PRINT December 2014


J. Hoberman

Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 148 minutes. Shasta Fay Hempworth (Katherine Waterston) and Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix).

1 GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE (Jean-Luc Godard) J-LG’s first 3-D movie bids farewell to one language and invents another, which is pretty much what this transcendent film artist has been doing for more than half a century.

2 INHERENT VICE (Paul Thomas Anderson) If not as brilliantly unpredictable as The Master, Anderson’s mind-melding adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s ’70s noir parody is still a remarkable follow-up. What other American writer-director’s movies are simultaneous contributions to American film culture and literature?

3 IDA (Paweł Pawlikowski) Or, “The Jewish Nun.” Returning to his native land after winning acclaim for his British films, Pawlikowski made a beautifully wrought reflection on the nature of identity that not only evokes the Poland of his ’60s childhood but looks as if it might have been made then.

4 THE AMERICANS (FX) Reagan’s America is a looking-glass world in which an attractive, cold-blooded pair of Soviet spies—helped by a closet full of disguises—pass for suburban normals and, for two seasons, have confounded the tormented FBI man living next door.

5 UNDER THE SKIN (Jonathan Glazer) A movie made for graduate dissertations—freely adapted from Michel Faber’s thriller about a female-shaped predatory extraterrestrial and shot demidocumentary style in and around Glasgow—with Scarlett Johansson delivering an eerie inversion of her stellar turn in Her.

Ari Folman, The Congress, 2013, digital video, black-and-white and color, sound, 117 minutes. Robin Wright (Robin Wright).

6 THE MARX BROTHERS TV COLLECTION (Shout! Factory) This three-DVD set excavates the mainly separate adventures of Chico, Groucho, and Harpo in the alternative universe of ’50s TV. Not especially—albeit sometimes very—funny, these fossils are weirdly familiar and just plain weird.

7 FARBE (Sigmar Polke) Some of the films installed as part of MoMA’s Polke retro suggested pot-infused stabs at remaking Werner Herzog’s Fata Morgana. Others were just wallpaper. Farbe (Color, ca. 1986–92) was one of those, but is so gorgeous, literal-minded, and self- reflexive that it justifies all manner of self-indulgence.

8 SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho) Bong turns a mediocre graphic novel into an action-film call to action. Set in the narrow confines of a perpetually moving train, the movie doesn’t dramatize a revolt against “income inequality”—or the iron logic of history—so much as embody it.

9&10 THE CONGRESS (Ari Folman) and MAPS TO THE STARS (David Cronenberg) Perhaps too intense for a double bill, these matching meditations on the twenty-first-century movie industry—one a story of reanimation, the other its opposite, each concerned with the afterlife of a star—are movies of ideas that are bold, problematic, and at times painfully visceral.

A frequent contributor to Artforum, J. Hoberman is the author, most recently, of Film After Film: or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema? (Verso, 2012), which has just appeared in Spanish translation.