Film

  • Tonight, Atomic

    FLAMMABLE AND INFLAMMABLE both mean “easy to burn,” though many people have tested their luck by reading inflammable as “fire-proof.” Flammable is, in one sense, how Lynch pronounces human. On the eighth and finest hour of Twin Peaks: The Return, his elegant pyrotechnics commemorate the birth of today’s America, and a near-wordless script shows that whether you describe a monstrous act as human or inhuman, you are right. But you are not trying to be right, you’re trying to be sincere, an effort so helpless as to defer meaning. Igor Stravinsky, a man so depraved he once asked the Nazis—nicely—to

    Read more
  • Haunted House

    TO ATTEND ONE’S OWN FUNERAL, hiding in the church gallery, like Tom Sawyer and Joe, is a cherished American boyhood dream, and something close to the jumping-off point for David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, a leap into the blue which lands very far from its point of origin.

    The film stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a young couple, never named, whose life together in a suburban ranch-style house is cut short when he is killed in an automobile accident just a few feet from their driveway. She says her goodbyes to his cold body on the mortuary slab, but his soul, or something, isn’t quite ready to

    Read more
  • Theme and Variation

    THE SECOND-BEST USE of “Falling” outside the original Twin Peaks is on the fourth hour of Twin Peaks: The Return. Those vespertine keyboard notes, which used to go off with the regularity of an egg timer at an all-day diner, are saved until the moment you stop listening for them, and then: Officer Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) sees the portrait of Laura Palmer at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department and cries like he’s never cried in his life. He cries like he’s never seen the very first episode of Twin Peaks, the one where everybody—hilariously—cries, or like he’s on a Twin Peaks–themed Saturday

    Read more
  • Hollywood Medium

    BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED the fortieth President of the United States in 1980—after two failed candidacies—Ronald Reagan acted in fifty-three Hollywood movies. Equally at ease in comedies, westerns, and war films, he seemed on the verge of stardom for his role as a double amputee in Kings Row (1942) when he was called up for active army duty. Though he resumed his career after the war, he would never become a top box-office star. Nevertheless, when asked by an interviewer near the end of his second term how he reconciled his acting career with his presidential role, he wittily remarked that he could

    Read more
  • Shock and Awe

    BUSAN MIGHT BOAST the bigger international reputation, but among South Korean cineastes, the Jeonju International Film Festival is respected for its scrappy integrity and unapologetic penchant for experimental and independent cinema. In a year rife with political uncertainty—not only in the southern half of the peninsula, with its recent election and media-exaggerated tensions with the North, but across the globe—it is unsurprising that this year’s edition favored strong, polemical visions entrenched in the present sociopolitical quagmire.

    Among the local entries, the boldest statement was offered

    Read more
  • Magnificent Seven

    IT SEEMED LIKE OLD TIMES and yet it was, urgently, right now at the world premiere last Sunday of Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day). Long one of the most promising New York independent filmmakers, McKay made his mark with two no-budget movies, Girls Town (1996) and Our Song (2000), both depictions of female Brooklyn public high-school students, most of them African American and Latino. They were anti–Beverly Hills 90210 movies—exemplary for their depiction of the liminal condition of underprivileged teenagers whose futures are uncertain no matter how ambitious and talented some

    Read more
  • Going Ape

    SINCE THE CINEMA has faced such a long struggle for respectability as an art form, it’s only understandable that some of its advocates resent being reminded of its unbreakable bond with the lowest common denominator. How else to explain that we’ve been so many years without a proper survey of the monkey movie, a storied subgenre—a few years in my youth alone rendered up Monkey Trouble (1994) and Dunston Checks In and Ed (both 1996)—which simultaneously recalls the step-right-up fairground provenance of the movies and the undignified, tire-swinging, feces-smearing ancestry of humankind?

    Read more
  • Scum Manifesto

    SCUM (1979), A CONTROVERSIAL, bare-knuckled UK prison drama directed by Alan Clarke, is set in a “borstal”—somewhere between a reform school and a juvenile detention center—populated by the type of irredeemable, heavily accented delinquents Morrissey romanticized in songs like “Suedehead” and “Last of the Famous International Playboys,” rakish street hoods with hidden (or merely imagined) sensitive streaks. But there is no glamour here, even of a roughneck or rough-trade variety (it is far from Genet), and boys who evince any kind of vulnerability tend to commit suicide, in one case, after being

    Read more
  • Ice Age

    BILL MORRISON’S DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME is the best new movie in town and the best movie of the year thus far. Though its title would suggest a focus on the mysterious fate of a little-known city, Morrison’s latest output actually functions on several planes and tells many stories, all of which spring from the accidental discovery in 1978 of hundreds of 35-mm film reels, decades after they served as landfill in a subarctic swimming pool: yet another bizarre reason that 75 percent of all silent films are lost.

    In fact, these films were buried for a number of reasons. Two years past their initial

    Read more
  • Weirder Things

    “BLUE IS THE WRONG COLOR FOR ROSES,” says the crippled, disconsolate Laura in The Glass Menagerie (1944), my favorite Tennessee Williams play. “It’s right for you!” says Jim, her old high-school crush. They are about twenty-three years old and have been reunited in the one-sided hope that he’ll pick her out, pick her up, and carry her off. Once, all those years ago, she told him she was sick with pleurosis, which he misheard as “blue roses.” The mondegreen stuck. “The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of,” he says to her. “Because other

    Read more
  • Squared Circle

    FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, a rare consensus emerged at the Cannes Film Festival. If the 2016 edition will be remembered for its farcical jury decisions, this year’s official selection stands a good chance of being barely remembered at all: Rarely does the Cannes competition, world cinema’s most pedigreed showcase, leave so little of a collective impression. In stark contrast to the ceremonial merriment of its seventieth anniversary, which occasioned a star-studded Cannes yearbook photo call and a gala evening of musical numbers (Isabelle Huppert warbling “Happy Birthday”) and speeches about

    Read more
  • The Importance of Being Ernst

    ERNST LUBITSCH WAS BORN in booming Berlin in January 1892 and died much too young in Hollywood, California, in 1947. He was a German Jew of age to have served in one World War and to have been a likely civilian casualty of a second, but by dint of luck and talent he avoided both. While living through the multiple ructions that rocked the European continent in the first half of the twentieth century and the wider world-historical earthquake of these years, he remained almost single-mindedly committed to producing wry, light, sparkling comedies that reflect the values of graciousness and grace.

    Read more