COLUMNS

  • COURT RULES

    SOME MOVIES tunnel into your emotions, some into your kinetic center, and some make you feel like your mind is on fire. The last are as pleasurable to think about after the fact as they are to watch. That High Flying Bird (2019), a movie about an NBA basketball lockout, is heady rather than kinetic is a surprise. Then again, maybe not, considering that its director is Steven Soderbergh, a filmmaker who gravitates toward puzzles and mindfucks but doesn’t always have scripts strong enough to sustain his vision. Here, he’s working with an exceptional writer, Tarell Alvin McCraney, who coauthored

    Read more
  • Blank Canvass

    SPOILER ALERT (sort of): What Is Democracy? doesn’t deliver an answer to its titular question or a remedy for our bleak times in the United States. What the film offers instead is a peripatetic and sweeping glance at a centuries-old problem through a chorus of shrewd assessments. And by chorus, I mean to denote ancient Greece and tragedy. This isn’t a hopeful documentary—how could it be?

    In lieu of speaking primarily with philosophers as in her past films—Zizek! (2005) and Examined Life (2008)—here writer and director Astra Taylor gathers a divergent group of interviewees: young students in Miami,

    Read more
  • Shadow Play

    I DON’T REALLY BELIEVE IN CANONS, but if Anthology Film Archives were to expand their Essential Cinema collection, one of the films they should add is Niki de Saint Phalle’s 1976 Un rêve plus long que la nuit (A Dream Longer Than the Night). The film is having a rare American showing in “Out of the Shadows: Experimental Feminist Films by Jane Arden, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Penny Slinger.” Curated by Alison Gingeras and Nicoletta Beyer, the series will be presented by Anthology from January 25 to January 31.

    A fairy tale that, like the revisionist fairy tales of Angela Carter, refuses the

    Read more
  • Lust in Space

    NUDE ON THE MOON, a 1961 oddity by the trailblazing sexploitation director Doris Wishman (under the male pseudonym Anthony Brooks), offers a compelling if implausible premise. Eight years before Apollo 11, Wishman envisioned the moon as a tropical paradise, filled with frolicking, topless women (and even a few men). There’s only the faintest hint of a plot, and the sci-fi framing of two jumpsuit-clad scientists going to explore the moon quickly gives way to a parade of nudie cuties. Recently restored by the American Genre Film Archive and showing at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on January

    Read more
  • Trial Runs

    THE ANNUAL FIRST LOOK SERIES at the Museum of the Moving Image provides an opportunity for adventurous New Yorkers to see international movies not likely to show up elsewhere. Among the must-sees in this year’s edition, which opens January 11, are three titles focused on Russian history, past and present. Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass (2018), the opening-night feature, with the director present, is a somewhat absurdist rumination on the civil war that continues to plague Ukraine. Conflating contrived situations with newsreel-worthy facts in mosaic-like fashion, the movie is composed of long-take

    Read more
  • X Post Facto

    ON PRINCIPLE, I appreciate holiday counter-programming, and this year into next, the Christmas season festivities at the Quad are a nasty wonder. “Rated-X” is an ultra-democratic selection of movies that once received an “X” from the MPAA ratings board, which throughout its history has been composed largely of retired people from Los Angeles and Orange Counties who have the time to look at unreleased movies all day and give them ratings that supposedly are meant to protect children, but occasionally adults, from seeing things that could have a deleterious effect on society. (I’m not kidding: In

    Read more
  • Mule Serenade

    A BIZARRE, BRAZEN, AND OFTEN WONDERFULLY SURPRISING FILM, The Mule will slink into cinemas without the benefit of year-end awards season campaigning—its director and star, Clint Eastwood, is a two-time Best Director winner. But despite all his prestige and success, he has somehow managed to retain a distinct tang of the déclassé. His latest film is a departure of sorts, for Eastwood’s last three directorial efforts, American Sniper (2014), Sully (2016), and The 15:17 to Paris (2018), make up something of a trilogy dedicated to professional expertise put to service under extreme duress, each

    Read more
  • Revenge Remix

    Soda_Jerk, an Australian two-person filmmaking collective that has been making sample-based features since 2002, describes their new work as a “political revenge fable.” The film, TERROR NULLIUS (2018), takes on settler colonialism, racism, and misogyny with a punk frankness that prompted one of its funders to pull their association with the project, calling it “un-Australian.” The film debuts in New York across two nights at Anthology Film Archives on December 14 and 16, 2018. Here, Leo Goldsmith talks with the collective about their new work, the ethical responsibility of sampling, and the

    Read more
  • The State He’s In

    German filmmaker Christian Petzold may be cinema’s foremost melodramatist—an auteur, but for the people. For three decades, he has borrowed from various genres––most noticeably, film noir––to ask questions about labor, love, and systems of oppression. Here, Artforum’s Matthew Carlson talks with Petzold about his career, now a focus of a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center that runs through December 13, 2018. The retrospective, titled “The State We Are In,” includes his early student work, his collaborations with Harun Farocki, a small selection of films that have influenced

    Read more
  • Amy Taubin

    1 ADRIAN PIPER (Museum of Modern Art, New York; curated by Christophe Cherix, Connie Butler, and David Platzker, with Tessa Ferreyros) Thanks not only to the great Funk Lessons video, 1983–84, but to the way the entire installation let the viewer journey through the narrative of her life in art, Piper’s retrospective was, for me, a movie and more.

    THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) As befits a dying planet, in Godard’s scorched-earth film, montage stutters, memory frays, and yet the will to look, listen, and make art survives.

    ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón) A masterpiece of old-fashioned narrative

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more