, still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 3, episode 2. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie).


The single greatest performance of the series so far belongs to Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer, unsurprising for this magnificent seventy-six-year-old actress but all the same a shake of the bones. Sarah is buying food she won’t eat and three bottles of Smirnoff at the store, when she sees, behind the cash register, a “new” kind of jerky—turkey jerky, which has existed since Natives were the only Americans—and is rushed by terror, whether of the contents or the packaging, primal symbols. “They” once “came” and are “coming” again, she warns with escalating terror. Maybe she means the Woodsmen, who are a kind of smoked meat incarnate. Or maybe the animals she disconsolately watched maul each other on the Discovery Channel, on a big flat-screen television, in the second hour. That shot has become, for me, the after-image of the show, but any frame of Zabriskie’s untouchable face may trigger the lonesome. Hours after the outburst, a fan whirs monotonously in a lamp-less room and she answers the door as old Sarah, scarier with her cold, hard brow, her low-burning eyes, and her corroded smile suggesting a mettle twisted to bitter ends.

I watched these two episodes on a television like that, huge in a small room, dark, the way Lynch intended. To watch a movie on your phone and “think you’ve seen a film” strikes him as nuts, and to defend phone-watching on the basis that we all have phones, and don’t all have televisions, disinterests me since necessity is not inspiring, nor related to the good. (Besides, the television costs less than the phone.) A character’s face in a close-up on a screen should not appear as if it were in a pocket mirror, or even in a regular mirror. The head should be significantly, alarmingly bigger than yours, and in a portrait shot, from the shoulders up, it should be the size of a clock on the wall. Alternatives, conveniences, begin to suck. On whatever websites, avatars the size of pencil erasers ease our forgetting the obvious, like that the owners of these avatars also have homes, incomprehensible habits, old haunts on certain square miles in a subdivided country, and especially that they have other faces, shaded minutely by expressions never represented in a reaction GIF. “The face is what one cannot kill,” said Emmanuel Levinas, another thinker of otherness, the year I was born. Can representation make us stronger? On The Return, it matters that the stories are disparate, that worlds diverge and are weirdly, sparsely populated, so that the faces do not appear in a crowd.

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Sarah Nicole Prickett’s previous recaps of Twin Peaks: The Return:

Episodes 1 & 2
Episodes 3 & 4
Episode 5
Episodes 6 & 7
Episode 8
Episodes 9 & 10

Twin Peaks: The Return plays Sundays at 9 PM on Showtime.