COLUMNS

  • It Felt Like a Kiss

    A BLONDE IN HOT PINK and a wrap as white as a wrap of pure cocaine steps out into a good-time party on what looks to be a balmy summer night, and sizzles. What she’s looking for is not sex, but a song.

    It’s fair, and obvious, to say she looks like sex; she also looks like Marilyn Monroe, this being Henry Hathaway’s Niagara (1953). Her character, Rose Loomis, is marked from the start as liberated, sexually adventurous, and thus imperiled. Rose is living in a cabin at Niagara Falls with George (Joseph Cotten), her husband, and is sleeping with a man named Patrick (Richard Allan). She and Patrick

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  • Pooch Rising

    LOYALTY IS A PARTICULARLY PRIZED QUALITY throughout Wes Anderson’s filmography—a man’s puppyish longing for his half-sister, who he has loved since she was a girl, in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), or the bonds of fealty that tie together boys’ adventure clubs such as the Khaki Scouts of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) or Steve Zissou’s Belafonte crew in The Life Aquatic (2004). Looking over the nine features that the director has made since 1996’s Bottle Rocket, a movie anchored by one man’s indefatigable devotion to a slightly cracked friend, it is difficult to recall a single instance of a contented

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  • The Goon Show

    OSTENSIBLY A WILD-EYED, CORROSIVE, CONVULSIVE SATIRE, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin (2017) comes off like George Orwell’s Animal Farm staged as a Comedy Central roast. Trading scabrous put-downs and obsequious equivocations about Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) and one another are a Who’s Who of grimly cackling reapers: Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin), and Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs). This crew of vile ideologues and heartless Communist party hacks jostles for position and power

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  • Accept No Substitutes

    EVEN IF YOU’VE SEEN WILLIAM KLEIN’S Muhammad Ali, the Greatest (1974) online or at a museum or festival, they are no substitutes for seeing it right now in a theater with an audience, just like you’ve seen Black Panther (2018). Take your kids, or any kids you know, to see a real-world hero. Muhammad Ali is one of the best films in “The Eyes of William Klein,” a retrospective at Quad Cinema of narrative and documentary features and shorts by the ninety-year-old photographer and filmmaker.

    In a documentary made for the BBC (not part of this series) to coincide with the filmmaker’s 2012 retrospective

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  • Young Folks

    SPUNKY YOUNG WOMEN FACING UNCERTAIN FUTURES leave their marks on this year’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center—two in the smashing directorial debuts by Léonor Serraille (Montparnasse Bienvenüe [2017]) and Léa Mysius (Ava [2017]), and a third in Bruno Dumont’s refreshingly offbeat Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc (2017). Ava is about a thirteen-year-old girl (Noée Abita) whose imminent blindness prompts her to seize what comes with reckless abandon before darkness sets in. At first a pouty Mouchette, she takes up with Juan (Juan Cano), a migrant

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  • It Gets Worse

    IN THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF ANYTHING RESEMBLING A COHERENT AESTHETIC POSITION for most of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, one turned to its “Forum” section for some vestige of curatorial integrity. Here, viewers could take in such promising marvels as the almost four-hour feature An Elephant Sitting Still (2018), the first and last film by Chinese novelist Hu Bo, who took his own life last year at the age of twenty-nine; Grass (2018), yet another feature by the endlessly prolific Hong Sangsoo, who also had a film in Rotterdam (and will likely show work at Cannes and Venice); and, in

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  • AN ABUNDANCE OF FLOWERS

    OPENING WITH the explosion of a champagne cork that unleashes a chain reaction of casual domestic violence mixed with drunken laughter, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Acht Stunden sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day)—a five-episode series made in 1972 for Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the largest of Germany’s regional television broadcasters—identifies the good guys and the meanies in the first two minutes. It was Fassbinder’s first major TV work; in the previous seven years, he had made fourteen feature films as well as numerous plays that defined him as not only the most prolific but also the

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  • WHEN LARRY MET LAWRENCE

    I ALWAYS THINK I’ve misremembered the title, or that the name itself is a red herring: Why is it Women in Love when the most infamous scene from Ken Russell’s 1969 film—an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s 1920 novel—features Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, both nude and sweat-slicked, their dongs jouncing, wrestling in front of a roaring fire? The lusty grapple lasts three minutes and feels like thirty. “Was it . . . too much for you?” one man asks the other, panting.

    The query could apply to nearly any segment of Russell’s third movie, his breakthrough. (Within the next ten years, the English

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  • Borelinale

    LAST NOVEMBER, A GROUP OF LOCAL FILMMAKERS PUBLISHED AN OPEN LETTER in Der Spiegel criticizing the Berlinale as the weakest of all international film festivals and calling for “a new beginning”: a clear reference to festival director Dieter Kosslick, whose contract runs out next year. Given the poor programming he has overseen and the subsequent general decline of the festival’s stature, the Berlinale is no longer at the level of Venice or Cannes as a serious forum for a rigorous assessment of the state of the art. Rather than listening to his critics with an open mind, Kosslick and his sycophants

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  • Meta Man

    QUENTIN TARANTINO WAS JUST A TYKE PLAYING DIRTY DOZEN with G.I. Joes in his backyard and “meta” was a mere prefix when English director-writer Mike Hodges’s Pulp (1972) poked its proto-postmodernist nose out a wormhole. This elusive contender for the title of “Curiouser and Curiouser Movie of 1972” then vanished into the footnotes of star and coproducer Michael Caine’s career. Riffing, for starters, on Mickey “I, the Jury” Spillane and Lewis Carroll, Pulp has an inexplicably serene sense of its B-movie preposterousness, and is awash in droll echoes and allusions. A quarter century of hardboiled

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  • Mixed Messages

    “HAVE YOU HEARD OF ‘AFROFUTURISM’?” responds the young artist, when her photographer asks why she’s hanging that ridiculous arrangement of electrical sockets over her painted face. “It’s this thing . . . It’s really big right now . . . and white people really like it for some reason.”

    With the international premiere of the brief, bold, and hilarious art-world satire This One Went to Market?, 2018, from Nairobi-based filmmaker Jim Chuchu’s brilliant new Web series We Need Prayers (2018–), produced together with the twelve-member strong Nest Collective, the Forty-Seventh International Film Festival

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  • Lazy Sunday

    APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL ONCE JOKED in an interview that he made films for his audience to fall asleep to. Well, perhaps it was more like a half-joke. The director’s SleepCinemaHotel (2018), one of the highlights of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, puts this idea into practice. Installed in the Zaal Staal of the city’s Postillion Convention Center WTC, the twenty beds on platforms of varying heights could be booked by guests for an overnight stay to take in the 120-hour-long film—featuring footage Apichatpong compiled from the archives of the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam

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