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2018-05-22T13:36:19.463Z
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An Image of Complicity. Films by Luis Donschen and Helena Wittmann is showing May 23, 2018 at Berlin's Volksbühne in collaboration with Acropolis Cinema.Two young women go on vacation; the weather is bad. They return home. Josefina departs for Buenos Aires, Theresa wanders, by car, boat, and train, in her absence. In the end, they are brought back together, if only briefly. Sketched as such, Helena Wittmann’s first feature, DRIFT, might be taken for the sort of film à la short fiction perfected by Eric Rohmer in the 1980s. It is not this. The activity I have condensed as Theresa’s “wandering” in fact comprises nearly two thirds of the film, and much of it, particularly once she boards a boat crossing the Atlantic, is seen in such a way as to force us to consider whether we have locked entirely into her lonely gaze, or if she has disappeared from the film altogether. Put more plainly, for more than half an hour, DRIFT consists of nothing but images of the ocean, rolling and roiling under a wide range of light—the water cerulean at noon, near black in the moonlight—and shaped by the growing insistence of Nika Breithaupt’s score and sound design. The film returns to shore through one of the more astonishing transitions in recent memory, and concludes shortly after in a shot which confirms both Wittmann’s emotional acuity and formal rigor: as Theresa and Josefina convene over video chat, separated by the same ocean on...
Dressed to Kill (Irving Cummings, 1928)More from MoMA's spectacular retrospective (see part 1 of our guide here), skimming the cream from the top of the William Fox archives, a major studio whose films, apart from a few known classics by Frank Borzage, John Ford, et cetera, have been sunk in obscurity for too long. Fox opened his doors to experimental geniuses like F.W. Murnau and Erik Charell, and encouraged major talents like Ford, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh and Borzage to spread their wings.In Borzage’s masterpiece 7th Heaven, how many viewers have any problem with the glaring fact that the garret where Janet Gaynor lives is apparently reached by two completely different stairwells, one that’s angular, for the crane shot, and one that’s spiral for the overhead angle?Upstream (John Ford, 1927)The idea is consistent with the expressionist approach at Fox. Edgar G. Ulmer claimed that the German expressionists would build a new set for every camera angle, to get their compositions to work out just the way they’d drawn them. Murnau perhaps brought this approach across the Atlantic for Sunrise, and it caught on at just this one studio. John Ford’s 1927 Fox comedy Upstream (not showing in this season) starts off in a theatrical rooming house. In one dinner scene, the whole cast is gathered around a table—we see that the landlady is at the head of the table and  her lodgers are arrayed along both sides. News comes that...
An Image of Complicity. Films by Luis Donschen and Helena Wittmann is showing May 23, 2018 at Berlin's Volksbühne in collaboration with Acropolis Cinema.Sex is a many-splendored thing, as the debut feature from German director Luise Donschen, Casanova Gene, makes abundantly clear. An unconventional narrative work assembled from interlocking pieces, Casanova Gene takes its title from scientific research into the mating patterns of finches, and how males birds are predisposed by their DNA to mate with as many different partners as possible. Donschen's intrepid film takes us from the bird research lab to a cultural fair in Venice; a distinctly Fassbinderian singles' bar; an S-M parlor (pictured above); and backstage at the theatre for a revealing interview with John Malkovich, in character as the great lover Casanova himself.NOTEBOOK: There are so many different kinds of material in Casanova Gene. How was the film originally conceived? Did it come together in fragments, or did you have a total plan? DONSCHEN: From the beginning I wanted to bring different places and protagonists together in one film. I was interested in how I could create connections between them without forcing them. That is why I started writing while spending time at the different places and looking for themes and objects that I could work with. On that basis I wrote a script which already contained all the strands that finally became part of the film.NOTEBOOK: It seems that one of the primary themes of the film is reflected in...
Close-Up is a feature that spotlights films now playing on MUBI. Angela Schanelec's The Dreamed Path (2016), which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from May 4 - June 3, 2018 as a Special Discovery. Every now and then, it’s not wrong to ponder on the nature of emotions in cinema. Why does an image arouse an emotion? In Angela Schanelec’s cinema, in general, and in The Dreamed Path, in particular, the flow of emotions is unleashed by a radicalization of the sensitive experience. Commotion is physical, more than narrative, and it demands a specific attention. Almost at the end of the lm there will be a panoramic shot of the vicinity of Berlin’s central train station. Several things happen, but all the affective force of the shot lies in the position of a dog and its behavior.The story starts in Greece. A young couple sings on the street. He dreams of being a singer; she would like to be a professor, like her mother. A fatality will separate them for a time, and perhaps forever. The mother of the young man had an accident. It’s 1989; these are times both confusing and of change. Without warning, the tale will jump to our time and different characters. An actress and her husband are in crisis; they have a beautiful daughter. Some time later, older, but dressed just as before, the two former youngsters we saw at the...
Below you will find an index of our coverage from the Cannes Film Festival, Directors' Fortnight, and Critics' Week in 2018, as well as our favorite films.AWARDSTOP 101. The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard)2. Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke) & Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)4. Burning (Lee Chang-dong)5. Asako I & II (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)6. Long Day's Journey Into Night (Bi Gan)7. Dead Souls (Wang Bing)8. In My Room (Ulrich Köhler)9. Climax (Gaspar Noé)10. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)(Contributors: Gustavo Beck, Annabel Ivy Brady-Brown, Giovanni Marchini Camia, Josh Cabrita, Jesse Cumming, Lawrence Garcia, Daniel Kasman, Roger Koza, Richard Porton, Kurt Walker, Blake Williams)CORRESPONDENCES#1 Daniel Kasman previews the festival| Read#2 Lawrence Garcia on Everybody Knows (Asghar Farhadi), Dead Souls (Wang Bing) | Read#3 Daniel Kasman on Birds of Passage (Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra), Donbass (Sergei Loznitsa) | Read#4 Lawrence Garcia on Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov), Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski) | Read#5 Daniel Kasman on The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard), Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke) | Read#6 Lawrence Garcia on Climax (Gaspar Noé), Mandy (Panos Cosmatos), 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi), | Read#7 Daniel Kasman on 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi), The Load (Ognjen Glavonic), Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher) | Read
Lately, the Cannes Film Festival has had a great track record premiering films from the Berlin School filmmakers, beginning in 2016 with Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann and then in 2017 with Valeska Grisebach's Western. This run continues with In My Room, the incisive new film by Ade's partner, Ulrich Köhler—the German director's first feature in seven years.Like Western, it is a sly and restrained revision of a well-trod genre, in this case the last-man-on-Earth scenario. But that comes later; first, we are introduced to Hans Löw's Armin, a very average Berliner chastised at his job for his sloppiness—a television cameraman, he accidentally turns his camera off during political coverage and on during the bits in-between major speeches—and alone in his tiny studio flat. He travels to the suburbs to visit his father and look after his dying and bedridden grandmother, and after a depressed bender wakes up one morning in his car alone. All alone: The streets are empty, cars are marooned as if they'd been abandoned instantaneously. No explanation is given, and after several exploratory scenes of a world absent of people, Köhler jump cuts into a future in which Armin has optimized his life: tanned and muscular, he lives alone in a countryside house tending his farm and animals, attempting run a self-sustaining existence. Inevitably, he finds out that he may not be as alone as he thought.Told with a precise and restrained style which evenly treats Armin's life before...
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia and Daniel Kasman.Dear Danny,Aside from the closing ceremony, the last day of Cannes features a rerun of the entire competition slate in a number of venues across the Palais des Festivals, which gives lingering festival-goers—or mostly just the tired, sleep-deprived press corps—a chance to revisit favorites or just catch up with missed titles. That’s how I managed to watch Christophe Honoré’s under-seen, somewhat undervalued and resolutely blue (in both tone and color palette) Sorry Angel, an intimate queer relationship drama set in Paris, 1993. The setting immediately recalls Robin Campillo’s recent BPM, a film that fervently fused the political and personal in its depiction of the Paris chapter of ACT UP in the early 1990s. But Honoré’s vision is less propelled by political agitation—though ACT UP Paris is mentioned, no meetings are ever on-screen—than by the personal negotiations of queer existence that ripple across the its multi-generational cast. Following an invigorating opening credits montage, Honoré’s camera captures urban spaces and finely furnished interiors, picking up on characters leaving and departing, their relationships to each other mysterious and generously open: An early passage glides along 22-year-old Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), from his (ostensible) girlfriend’s flat to his apartment, shared with his (ostensible) roommate, to a sensual twilight cruising session by a parking lot.In a bit of cinephilic serendipity, a screening of Jane Campion’s Palme d’Or winner The Piano provides the backdrop for a...
ShopliftersIN COMPETITIONPalme d'Or: Shoplifters directed by Hirokazu Kore-edaGrand Prix: BlackKlansman directed by Spike LeeJury Prize: Capernaum directed by Nadine LabakiBest Director: Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)Best Actor: Marcello Fonte (Dogman)Best Actress: Samal Yeslyamova (Ayka)Best Scenario: Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro) and Jafar Panahi & Nader Saeivar (3 Faces)UN CERTAIN REGARDBorder directed by Ali AbbasiPrix d'interpretation: Victor Polster for Girl (read our review)Prix de la mise en scène: Sergei Loznitsa for Donbass (read our review & watch our interview)Jury Prize: The Dead and the Others directed by João Salaviza and Renée Nader MessoraCAMERA D'ORGirl directed by Lukas DhontCRITICS' WEEKNespresso Grand Prize: Diamantino by Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt (read our review & watch our interview)Gan Foundation Prize and France 4 Visionary Award: DIRECTORS FORTNIGHTCritics' Week Grand Prize: Art Cinema Award: Climax by Gaspar Noé (read our review)FIPRESCIBurning directed by Lee Chang-dongPRIZE OF THE ECUMENICAL JURYdirected by
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia and Daniel Kasman.Dear Lawrence,You’ve delved into one of the more bravura and impressive films that debuted in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a film whose considerable vision and ambition has prompted some to question why it wasn’t in the main competition. A far more modest film but one that also appearing as a surprise in this too-often blasé section was a patient and immersive ethnographic fiction, The Dead and the Others. Shooting in the verdant northeastern Brazil in the village of Pedro Branch, the two filmmakers, Joao Salaviza and Renee Nader Messora, have collaborated with the indigenous Kraho people there to fashion a discreet fable whose pleasures lay more in its observations than its drama. The film begins with a fantastic nocturnal encounter, between Ihjac (Henrique Ihjac Kraho) and the voice of his father, who recently died, which appears bodiless from the pool underneath a waterfall. Ihjac fears to join this spectral, speaking water, and returns to the village to prepare the final mourning feast which will allow he and the rest of the community to forget his father and the past. Married—the young couple are greatly charismatic in their natural chemistry—and with a young child, Ihjac seems to fear the future: Starting to feel ill, an elder diagnoses him as a man who may one day become a shaman–“I don’t want to become a shaman,”...
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia and Daniel Kasman.Dear Danny,Expectations can indeed be thrillingly confounded. But often equally satisfying is seeing promise fulfilled, as is the case with Lee Chang-dong’s standout competition entry Burning, the South Korean director’s first film in eight years and a consensus masterpiece, if its average 3.8 rating on the Screen International jury grid (surpassing Toni Erdmann’s previous record of 3.7) is any indication. A steady follow-shot picks up Jonhsu (Yoo Ah-in), a barely-employed, aspiring writer, as he makes a delivery to a Seoul department store blowout sale, but ends up leaving with Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), a dancer who claims to have known him from his rural hometown. An uneasy tryst in a cramped apartment follows soon after, with Lee’s camera craning around the lovers to settle on a fringe of light reflected by a nearby tower. “What kind of story are you writing?” someone asks the listless protagonist, whose floating discontent is palpable from frame one. Adapted (and expanded) from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning” and co-written with Oh Jung-Mi, Lee’s film is a sinuous evocation of a thriller, yet somehow devoid of outright incident. A trip to Africa leaves Jonhsu with the task of feeding Haemi’s notoriously shy cat, whom he never sees; her return with Ben (Steven Yuen), wealthy, worldly and mysterious (a Korean Gatsby, in Jonhsu’s assessment), leaves him with a new acquaintance, but without a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Lee’s camera moves with...
If you wanted a crash course in Chinese language cinema of the past 40 years, you could do a lot worse than the series playing at the Metrograph from May 18 - 27 built around the career of Sylvia Chang. An actress, writer and director of tremendous accomplishment (as well as popular singer and playwright), Chang has been a major figure since the mid-1970s, playing important roles in both the Hong Kong New Wave and New Taiwanese Cinema, working with key directors King Hu, Ann Hui, Tsui Hark, Edward Yang, Stanley Kwan, Johnnie To, Mabel Cheung, and Ang Lee. She’s played waifish ingenues and hard-nosed career women, exasperated mothers, bohemian artists, bourgeois matrons and ass-kicking cops. As a director, she’s brought special focus to women’s changing roles in domestic and family melodramas, creating sophisticated works that straddle the line between mainstream and art house. The Metrograph is playing 15 of her films, ten in which she’s the star and five which she’s the director. The series includes most of her best films: bona fide classics, underrated masterpieces, hard-to-find archival prints and recently restored works, ranging in genre from musicals and comic farces to romances and serious dramas. It’s a nifty encapsulation of one of the singular careers in contemporary cinema.Sylvia Chang was born in Taiwan but spent time in her youth in both Hong Kong and the United States. She started out as a supporting player at the Golden Harvest studio in the early 1970s, though without...
Howard Hawk's prelapsarian rom-com, Fig Leaves (1926)Along with the output of Universal, the films of Fox, before the merger with Twentieth Century, have long been among the more mysterious and hard-to-see products of Golden Age Hollywood. When TCM made Warners' pre-Codes readily available to American eyes, these competing studios' outputs remained shut in some vault, unrestored and unavailable. Well, the Museum of Modern Art has liberated some fantastic early Universal films, and now it's the turn of William Fox's lost masterworks to see the light of the projector beam once more in MoMA's "William Fox Presents: Restorations and Rediscoveries from the Fox Film Corporation," May 18 - June 5, 2018.The season showcases little-seen films by John Ford, F.W. Murnau, Raoul Walsh, Howard Hawks and Frank Borzage, five of the starriest names on the studio's roster of directing talent, but also makes a case for genuinely obscure journeyman talents like Sidney Lanfield, Irving Cummings, Alfred Werker and David Butler, as well as the great William K. Howard. I've had the pleasure of seeing some of these movies, but only in dismal grey or black market form, recorded from long-ago TV broadcasts and bled grey through generations of duping. These films come alive in a special way on a big screen with a projector's light and the presence of a sympathetic crowd. Nevertheless, some of the things I've written in the past may be pertinent, though remember, the fuzzy frame-grabs below will be superseded by magnificently restored, pin-sharp...
After premiering The Image Book in Competition at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, we had a chance to sit down to discuss the film with one of Jean-Luc Godard's key collaborators: the editor, cinematographer, and producer, Fabrice Aragno.
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia Daniel Kasman.Dear Lawrence,Like you, I also roved further down the seaside Croisette boulevard, past the Majestic hotel, and past the Directors’ Fortnight to the Critics’ Week: This is where I found Diamantino, which just won the top prize there. With festivals and arthouses too often full of the self-serious or those pandering provocation, it is a welcome relief to encounter the work of Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, merry pranksters whose vision of cinema has the audacity to be silly. But not only silly, as their work together (each directs separately and has collaborated with other filmmakers, a loose group we programmed on MUBI in 2016) is impressively rooted in the prickly, politically piquant modernist cinema of the late 60s like that of Godard and Pier Paolo Pasolini.This dynamic duo’s new film together, Diamantino, impishly both skewers and honors football celebrity culture with its tale of the eponymous Portuguese player, God among men (and with the physique to prove it) who is disgraced in the 2018 World Cup and adopts an African refugee as personal and public penance. At the same time, he is being investigated by the government for money laundering, all the while his fame and figure are being exploited behind his back by Diamantino’s nefarious twin sisters. Oh, but this is not all, for Abrantes and Schmidt’s unique combination of calculated amateurism and intellectual rigor allows for plenty of digressions...
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia and Daniel Kasman.Dear Danny,In Cate Blanchett’s remarks as Jury President during the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, she exhorted her fellow artists to leave their preconceptions behind and focus on the stories being told, a statement that inevitably favors narrative cinema, movies whose pleasures are largely rooted in plot developments, shadings of performance and character, dialogue, et cetera. That's understandable, given the awards that the jury is tasked to hand out and especially given that Cannes—and indeed most international festivals—is, in practice, dedicated to furthering such modes. In competition, Godard’s The Image Book remains the sole aberration—a thrilling rebuke to the shapelessness of the competition you mention.It would be too much to call Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan’s sophomore feature, playing in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, a non-narrative film. But far more than its noir-inflected story—about a killer, Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), returning to his hometown of Kaili to look for a woman (Tang Wei) whom he once loved—it is a triumph of pure sensation; there’s not likely to be a more tactile, transportive experience at the festival. As in Kaili Blues, Bi Gan’s arena here is that of time and memory, so the film evokes temporal, and thus spatial transcendence. The disorienting opening shot floats up along dots of light, red, green and blue, to a ceiling that then transforms into a floor. In the fictional world of Dangmai, the...
After premiering Diamantino in Cannes, we had a chance to sit down to discuss the film with its directors.
MUBI is exclusively showing João Moreira Salles In the Intense Now (2017) from May 3 - June 2, 2018 in the series May '68: When Everything Seemed Possible.João Moreira Salles’ essay film In the Intense Now is playing on MUBI as part of a May ‘68 double-bill alongside Romain Goupil’s Half a Life (Mourir à 30 ans, 1982). Salles’ film explores the implications of well-known revolutionary images; questioning the familiar calling cards of May ‘68’s political upheaval. A meditative film that stands out against the familiar narrative, In the Intense Now focuses not only on the events in France, but on other political events of the same milieu: those occurring in Prague, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro. The film’s necessary pessimism calls the past as we know it into question, reminding viewers that we often experience these events second-hand via a series of provided images and figureheads that might require re-assessment. On the other hand, the film also invites a personal proximity through footage of Salles’ mother visiting China in 1966 when the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was taking place—events that caught the imagination of the student protestors in France. I caught up with Salles during the film’s ongoing international tour to discuss the film’s nature of questioning inherited records, as well as his interest in Half a Life.NOTEBOOK: Over the last 50 years we’ve witnessed May ‘68 through a lauded set of images—one being the graffiti slogan...
The 120 Days of BottropThere is a teasingly confrontational moment in Paul Poet’s 2002 action document, Ausländer raus! Schlingensiefs Container, wherein shock artist and political provocateur Christoph Schlingensief, having staged a Big Brother-style reality TV show in which viewers vote asylum seekers out of the country, proclaims, “You are now officially commissioned to the resistance!” His cheerful enunciation of a radically collusive public riles up the Austrian crowd before him into a state that is as perturbed as it is voracious, as outraged as it is inspired—with a smattering of confusion, just to top things off. This distillation of emotions has been at the root of much of the late artist’s critical reception, beginning with the early 16mm films he made as a teen through to his later works on stage, screen, and in public space.No stranger to controversy, the late artist has come to be embraced, albeit with wary eye, by the contemporary art establishment in more recent times. Schlingensief was posthumously awarded the Golden Lion for Germany at the 2011 Venice Biennale—by a jury which included, quite notably, the Pope of Trash himself, John Waters—for an installation which translated his theatre and film work into an Aktionist oratorio of sorts. With its final design organized by curator and director of the Museum for Modern Art in Frankfurt, Susanne Gasheimer, following his passing, the pavilion took as its materials the artist’s vast body of work, much of which was created in conversation with his two-year battle...
The Notebook is covering Cannes with an on-going correspondence between critics Lawrence Garcia and Daniel Kasman.Dear Lawrence,I also shared your experience of being welcomed by the calm of Jafar Panahi’s new picture after the all-out assault of Gaspar Noé’s nightmarish party film. 3 Faces, as you imply, uses a scintillating premise—the investigation of a possible suicide by an aspiring young actress, carried out personally by the filmmaker and star actress Behnaz Jafari who are morally blackmailed into being responsible—to make down-to-earth observations about the interaction between these famed city artists and the provincial village in which they search. Leaving cosmopolitan Tehran behind, the two find themselves facing the prejudices of the countryside against art-making: the young actress being heckled by her family and community for her aspirations, and, pointedly, a retired star from “before the Revolution” lives in seclusion on the outskirts. Most villagers (at least the male ones) are more focused on practical improvements of life for those who live there. (Upon their arrival, no one recognized Panahi, and Jafari is initially mobbed for autographs by a crowd that immediately disperses when they realize she has not come to bring new services to the village.) After solving the mystery of the missing girl, the two spend the night there, she in the house of the retired star, Panahi alone in his car. As you mention, the car story, which rarely wanders more than a few paces from this mobile prison (Panahi is still banned from filmmaking...
After premiering Donbass in Un Certain Regard at the 71st Cannes Film Festival (read our review), we had a chance to sit down to discuss the film with its director.