COLUMNS

  • True Blood

    Nicolas Rapold on the True/False Film Fest

    “WHERE IS YOUR COUNTRY GOING? It’s headed to an abyss, and it could bring the whole world with it,” Vytautas Landsbergis warned Soviet leadership in 1990, as it tried to strangle a newly independent Lithuania in the crib with bluster, blockades, and tanks. Watching this goateed music-professor-turned-leader steer the ship of state through the storm in Sergei Loznitsa’s Mr. Landsbergis, it was impossible not to think of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even within the warmhearted Midwestern haven for documentary art that is the True/False Film Fest, where guests basked in the good vibes of being

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  • French Dispatch

    Tony Pipolo on “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema”

    THE LINEUP of this year’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” presented by New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, may be the strongest in years. In addition to new work by seasoned auteurs Jacques Audiard, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Cedric Klapisch, and Francois Ozon, several directorial debut features merit particular note. One of these is Constance Meyer’s Robust, an unpretentious sketch of the relationship between an aging, temperamental actor struggling with health problems (the ever-resilient Gerard Depardieu) and his temporary guardian-cum-female-wrestler (Deborah Lukumuena). The rapport

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  • To the Wunder

    Nicolas Rapold on the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival

    AFTER SUNDANCE CALLED OFF its physical edition just two weeks before opening, it was a comfort and a joy that the Berlinale had the good fortune to take place on a streamlined schedule. When the festival’s Golden Bear went to Carla Simón’s Alcarràs—a handsome, serviceable portrayal of a Catalonian farm’s fade-out—I couldn’t help but sense a “just happy to be here” feeling in the air. The Competition jury’s lineup—which put M. Night Shyamalan and Ryusuke Hamaguchi in the same room—was arguably more exciting than the stubbornly even-keeled Alcarràs. But good films at the 2022 edition were where

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  • Hurt Locker

    The sublime stupidity of Jackass Forever

    TEN YEARS AGO, I got thrown through a wall in a shopping cart at an artist-run space in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a histrionic (and injurious) opener to a half-hour set wherein I restaged stunts from Jackass—the slapstick media franchise that debuted in 2000 as a television series on MTV—alongside visually similar works of early performance art by Yoko Ono, Chris Burden, Marina Abramović, and Vito Acconci. Between such actions as permitting alarmingly zealous attendees to wax my chest and getting shot with a toy gun, I quoted from Julia Kristeva’s foundational 1980 treatise on grossness,

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  • Born Again

    Sundance measures humanity’s depths in a toxic world

    “WOW NANNY,” I texted to one of my Sundance critic pals—she on the West Coast, me on the East—after I had viewed Nikyatu Jusu’s debut feature, which a few days later won the grand prize in the festival’s US Dramatic competition. Except for a few screenings in seven “Satellite” locations across the US, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival was entirely virtual. Given that the decision to put everything online was made only two weeks before the January 20 opening date, it was amazing how smoothly things went. I streamed about thirty-five of the festival’s ninety-eight features without a glitch, and

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  • HOW I MET MY MOTHER

    Zack Hatfield on Céline Sciamma’s Petite maman

    THERE ARE NO MOTHERS in fairy tales, a genre of orphans whose winding paths, however enchanted, lead to domestic conventionality. Not so in Céline Sciamma’s elliptical and enigmatic Petite maman, about a girl who encounters a stranger she has known since birth and how their incredible attachment twists the asymmetries of motherhood into a new, beguiling shape. Running to a crisp seventy-two minutes, the film begins with eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) bidding au revoir to the elderly residents of a nursing home one by one before arriving at the room of her maternal grandmother, who recently

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  • Sleepless Nights

    Amy Taubin on Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria

    FIRST, WE SEE A ROOM. It is dark, too dark to make out details or even the colors hinted at in various shades of gray. There seems to be a bed and perhaps a person asleep under the covers. Just when your eyes are intent on the little that can be seen, you hear—could it be?—a sonic boom, a sound so loud and dense that it vibrates through your entire body. When we say a film is kinetic, we are usually describing the effect of its images on the viewer. But the kineticism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria is auditory. So overwhelming is its impact that it would be ridiculous to say we watched

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  • Missing Men

    Anna Shechtman and D. A. Miller on Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers

    A SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY of Almodóvar country would duly remark the profusion of single mothers and sisterly subcultures. The most obvious explanation for this phenomenon is the no less abundant population of bad men: fathers who rape, batter, walk out, or otherwise abdicate the paternal function, as psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott called it, of protecting maternity. In Parallel Mothers, Almodóvar’s latest film, Ana (Milena Smit), for instance, is pregnant with a child conceived in a sexual assault involving multiple men. Whoever sired her little Anita will not be coming forward, even if intimidated

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  • Sleepless Nights

    Amy Taubin on Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria

    FIRST, WE SEE A ROOM. It is dark, too dark to make out details or even the colors hinted at in various shades of gray. There seems to be a bed and perhaps a person asleep under the covers. Just when your eyes are intent on the little that can be seen, you hear—could it be?—a sonic boom, a sound so loud and dense that it vibrates through your entire body. When we say a film is kinetic, we are usually describing the effect of its images on the viewer. But the kineticism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria is auditory. So overwhelming is its impact that it would be ridiculous to say we watched

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  • Oceanic Feeling

    Arthur Jafa’s new wavelength

    WE’RE IN A JUKE JOINT on a boardwalk overlooking the gulf, now transformed into a sea of magma. The 45s are warped, the turntable spins erratically. We sit on metal chairs and watch the waves of blackness. This is how the world ends—for me, and maybe for you.

    Arthur Jafa’s AGHDRA, an eighty-five-minute moving image and sound installation, is on view in a cavernous warehouse at 439 West 127th Street. Formerly Gavin Brown’s uptown gallery, the building has been sold, and who knows to what purposes its new owner will put it. But right now, Jafa has returned to the space where in 2016 he showed Love

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  • Haute Mess

    House of Gucci loses the thread

    THE HOUSE OF GUCCI trailers and the House of Gucci movie are distinct cultural objects. The former appeared to have been edited in the cutting room of RuPaul’s Drag Race, pouring generously into the bottomless Bellini of camp Lady Gaga serves gay culture. Complete with baffling accent slips (was there a little too much vodka, the commentariat wondered, in Lady Gaga’s penne?), a blasphemous new Holy Trinity, and the foreboding power of a tiny spoon meeting the rim of a demitasse, they achieved cult status months before the film itself even existed.  

    That film, written by Becky Johnston and Roberto

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  • Stage Coach

    Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s dramas of disconnection

    IN THEIR EARLY DAYS, films weren’t as concerned with the realistic elaboration of action as with the various devices writers, directors, cinematographers, and production artists used to convey ideas and emotion through moving images. Theatricality—what Roland Barthes called a “sensuous artifice”—was at the basis of these movies, tasked not with recreating verité on screen but with artfully construing the psyche. Shadows and bursts of light, recurring objects, long takes, static camerawork, expressive acting, and striking (though not necessarily beautiful) faces seared images into a viewer’s

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