• Richard Linklater

    LOQUACITY IS Richard Linklater’s métier: Regardless of how much or little action occurs in the course of his films, his characters talk incessantly, sometimes brilliantly, about what flumes up from their brainpans and how they perceive what goes on around them. Their emotional composition defines itself in the timing of cross talk, interruptions, witticisms, asperities, and perfunctory displays of affection. At times, they almost resemble real people, in films like Dazed and Confused (1993) and The School of Rock (2003)—zany people, equipped with one or two signature habits, tics, idiosyncracies.

    Read more
  • Hostel

    LATE ONE NIGHT, bored and unsleepy, we dropped in at our favorite local twenty-four-hour video store—you know, the kind that primarily trades in skin flicks but also stocks a large selection of normal Hollywood product, not to mention the occasional Bergman or Fellini film. Scanning the new releases, we fixed on a splatter film intriguingly (and no doubt punningly) titled Hostel, and eagerly opted for its promise of creepiness and low thrills, and the quality assurance of the tagline “Quentin Tarantino Presents.” Brokeback Mountain would just have to wait—again.

    Hostel is a shocking and relentless

    Read more
  • Art School Confidential

    I JUST NEED to get out of here and become a famous artist and everything else will fall into place, Jerome, the innocent, Picasso-identified young hero of Art School Confidential, must be thinking as the cute girl he’s just sketched in the high school cafeteria admires his work—then clicks off with her hunky boyfriend. Based on Daniel Clowes’s comic and screenplay, Terry Zwigoff’s hilarious faux exposé chronicles the growing pains of artistes-in-training at the “Strathmore Institute.”

    “What kind of college has a naked chick for a teacher?” a bully mocks Jerome, poring over the school’s brochure.

    Read more
  • William Eggleston

    WHAT WE MOST admire about William Eggleston and his exquisite gothic photographs is that these perspicuous glimpses of the American South stem from a life of deeply engaged observation—the kind that blurs the line between the photographer and the photographed. His work manifests a unique form of visual empathy. That the pictures are almost always nearly too perfect, formally speaking, is what elevates his interiors and portraits to the level of high art. Eggleston’s mastery of color and composition refreshes our visual understanding of a tricycle, an old car, the rooms of Graceland, or even a

    Read more
  • Larry Clark and Destricted

    THE PROVERBIAL casting couch is the central object in Larry Clark’s Impaled, the most compelling of the seven short films in the “art-porn” compilation Destricted (screening May 13 and 17 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). The other contributors to this not-altogether-novel omnibus are Marina Abramović, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla, Gaspar Noé, Richard Prince, and Sam Taylor-Wood. Barney’s deluxe depiction of his cherished subject—the hydraulics of male sexuality—is his most succinct and therefore hilarious cinematic work to date. Abramović’s ribald, Slavic fertility rite is notable for

    Read more
  • Laurie Simmons

    A CENTURY AGO, Edward Gordon Craig, the first modern theater artist, wished he could replace all actors with puppets. Never mind the divas, he said. Forget Stanislavski. Craig was a symbolist at heart, a director who wanted actors to come to the stage and leave their feelings at home. Personalities! They only got in the way of art.

    Cut to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the premiere, this month, of artist Laurie Simmons’s first film, The Music of Regret, 2005–2006. All of the characters are puppets. Some are played by humans, Meryl Streep among them, but most are either vintage rubber

    Read more
  • Cristi Puiu

    We’re just a bunch of miserable people, mister.

    ––Mr. Lazarescu

    THE CINEMA OF death has a new classic to stand with Maurice Pialat’s La Gueule ouverte, Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes, and Derek Jarman’s Blue: Cristi Puiu’s Death of Mr. Lazarescu. At first glance an unlikely candidate for the canon, this 153-minute study in protracted mortality is the first of a half-dozen “stories of love” planned by thirty-eight-year-old Romanian director Puiu, who modeled his cycle, with its singularly unfetching title Six Stories from the Bucharest Suburbs, on Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral

    Read more
  • Peter Watkins’s Punishment Park

    AT LONG LAST it may be Peter Watkins’s moment. The most prescient, innovative, and accomplished of overlooked English-language movie masters, Watkins has directed twelve feature films of various running times, from the imploded forty-seven minutes of The War Game (1965) to the alternatively discursive and meditative fourteen-hour The Journey (1983–85)—both, not incidentally, antinuke films. Although Privilege (1966), his fake rockumentary starring Swinging London supermodel Jean Shrimpton, had a limited art-cinema release, television is Watkins’s battleground. His explicit contestation of

    Read more
  • Watkins’s Edvard Munch

    PETER WATKINS AND Edvard Munch: two singular, intractable, often misunderstood artistic personalities, each enjoying a revival and both bound together by Watkins’s personality-melding biopic. Newly released on DVD to coincide with Munch’s current retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Edvard Munch (1973) is an essay with actors that has the form and tropes of a documentary film: direct address, contrapuntal voice-over, casual framing, vérité zooms. Nearly three hours in length, the movie is densely edited and largely achronological. The dramatic scenes are fragmentary—often a

    Read more
  • David Gatten

    AS A GRADUATE STUDENT at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996, David Gatten, having been inspired by the work of Agnes Martin, experimented with drawing lines on film when serendipity led him to a little-known volume called The Secret History of the Line. An eighteenth-century text written by William Byrd II, a wealthy planter and government official in Virginia, this book (together with its companion, The History of the Dividing Line) is an account of the author’s journeys mapping the border between Virginia, the first English colony in North America, and the newer colony of North Carolina.

    Read more
  • Carlos Reygadas

    MADE FORTY YEARS ago, Andy Warhol talkies like Vinyl and Beauty #2 remain the reductio ad absurdum of behavioral direction, a technique that requires nonactors to cope, with negligible instruction, while the camera grinds relentlessly on until it runs out of film.

    Orchestrating a Warhol is never easy, but ambitious directors have intermittently experimented with this form of situational performance. Lars von Trier’s The Idiots (1998) and Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (2002), for example, are each predicated on a setup designed to cue on-camera improvisation. And the thirty-four-year-old Mexican filmmaker

    Read more
  • Michael Haneke's Caché

    I LIKE TO MAKE a simple distinction between a reviewer and a critic: The reviewer writes for those who haven’t seen a film, telling readers whether they shouldn’t and offering a fairly clear idea of what the film is and does; the critic assumes the reader has seen it, making a plot synopsis superfluous, and attempts to engage him or her in an imaginary dialogue about its content, its degree of success, its value. The great literary critic F. R. Leavis summed up very succinctly the ideal critical exchange: “This is so, isn’t it?” “Yes, but . . . ”

    With the films of Michael Haneke, this principle

    Read more