• Social Studies

    Tony Pipolo on “Currents” at the 59th New York Film Festival

    WITH FIFTEEN FEATURES and eight programs of shorts, the second edition of the New York Film Festival’s “Currents” sidebar almost qualifies as a festival in itself. Again international in scope, this year’s selections reflect the ongoing impact of social media, not only in terms of how it has altered the speed and perspective by which global events are registered, but in how it suggests a possible new direction for cinema; this seems to be the point of Tiffany Sia’s Do Not Circulate. In reworking cellphone images of the violent police response to protests in Hong Kong in 2019, Sia’s work seeks

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  • Grand Illusion

    Nicolas Rapold on the 78th Venice Film Festival

    PEDRO ALMODÓVAR’S PARALLEL MOTHERS was the official opening night film of the 78th Venice International Film Festival, but through a twist of scheduling, mine was the less-trumpeted Atlantide. The new feature from gallery artist and filmmaker Yuri Ancarani was a playful overture, a coming-of-age portrait of teenagers and their fast boats on the lagoons and waterways of another Venice not mobbed by tourists. Reframing the games of status and speed from Ancarani’s luxe mirage The Challenge (with an assist from some re-creation), Atlantide has everything: drag racing, hot pursuit by police, boat

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  • Prodigal Son

    Domenick Ammirati on Cheryl Dunn’s Moments Like These Never Last (2021)

    FOR THE UNINITIATED: Dash Snow was a New York City street kid, graffiti writer, and artist who died at in 2009 age twenty-seven of a heroin overdose, leaving behind an infant daughter, a partner, and many grieving friends. These are facts. He left behind little in the way of art-historical significance. This is an opinion, though one with which most presumptive experts agree. I mention this only to clarify the stakes of a new documentary about Snow. Moments Like These Never Last is a movie about a debatably compelling personality whose arc pierced an art world enthralled by youth, glamour, and

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    Ara Osterweil on Daïchi Saïto’s earthearthearth

    WE BEGIN IN THE BLACK, as the film exhales. Slowly, a jagged horizon appears against the darkly glowing empyrean. It flickers out, then returns. Another ragged lip of earth teethes a lambent sky: an awakening. Shot on 16 mm in 2015 in the Atacama Desert spanning the border between Chile and Argentina, and later blown up to a magisterial 35 mm, Daïchi Saïto’s thirty-minute experimental film earthearthearth (2021) is an optical acid trip in which the boundaries between terra firma and yawning firmament dissolve in a hallucinatory explosion of color and light.

    Like Ronald Johnson’s ARK (1996), the

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  • Modern Times

    Ratik Asokan on three Indian labor documentaries

    WHEN THE FIRST PANDEMIC WAVE swept through India last year, television stations briefly turned their attention from the elite’s fever dreams of jingoism and celebrity to the nightmarish condition of the working poor. It wasn’t so much the virus as the government response. Days after Prime Minster Narendra Modi declared a lockdown on March 24, there was a vast exodus of workers, who fled cities for their villages, largely on foot. More than 130 million lost their jobs overnight; wages had been so low and protections so scarce that they lacked even a few days’ savings. “The images of this restive

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  • Space Oddity

    Kaleem Hawa on Peter Wollen’s Friendship’s Death (1987)

    AN ANDROID NAMED FRIENDSHIP is sent to Earth on a peace mission from the faraway galaxy of Procyon, but something goes wrong upon atmospheric entry: Instead of landing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she finds herself in Jordan during Black September, the 1970 military conflict between the Jordanian army and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that followed in the wake of Israel’s mass Palestinian depopulations of 1967. Stranded in Amman, the android, designed by computers to arrive with a “fully axiomatized system of ethics” and a penchant for Charlie Parker, is captured

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  • Burn This Way

    Phoebe Chen on Pablo Larraín’s Ema

    AMID CREPITANT FLAMES and crying gulls, Pablo Larraín’s Ema begins with the same musical device that opened his previous film, Jackie (2016): a glissando, that quivering freefall between two notes ferried by string, synth, or breath. The sound of surrender to momentum, the sliding frequencies of a swoon. Jackie’s blooming glissandi laid a shortcut to intrigue where there was otherwise little, but with composer Nicolás Jaar, Larraín has found a way to spin that sonic texture into the core of his new film. Ema is about many things—a couple’s failed adoption, the special vitriol reserved for

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  • High Stakes

    Yasmina Price on “Till They Listen: Bill Gunn Directs America”

    “I WAS A VERY STRANGE CHILD. Everything had to be very beautiful.” In a 1974 interview with Impressions Magazine, the multihyphenate maverick Bill Gunn traced his aesthetic sensibilities to his precocious early years. A quiet only child who grew up in Philadelphia mostly around adults and with parents who both had artistic backgrounds, Gunn was fascinated by storytelling and uninterested in still photography and sought a physiognomic proximity that the theater could not deliver. The cinema, a space of collective solitude and close-ups, was an ideal fit. He called it his babysitter.  

    Gunn, who

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  • Test Drives

    Jordan Cronk on the 74th Cannes Film Festival

    JUST AS, FOR MANY, the pandemic’s repercussions on the movie industry weren’t fully accepted as fact until the Cannes Film Festival canceled their 2020 edition, so too were international film events in physical space not considered a reality until director Thierry Frémaux announced the festival’s return earlier this year. And return it did, belatedly and somehow bigger than ever, with new dates (July instead of the customary May), a new section (Cannes Premiere), new health protocols (mandatory Covid tests every forty-eight hours for non-Europeans), and a handful of films (most notably Wes

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  • Time Regained

    Jordan Cronk on C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s The Works and Days (2020)

    WRITTEN CIRCA 700 BC, the Greek poet Hesiod’s Works and Days is an 828-line poem that doubles as a sort of farmers’ almanac in which the author instructs his brother on the physical and moral imperatives of agrarian living. Less didactic but equally epic, C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) takes up the title and major themes of Hesiod’s verse for its own comprehensive look at a vanishing way of life in a small mountain village of forty-seven people in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Running 480 minutes, the film is structured by the cadences

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  • Sound and Fury

    Amy Taubin on Leos Carax’s Annette (2021)

    LEOS CARAX’S ANNETTE IS A MONSTER, a misery, an astoundingly raw movie/musical theater hybrid. It was the first film I saw in a screening room after fourteen months of pandemic isolation so circumstances may have played a part in my being so bouleversé. Also, I was sitting in the first row, the screen was very wide, and Carax doesn’t stint on close-ups. In any case, this is a film about a man who is fucking angry, and his anger went straight to my solar plexus, shaking me around for two hours. It also unleashed a torrent of associations, most of them cued by the director. In the end titles,

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  • Blood Stream

    J. Hoberman on David Dufresne’s Monopoly of Violence (2020)

    ESSENTIALLY A VEHICLE for solo performance, TikTok can make individual careers, but the humble Facebook-Twitter-YouTube ecosystem—identified by the British filmmaker Peter Snowdon as the vehicle for “vernacular video”—can make history. The most obvious example: Darnella Frazier’s recording of George Floyd’s murder, arguably the most influential single cinematic event in recent memory.

    The Uprising, 2014, Snowdon’s scandalously underappreciated Arab Spring compilation, is a landmark deployment of vernacular video. So is The Monopoly of Violence, 2020, known in France as Un pays qui se tient sage

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