COLUMNS

  • Wave After Wave

    PHILIPPE GARREL WAS NOT YET A TEEN when the French New Wave first hit the shores of international cinema in 1959, and like many filmmakers over subsequent decades he would be heavily influenced by its leading lights, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Garrel made his first film in 1964 and, in the fifty years since, has written and directed more than thirty others, but has never achieved the reputation of his mentors. It was not until the late 1970s that his cinema assumed the distinct, quasi-autobiographical quality that remains his strength.

    Earlier stabs at allegory and symbolism had mixed

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  • Night and Day

    THIS YEAR’S NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL pays tribute to actor Robert Mitchum, whose career began in Hollywood’s golden age, weathered the demise of the studio system, and continued with the rise of television and the birth of the miniseries—125 movies in all between 1943 and 1983. Known primarily as the quintessential noir tough guy with the moony countenance in the genre of the 1940s, he was a bit player in many B movies before his breakthrough performance in William Wellman’s The Story of G.I. Joe (1943), the only film to earn him an Oscar nomination. G.I. Joe kicks off the retrospective, followed

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  • Irony of Ironies

    NEAR THE END of Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo’s Filter, screening at this year’s Projections sidebar of the New York Film Festival, a man wonders, “Why am I watching this movie?” It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves countless times and one we assume programmers of film festivals wrestle with as they decide what merits attention. Given the current political climate, it’s not surprising that many works in this year’s Projections were selected in light of growing concerns about the expanding list of endangered species—not only of the racial, gender, ethnic, and environmental varieties, but

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  • Small Wonder

    A SHELTER AWAY from the vast and all-consuming Toronto International Film Festival’s red-carpet parades, the Wavelengths program is TIFF’s home for all things experimental and otherwise undefinable. As of last year, the mandate of Wavelengths programmer Andréa Picard had even expanded to include off-site installation works, such as Albert Serra’s multiscreen Singularity.

    Such expansions were curtailed in 2017. Wavelengths was slightly smaller this year—as, indeed, was TIFF in toto, part of an across-the-board attempt to rein in a megafestival that had become too big to present a cogent identity.

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  • Eight Ball

    IF YOU SAW 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986) via the movie equivalent to Downbeat Magazine’s Blindfold Test—sans credits, prior knowledge, or preconceived context—it could seem like a film that had come unstuck in time. Draping itself in the moody trappings of neo-noir action-romance, it boasts minimal action and its romantic pièce de résistance features a drunken failed seduction that culminates with the femme fatale vomiting down the hero’s pants. Its slouching posture suggests an affinity for Robert Altman’s loser-reverie The Long Goodbye (1973), updated with all the cold accoutrements of mid-’80s

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  • Music to My Ears

    THE ROSTER LIVES UP TO ITS TITLE: “The Whole World Sings: International Musicals.” I wish I could spend a week at the Quad seeing all thirteen features in the series organized by the theater’s programmers in collaboration with Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri. Whether bittersweet, semitragic, joyous, or somewhat deranged, almost every one of these films will lift your spirits as you enter a fall season that looks to be as depressing—I’m not referring only to culture—as this summer was.

    Screening in a new digital restoration, Chantal Akerman’s 1986 Golden Eighties (aka Window Shopping) is a study

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  • 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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  • FINAL CUT

    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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