COLUMNS

  • CROWD SOURCE

    THE MENTION OF REDDIT most likely conjures the thought of “Ask Me Anything” interviews, or perhaps the alt-right sewers of /r/The_Donald or /r/TheRedPill. In Chris Kennedy’s silent 16-mm film Watching the Detectives (2017), the website figures as something else: a place to witness the ways in which truth claims are made and unmade across distance, in real time, often with little grounding in fact.

    Kennedy begins with a tweet—“Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people”—before cutting to footage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured some 260 others

    Read more
  • Mild Roast

    PYROMANIA AND CLEANSING FIRE play key roles in Burning, Lee Chang-dong’s sixth feature and his first since 2010’s Poetry, but for most of its run time, the film works at a slow smolder. At the heart of the movie is a glowing ember of resentment and suspicion, softly and steadily blown on and piled with kindling from scene to scene, until it has no choice but to ignite.

    The screenplay, by Lee and Oh Jung-mi, was adapted from “Barn Burning,” a ten-page short story by Haruki Murakami. While retaining key scenes and premises, it departs in many crucial ways from its stated model, which is to be

    Read more
  • Gross Value

    BOXER’S OMEN (1983) MAY NOT BE THE BEST of the hex-hectored horror films turned out by the Shaw Brothers Studio beginning in the mid-1970s, but it does exemplify the qualities that make these movies prized by a small but dedicated cadre of sickies: the anything-goes spirit of excess, the air of the lurid and the lunatic, and, above all, the sheer viscous nastiness. They are movies that leave you ready to scour your pupils with a Brillo pad, their approach something like the funny-smelling kid on the playground who’d sidle up to you and go, “Hey, wanna see something gross?”

    Directed with garish

    Read more
  • Strangest Things

    A LOONY FAIRY TALE opens this year’s “Projections” sidebar of the Fifty-Sixth New York Film Festival. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino alludes to the immigration crisis, cybernetics, gender-bending, political corruption, internet crime, and global sports mania, yet it remains fanciful to the end, replete with a bevy of villains and a too-good-to-be-true hero, who gives the film its title. Diamantino Matamouros (Carlo Cotta), like Wagner’s Siegfried, is, as English comedian Anna Russell’s hilarious spoof described Siegfried, “very brave, very handsome, and very stupid.” Soccer

    Read more
  • SYNC OR SWIM

    “Believe me, we are never sad enough for the world to be better.”

    FOUR YEARS IN THE MAKING, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le livre d’image (The Image Book, 2018) could not be more of the moment. It is almost without narrative constraints—the most abstract in the series of collage films that spin off from his epic Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–98)—and is thus as ephemeral as a dream. I saw it twice at Cannes in May, and although I still remember the intensity of the experience, the details have fled my mind. Le livre d’image is also the most melancholy of his late films, yet it is framed with an

    Read more
  • Fault Lines

    HALFWAY THROUGH director Sofia Djama’s accomplished feature-film debut, Les Bienheureux (The Blessed), about the intertwined lives of five characters struggling with the past and the future in present-day Algiers, a pudgy teenager with obnoxious hair pushes his sister aside at her bedroom door. They’ve been fighting about their dad, a man both demanding and catatonically depressed, and about who is responsible for the housework. Their mother is dead, and the whole family is clearly bereft. The sister, Ferial, has a sharp tongue and an outsize attitude. She isn’t taking any of her brother’s crap.

    Read more
  • Sound Off

    “GLOBALIZATION TAKES PLACE ONLY IN CAPITAL AND DATA,” wrote Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in her 2012 book An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. “Everything else is damage control.” Networks of information exchange have garbled political messaging; if political art could ever accurately reflect ideology, that mirror is now increasingly clouded. The challenge, argues Spivak, is to relearn how to learn, and an aesthetic education is the only way to deliver global justice.

    Enter Matangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, the rapper-singer-provocateur better known by her stage name, M.I.A. The logical

    Read more
  • Day Shifts

    RAMELL ROSS’S FEATURE DOCUMENTARY DEBUT Hale County This Morning, This Evening isn’t a character study in the usual sense, though it does single out two principal characters, both young black men living in a low-income area of rural Alabama, for name-tag identification. Daniel is an incoming freshman joining the basketball team at tiny HBCU Selma University. Quincy, seemingly around the same age, has already begun shouldering adult responsibilities, raising a son, Kyrie, with his wife Boosie. We get to see into the lives of both young men, and rather more into the vivid life of the community

    Read more
  • LADIES OF THE LAKE

    THE STATUS OF female filmmakers in the twenty-first century remains grim. In 2016, two federal agencies began an investigation into discrimination against women directors in Hollywood, prompted by the ACLU’s abysmal findings on sexism in the industry. In June of this year, the Directors Guild of America published a report on the 651 films released theatrically in the US in 2017—from the microbudgeted to the big-studio-backed—which found that women accounted for only 16 percent of directors.

    Against this bleak data, several initiatives from the past five years have reminded us of the

    Read more
  • Rise, Resist

    DIRECTOR STEPHEN MAING might just be the next Laura Poitras. Poitras produced his previous short film, The Surrender (2015), on State Department intelligence analyst Stephen Kim’s prosecution under the Espionage Act, and she is the executive producer of his latest inflammatory feature, Crime + Punishment, an account of racist policing in New York and its ripple effects in Ferguson and beyond. The film focuses on two intertwined stories: the NYPD 12, a group of Latinx and black cops who stood up against racial profiling and filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, and a private investigator

    Read more
  • Swiss Watch

    THE YEAR’S EDITION OF THE LOCARNO FESTIVAL—held every August along Lake Maggiore in southern Switzerland—was preceded by buzz of a different kind: the news that its artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, would be ending his five-year run to join the Berlinale in 2020. This announcement lent an air of anticipation and ambiguity to a festival that has long embraced the unpredictable in its championing of a conception of cinema as diverse and experimental as one is likely to find at a major festival. Where else would Bruno Dumont (who received a lifetime achievement award) share the eight-thousand-seat

    Read more
  • Lost and Found

    NOT LONG AFTER HER HUSBAND, the philosopher and Resistance leader Robert Antelme, was ambushed by the Gestapo in Paris in 1944 and deported to Buchenwald, Marguerite Duras logged the ensuing period of uncertainty in a diary that would spend the next four decades yellowing in a cupboard, supposedly forgotten. In 1985—one year after Duras enthralled the world with The Lover, a slim, fathomless autofiction of scarring desires too often misread as one of brave romance—the journal was finally published, alongside other memoir-like vignettes and two fictions, as La Douleur (Pain). The word is euphemistic.

    Read more