COLUMNS

  • John Waters

    JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (Bruno Dumont) An insanely radical heavy-metal grade-school religious pageant that is sung in French from beginning to end. The actors themselves seem like they might burst out laughing, but this is no joke. It’s the best movie of the year. You’ll hate it.

    AMERICAN ANIMALS (Bart Layton) A true-crime story with a brilliant ensemble cast and the real-life culprits and victims edited in, commenting throughout on the action. Adolescent group madness is a beautiful thing to watch.

    NICO, 1988 (Susanna Nicchiarelli) A small, sad, fearless biopic that asks

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  • Ed Halter

    O HORIZON (The Otolith Group) The most immersive cinematic work to date by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, this sensuously philosophical portrait of the West Bengal educational center Santiniketan also serves as a waking dream of alternative modernism.

    “BEFORE PROJECTION: VIDEO SCULPTURE 1974–1995” (MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA and SculptureCenter, NY) One of the finest moving-image gallery exhibitions in recent memory, curator Henriette Huldisch’s eye-opening show of video art from the cathode-ray era conveys the history of the medium with an all-too-rare precision, mingling

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  • J. Hoberman

    WORMWOOD (Errol Morris) I saw this six-episode, four-hour-long mix of documentary interviews and dramatic reconstructions in mid-December 2017 and have been haunted by it ever since. Wormwood delves into the notorious case of army biologist Frank Olson, who became the unwitting guinea pig of the CIA’s LSD experiments and in 1953 dove to his death from a hotel window. An examination of obsession as well as a chilling Cold War mystery, Wormwood entwines Olson’s story with that of his brilliant son Eric, who has devoted his life to (or thrown it away on) an attempt to know the unknowable.

    LE

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  • Melissa Anderson

    ZAMA (Lucrecia Martel) A significant departure for Martel, this bewildering, enthralling adaptation of fellow Argentinean Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 novel of the same name, the tale of an abject late-eighteenth-century magistrate, brilliantly diagnoses the sickness of empire.

    EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) RWF’s proletariat paean from 1972–73—the first of several TV miniseries that the prodigious New German Cinema godhead would direct—stands as his warmest, most optimistic project, filled with utopian promise and a dazzling constellation of characters.

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  • James Quandt

    DEAD SOULS (Wang Bing) Wang’s epic eight-hour-long documentary about the Maoist reeducation camps of the 1950s collects the clandestine testimony of survivors in a heroic act of historical witness.

    2 THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) A surging requiem for a world addicted to its own annihilation.

    UN HOMME MARCHE DANS LA VILLE (1950) (Marcello Pagliero) The revelation of the mini-retrospective dedicated to the Italian-French auteur Pagliero at II Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, this neorealist noir set in Le Havre deserves classic status.

    THOMAS BAYRLE (New Museum, New York) The films and videos

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  • Home Truths

    I KNOW MONEY IS TIGHT, and given your $10.99 monthly Netflix bill, why should you pay for a movie theater ticket to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, a movie shot digitally that isn’t even in color, when you’ll be able to stream it anytime you like, beginning December 14? Trust me, if it’s at all possible, get to a theater. Financed independently and then sold to Netflix, Roma plays for three weeks in art cinemas worldwide before it begins its streaming life. Well, half-life. Some of you may know this writer as the fanatic who insists that Warhol’s 16-mm celluloid movies become “nothing at all”—thanks,

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  • Snide and Petulance

    THE FAVOURITE MAY BE MARKED AS A DEPARTURE for director Yorgos Lanthimos, but his recent work, unusual among his that of his peers in a film festival circuit that often rewards familiarity, has comprised a series of such departures, this following an English-language debut with The Lobster (2015) and an American excursion in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017). Now we have Lanthimos’s first period film, set at the beginning of the eighteenth century during the reign of Queen Anne, though it’s a particularly irreverent and tawdry approach to the hallowed tradition of the English heritage film,

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  • Brush Folks

    TWO NEW FILMS ABOUT ARTISTS offer contrasting approaches to the biopic, a genre arguably subject to greater scrutiny of its claims to truth than any other. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away coerces biographical details to augur the future genius of its painter protagonist, scrambling events to connect the dots and keep the story moving. Repudiating such conventions, Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate is a deeply personal portrait of painter Vincent van Gogh, its handheld camera immersing us almost physically in the man’s anguished compulsion to paint in a way no previous film

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  • Steal Magnolias

    IN 2015, the blockbuster novelist Gillian Flynn’s second book––Dark Places, a typically macabre, perspective-shuffling tale of homicide and fucked-up family dynamics straight from an economically blighted American heartland—was turned into a blandly imagined Charlize Theron vehicle by the French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Aside from that misfire (for which Flynn received only a “based on the novel by” credit), Flynn’s endeavors into movies and television have produced a string of starry, auteur-caliber collaborations. Her marriage-woes dissection Gone Girl found an ideal interrogator

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  • Table Talk

    IN 1983, Chris Marker released a movie called Sans Soleil (Sunless). Filmed mostly between Tokyo and Guinea-Bissau, Sans Soleil looks at memory and history; for Marker, both were a form of amnesia. “I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining,” says Sans Soleil’s narrator, voiced in the French version by Florence Delay. “We do not remember; we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?” Her voice—an elliptical coo—glides through shots of desert, then ocean, or

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  • The Soprano

    IN THE FALL OF 1971 AND THE SPRING OF ’72, the American-born soprano Maria Callas conducted ten master classes at the Juilliard School of Music at Lincoln Center in New York. Responding to a tiny announcement in the New York Times, I paid the registration fee, along with some equally devoted friends, and each week we sat amid artists, musicians, and other fans for what would become one of the most exhilarating and indelible experiences of my life. The moment Callas walked onstage, she blew out of the water every trite stereotype of the demonic, temperamental diva that dogged her relentlessly—the

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  • DANCE DANCE DEVOLUTION

    A TRIUMPH of riotous style and a lot of fun, Dario Argento’s Suspiria, released in 1977, plays like a Henry James plot drowning in pools of crimson and gore and glutted with witchy jibber-jabber (aka Latin). In the film—the paragon of the giallo, the genre of visually voluptuous Italian horror movies that peaked in the 1970s—a young American dancer named Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives at a tanz academy in Freiburg, Germany, and discovers that the school is a front for necromancers conspiring to sacrifice the students to the coven queen. Embracing Suspiria’s loopy story line, J.

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