• Paul Sharits

    ONE OF THE FEW MISFIRES in the Whitney’s landmark 2001 exhibition “Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964–1977” was its partial reconstruction of Paul Sharits’s 1975 film installation Shutter Interface. While the work was accorded pride of place on the cover of the show’s catalogue, in the gallery it seemed anemic. Amid pitch-perfect re-creations of Robert Whitman’s Shower, 1964, and Michael Snow’s Two Sides to Every Story, 1974, as well as the brilliant installation version of Anthony McCall’s interactive film projection Line Describing a Cone, 1973, one encountered an aloof

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  • Women in Revolt

    BELIEVE NOTHING YOU READ about the films at Cannes, including this post, written after the fact and in the relative calm of my own apartment. Cannes is hard—thirteen caffeinated days resulting in thirteen nearly sleepless nights, and in the end you’ve seen, at best, fifty of some two hundred titles in the various official lineups, not to mention the hundreds more in the market. And when the films are as punishing as they were this year—if the blood on the screens had run into the Mediterranean, the sea would have been red for weeks—you may wonder why you’re interested in movies at all.

    This was

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  • Friends and Family

    THE MOST ARRESTING ASPECT of Lee Isaac Chung’s Munyurangabo (2007) is the uneasy silence that permeates its Rwandan vistas. Traversing the countryside, young Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye) and Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa) hitchhike their way from Kigali, the nation’s capital, to the rural village that Sangwa abandoned three years earlier. For both men, it’s an emotional journey back to the once-bloodied countryside that still haunts them. But not until Sangwa’s stern father—a Hutu—asks his son why he is traveling with a Tutsi does the movie begin to delve into the complex tribal dynamics that still

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  • Cannes Report: Day 12

    “THE BRITS THINK THIS HAS BEEN A GREAT CANNES!” a London-based colleague told me when I remarked that I thought 2009 was a so-so year. “The Italians hate Vincere,” said someone else, referring to Marco Bellochio’s well-received, operatic competition entry about Mussolini’s mistress. Every year, Cannes invites sweeping generalizations like these from journalists, who have usually seen between forty and fifty movies in twelve days and are eager, especially in the closing weekend of the festival, to predict what the winning films will be.

    Regardless of what one thought of the films in competition,

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  • Cannes Report: Day 10

    MANY THEMES HAVE EMERGED at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival—bad parents, worse children, buckets of blood, the love that dare not speak its name, rutting in the woods, genital torture—but three films seen in succession today constitute their own genre: how legends live on. Terry Gilliam’s out-of-competition title The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the final project of Heath Ledger, who died before shooting was finished, gets around the untimely demise of the actor through a conceit plausible within the film’s fantasy premise: Ledger’s character changes appearance when he goes through a magic

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  • Cannes Report: Day 9

    EVERY YEAR, Cannes aims to strike a balance between feting the work of old masters—many of the directors with films in competition are several years north of qualifying for AARP membership—while also being the place where new talent is discovered. Representing the old guard, Michael Haneke, whose stern, black-and-white The White Ribbon—set in the years just before World War I in a German hamlet where a series of beastly unsolved incidents begins to occur—screened last night, was introduced by the trilingual moderator at this afternoon’s press conference as “one of the leading lights” of Cannes,

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  • Cannes Report: Day 8

    “I’M FRENCH. WE RESPECT DIRECTORS IN OUR COUNTRY,” says a character in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II Jewish-revenge-fantasy epic Inglourious Basterds, the most anticipated film at Cannes—and the one that’s proven to be the most meta about the festival itself, a twelve-day orgy of le cinéma d’auteur. As in all QT productions, Inglourious Basterds is stuffed with cinephilic references: A British officer (played by Michael Fassbender) was a film critic in his civilian life and the author of a book on G. W. Pabst; the heroine (Mélanie Laurent) runs a movie theater; a digression is included on

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  • Cannes Report: Day 7

    JOURNALISTS AT CANNES are always eager to sniff out trends and themes, and many have noted that 2009 may be the bloodiest on record: Gallons of the red stuff have either spurted or, as in Park Chan-wook’s vampire tale, Thirst, been consumed. But with Thanatos comes Eros, and several films at this year’s festival—particularly in the Directors’ Fortnight—have obliterated the Kinsey scale.

    After being introduced by Fortnight artistic director Olivier Père as a “genuine genius,” Jim Carrey, who stars with Ewan McGregor in the gay romantic comedy I Love You Phillip Morris (which premiered at Sundance

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  • Cannes Report: Day 6

    CERTAIN VERY TENDER BODY PARTS are excised in Lars von Trier’s competition title Antichrist; based on the responses at last night’s screening and the press conference this afternoon, several members of the fourth estate would like to chop off an appendage or two of the great Dane's. Von Trier’s film—a psychosexual religious horror movie about a couple (Willem Dafoe and a fearless Charlotte Gainsbourg) who retreat to their cabin in the woods while mourning the death of their toddler son—was met with some of the most vicious booing at the festival (amid, it must be noted, vigorous applause),

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  • Cannes Report: Day 4

    JET LAG, LACK OF SLEEP, watching four to six films a day, trying to remember how to conjugate the passé composé: All can contribute to a certain sense of losing one’s grip, of not being able to separate dream and waking life. Did I really see a festooned baby elephant marching down the Croisette this afternoon? Was I really assaulted by a projectile sugar cube as I headed toward the Salle Debussy?

    Mine wasn’t the only notion of reality that was slightly askew: Cracked ideas about parenting dominated the day’s moviegoing. Tyros Josh and Bennie Safdie, both of whom had work in last year’s Directors’

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  • Cannes Report: Day 3

    THREE WOMEN DIRECTORS—Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, and Isabel Coixet—have films in competition at Cannes this year, making 2009 the most distaff-heavy in the history of the festival. With Bright Star, her first film since In the Cut (2003), Campion, the only woman ever to win the Palme d’Or, for The Piano (1993), proved that the six years between projects were worth it. Bright Star, about the romance between John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his neighbor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), was warmly received at this morning’s press screening and was one of the first films to be bought (with a release

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  • Cannes Report: Day 2

    CANNES LOVES TO COURT—IF NOT MANUFACTURE—CONTROVERSY, as the overcooked adjectives in the press book for Lou Ye’s competition title Spring Fever, about man-man love, spying, betrayal, and triangulation, attest: “[T]he beginning of asphyxiating, sultry nights of physical abandon that exalt the senses. A sulfurous journey into the confines of jealousy and obsessive love.” Lou’s last film, Summer Palace, which unspooled at Cannes in 2006, ran afoul of Chinese censors for including plenty of XXX action and footage of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, leading to the director’s being banned from

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