Film

  • Lies, All Lies

    IF, LIKE SOME OF US, you have grown comatose through repeat exposure to the cluster of festival fodder clichés often grouped under the unsexy sobriquet “slow cinema,” there’s reason to feel antsy at the opening of By the Time It Gets Dark, the second feature by director Anocha Suwichakornpong.

    Stick with it. After rolling out a few fragmentary, ambiguously related scenes, the movie settles into something like a straightforward narrative: Two women arrive at a rental home in the Thai countryside to rusticate. They are age-appropriate to be mother and daughter, but in due time it’s revealed that

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  • It Takes Two

    AND NOW FOR SOMETHING MORE POPULAR.

    Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (2016) is the highest-grossing anime film, ever. Bulldozing through Hayao Miyazaki’s previous box-office record for Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away, 2001), it’s a perfect introduction for the anime newbie, cannily weaving together so many of the genre’s tropes—an apocalyptic event with a high school innocently built into the middle of its path, teenagers who are the only ones willing to accept that everything can be swept away in an instant, a love that defies the rules of time and space, and, of course, a few shots up

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  • Czech Please

    THE ENORMITY OF INTERNATIONAL FILM HISTORY is daunting; you might devote a decade to seeing everything from 1932 alone and never, ever get to the bottom of it. In the face of such bounty, the response is often inexcusable apathy—see, for example, the almost total absence of pre-1950 cinema from Netflix, which, having driven the video store into extinction, now uses its market dominance to push its mediocre-to-awful original programming. With such epidemic cultural amnesia running amok, the work of repertory programmers provides a valuable corrective: Witness the Museum of Modern Art’s fourteen-film

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  • Young Love

    “A WHILE BACK, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.” This is how the nineteen-year-old Arthur Rimbaud bade adieu to his carefree salad days at the opening of A Season in Hell (1873)—for none are quite so attuned to the evanescence of youth as the truly young, who can actually feel the stuff slipping through their fingers.

    It is on such a note of sober contemplation that Michal Marczak’s docufiction All These Sleepless Nights, a film that is most of the time very far from sobriety, begins. Krzysztof Baginski, a pale kid

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  • City Flickers

    JOYOUS, EXHILARATING, AND TRANSFORMATIVE, Tyler Hubby’s documentary Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present is essential viewing for anyone involved in the history of music and visual art—and their interpenetration throughout the second half of the twentieth century right up to today’s web-based “goings on,” to borrow the phrase Conrad uses early in the film to describe how his $25.04 a month, Ludlow Street apartment saw the beginnings of the most subversive art of the first half of the 1960s.

    It was there that Conrad collaborated with Jack Smith on the soundtrack for Flaming Creatures (1963) and

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  • Divine Comedy

    “YES, FOLKS, THIS ISN’T ANY CHEAP X-RATED MOVIE OR ANY FIFTH-RATE PORNO PLAY. THIS IS THE SHOW YOU WANT: LADY DIVINE’S CAVALCADE OF PERVERSIONS—REAL ACTUAL FILTH!”

    Welcome to the deranged world of John Waters’s Multiple Maniacs (1970): Drag terrorist Divine will be ravished by an enormous lobster and Cookie Mueller (downtown minx, belletrist, and Fassbinder’s disco-snow connection) will play her daughter, frolicking through the movie half-nude like a nymph on the run from the Factory. Out of his alter ego’s claws almost two decades later, Glenn Milstead (aka Divine) claimed that the Dreamlanders

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  • League of His Own

    IN A STORM-TOSSED MODERN WORLD, Wesley Snipes’s Twitter feed is an island of calm. It’s heavy on nostalgia—with production photographs from the set of White Men Can’t Jump (1992), for example—and rather profound conversation prompts (“At what age did you realize the world you live in was not your friend?”), as well as ice-cold troll executions and sage declarations that merge the Afrocentric and humanist, a typical sampling being: “Every ethnicity is absolutely beautiful and worthy. I’m simply reminding my brothers and sisters WE ARE OF ROYALTY.” He seems like he’s in a good headspace, which is

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  • Extraordinary Machine

    THE PROBLEM WITH BEING SEMINAL IS THE SHRINKAGE. In 1995, Mamoru Oshii adapted Masamune Shirow’s late 1980s manga Mobile Armored Riot Police, subtitled Ghost in the Shell in tribute to Arthur Koestler’s 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine, into an anime film that for many years functioned as a subcultural gateway drug, hiding out in the more unclassifiable sections of American video stores. Its VHS cover design threw it under the cartoon category, but the prominent display of heroine Motoko Kusanagi’s enormous tits and her gun hovering over the title gave pause as to its suitability for children,

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  • Great Migrations

    MIGRATING FORMS IS NEW YORK’S WEIRD FILM FESTIVAL. I say this with the greatest of affection, for through the years it has, often well ahead of the curve, provided a theatrical showcase to up-and-comers working in all manner of moving-image mediums: Ed Atkins, Ian Cheng, Jacob Ciocci, Laida Lertxundi, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Zhao Liang, and many more others than I can at this point remember.

    Tradition holds that around this point one has to mention that Migrating Forms is the reincarnation of the New York Underground Film Festival, but by the time of its eighth edition it has very much taken

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  • Lights, Camera, Aktion!

    VISITORS DRIFTED IN AND OUT of London’s Raven Row all weekend, lying on the floor, sitting on the stairs, waiting out an unexpected power cut, chatting and mixing gin and tonics in the interval (with lemon, of course). The convivial occasion was a weekend devoted to restaging a selection of expanded cinema works by the Filmaktion group, widely recognized as central to the history of artists’ film practice in Britain yet rarely seen due to the difficulty of orchestrating their display.

    Curated by Mark Webber, the program formed part of Raven Row’s ongoing episodic exhibition “This Way Out of

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  • Of Montreal

    IN HIS NEWLY PUBLISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Director’s Cut, the filmmaker Ted Kotcheff, a son of Toronto’s Cabbagetown slums, recalls his response to reading his friend Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravtiz for the first time, in the late 1950s, when the two Canadian expats were cohabiting in London. “‘Not only is this the best Canadian novel ever written,’ I declared, ‘but one day I am going back to Canada and make a film out of it.’ We then both laughed at the absurdity of the idea because, of course, there was no Canadian film industry whatsoever at this time.”

    By the time

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  • Mountain Out of an Anthill

    AS THE CULTURAL CONVERSATION breaks down into spasms of splenetic indignation, the fear of being misunderstood runs to epidemic levels. In such an atmosphere, it is an increasing rarity to encounter artworks that come packaged without an instruction manual meant to clear up any potential confusion. And if you, like me, are bored to the point of catalepsy by the resulting parade of self-defining artwork that stretches limitlessly toward the horizon, perhaps you’ll make the ideal viewer for Argentinian director Eduardo Williams’s crackling The Human Surge, a dense snarl of a movie that only gets

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