COLUMNS

  • 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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  • War After War

    Sergei Loznitsa’s unflinching visions of Ukraine in flames

    SERGEI LOZNITSA, the prolific Ukrainian cineaste who has directed no less than twenty-six documentaries and five fictional features, remains too little known by general art cinema audiences, even after having garnered fifty-two significant awards at prominent international film festivals over his twenty-year career. In 2018 Loznitsa’s jet-black political satire Donbass earned him the prize for best director in the “Un Certain Regard” competition at Cannes. Three years later, also at Cannes, his feature-length documentary Babi Yar: Context won the L’Œil d’or as the best documentary of 2021. After

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  • True Blood

    Nicolas Rapold on the True/False Film Fest

    “WHERE IS YOUR COUNTRY GOING? It’s headed to an abyss, and it could bring the whole world with it,” Vytautas Landsbergis warned Soviet leadership in 1990, as it tried to strangle a newly independent Lithuania in the crib with bluster, blockades, and tanks. Watching this goateed music-professor-turned-leader steer the ship of state through the storm in Sergei Loznitsa’s Mr. Landsbergis, it was impossible not to think of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even within the warmhearted Midwestern haven for documentary art that is the True/False Film Fest, where guests basked in the good vibes of being

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  • French Dispatch

    Tony Pipolo on “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema”

    THE LINEUP of this year’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” presented by New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, may be the strongest in years. In addition to new work by seasoned auteurs Jacques Audiard, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Cedric Klapisch, and Francois Ozon, several directorial debut features merit particular note. One of these is Constance Meyer’s Robust, an unpretentious sketch of the relationship between an aging, temperamental actor struggling with health problems (the ever-resilient Gerard Depardieu) and his temporary guardian-cum-female-wrestler (Deborah Lukumuena). The rapport

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  • To the Wunder

    Nicolas Rapold on the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival

    AFTER SUNDANCE CALLED OFF its physical edition just two weeks before opening, it was a comfort and a joy that the Berlinale had the good fortune to take place on a streamlined schedule. When the festival’s Golden Bear went to Carla Simón’s Alcarràs—a handsome, serviceable portrayal of a Catalonian farm’s fade-out—I couldn’t help but sense a “just happy to be here” feeling in the air. The Competition jury’s lineup—which put M. Night Shyamalan and Ryusuke Hamaguchi in the same room—was arguably more exciting than the stubbornly even-keeled Alcarràs. But good films at the 2022 edition were where

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  • Hurt Locker

    The sublime stupidity of Jackass Forever

    TEN YEARS AGO, I got thrown through a wall in a shopping cart at an artist-run space in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a histrionic (and injurious) opener to a half-hour set wherein I restaged stunts from Jackass—the slapstick media franchise that debuted in 2000 as a television series on MTV—alongside visually similar works of early performance art by Yoko Ono, Chris Burden, Marina Abramović, and Vito Acconci. Between such actions as permitting alarmingly zealous attendees to wax my chest and getting shot with a toy gun, I quoted from Julia Kristeva’s foundational 1980 treatise on grossness,

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