COLUMNS

  • the making of American Splendor

    Last January a movie based on my comic book series, American Splendor, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Man, that’s hard for me to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the movie was excellent, but I’m not used to winning anything. My comics sell so lousy. People are always coming up to me and saying how much they like them. I want to reply, “Yeah, but did you ever buy one?” What I did for a living—I’m retired now—was to be a flunky file clerk for the federal government, mostly for the Cleveland VA Hospital, for thirty-seven years. I mean, it was steady work with pretty good fringe benefits,

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  • Geoffrey O’Brien on The Man Without a Past

    “MY HEAD’S DAMAGED somehow. I don’t even remember who I am.”

    “My, that’s bad. Care for a cup of coffee?”

    This snatch of dialogue sums up quite well the clipped and unflappable tone of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s sixteenth feature, The Man Without a Past, a movie where, within the first three minutes, the worst has already happened: After a few tranquil establishing shots just detailed enough to let us surmise that a stranger is arriving in a city by train, the unknown man whose acquaintance we have only just made sits on a bench and without a pause is accosted by skinheads, who knock him

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  • Spider

    DAVID CRONENBERG’S SPIDER stars Ralph Fiennes as a mentally disturbed man whose web of defenses unravels when he’s transferred from an asylum to a halfway house in the squalid East End London neighborhood where he lived as a child. The film—which premiered at Cannes in May and opens this month in New York and Los Angeles—is adapted from the 1990 novel of the same name by Patrick McGrath, who also wrote the screenplay. An astonishing balancing act, Spider is both faithful to the novel and a distinctly Cronenbergian work. In both form and meaning, it is the most impeccably realized and rarefied

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  • Adaptation

    IF THIS WERE A CHARLIE KAUFMAN SCRIPT about me writing a review of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s new film Adaptation, I, Andrew Hultkrans, Artforum critic, would at this very moment be crawling the walls of my barren apartment like Gene Hackman at the end of The Conversation, mentally tracing not merely every single moment of my own life but every single moment of the entire history of the universe that, in evolutionary terms, led up to this all-nighter I’m pulling because I have to write a review of this diabolically unreviewable film called—it’s been careening around my brain for weeks

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  • Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary

    AS I SLID INTO MY SEAT at Alice Tully Hall for the New York Film Festival screening of Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary, I noticed the auditorium was only one-third occupied. A man behind me remarked, “I guess this isn’t a big seller.” I wondered why anyone would expect that a documentary about an unknown Nazi factotum like Traudl Junge would sell out. Who wants to know about the intricacies and intimacies of Adolf Hitler’s daily schedule? Who cares what this heinous criminal ate for dinner, how he related to his girlfriend, or to his dog? More to the point, who could bear to witness this naive,

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  • Paul Thomas Anderson

    “GEEK LOVE” WOULD BE the perfect title for Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, were it not already taken by Katherine Dunn’s 1989 carny novel. Instead, the young writer-director settled for Punch-Drunk Love to describe his “$25 million Adam Sandler art-house movie,” a conscious attempt to rein in his epic, ensemble-cast instincts and have a puckish go at the moribund romantic-comedy genre. Punch-Drunk’s high/low high jinks are immediately apparent, pairing Hollywood’s lowbrow cash cow Sandler with Lars von Trier alumna Emily Watson and mingling a nonprofessional supporting cast with the artiest

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  • Jacques Le Narcissiste

    WE CULTURE-ISTAS KNOW Derrida is the Madonna of thought. He’s antiphallogocentric and a total diva. Undeniably powerful, he’s either revered or deplored as the author of cultural relativism, rampant textuality, and undecidability. The notoriously close reader is still dashing at seventy-two, with a dark but surprisingly soft gaze, eagle-ish features, and a mildly poufy white coif: a silver fox. Spinning his web (yes, folks, that’s three animal metaphors!) of defamiliarization that readers find seductive or annoying, or both, his discourse is riddled with paradox: He fights to improvise “but

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  • Matthew Higgs on 24 Hour Party People

    IF YOU GREW UP in the North West of England in the late ’70s it was hard to avoid Tony Wilson, by day an anchor for the local television news, by night the host of So It Goes, one of the few television programs, anywhere, to both embrace and actively promote the emerging punk scene. Equal parts Dan Rather, Malcolm McLaren, and Oscar Wilde (at least in terms of his immodesty and penchant for foppish attire), Wilson had a vision: to see rain-sodden Manchester reborn in the manner of Renaissance Florence. Early to seize on punk’s potential, Wilson (along with his friend Alan Erasmus, graphic designer

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  • Noblesse Obliged: Geoffrey O’Brien on Eric Rohmer

    THAT ERIC ROHMER, NOW EIGHTY-TWO, should embark on a technically innovative film set during the French Revolution underscores the quiet experimentalism of his filmmaking, an experimentalism sometimes indistinguishable from a return to the earliest cinematic sources. Anyone might have adapted the 1801 memoirs of British aristocrat Grace Dalrymple Elliott, with their account of her troubled friendship with her former lover the duke of Orléans—she a fervent monarchist, he a radicalized aristocrat—and the dangers she experienced during the Revolution; the story, with its succession of escapes and

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  • Sundance Film Festival

    LOW-KEY AND REAL. That was how most people described Sundance 2002. The crowds were smaller, the streets less clogged, the movie and party buzz down to a hum. War and recession set a more sober tone, and post-September 11 Sundance felt less like a Hollywood ski weekend than, of all things, a serious, socially responsible, artistically ambitious film festival. Fittingly, documentaries blossomed in this climate, emerging from the nonfiction-film ghetto to be discussed with as much excitement as the “quirky” indie features of festivals past.

    How to Draw a Bunny, Andrew Moore and John Walter's

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  • Rhonda Lieberman on Todd Solondz

    WALTER BENJAMIN SAID it’s the winners whose histories are told, but Todd Solondz’s latest film proves it’s the losers. In two parts (“Fiction” and “Non-Fiction”), Storytelling—which premiered at Cannes last May and just opened in New York and Los Angeles—shows people ruined by the very stories they hope will redeem them.

    Like The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm’s classic study of the self-interested swap meet implicit in all narrative exchanges, Storytelling explores how we tell our story to console or vindicate ourselves—only to see it used for entirely different purposes. Easy to

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  • Mike Figgis’s Battle of Orgreave

    JUNE 17, 2001. In a muddy field in the north of England near a giant slag heap, British film director Mike Figgis is engulfed in a crowd of picketers who are slugging it out with massed ranks of bobbies in full riot gear. As the protesters hurl themselves against a wall of Plexiglas shields, only to be driven back by mounted police brandishing batons, Figgis dodges missiles and blows and keeps on filming. The conflict shifts to the nearby village of Orgreave, and the intrepid auteur is still there in the thick of it, clutching his Steadicam. The acclaimed director of 1995’s Oscar-winning Leaving

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