PRINT December 2018


Amy Taubin

1 ADRIAN PIPER (Museum of Modern Art, New York; curated by Christophe Cherix, Connie Butler, and David Platzker, with Tessa Ferreyros) Thanks not only to the great Funk Lessons video, 1983–84, but to the way the entire installation let the viewer journey through the narrative of her life in art, Piper’s retrospective was, for me, a movie and more.

THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) As befits a dying planet, in Godard’s scorched-earth film, montage stutters, memory frays, and yet the will to look, listen, and make art survives.

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma, 2018, 6.5K video, black-and-white, sound, 135 minutes. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), Pepe (Marco Graf), and Sofi (Daniela Demesa).

ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón) A masterpiece of old-fashioned narrative moviemaking, Cuarón’s Roma is all the better for depicting two devoted mothers, both lovingly rendered by this time-traveling visual historian and cinematic magician.

Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You, 2018, 2K video, color, sound, 111 minutes. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield).

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (Boots Riley) Riley’s African American magical realism is terrifying, hilarious, visionary, uplifting, and a shout-out to dedicated political organizing.

Antonio Méndez Esparza, Life and Nothing More, 2018, 2K and 4K video, color, sound, 114 minutes. Andrew (Andrew Bleechington) and child (Ry’nesia Chambers).

LIFE AND NOTHING MORE (Antonio Méndez Esparza) The push-pull of intimacy and distance in Esparza’s direction allows him to empathize with and never exploit his characters, among them a Florida Panhandle African American mom (played by the extraordinary first-time actor Regina Williams) desperate to keep her teenage son out of the prison system.

Jia Zhangke, Ash Is Purest White, 2018, 4K video, color, sound, 141 minutes. Qiao (Zhao Tao).

6 ASH IS PUREST WHITE (Jia Zhangke) China’s small-town underworld and state-defying independent filmmaking are mutual metaphors in this “woman’s picture” about a former gangster’s moll (the great Zhao Tao) who holds fast to her moral code despite the mainstreaming of bourgeois values in every aspect of Chinese society.

BURNING (Lee Chang-dong) Not since Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961) has an unreliable narrator created the possibility of two opposed but absolutely equally plausible interpretations of a hellish situation.

Alice Rohrwacher, Lazzaro felice (Happy as Lazzaro), 2018, Super 16, color, sound, 125 minutes. Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo).

HAPPY AS LAZZARO (Alice Rohrwacher) Part Italian fairy tale, part scathing depiction of the oppression of the poor by the rich, Rohrwacher’s film is made all the more heart-wrenching by the beauty of the actors, the countryside, and even the crumbling cityscape.

Julian Schnabel, At Eternity’s Gate, 2018, 8K video, color, sound, 111 minutes. Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe).

AT ETERNITY’S GATE(Julian Schnabel) Willem Dafoe portrays van Gogh in his final, most prolific years. The collaboration between director and actor results in the most convincing portrayal in recent memory, setting aside documentaries, of what great painters do.

Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown, United Skates, 2018, HD video, color, sound, 89 minutes.

10 AMERICAN DHARMA (Errol Morris), FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (Michael Moore), THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED (Assia Boundaoui), THE KING (Eugene Jarecki), UNITED SKATES (Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown), and WATERGATE (Charles Ferguson) Six essential documentaries on America’s democracy in peril: How we got here and what, if anything, can be done to prevent further catastrophe. 

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for Artforum, Film Comment, and the author of Taxi Driver (BFI, 2000).