COLUMNS

  • Ready, Willem and Abel

    THERE IS A CERTAIN SPECIES of fecund artist from whom work seems to flow in abundance, like a natural byproduct of his or her existence. In literature there are the Georges Simenons and Honoré de Balzacs; in pop music, the Chief Keefs and Mark E. Smiths. Various popular cinemas through the years have supported such prolificity—think 1930s Hollywood or ’80s Hong Kong—though as the mechanisms of production became more onerous in America, it became the provenance of independents and experimental filmmakers, from Stan Brakhage to Kevin Jerome Everson. In the latter-day commercial cinema, a business

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  • À La Modal

    THE EDDY, a sensational eight-episode Netflix miniseries, is named for a jazz club in Paris’s thirteenth arrondissement, home to a polyglot sextet led by American ex-pat Elliot Udo (André Holland). On good nights, the music induces euphoria in the club’s devoted audience, and perhaps you as well. (Wear good headphones and turn up the sound.) There are also nights when nothing lands, and, even worse, when the dive’s owners, Elliot and his best friend Farid (Tahar Rahim), are terrorized by henchmen for a Serbian mob boss. The Eddy is a jazz musical with a thriller edge, and it’s also a dense

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  • Isolation Tank

    IN CONFINEMENT, the captive mind cycles like a broken karaoke machine. Little Caesar’s last words bleed out over vintage Doors: “Mother of mercy, is this the end?” Is this perilous moment the inevitable fulfillment of our dystopian fantasies, nihilist reveries, catastrophist theories, jaundiced forecasts, and intellectual doomsday-prepping? Oh, mama, has the Groundhog Day of reckoning come round at last—only with charnel nursing homes and fatal equipment shortages in place of SFX hordes and burning cities?

    But let’s not get ahead of our civilizational demise. Instead of doubling down on rote

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  • Good Measure

    PLEASE BELIEVE THESE DAYS WILL PASS. Amid a massive collective reckoning with sickness and death, these words are emblazoned on billboards across ten UK cities, oblivious to anger and grief. Carolyn Lazard’s work offers a markedly different perspective on temporality, putting store in indeterminacy. How will disparate feelings around what could have been, and what is now, affect what happens in the future? The Philadelphia-based artist’s first UK solo show, “Safe Space,” originally scheduled to open on April 2 at Cell Project Space in London, is indefinitely postponed. An April screening of

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  • KILL OR CURE

    IF YOU EVER GET SICK IN ROMANIA, hightail it to Vienna. That was my immediate takeaway, near the end of January—almost to the day that the first Covid-19 case was diagnosed in the United States—from Alexander Nanau’s Collective (2019), a chilling investigative documentary about the endemic, engulfing corruption inside Romania’s health system. Anyone who has seen Cristi Puiu’s true-story-based narrative The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)—a foundational title of the New Romanian Cinema that follows a dying old man as he’s rejected by hospital after hospital—has already gotten an eyeful of what

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  • THE LONG GOODBYE

    A MESMERIZING, two-hour assemblage fashioned from archival material intended for The Great Farewell, a never-released feature documenting the March 1953 funeral of Soviet maximum leader Joseph Stalin, Sergei Loznitsa’s State Funeral is both awesome and stupefying, conjuring the spectacle of a dead pharaoh laid to rest in a celluloid pyramid of his own design.

    In making The Great Farewell, the filmmakers had access to film stock captured in Germany during World War II. Thus, the first thing that strikes the viewer of Loznitsa’s artful, dispassionately titled re-hallucination may be the glorious

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  • Autumn Leaves

    IN ELIZA HITTMAN’S SUPERBLY UNDERSTATED Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a seventeen-year-old high schooler named Autumn (Sidney Flanigan, in a strikingly honest and emotionally layered screen debut) needs to have an abortion. Need is the operative word, not want. Autumn’s need is not medical. She needs to able to control her life. She needs to get out of the small failed Pennsylvania town where every man treats every woman as if she’s a punching bag, existing only to prove his power. If she is forced to care for a baby, Autumn knows she’ll never be able to get away.

    In Pennsylvania, a minor must

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  • Home Alone

    TO PARAPHRASE X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene: “Oh Anxiety, Up Yours!” Although some readers believe I’m an early ’80s punk, I’m actually eighty-one years old, and find myself in an increasingly dismaying demographic. As of late, I wake up several times a night in a panic, which deep breathing does not alleviate. The only way I can suspend dire thoughts about mortality—my own and that of people I love—is by watching movies on my home screens. Putting aside my preference for dark theaters, where images are big if not always beautiful, I’m amazed at how easy it is to get lost in moving pictures that

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  • Bird Lives

    BARELY A SPECK ON A SATELLITE MAP: That’s Bacurau, an imaginary one-street town in strife-torn northeastern Brazil “a few years from now,” until the moment it isn’t there anymore. Fifteen minutes into this carnival of subterranean cross-pollination, a teacher (Wilson Rabelo) tries to show his students on his iPad where their village is, to find that it’s no longer on the grid, erased from Google Earth. Bacurau is also a name for a “cryptically colored” nighthawk known for its ability to go unseen—a real bird with a place in legend and folklore, also known in some quarters as a “goatsucker.”

    After

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  • Got Milk

    LAST YEAR, in Italy, researchers revealed that a pair of ancient skeletons, found hand in hand and so styled “the lovers of Modena,” were in fact both male. Who were these two people, frozen in an eternal embrace? Kelly Reichardt’s new film begins with a kindred enigma: a dyad exhumed in modern Oregon by a woman (Alia Shawkat) ambling along the riverbank with her dog, who snuffs the bones among the reeds. Brushing aside the pup, she digs first with idle interest, then enthrallment, filmed with a languor that lulls us into Reichardt’s measured rhythms, which swell into quiet suspense. Minutes

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  • SLEAZE EN ABYME

    THE ROMANIAN DIRECTOR Corneliu Porumboiu may be the most epistemologically preoccupied filmmaker this side of Errol Morris, but having spent his first fourteen years living under the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Père Ubu–ist regime, his sense of the absurd is second nature.

    12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), Porumboiu’s first feature, is predicated on a ridiculous controversy as to whether an actual revolution occurred in the director’s hometown. (The Romanian title translates as a question that might be the prelude to an Eastern European folktale: “Was There or Not?”) Police, Adjective (2009), the

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  • Baroque Faith

    THE FIRST IMAGE in Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela is an empty street at night, from which a few headstones marking a cemetery are visible. It’s a grisaille, so denuded of color that you process the image as monochrome, and as such it’s a little disconcerting when a cortege passes through and a few hints of pigment—skin, a brown knit cap—become visible among the mourners, all black, all middle-aged or older, some walking with difficulty.

    I thought I recognized the street, hemmed in by high walls of concrete, though I’ve never been to Portugal. I thought, perhaps, it was one of those corridor-like

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