• By the Book

    ONE OF THE MYSTERIES OF Ex Libris: New York Public Library is how a movie consisting almost entirely of people sitting around talking on library grounds manages to feel urgent and invigorating.

    The film is the latest of the institutional studies that Frederick Wiseman has been producing for the half century since Titicut Follies (1967), set in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. Wiseman’s project is among the most ambitious ever undertaken in nonfiction cinema, a nearly comprehensive chronicling of (mostly) American institutions, and his rigor and intelligence are so

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  • Only the Lonely

    TSAI MING-LIANG is one of the great charters of human loneliness. This month’s retrospective at the Kino Arsenal in Berlin allows you to consider Tsai’s cinema in its entirety (excluding his shorts and television features). You can watch the city of Taipei through the final decade of the twentieth century and to the present, as it begins to resemble the scripted expectations of a twenty-first-century metropolis, or the development of his small ensemble of players, notably Lee Kang-sheng, the handsome and mysterious leading man whom Tsai discovered working in a video-game arcade and has cast in

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  • Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream

    A WORLD WHERE TWIN PEAKS is the center is horrifying and moral because there is, obviously, no God. There’s no sense of God, no shadow or presence. There’s not even a church, astounding for a town with a diner, a roadhouse, a hospital, woods, waterfalls and rivers. There is a church in the unincorporated community of Twin Peaks, California. There are three churches of the Mormon kind by the foot of the Twin Peaks range in Utah. A work so wholly American, American as Underworld, as A Face in the Crowd, and yet not Christian exists nowhere else. But in Twin Peaks, Washington, in lieu of a creator,

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  • Screen Time

    OVER THE LATEST HOURS of Twin Peaks: The Return, two time lines emerge, one stronger, one fainter, like lines on a pregnancy test. (If my husband is reading this: I’m not pregnant.) Old Dougie Jones (Kyle MacLachlan) comes off a bender with the Mitchum Brothers (James Belushi and Robert Knepper) and the bunny-type girls (Amy Shiels, Giselle DaMier, and Andrea Leal) and swerves into the Lucky 777 Insurance office, horrisonous music, a marching song for manic-depressive clowns, playing behind him. Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), a double agent at the company, calls his criminal boss, Mr. Todd,

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    THE TITLE of Abbas Kiarostami’s posthumous film, 24 Frames (2016), both announces the nature of the work—consisting of two dozen shots, all but one statically filmed with a fixed camera—and deviously invokes Jean-Luc Godard’s famous pronouncement, “Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames a second.” Godard’s formulation, like so much imagery that will soon prove obsolete in relation to movies, referred to celluloid; Kiarostami in fact abandoned that medium long ago for digital filmmaking, in which separate frames do not actually exist. Never mind that the increasingly postmodernist

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  • A River Runs Through It

    STAND IN THE STREAM, the title of Stanya Kahn’s recent hour-length video, has taken on an extra layer of associations in the final two weeks of its exhibition at MoMA PS1. So has the opening image of a policeman in a heavy-duty military-like jacket and helmet standing, his back to the camera, on a beach next to some kind of motorized, perhaps amphibious vehicle. I think I’ve seen something like it on TV, ferrying stranded Texas flood victims to safety. Or maybe not.

    Kahn lifted the title from a bit of dialogue in Bertolt Brecht’s Man Equals Man (1926), an early play about the dehumanizing effect

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  • Pointe Break

    THOUGH POLINA IS DESCRIBED AS A DANCE FILM, it is by no means typical of the genre. Like its titular protagonist, who rejects a career as a Bolshoi ballerina in search of something more vital to her life, the film does not follow the lead of its estimable predecessors. Unlike The Red Shoes (1948), it is not about a ballerina under the spell of a tyrannical impresario. Nor is it like the first episode of Vincente Minnelli’s The Story of Three Loves (1953), which echoes the same fatal attraction leading to the death of the heroine—played by the glorious Moira Shearer in both films. And though it

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  • As Luck Would Have It

    LOGAN LUCKY, Steven Soderbergh’s return to theatrically distributed feature filmmaking after an announced retirement, is very far from the grand statement one might expect after a long period of withdrawal and seclusion. In point of fact, Soderbergh has never really disappeared from the scene, and he’s never been so precious in conducting his career to succumb to the eventizing ballyhoo that obsesses a Tarantino or a Nolan, and so he has kept working at something or another at a brisk clip.

    His “comeback,” if we want to call it that, is a piece of candy-colored cracker-barrel Americana. It has

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  • Runs in the Family

    IN THE SAFDIE BROTHERS’ GOOD TIME, Robert Pattinson does an end run around the cops and anyone and anything that comes between him and the nowhere to which he’s headed. He’s literally on the run almost every time we see him, and when he’s not running, his adrenaline is jacked up so high it looks as if he is. As Connie Nikas, a petty criminal with a long rap sheet on a mission to save Nick (Benny Safdie), his younger and in every way slower brother, from the system, Pattinson jettisons almost everything that made him a romantic leading man—good manners, cultured diction, languorous grace, and,

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  • Digital Planet

    THE FILMS THAT WILL BE PLAYING at Anthology Film Archives in “This Is MiniDV (On 35mm)” are collected according to a simple principle, but for this viewer they conjure up a complicated welter of feelings. In keeping with recent (and welcome) developments following the DCP changeover catastrophe, which have raised awareness of projection format and brought us festivals and programs dedicated to nitrate film and 3D restorations, ultra-niche “This Is MiniDV” looks at a brief moment in the late 1990s and early aughts when the digital revolution was only partially complete: almost totally in

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  • Lines of Flight

    SELF-MYTHOLOGIZATION WAS BUILT into the story of the Zanzibar Group from the beginning. A loose confederation of young amateur filmmakers joined together in the late 1960s around shared radical politics and the patronage of twenty-five-year-old heiress Sylvina Boissonnas, they were named retrospectively for a voyage undertaken by one of their number, Serge Bard. Bard was a dropout from the ethnology department at the university of Nanterre who had crossed the African continent to reach the revolutionary Maoist government of Zanzibar, making a film along the way.

    Bard never completed his proposed

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  • Saving Face

    CORRECTION: I SAID “WE CAN GUESS” that Miriam’s letter, bearing witness to Richard Horne’s (Eamon Farren) manslaughter of a boy, would make its way to the sheriff and would be believed. But she is not dead—yet. Emerging on all fours from the woods, she is found and taken to the emergency room, where she, uninsured, requires a life-saving operation. Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) delivers the update to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), who says he will pay for it. A bad thought arrives: He could pull a Leland Palmer and suffocate the witness at her bedside. But from now on, “we” will refrain

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