Friday, April 8, 2016
When Phil states, “If you want to fix something, you need to take everything about it apart. To figure out what’s important,” it should be understood as a guiding spirit to analyze Demolition as its meaning is buried in its detail.
And now finally more people get a chance to appreciate Jean-Marc Vallée's newest masterpiece, Demolition. For my most recent review of it, check out the latest issue of Little White Lies. It'll be playing at the Varsity and Cineplex Yonge-Dundas starting today Friday, April 8th.
Andrew Cividino's dynamic coming of age story Sleeping Giant, about three boys experiencing the pleasures of a restless summer along with the anxieties that inevitably arises, finally starts its theatrical release today, Friday, April 8th at the Varsity. Check it out if can!
For more information check out their Facebook page.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
David Davidson: Can you tell me how your book So Close to the State/s: The Emergence of Canadian Feature Film Policy (UTP, 1998) came to be? What sparked this research? What methodology problems did you have to solve?
Michael Dorland: I was working as a reporter/editor for Cinema Canada magazine, once upon a time the voice of a nationalist Canadian and Quebec cinema. In the time I was there, roughly from 1980-1985, the major federal policy change regarding film was a shift away from previous attempts to foster feature films (initially using a small $10m production and later through tax-shelter) with a turn to fostering TV production (the Telefilm Television Fund). After all, the broadcasting system was Canadian-owned whereas the cinema distribution system was and remains mainly US-owned. Also working as a reporter, one tends after a while to see the same things come around, and around, and this was systemically the case, whether in attempting to “foster” Canadian film development, or through the CRTC to “foster” Canadian content in broadcasting and music. What I wanted to figure out was why all this endless and seemingly unaware repetition. So in 1987, I got the opportunity to start a Phd in Communication at Concordia. The book is drawn from my dissertation.
The principal methodological problem I faced was finding an operationalizable concept that captured the role of the government/state in film production. Marxist methods had clear limitations in that it was never clear which “bourgeoisie” the Canadian state ‘worked’ for. Cultural studies in Canada at the time, and perhaps still, did not have a clear method other than the subcultural. What worked in the end, and it was something of a fluke, the result of much reading of Foucault, was the concept of governmentality, which seemed ideally suited for the Canadian context; that is, of an overriding state interest in the orientation of both economy and society without being clearly a class interest, but a muddle of some nationalist ideas mixed in with state interests as an end in itself. The other problem, with which I began first, was access to information held in government bureaucracies.
DD: How was its research process? The references from government documents, archival sources, unpublished material, personal letters and notes, an extensive referencing of newspaper and Canadian film journals and periodicals is quite erudite in its depth and range. How did you know what to look for, and were they easy to access?
MD: Bureaucracy is many-headed, so if you can access one major bureaucracy, there is a strong likelihood of accessing them all through duplication. My way in was through the National Film Board. I knew the head archivist at the time; I had interviewed him for the magazine; and he basically explained the structure of the Board’s archiving system and I was off and running. This was still before computerization, and the ensuing nightmare of computer dumps that fortunately I did not have to deal with. So using the Board’s archives, from minutes of the Board of the Board and all of the attached documentation that covered most of the bureaucracy involved in the film policy process, to production files for given films as well as television, really opened up the whole field for me. Especially the conviction at the time, early 1950s, that the Board thought it would be responsible for television in Canada. This was hugely important, especially when it came to untangling the symbiotic relationship between film and TV in the Canadian context of the ‘50s and ‘60s. How to know what to access and whether it was easy is basically hit and miss. You follow a thread and see where it takes you. If it doesn’t take you anywhere, you follow another thread. Easy? Never, and I don’t think the dissertation and book would have been doable without the NFB lifeline into the state bureaucracy.
DD: How was the book received? Did it have any effect, that you are aware of, on the domains of its dissertation such as Canadian filmmaking, government policy, or Canadian film scholarship?
MD: The book itself was quite well received in the small universe of Canadian film scholarship, and to some extent also in Australian film scholarship. ‘Well received’ is of course a relative notion. A few people noticed and said nice things. Outside of these small scholarly worlds, I don’t think the book had any impact at all.
DD: The book seems to answer the specific question of is there a ‘Canadian cinema’ by closely examining the formation of its industry in the 50s and 60s through the role of governmentality and its mediation between public institutions and private interests. It both brings together many dilemmas and problems still facing Canadian cinema today as well as the ground-work that contributed to making Canada a world-class country for industrial filmmaking (four of last years Best Picture Oscar contenders were Canadian co-productions, for example). How do you view the arguments from the book from the vantage point of 2016?
MD: I am not sure the book attempts to answer the specific question of “is there a Canadian cinema” for the reasons that there isn’t a Canadian cinema, but rather many Canadian cinemas, some ceaselessly rediscovered, some endlessly hoped for, and some that couldn’t care less as long as there is “product,” and if Canadians are involved that’s a plus. Canadian cinema has been all of these things at various times.
What was the case in the late 1960s was that there were a handful of filmmakers, usually of shorts and documentaries, and some of these wanted to make feature films. The government also wanted there to be more made-in-Canada feature films, without getting too picky about the phrase made-in-Canada. The government in particular wanted a feature film industry with only the vaguest idea of what this might actually mean or entail. With the creation in 1968 of the first feature film fund of $10m, the head of the fund called up his pals in Hollywood and said, hey, we’ve got $10m to play with, wanna play? And of course they did.
That was sixty years ago and in that time something like a film and television industry has been created, with all this implies in terms of infrastructure, labs, equipment, lighting, computerization, etc. Parts of that industry, in Vancouver and Toronto, sometimes in Alberta, (and in Montreal, though Quebec is always somewhat different), are capable of producing product that can sell to Hollywood or elsewhere, and to television all over the world, and in pretty much any genre imaginable. But that industry is still not “Canadian cinema”, a creature that remains as elusive as ever. Again, what the Canadian government of the 1960s wanted was a film industry. Eventually, it got one, after a fashion.
DD: What contemporary issues do you feel deserve more attention in the discussion of Canadian cinema today and its relation to government legislation and the private industry? And can you envisage any challenges in realizing it? (The conclusion on Policy Knowledge versus Academic Knowledge seems quite relevant in regards to this).
MD: As you say, there is Academic Knowledge and Policy Knowledge and they rarely meet each other. There is a large Policy apparatus in Canada very little studied by academics, which is unfortunate, but the ends are completely different. To the extent that Academic knowledge is about a broader understanding of context, and Policy knowledge is (not that it should be) about selling to bureaucrats something they want to hear and will pay for, there is still a very long way to go. Since the publication of So Close to the State/s my sense of the direction of academic work is that it is more regionally focused and more firmly set in the realm of production studies. As for Policy knowledge, that is a field entirely up for grabs by interested academics.
MD: You didn’t ask me this, but the title of the book is a play on the Mexican proverb, “So Close to the United States, So Far From God.” You can draw your own conclusions.
Friday, March 25, 2016
For the 25th anniversary of CineCycle there was a ceremony in honor of its owner, Martin Heath. There were snacks, drinks, good company, speeches, a projection of films about and set around CineCycle and a program of some of Heath's favorite films. It was a great event to take part in. Here's to another twenty-five years!
For more information on CineCycle check out John Porter's great website and history of it : http://www.super8porter.ca/CineCycle.htm
Monday, March 21, 2016
For Cinema Scope issue number sixty-six a beautiful still from Lewis Klahr’s Sixty Six graces its cover. In its annual, though perhaps begrudgingly, tradition of organizing a top ten list with its contributors (to be eligible they must have contributed to each of its quarterly issues) the elected titles combined tend to offer a representative survey of the major films and the new cinematographic trends of that previous year. Perhaps to celebrate this new issue, and with the pass of the half-way mark of the 2010 decade, it’s as good a time as any to look back and reflect on these lists, going as far back as 2010. These lists for the 2015 to 2010 years appear in the issues number sixty-six, sixty-two, fifty-eight, fifty-four, fifty and forty-six. This would provide a broader view of the cinematographic preferences of the magazine, the directors that they feature, their average age, and the countries that they’re from – essentially what constitute the creators of the most exciting films of this period.
Excluding their yearly special mentions, all of the films that made their top ten lists so far (since 2010) include (in alphabetical order): A Touch of Sin, Adieu au langage, Arabian Nights, Attenberg, autrement, la Molussie, Cemetery of Splendour, Computer Chess, Django Unchained, Dreileben, Film Socialisme, From What Is Before, Holy Motors, Horse Money, I Wish I Knew, Inherent Vice, Inside Llewyn Davis, It’s the Earth Not the Moon, Jauja, Journey to the West, Kaili Blues, Kill List, L'Apollonide: Souvenirs de la maison close, L’inconnu du lac, Le gamin au vélo, Leviathan, Lost and Beautiful, Maidan, Meek’s Cutoff, Moonrise Kingdom, Mysteries of Lisbon, Neighboring Sounds, No Home Movie, Norte, the End of History, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, P’tit Quinquin, Phoenix, Right Now, Wrong Then, Sleeping Sickness, Story of My Death, Stray Dogs, Tabu, The Assassin, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu, The Forbidden Room, The Ghost Writer, The Kindergarten Teacher, The Last Time I Saw Macao, The Master, The Strange Case of Angelica, The Strange Little Cat, The Treasure, The Tree of Life, The Turin Horse, The Wolf of Wall Street, This is Not a Film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Viola, Visit, or Memories and Confessions, What Now? Remind Me, Winter Vacation.
For the sake of neatness the following summary might include a few helpful generalizations: where the director might have associations with more than one country, the specific country of the film or which they are more identified with will be highlighted (e.g. Godard and Paravel with France, Loznitsa with Ukraine, da Mata with Portugal, and Zürcher with Germany). Manoel de Oliveira made Visit, or Memories and Confessions when he was eighty-three so it would be inputted at that age. And when the directors work in pairs or with the inclusion of an omnibus film, each of the individuals would be properly inputted (which might lead to potential over-representation).
The directors who reoccur on these lists, all with a maximum of two inclusions, are: Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendour, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), Christian Petzold (Phoenix, Dreileben), Jean-Luc Godard (Adieu au langage, Film Socialisme), Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin, I Wish I Knew), Lav Diaz (From What Is Before, Norte, the End of History), Manoel de Oliveira (Visit, or Memories and Confessions, The Strange Case of Angelica), Miguel Gomes (Arabian Nights, Tabu), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, The Master), Tsai Ming-liang (Journey to the West, Stray Dogs). That some directors don’t (re-)appear more frequently on these lists during this six year period might have more to do with the precariousness of producing these more challenging type of films and certain curating trends of the film festival circuit.
Of the sixty-eight directors on the list: fifteen of them are under the age of forty, twenty-two of them are in their forties, twenty-four of them are between fifty and seventy, and the remaining six of them are older than seventy.
The most reoccurring countries are the United States (with eleven titles), Portugal (with nine titles), France (with eight titles), Germany (with six titles), China (with four titles), and so on.
One of the great film magazines, a convergence point for contemporary cinematographic trends, and always an interesting and stimulating read. Here’s to a good 2016 year for Cinema Scope!
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Gaspard Nectoux is a newer film critic at Cahiers du Cinéma. He started writing at Cahiers almost three years ago with his first pieces in the April 2013 issue. But to be honest he’s still somewhat marginal at the magazine: He’s still only included in the masthead under ‘Ont collaboré à ce numéro’ and has not yet joined their ‘Comité de rédaction’. He typically doesn’t contribute to the ‘Événements’ nor does he write the Cahier Critique for the major Cahiers films, but instead, with some variation, is consigned to write a few capsule reviews in their ‘Notes sur d’autres films’ section. It’s probable that an average reader could even regularly read the magazine without ever noticing him. He hasn’t written too many Cahier Critiques, doesn’t cover the major film festivals, and hasn’t really done any interviews. Also many of the films that he does write about are typically third-tier art or mainstream films, which most cinephiles would hardly bother to see. One might even suspect that he’s relegated to these bad objects due to the fact that nobody wants to see or write about them.
But what makes Gaspard Nectoux so interesting, then? Well there’s a few reasons: If the Cahiers line can be pretty strict, with an unshakable affirmation in what’s right and wrong, this homogeneity can sometimes be reflected in its writing: The Cahiers maxim, with some variation, for the same championed directors. So new critics joining the magazine can copy-and-paste certain unquestionable ideas and can easily fit in. So what Nectoux does then becomes more interesting as his short critiques become sites of experimentation to tests certain ideas of how certain cinéastes engages with mise en scène through these particular films. As well, since these aren’t the A-list films that he’s writing about, it gives him the breathing room to open the magazine towards new directors that haven’t been previously mentioned in the magazine (though usually it’s somewhat ambivalently). So Gaspard Nectoux, within the Cahiers team, provides a different way see and a different way to think about cinema.There are three key concepts in understanding Gaspard Nectoux’s approach to cinema: le réel, l’enjeu and mise en scène. Reality, the stakes, and how it’s represented on the screen by these cinéastes. Three simple enough concepts but which are loaded with meaning and possibilities. What exactly is the réel and how to capture it with a camera? What are the stakes of capturing, framing and manipulating it in the organization of a film? If the réel is the reality of the world then documentaries in general, and perhaps documentary-fiction hybrids, would have a more privilege access to it. It’s that of a Bazinien realism where in the process of representing the world its spiritual qualities also comes across.It all begins with the réel for Nectoux. What is the reality that the film wants articulate? So the films that he tends to focus on are those that are based in a réel: documentaries on personal and social issues, historical and contemporary events. As well, what’s the relation between fiction films and real world events? And then, what stakes does the director have in expressing it, what intervention is he bringing to it, how do they represent their own point of view? And then how is it represented in the mise en scène? How does the making of the film effect its end result? Nectoux is asking himself all of these questions whenever he writes a critique.So far Nectoux’s has written fourteen Cahier Critiques: Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, Mitra Farahani’s Fifi hurle de joie, Matt Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess, Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, Paul Vecchiali’s Nuits blanches sur la jetée, Wang Bing’s A la folie, Fellipe Barbosa’s Casa Grande, Alante Kavaite’s Summer, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, Amos Gitai’s Le Dernier Jour d’Yitzak Rabin, and Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then. (Up to March 2016)Some of these are important: A critique of Soderberg’s last film as Nectoux is just starting to write. Matt Porterfield’s introduction to the magazine. A take-down of the generally well-liked Timbuktu. Vecchiali is a major renewed French director for Cahiers. Summer would go on to be in the Cahiers top ten of that year. Shyamalan returns in Cahiers’ good books with this review of The Visit. It’s almost like a rite of passage to write a critique of a Hong Sang-soo film at Cahiers. And so on…Nectoux was able to contribute to two Top Ten Films of the Year lists. For 2014: P’tit Quinquin, Adieu au langage, Maps to the Stars, Under the Skin, Nymphomaniac, La La Chambre bleue, Love is Strange, Our Sunhi, Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, and Mille soleils. For 2015: Cemetary of Splendour, The Smell of Us, Mia Madre, Jauja, Arabian Nights, Journey to the Shore, L'Ombre des femmes, Mad Max: Fury Road, A La folie, and Cosmos.Nectoux’s special interests are on the side of the réel, documentary, and contemporary world cinema. His pantheon directors include Wang Bing, Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Costa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lav Diaz and Tsai Ming-liang. He’s building on the Cahiers tradition and filiation most explicitly with Godard, who he regularly brings up, and critics such as Daney and Bergala, who he references, but perhaps through his sarcasm and outlier qualities to Luc Moullet (see: Truffaut’s letters to Moullet for how he was first viewed at the magazine). Some of Nectoux’s other interests include: American DIY, Brazilian and Israeli films, French and queer cinema, and some popular American films. He has even written about some Canadian directors like Nicolás Pereda, Bruce LaBruce and Guy Maddin (hopefully this is a trend that they keep up).Nectoux is creating and bringing forth new Cahiers arguments into the magazine. For example: Timbuktu was not able to capture the urgent réel that was the catalyst for Sissako’s project or how Malick is unable reach the visual débordement of a Godard. They might sound minor repeated here but in the extended and more developed ways they are brought into Cahiers they start to grow roots and become part of the ground that the magazine stands on. Nectoux seems to easily create and puts out there these Cahiers arguments and many of them would come to anticipate the magazine’s upcoming features and debates.Nectoux is still regularly writing at Cahiers, while other new critics have come and gone, and he seems to be somewhat growing in stature as he has created a distinct position for himself there. With Nectoux there are new directors that are appearing in the magazine, and with that new perspectives on cinema: sometimes these are older directors who are reappearing after a long hiatus (LaBruce, Gitaï) or new younger directors appearing for the first time in the magazine.The tone of Nectoux’s critiques attempts to bridge a generosity with a criticalness (which usually ends up taking precedence). There are many well-regarded commercial and critical films that Nectoux takes-down with great ease. It’s the Cahiers mantra that ‘il faut haïr pour pouvoir aimer’, which gives him more authority to when he does like a film. The contrapuntal note critiques (a positive and negative one) offers a thesis-antithesis-synthesis models of his many ideas. There is a sophisticated use of the French language in his critiques, which includes sophisticated long sentences, reflexive questions, bracketing and plays on words. As well, he’s explicitly aligning himself with the current Cahiers tradition, cross-referencing a lot of texts, and building on many arguments, but testing their hypothesis on the concrete films that he’s critiquing. And they're shorter, sarcastic critiques in the Notes section, which gives them the quality of being fun and faster to read (similar to a lot of film writing that appears on Twitter). Plot synopsis tends to fade to the background as Nectoux focuses more on the ideas engaged with in the films. By focusing to on critiques (especially the notes), instead of say the journal or interviews, he’s highlighting the worthiness of film criticism to his project. And by writing on so many different cinéastes, an average of three note critiques in each issue, he’s also spreading out his position and perspective at the magazine. Nectoux just pops up at places, unexpectedly, and he reveals something new.There are certain assumptions needed to best understand Nectoux’s work: Film criticism as an advocacy for a certain type of cinema. How to discuss the world, and help certain cinéastes which are doing this successfully today. An emphasis on film festival as a nodal point for contemporary trends in cinema (Nectoux writes a lot on Venise and Berlin films), but to not take them at face value and to be able to question and criticize them, to spark a debate.On the more obscure or underground films, Nectoux provides a brief history of them and why they would be of interest to cinephiles. He’s interested in discovering something new. And in all of these he demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of film, and especially, of an obscure film history. He also writes about some more commercial fare, which make for fun viewing of these films, even if they’re good or bad, he brings attention to something that might have been overlooked, to just be familiar with what’s being made today, and a perspective on it. By mostly writing ambivalent reviews, against publicity, and smaller art films, Nectoux is able to instill a reliability and authority in his character. Just these smaller critiques, which are partly ephemeral in nature, now have a lasting memorable position. Nectoux is opening up a new space at Cahiers where some of its best writing is now at its fringe.The following are abridged selections of most of Nectoux’s texts at Cahiers since joining the magazine in 2013 up to January 2016. It’s meant to be more than just a Leonard Maltin guide of capsule reviews of films, but a unique thought onto how to understand cinema over the last few years through, and by, an introduction to some of the smaller, best and worst films. Interesting takes on familiar films you’ve might have seen. Just one sentence, to a few of them, to the entire thing. I hope it is of interest. – D.D.
Cahiers (April 2013, N.688): Jeunes cinéastes français on n'est pas morts!
Notes Critique: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects
“We’ve often reproached the limits of Soderbergh’s end of career gesture: elegant and inventive but lacking a magnitude… Without ever totally leaving this comfort zone he lets the film overflow nicely, Side Effects is working in the shadow of a paranoid American cinema (in the style of De Palma, that of voyeurism), taking the story towards the rhythm of reversals and tangents, each part of the film puts into doubt what we think we’ve just seen… Soderbergh finely composes with doubt and uncertainty, replaying the ambiguity of deception and intrigue through the minor audacity of his mise en scène: indeterminate angles, a play on the focus, deceitful editing which disguises the reality of the situations by omitting a part of the space… Soderbergh offers, moderato, his own version of a baroque of the genre.”
Notes Critique: Kim Ki-duk’s Pietà
“Cahiers has already evoked after Venise how terrible Pietà is, which was awarded the Golden Lion, especially against The Master and Spring Breakers, which culminates the grotesque trajectory of Kim Ki-duk of the last ten years. He’s been slowly abandoning any sensibility of the world to lock his cinema in an aesthetic of shock with the obsession of winning prizes as his only perspective… To get closer to the misery doesn’t evidently signify going further, just as a repetitive miming of horror to that of showing it. Entirely lost in a crass complacency the réel is completely lost. The cinema of Kim Ki-duk doesn’t actually see nor does it produce anything: redemption will have to wait.”
Notes Critique: Amélie van Elmbt’s La Tête la première
“To follow its story necessitates a tender and attentive mise en scène, which La Tête la première rarely produces. It’s too safe, mechanical and systematic, neutralizing even the charm and naturalness of its actors, making everything forced.”
Cahiers (May 2013, N.689): Cannes
Notes Critique: Pablo Stoll Ward’s 3, Chronique d'une famille singulière
“Locking the drama into a schema without enriching the mise en scène nor giving the actors any liberty, Stoll encloses his subjects in a mechanics of the scenario instead of patiently observing.”
Notes Critique: Ann Hui’s A Simple Life
“In the mode of a minor academic film, filled with a nostalgia for the heyday of the Hong Kong new wave, the 25th film by Ann Hui, is a bow towards this old auteur cinema whose ancestry is British, and particularly to its actors Deanie Ip and Andy Lau… A Simple Life definitively marks the success of a justice in tone, but the limits of its soft ambition, safe without any risks, confides it towards the inoffensive.”
Cahiers (July-August 2013, N.691): L’amour des acteurs
Notes Critique: Nicolás Pereda’s Greatest Hits
“The Mexican concept film of the month, Greatest Hits, falls into the category of films in two times. It’s a winded attempt of Jean Eustache’s masterpiece Une sale histoire which Nicolás Pereda holds its ambiguous structure without attaining its finesse… From this pseudo-reflexive path there isn’t much. Since if the stakes for Eustache, it was otherwise more precise, to consistently attempt to find a truth in each part, regardless if the story was told by a regular person or professional actor. For Pereda, the ostentatious project is the distance with the réel, accomplishing the total opposite: a laborious game of falseness on every stage: vain intentions and end result.”
Notes Critique: Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
“For those who’ve seen CQ, Roman Coppola’s 2001 first film, a cinephilic comedy which goes towards pastiche, would know the success and failures of the second, in its variations on California, pop and the erotic… There’s the same desire to talk about, through a disguised auto-portrait, his doubts regarding his singularity as a creator and his heavy place within his clan… It’s not by chance that the final scene, when the director sees his proper reflection in the image, the reflex isn’t to finally look at himself, but to turn off the camera.”
Notes Critique: Zal Batmanglij’s The East
“What Batmanglij is searching for, like in his intriguing first film Sound of My Voice, where a couple attempted to infiltrate a bizarre cult, it’s more so to show belief than a dialectic, membership more so than introspection. All of the project relies on a scenario that’s overly thought and overly written, full of demonstrative sequence that are miraculous, meant to surprise the characters and the spectator at the same time… He should have, to sustain his theme, a mise en scène more confident, less vague, less indecisive.”
Cahiers (September 2013, N.692): Éloge de la comédie
Cahiers Critique: Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra
“Behind the Candelabra puts an end to a remitted period in Steven Soderbergh’s career – which begins with the second half of Che, where the apparition of the Red Camera pushes Soderbergh to start carrying the apparatus himself, which gets him to re-think his role in his cinema as the cinematographer… All of the following films pursues this tendency, technically and formally: small stories, petit realism, a slick minimal aesthetic. All of this risks the boredom in front of these double failures of substance and intervals between projects… And slowly style itself becomes the subject of the director, deploying it in a splendid way in the universe aggressively decorated of Liberace, like the spectacle scenes in Vegas to the over-decorated palaces of the stars… Behind these luxuries camouflages the truths behind the people, behind the candelabra of the title, evolve these two men, uncertain in their roles, which are in act for each other, partners, parents and lovers… Liberace and his artist, just like the escorts in The Girlfriend Experience, Magic Mike and its male strippers, Side Effects and its manipulator, met en scène these spectacle bodies, ambiguous since their doubles, deceiving others and themselves… It’s this leap into the abyss, of Liberace finding love in death, that has been lacking in Soderbergh’s fin de carrière, this abandonment of the concrete (to stop worrying about efficiency!) to better see the force of sentiments, like with Alain Guiraudie, who filmed the strangers by the lake without ever loosing their personalities. All it takes is a little confidence in oneself and your subject, to stop looking, and to really touch.”
Notes Critique: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality
“At what moment does the poetic shakes toward the picturesque?... Certainly when we stop filming the famous instant of rapprochement of two realities that are far from each other (Reverdy, Breton, Godard) to linger only on the contemplation of a decorative result… But there’s no idea of a mise en scène that stands out… Even though the Chilien at once was the cinéaste of concrete poetic irruption, one must only have to re-watch Fando y Lis, El Topo or La Montagne Sacrer to be convinced about this, and that the Jodoroskien fantastique is never only the grotestque images but also their upsurge, sustained by a mise en scène… The promised dance had hardly started.”
Notes Critique: Edgar Wright’s The World’s End
“The only trait of Edgar Wright’s cinema (which in general isn’t that interesting) holds onto his dispositif which is deliberately programmatic. Like for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim, everything is announced since the first, like the development of the intrigue to all of the character details… A laughing denunciation of a normative capitalism? It’s difficult to imagine a polemic that’s more politically correct, especially at the heart of a film whose mise en scène, in its scale and budget are so unnecessarily overstuffed, that its aims remain without a doubt less caustic then financially, no?”
Notes Critique: Davide Manuli’s The Legend of Kaspar Hauser
“Let’s admit Davide Manuli accomplishes at least one thing: to unite in only one film the integral of all of the worst trends of contemporary auteur cinema and even of inventing some new ones. That’s still quite the feat… The auto-celebration of such a malignant work, where the only trace of an attention towards its subject (and therefore interest for the spectator) is that of the stunning androgynous body of Silvia Calderoni.”
Cahiers (October 2013, N.693): Kechiche en question
Cahiers Critique: Mitra Farahani’s Fifi hurle de joie
“Farahadi became familiar for his less than singular approach, routine-like in its form, but indecisive in its positioning… In this documentary on the Iranien artist Bahman Mohassess (now exiled in Rome), each one equally perceives the opportunity that the other one is offering: for him, to place one last time in the present his desire of creation, by way of the cinéaste; for her, to inscribe finally the overwhelming that she’s always filmed from far and putting it at the heart of her documentary…”
Notes Critique: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End
“Exit burlesque, enter the cult of the vain: it’s the focus on a setting in American comedy under the Judd Apatow-influence, at once confirmed and displaced in This is The End… The film marks the commercial surpassing of Apatow by his ex-actors (it did better than This is 40)… It remains to see, outside of commands, if these thirty-year olds would invent a form that’s less ephemeral than the film-sketch or the auto-parody.”
Notes Critique: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious Spivet
“We thought that Jean-Pierre Jeunet couldn’t fall lower than with Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009), and, good news, we we’re right. The bad news: he didn’t go much higher with The Young and Prodigious Spivet, a false regain of form which the grand title of film announces its Amélie-esque color… The ode to the grandeur of the West is doubled with a critique, which is as severe as it is clumsy, which takes the values of science against that of violent weapons (what engagement!). Total hypocrisy of a project that searches for a rudeness of the cowboy but calls against a Winchester for a sugary ogre.”
Notes Critique: Luc Besson’s The Family
“The injunction to tears of The Lady wasn’t able to stick, and its laughter that’s Luc Besson is aiming for with Malavita, which allows him with the same gesture to fold on the principal phantasm of his cinema: to inscribe an American imagination onto the French territory… Do we still need to be shocked by the contempt with which Besson films all, the world, the rural, the women, cinema itself?”
DVD Review: Pierre Perrault’s La bête lumineuse
“Like an answer to the heavy tank which is Leviathan, the DVD release of La bête lumineuse permits us to be reminded what is really an immersion into a territory (like always for Pierre Perrault, French Canada) and by extension, a good ethnographic film… At no moment is there the creation of a distance to deform the réel . The mise en scène of Perrault, fifteen years after his île-aux-Coudres trilogy, has never been so clear.”
Cahiers (December 2013, N.695): Top Ten Films of 2013
Notes Critique: Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant
“English countryside. An ambient fog. Two little mischievous kids kill their time by working at night as scrap-metal collectors. There are multiple ways to approach this story: the social-naturalist angle, of the Ken Loach school, from his period Kes, to show the poverty of the families and their difficulty at school; the angle of the marvelous, inspired by the Oscar Wilde fable which gives the film its title, to show the strange relation between the kids and the junkyard owner, half-crook, half-father substitute; or a documentary angle, like of on the Bradford community in Yorkshire, where Clio Barnard had explored in her first full-length feature, The Arbor (2010), the origins of its local dramaturgist Andrea Dunbar, which Alan Clarke had adapter her Ruta, Sue and Bob Too in 1987… But The Selfish Giant decides on choosing all of these options at once, which inevitable consequence, neutralizes each approach on only engaging with them partially… It’s again the too-fullness of good intentions, here, that makes reluctant the gaze, which is otherwise sophisticated, of this cinéaste on the children of Bradford.”
Notes Critique: Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours
“At the intersection of Chris Marker and Walter Benjamin (and his study on the passages), the New Yorker Jem Cohen constructs since the beginning of the eighties an oeuvre quasi-invisible but precious, of film-essays, journals and installations, documenting minutely the hidden face of America, that of the cities and suburbs asphyxiated by mass culture (Lost Boo Found, 1996, Chain, 2004) or that of the artistic and political underground of the East (the Occupy Wall Street Movement of 2011)… This leads to its nonchalant rhythm (almost too much: Cohen is better in short formats), with the aim – all the while achieved – is to reveal the richness of the city, and of those who inhabit it through a dialectic of gazes, that of the cinéaste, that of the spectator, and those of its two main characters.”
Notes Critique: Katell Quillévéré’s Suzanne
“In an opposite manner to the many feminine figures that run through the young French cinema this year, from La bataille de Solférino to Les Rencontres d'après minuit, the Suzanne of Katell Quillévéré, like the heroine of Poison Violent in 2010, only traverses intimate turmoils… The real breath exists though, through instants, in the acting moments the most intimate, like when the couple or two sisters are on screen: The direction of the couple scenes remain the principal force (the principle desire?) of the cinéaste since her early short films À bras le corps, from 1995… But the articulation between the intimate and romanesque ambition still remains to be found… The Suzanne that this film wants to echo, is that of Pialat, that of À nos amours, which thirty years ago found her proper liberty as an admirable young women, and stunned, in a gesture of cinema that wasn’t so moderated.”
Cahiers (January 2014, N.696): Le vent se lève
Cahiers Critique: Matt Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker
“Of Matt Porterfield’s three films, I Used to be Darker is certainly his most discrete, far from the do it yourself naturalism of Hamilton (filmed in 2001, released in 2006, and still undistributed in France) or the approach ‘true/false’ sometimes fetishistic of Putty Hill (2010)… It’s also his most fine and the most touching, attempting to explore through the trajectory of its four main characters the obscure sentiment evoked by the title, which was pulled from a Bill Callahan folk song (‘I used to be darker/then I got light/then I got dark again’) – between relief, and melancholy of things of the past, and retreat before what’s about to happen, the unknown… Each character is wandering in their own way, floating through their own wandering, and through floating around, many scenes talk about this hesitation: figures framed within hallways, passing through doors, by staircases, but to go where?... The scenes of the performances. It’s there, too, that the presence of the cinéaste (his desire) is felt the most. The camera distances itself from the bodies, stops moving, a duration installs, without ever Porterfield’s attentive gaze loosing itself and that the dispositif itself becomes that which plays… The film reveals itself to be an elegy to that of creation, where the character-artist are the most solid… Abby in a pool would finally be able to murmur and anxiously wish just before the scene ends, she’ll find her own performance in the hors champs: it would be the return to the réel, the reconciliation with her parents over the phone, and leaving. The gaze of Porterfield, without effects, without forcing, without a romanesque also (it’s the limit of his gesture, almost too respectful) but delicately and with precision, he would film his characters up to the point of recovering, and after the crisis, their fears, their solitude, becomes again – for a at least a short period – luminous.”
Notes Critique: Spike Lee’s Oldboy
“Where does the impression that the film works despite itself?... Maybe due to Spike Lee’s baroque methods – who has for many times even parasited his own cinema – deploys here advisably, in a busy narrative that substitutes for the transgressive taste system that moved everything forward with Park Chan-wook… While, he oscillates for a while now on perforated classics, safe documentaries and exercises in style (the undistributed and interesting Red Hook Summer, in 2012, falls into this category), the career of Spike Lee achieves a minor success with Old Boy, too weak certainly for the public of the original.”
Notes Critique: James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now
“Nothing is more irritating than a calibrated American independent cinema, kilometers away from the truly free shooters (Shane Carruth, Andrew Bujalski, Matt Porterfield, to only cite those with films coming out this year)… The film eludes that which it aims towards (almost nothing on the alcoholism of the protagonist), and never on the screen do we even see the shadow of a teenager that would have a place close to the less docile kids from the films of Larry Clark or Gregg Araki.”
Cahiers (February 2014, N.697)
Notes Critique: Yann Le Quellec’s Le Quepa sur la vilni!
“An ode to liberty, unbridled, evoking, though usually not as just, that of Luc Moullet's burlesque alpines (by chance, that of Parpaillon)… The occasion to compare two gestures of the cinéaste, is to verify that the energy of the bodies never liberate themselves better then through the rhythm of desire.”
Notes Critique: Nicole Garcia’s Un beau dimanche
“The habit with Nicole Garcie: to go through the romanesque (more psychological than lyrical) to arrive at the political, via the social… That of suspended time causes problems, that it installs in instants through the obscurity of the family house, before becoming chocked up in the choice of télé-filmic style (from the naturalist image to the folk score, all has been seen and heard elsewhere)… The shadow of Visconti appears for a second, but it’s on Klapisch which it tends to land.”
Cahiers (March 2014, N.698): La parole aux étudiants
Cahiers (April 2014, N.699): Alain Resnais
Cahiers Critique: Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess
“In Austin, a year ago, Andrew Bujalski explained to Cahiers his fascination for the discarded, the aside, and the out-moded. We knew his three first films, rohmerien and lo-fi, where everyone, in fact, seemed, out-of-step, but we remained astonished by his evolution (the too-much?) of Computer Chess, so resolved to distance himself from the family of American independents. Out of phase at all costs… So what do we see, then, in Bujalski’s first film to come out in France?.. Everything suffering from a vain cry and vintage maniérisme if the film stopped there, content to be the status of a seductive ‘strange object’. But the too-much (visual, comic and speculative) sculpts a film that’s profoundly dislocated, more humain and uncertain than it looks… The director has often cited as an influence the film by the photographer William Eggleston, Stranded in Canton (a favorite of Harmony Korine, in the period of Trash Humpers), an exploration all in close-ups and of jump-cuts in a now lost madness, which was shot in the South of the United States. To import in a fiction the documentary gaze of Eggleston, usually absorbed by the energy of his own subjects, is not without consequence: the hotel of Computer Chess, slowly, furthers from the Altmanian model to plunge itself in the Kubrickian interior of madness… It is the details of problems of the game which Bujalski’s camera films: the stammering of language, awkward silences, and suden hesitations… At the hour where his ex-compatriots of SXSW responds to the calls from the mainstream (Joe Swanberg, Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, now are all televised), and where the ancient lost characters of mumblecore, now in their thirties, finally find their calling, Bujalski’s gaze takes on the choice of the margins, and he does this by filming humour mixed with anxieties mixed together in all of its variations. The risk: for himself to remain stranded, lost, in the game sometimes intoxicated of prevented obsessions.”
Notes Critique: Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia
“That what Bruce LaBruce shows which is the most unbelievable in Gerontophilia isn’t the central couple but the total absolute lack of scandal that surrounds it… So few cinéastes had even dreamt of such a point of equality, and even better, an equality out-of-the-norm, perhaps maybe John Waters (who is more bantering) or Adolpho Arrietta (who is more subterranean)… Remember that Bruce LaBruce, a real sentimentalist and false provocateur, had seen and had filmed others, the terrified encounters of Hustler White (1996), henceforth passing for the innocence of a cinema which has turned towards the romance between zombies (Otto, 2008), see the romance between zombies and coked-out aliens (in the gay porno L.A Zombie, 2010)… Too much of the marginal kills the marginal, the Canadian cinéaste finally tries a style and a story comme il faut (consequence: it’s sometimes awkward), but he finds new forms for his desires: equality to start off with, and then devoration… To say too much, without doing enough, he wouldn’t have seen that the fight was already won for the margins for Bruce LaBruce, there where love exists, he films without any irony.”
Note Critique: Wang Bing’s Les Trois Soeurs du Yunnan
“There’s a fascinating shot of an encounter in the corner of an alley where his capture captures a minuscule figure of a young girl running away from his view, she’s as much interested as scared, then he follows her home, a room engulfed in shadows where she reunited with her two sisters… In front of his subject and their voices (Fengming) or with them as their working (L’Argent du charbon, L’homme sans nom), the gaze is always double for Wang Bing, interrogative and benevolent… If the film, here, testifies still in details a ‘masterfulness’ (a Pierre Perrault term) of the quotidian work and labor, the presence of the cinéaste has never been more felt, benevolent, full of love, the only gaze on these little girls that are as voluble as the parents are (pre)occupied… The characters are that of the rejected-from-society, which is also his own. His moral, of this monumental film project, is to match the high moral of these little girls today, remains the same, essential and beautiful. Regardless of the scale: to film the silence to not abandom those that have been overlooked.”
DVD Review: Andrew Bujalski box-set
“All of Bujalski is there in the formidable inaugural scene in his cinema: a tipsy student enters what must be a tattoo shop (we only see its four walls), and engages in a conversation that has no point, nor start, nor end (Bujalski ends the scene early), with a tattoo artist that’s trying to reason with her… Bujalski was a student at Harvard under Chantal Akerman: his cinema of casual rooms is quite intimate, in the practice of the Do It Yourself before anything else (light productions, friends/actors, 16mm), but it’s the rohmerian separation between a felt desire and that which is expressed, in the name of an awkwardness against that of a moral, which each film expresses… From the sentimental explorations of Funny Ha Ha (2002), to the new temptations of Mutual Appreciation (2005) to the relations to work finally engaged with in Beeswax (2009), Bujalski has revealed to the American indie scene of the 2000 years a new figure, less prolific than the slacker, where hiding behind these false smiles and knee-jerk humor there is an indecision of anxiety and solitude – that which enriched the characters in the films of Joe Swanberg, Aaron Katz or the Duplass brothers, and that today we are refinding, entering its adult age, in the roles of Greta Gerwig in the films of Noah Baumbach.”
Cahiers (June 2014, N.701): Maps to the Stars
Notes Critique: Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice
“Since his beginnings ten years ago, after having written for other auteurs of the sixth generation (1965-1975), Diao Yinan had started to film the changing of rhythm of China… Does the world turn the same way or not as it is represented by the law (Uniform)? Or when we return to our homes alone or accompanied (Night Train)?... Black Coal, Thin Ice is his most successful and the most open of his films, and it offers seductive readings (which is, perhaps, why it won the Golden Bear)… Could the progression of the story resemble diagnostic images of a too quick entrance into a sick modernity? Possibly, but Dio Yinan, not a director of a thesis, looks less to a broken country then its citizens in the face (this leads to why possibly it was a box-office success in China)… Diao captures something which was only starting to blossom in the films by Jia Zhang-ke: the impossible management of phantasms in a isolating society… And through this angle, the chronicle of Black Coal, Thin Ice, which is itself a phantasm of the film noir, really takes on its veritable political meaning. That of an absurd fable where the emptiness of the spaces that are traversed find their echo in a existential no man’s land, that of Orson Welles’ The Trial, in an derisory explosion.”
Note Critique: Vicent Mariette’s Tristesse Club
“The tepidity of the writing, which progresses with the most shameless figures and most despised in French cinema, is the major problem of this comedy where two brothers discover their sister… Mariette, we knew this since her short-films (where brilliantly appeared Noemie Lvovsky, Nicolas Maury, Esteban), establishes better her cinema through the focus on the actors than that of the frame. This attention to the actors’ work saves in extremis the mise en scène, some laughs, but it isn’t enough to anchor the film on these performances… What to enthousiastically do with characters that are so narrow, like the role of the false ingénue that plays Ludivine Sagnier for the how many-th time since the last fifteen years?”
Cahiers (July/August 2014, N.702): De La Lumière!
Événement Essay: Le lac et le desert, propos de Fabrice Aragno
“Where does the light in Jean-Luc Godard’s cinema come from, that which is captured in his (small) digital cameras for his last two (grand) films, and why don’t they resemble any others?... We are subjugated to a plasticity of the image that we feel is ephemeral, trivial and though we feel is more anchored in the réel than that of other films with the ‘amateur’ apparatuses… To talk about the light in Godard’s last films comes back to talking about pleasure – that of watching them, and that of inventing them… One must look back four films, to the period after Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998), a moment of forced reinvention due to the technical changes going on… to Éloge de l'amour (2001), which was filmed by Julien Hirsch, and Notre musique (2004), with its melancholic light… And to actually know how, one had to go and meet Fabrice Aragno – not fully the cinematographer, nor sound engineer, nor lighter, but all of these things at once, and one of Godard’s closest partners since Notre musique, where he worked specifically on its last section, by the lake. Aragno describes the collaboration, ‘Godard doesn’t tell me what to do, the opposite actually, what he says is: ‘when you are lost, try.’’ From Film Socialisme, the search for a contrasted image, dynamic, pushes towards the multiplication of cameras, before and during the filmmaking. A Sony for the scenes in Martin’s garage, and different others for the rest: randomly, a Canon 5D, an Archos, a Samsung NV24, a Panasonic Snapshot… The quality isn’t what’s important (‘These cameras aren’t good, from a ‘professional’ perspective’), but what’s important is in the discovered palette of the material… Where the light sensitivity of digital has interested certain technophile cineastes, it’s its new picturality that Godard and Aragno are pursuing. They then compare the Sony to watercolors (‘even though it might seem optimistic to say this, because its images are quite pale’) and the 5D to charcoal (‘little of depth of field, we trace tight shots, create something distinct’). For each shot the cinéaste chooses the right camera and matter… ‘While we’re filming, the principal shot is framed by Godard with the 5D,’ but other cameras are tried with in different angles, ‘while we’re working for each take, we tell ourselves: ‘Oh, why, don’t we try this…’ … There are six cameras that are credited in the credits, each one with their imperfection that’s brought into the matter itself of the film, but without it being a provocation: ‘we do not function with an already-defined idea, as if we were searching for the absolute malfunction.’… ‘The cinéaste edits all by himself… he composes the film like Histoire(s), with his small older analogue system, which permits him to amplify the colors, reinventing accidents, moving the connecting cord to create further glitches in the image,’ and after that transferring it to HD for Aragno to make some final touches on the color correction… More so than the films that are signed by Julien Hirsch, it’s through these films today that the cinéaste seems to prolong the plastic experimentation of Histoire(s), with the post-production accentuating the pictoriality that’s found in the technique… And there are just as many shots that were filmed by Godard, ‘for a contrast and the matter’… It’s this tendency for improvisation that Godard has been able to re-find through the digital. He enjoys, ‘just filming, with a Fuji or mini-Sony that he always has in his pocket, hours and hours of images of his dog Roxy, in each season, over four years.’ Godard, is the cinéaste of notebooks, notes, and sketches to materialize the non-thought. This gesture is close to that of Jonas Mekas, who has filmed for a long time these instances of beauty, or of a Terrence Malick, rediscovering the lightness in very complex set-ups… But the thing is the light for Godard, more so than the beauty of Mekas or Malick, dares to create ruptures, failure and banalities. And through this he finds a true hybrid richness when the work on the light becomes a real montage. Fabrice Aragno, “What’s so beautiful is that it’s not just aerial shots. There’s a side earth-to-earth, there needs to have a trivial side to it.’… The position of Godard, that of the old painter who has refound an innocence, which he has been searching for for a while, and which he now occupies, shows the difficulty to access this method. We don’t imagine too many young directors risking to film so many images that attempt to create a new language, as Genet said, to paraphrase, ‘In the desert, one must go search.’ In the name of matter, let’s hope that this plentiful ‘desert’ does not remain the iconoclasm of one inventor and his ally.”
Cahiers (September 2014, N.703): P'tit Quinquin
Notes Critiques: Christophe Honoré’s Métamorphoses
“With Metamorphoses did Christophe Honoré want to rub his cinema with that of Straub and Huillet?... The interesting idea of a scenographer without a future, it’s a first in the trajectory of the director and rarety in French cinema. It deserves the comparison but the film quickly evades towards the gadget. It’s that Honoré is a cinéaste of the apparition and not of the incarnation, less interested by the search for an archaic wind in these anonymous bodies (a mise en scène project) than the usage of iconic images as a value to add to his stories (project of seduction)… Without an incarnation produced by a mise en scène, without a jeu proposed by his actors, Honoré finds himself in face of the contemporary without knowing what to do… One needs a gaze less slick than Honoré for him to now redo his gaze on his contemporary, that of Les rencontres d'après minuit, Mange tes morts or Mercuriales for better examples of pretty apparitions, that are more lived.”
Notes Critique: Denis Gheerbrant’s On a grèvé
“What Denis Gheerbrant’s camera (always) films, is what the other cameras don’t (usually) film. Not for the internet, nor for television, nor for cinema, nor fiction or nothing…”
Note Critiques: Santiago Loza’s La Paz
Cahiers (October 2014, N.704)
Cahiers Critique: Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery
“We’d be wrong to think of National Gallery, the second Frederick Wiseman film of the year, as a simple variation of a ‘pacifying milieu’ of the exhaustive At Berkeley… When in the middle of the film a restorer presents the discovery of a detail under the Portrait de Frédéric Rihel à cheval by Rembrandt, a trace that is nearly invisible – which can barely be filmed – of a portrait under the portrait, of a possibility that was erased, it’s his proper gesture that Wiseman refinds. The project has a beauty: instead of a guided tour, it is precisely this invisible portraits that the film is aiming for… The social question is displaced towards the margins, and through that (or because of it?) its expression: it’s through this complexity, through the silence that it takes to build a utopia (Boxing Gym, for example, before the student sit-ins or the discreet gardener in At Berkeley)… Filming here the lives of these paitings, it’s really ours that he’s interrogating.”
Notes Critique: Mike Cahill's I Origin
“The scenario of I Origins is as incredible as the film is unwatchable – it’s too attached to its easy stylistic effects to see how beautiful the subject was and how it didn’t need anything else, like the scientific-philosophical speculation (type Gattaca) or an impossible dimension (type Birth)… It’s that I Origins isn’t necessarily bad, and is close enough to a popular success or a good b-film… In fact, it’s at Sundance this year that the film found a mini-success. Though to know what the film has to say to France today, we can't really tell.”
Notes Critique: Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight
“In the last Allenien decade of films – post-cards, where Magic in the Moonlight is the one that’s the most romantic. We find the twenties period, a Sternbergien Berlin, a British magician that a friend invites to the south of France to demask a so-called psychic, of course, American, young and pretty… The film is petrified. The story isn’t made with emotion, but with didacticism. So, there’s the thesis (‘Nothing exists, of course’ so says the broken-record Colin Firth), anti-thesis (but Emma Stone is so charming under this light), and the synthesis (she might have been wrong, but there’s real magic: love…)… In his interview book with Stig Björkman, Allen explains that the difference between comedy and tragedy isn't wrapped up in the writing, but the rhymtn of the game (more speed = more laughts). He doesn’t say anything about surprises, as perhaps it’s something that’s beyond him… An idea without a realization. Is it only a chance that the best scenes are those where everything works? There was a time when Woody Allen actually believed in the spectacle.”
Notes Critique: Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ Tuer un homme
“First off because we aren’t given room to breathe. This is Alejandro Fernández Almendra project for his third film... Why after Tuer un homme, when we realize how much of the dangerous climate of the story is fake, we realize how Chile’s crime-rate is actually one of the lowest in South America.”
Cahiers (November 2015, N.705): Quand le cinéma était psychédelique
Notes Critique: Antoine d’Agata’s Atlas
“In an interview to coincide with the programming of the film on Arte, in December 2013, he admitted to ‘deliberating evacuating all autobiography and anecdotal references’ in the recorded dialogues, to priviledge an ‘essential’ form. But it’s exactly this essential that here becomes the problem: the subjects, are here completely lost to its formalism… The cinema that really films the margins (that of Pedro Costa, that of Wang Bing) never makes the economy of the biographical or the anecdotal, which gives a story to the bodies, but also the material of the frame. This is exactly what is lost on the photographer Agata: a too pretty image, is first off just an image. And what would have been fair here, would be to point the camera to himself, to change the subject to that of the collective, and to recognize that the film isn’t a responsible exploration of sexuel exploitation, but the intimate journal of a client isolated in his phantasms, not in itself a bad subject after all, but in condition that it is fully interrogated.”
Notes Critique: Marianne Tardieu’s Qui vive
“Qui vive has the merit, no harmless for a first feature, to search to undermine the typical representation of the French suburbs… But if the film is able to avoid some pratfalls, it remains prisoner of its intention. Its social determinism only contributes to a mechanical scenario not the least univocal, and the characters remain paper-like figures, without any passion, nor desire… Qui vive has a clear and just idea of what not to do, but remains far from the other troubling visions produced about the suburbs this year, from Bird People to Mercuriales.”
Journal Article: Guy Gilles, Absences répétées
“What though never happened in regards to Guy Gilles is that he never had an influence on French cinema. There hasn’t been any real influence or trace of his, and even today we don’t have any distinct images of the cinéaste, perhaps firstly because he never tried to leave one… to see a Guy Gilles film, is like to surprise someone who’se lost in their own thoughts. And his strongest gesture, the cinéaste finally produces it when he films in front of him, when his camera takes trips, and he stops fetichising the montage to document what takes place in the present, to place it in a continuity of life instead of to close the work within thought… By the end of the seventies, the cinema of Guy Gilles speaks, his voice is enriched by the voice of others, seducing less, but more graceful due to this gesture.”
Cahiers (December 2014, N.706): Best of 2014
Cahiers Critique: Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu
“Tombouctou, April 2012. Enters the village independentist Tuaregs of the MLNA and suddenly, Ansar Dine islamist, they decide to impose Sharia law in the north of Mali. After the release of a video of a stoning that got leaked on the internet, Abderrahmane Sissako decides to film: One must take charge cinematographically of this bouleversement… But actually at the beginning, the film is the total opposite: a leson in the form of the over-written fable, precisely atemporel, putting in parallel the taking of a community and the march towards the death of a Tuareg oppressor… At the hour of the urgency of Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, the choice of such an allegory can disappoint, due to the fact the fiction deserves so much more… How come reality is always so powerful and can be reduced to such a used axim: poetry, it’s better than oppression?... Significatively Timbuktu lacks this gesture of going back-and-forth that the in situ of his earlier films had: to return to the same characters five, ten, fifteen times to record the passing of time, and indulging the false trails, the tangents, the richness of fiction… The dream-film of Tombouctou had only been sketched. That of its bouleversement still needs to be made.”
Journal Article: on Amazon online screening service.
Cahiers (January 2015, N.707): Larry Clark, Forever Young
Notes Critique: Fatih Akin’s The Cut
“Behinds the unsavable The Cut, there’s a story that’s more audacious that the German director with Turkish origins Fatih Akin dreamt of filming in Istanbul, with a team of actors and locals, around the assassination by an ultranationalist of the journalist Hrant Dink, the author of numerous articles on the Armenien genocide. That would be a film that would force the country to look at itself in the face. This would be the actual inverse of what the cinéaste actually made, recoiling in front of the difficulties of this first historical-poetic territory, here the course of a villager facing deportation after trying to find his lost daughter, an ocean further and ten years later. Programmatic, without passion, the result oscilates between a weak history lesson on the genocide (a failure, since the radical Turks that the film is aimed towards have already condemned the film) and an empty romanesque fresco (the film’s good move is being endowed by Mardik Martin, an old Scorsesien screenwriter of Raging Bull; there isn’t Kazan or Lean but instead only the odor of the bottom of their drawers). Nothing, here, will change the slightest thing.”
Notes Critique: Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip
“The leap into the abyss of The Color Wheel, is what this new film by Alex Ross Perry doesn’t risk exactly, and whose character of the title, comes off like a double for the cinéaste (Philip Lewis Friedman, a brilliant young author with two novels under his belt) who also negates. What’s at stake here is more to assure himself the status of ‘great American auteur’, which becomes forcibly a demonstration, that of Philip on the screen, with his cynism and meanness, fascinating at first before due to his affective limits becomes the one of the film. We can like an un-sympathetic character, there they are in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (on of Perry’s favorite films), but Philip is never permitted to go into madness as Woody Allen the actor does, or like Seymour Cassel at the end of the living room scene in Faces, which is almost copied in a way and replayed here. It is actually when Philip is doubtful, where he’s saying his caustic replies, that the film actually touches its subject: what kind of life does one lead when they spend all of their time creating? What time is there to breathe, love? There are two occasions that Perry detaches himself from his character to focus on the point of view of his ex, then on his mentor, as if to whisper to him: ‘Listen up, Philip’, listen and watch how others live their lives, they, have their little victories without ever locking themselves up. The idea is beautiful, and the scenes with his ex, played by Elisabeth Moss, in a register less sped-up, opens the film to a fragility that allows for an emotion.”
Notes Critique: Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s Mon amie Victoria
“From a singular adventure to an isolated adventure there is only one step: the process of Jean-Paul Civeyrac in French cinema is always in between these two, since his films seem sometimes to exist outside of the world, just like his characters, at once loyal, to a late bressonien spleen, and too weak to feel to bring us to places like as do Garrel or Brisseau.”
Notes Critique: Stéphane Demoustier’s Terre battue
“We can feel sometimes the few desires, which are sometimes even intriguing, that animates Terre battue: the complicated relation father-son, that of middle-of-the-road and fondness for mediocrity, and that of the province made up entirely of parking-lots, warehouses, and doubtful architecture… How come the film never arrives to communicate these ideas, and instead, remains at the level of the télé-film, or at least that of a cinema whose only servicing the minimum? It’s that the mise en scène takes place too quickly, so there’s Olivier Gourmet who grumbles and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi whose squealing like she does everywhere, and where the crucial scenes are sped up as if nobody was even looking at what was happening in front of the camera (even the important tennis match scene is filmed with even more boredom than the match). The last act, which folds back onto a news item, shakes the film into the worst possible Dardenne rip-off (who are producers on the film).”
Journal Article: Le festival Entrevues de Belforts
Cahiers (February 2015, N.708): Issue Charlie Hebdo
Notes Critique: Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank
“The worry that Frank is only a short-film inflated into a feature, with its gadget side of its synopsis (the singer of an underground group who lives permanently with a giant paper mache head on top of his own), quickly disssissipates in front of this project, which is more rare (even though its uneven) in its mise en scène: to not show a path towards success but towards failure, to not show genius musiciens but minor ones, and to not show the perfect alchemy of ideas, bodies and instruments, but instead the opposite that of showing the incapacity towards agreement (in this way, the film is the anti-Whiplash). It’s a shame then that Lenny Abrahamson’s mise en scène only takes a few steps towards the madness of its pitch and, just like Spike Jonze’s Her, the film interrogates the relations between weak humans and semi-virtual figure, here this smiling and scary mask that hides for two thirds of the film the face of Michael Fassbender (it supposes).”
Notes Critique: Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts
“At the last Venise festival, Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher both received an acting award for Hungry Hearts which, holds, in fact, three films that aren’t necessarily successful, but are held together by what takes place between them… The film spends too much time on the central anxiesties, which are sometimes ridiculous, and disappoints with its ending. But the momentum of the cinéaste doesn’t muffle the confused sentiments of the protagonist, and the folie on the screen (in every sense of the term) feels good, even though it’s shaky, unsuccessful or just ressembles an exercise in style. We’ve seen so many films that depend too heavily on their scripts that it’s good, for once, to see one rely excessively on its mise en scène.”
Notes Critique: Keren Yedaya’s Loin de mon père
“We all know that the road to hell is paved in good intentions. Loin de mon père seems really far away during its 1:35mins of its projection, which mechanically pursues in humiliation, rape, blows, which is supposed to deal with the relation of the psychology and sexuality of a father and his twenty-year-old daughter. Keren Yedaya has always defended a vigorous feminism, in Mon Tresor (2004, against prostitution) and even the less successful Jaffa (2009, against fathers), but her sensibility towards incest here passes in a mode à la Austrian, that renders the spectator powerless and then assumes a repetition, as if it needed consequetively four so miserable scenes for the spectator to tell themselves: ‘Oh yeah, that’s it, now I get it.”… Not four, not one, none are evidently necessarily to understand in fact. By filming this distance which passes the seriousness of the posture for the seriousness of the enterprise, but never truly renders the measure of the horror, it eventually ruins itself in the aberration of its mise en scène… We end well by telling ourseves, ‘What horror…’, but we have stopped talking about the réel , but only of the film.”
Journal Article: Memoire vive
“There are images that are signed by Jean-Luc Godard, revealed by Serge Le Péron, in his film Serge Daney: le cinéma et le monde (2012)… They are rushes from an interview that was filmed about the critic in Rolle, December 3rd, 1988, six month after the Cannes presentation of the first two episodes of Histoire(s) du cinéma… In front of Daney, the cinéaste talks about his conception of history like a montage, recalling that the life of Rimbaud had the same length as that of Petain, or that the richness of science has to do with that of literature… In front of Godard, the critic discusses the urgency of the project: this is the last time that an individual could ‘cover the whole territory’ of the history of cinema, having experienced half of it… From all of this footage, there remains a few minutes in episode 2A of Histoire(s), a partial re-transcription by Daney in Libération in the December 26th, 1988 issue, and another by Alain Bergala in the Cahiers of May 1997 (N.513). But the rushes also say a story… This film also tells a story, that which could not have been re-transcribed, this time of the critics that wanted to talk about the world that kept turning, this desire to fix that which continues: history and the works. In the episode 2A of Histoire(s) there are two bars that mask the top and bottom of the image: Godard’s face is now gone, and so is a television, and the masking disallows to see how nightfall has fallen. This was done to frame the shot around Daney, which Godard edited to create an echo with extracts and titles. The critic then dialogues with Jerry Lewis, Anita Ekberg and Carax. When he presents for the first time the montages 2A and 2B in New York in January 1994, Daney has been dead for almost two years. To re-watch theses rushes, is the occasion to verify if cinema priviledges still the accumulated memory as described by Daney, or if Godard said around then, that it privileges a story.”
Cinéma Retrouvé Critique: Paul Vecchiali’s Nuits blanches sur la jetée
“Vecchialien, even really Vecchialien, Nuits blanches sur la jetée is undeniably less on the side of the ‘white night’, as others have adapted it (Visconti admirably, Bresson superbly), then by its side ‘by the wharf’…. Rarely has Vecchiali so clairely circumscribed and especially concentrated his cinema (as he concentrates different Dostoievski figures in his hero, of the name Fedor). Rarely has he so nakedly put in place his system. The back-and-forth of the réel and of the game, of the possible and the illusion, all is visible on this wharf, by the activity there… If he keeps the construction from the story, and some of its dialogue along with his, Vecchiali still takes something from the story to create something personal, priviledging the surreal. First off, for the encounter, it goes even further than did Bresson and Visconti. The character of Natcha, revealed by the light, exists only at night, invisible in the shadows when the dreamer wakes, and then is just ordinary… All of Vecchiali’s cinema is replayed in this small space, it starts again from zero with each new sunrise.”
Cahiers (March 2015, N.709): Inherent Vice
Cahier Critique: Wang Bing’s A la folie
“Up to date, Wang Bing has only filmed the outcasts of China in the singular: the widow of Fengming, the man without a name or the three sisters of Yunnan from last year, who ended up focusing on the young Yingying, when her family left her by the dock as they went to the city. It’s the first time in this scale for a film that he shows them between each other, and discovers a tenderness that responds to his own. A la folie, a film about an incarceration, a mid-way between Wiseman’s Titicut Follies and Dostoevsky’s Carnets de la maison morte, and perhaps before that an answer to last half hour of Trois Soeurs du Yunnan, and to the shots of Yingying in front of the montains, nothing and nobody beside her, except for the one who is filming. Here, the perspectives are full: broken bodies, non-stop silhouette, a crowd that’s running, activity and noise. The flm takes place in a psychiatric asylum of Yunnan on the stage for men and in the courses that take place in its interior court. Wang Bing and his cinematographer Liu Xianhui, filmed for three months, from January to April 2013… Here one must ask the question that necessarily is posed in front of this subject: is filming these sick, like this man who thinks he’s been attacked by invisible insects, would be like making a film behind its subjects? If the scenes only lasted ten seconds, the answer would be yes, and the aesthetic of the film would only be that of the repeated shock. But the cinema of Wang Bing exists in its duration. A scene regives its magistral impact twenty minutes after it started: at the dusk of night, we follow Ma Jian, a young patient, when suddenly, he gets naked, and starts running. The camera follows him. We doubt. Is the person who is filming, in this instant, rejoicing in this event that accelerates the pulse of the film, which pushes its images to the limit, to the night, the blurry? There are a number of cinéaste that would stop there, once they got their shot. But Wang Bing continues until the patient returns to the cameraman: ‘God, you’re sweating too!’. If the shot lasts, risks mockery, and permits itself to be multiple things (we are then explained that Ma Jian’s mother sent her to get her shoes), it’s to arrive to the point where the shot also belongs to that who is filming… A la folie reveals itself to be a love film, where the empathy on the screen overflows that of the gaze. An amour fou, as the title indicates, where the caress becomes a mix, then the disparition, like in the last shot of the body thrown into obscurity. This tenderness, between the cause and the nevertheless, is the limit-point of Wang Bing’s cinema, that where he can no longer film because there is too much, and to remain would be complacent. But in the course, his gesture is pushed to its extreme, instead of a monumentality what is won, there is the touch.”
Notes Critique: Tim Burton’s Big Eyes
“After his little regain of form in the vain of nostalgia in 2012 (the retrospective at the Cinémathèque, the vintage adaptation of Dark Shadows, and the remake of Frankenweenie), Tim Burton persists in his reprisal and/or pastiche, with a new Ed Wood: a bio on Margaret Keane, a doubtful artist but an indisputable idiosyncratic, who’se husband has secretly appropriated the ownership of her sixties paintings. But unlike his return to the b-filmmaker, his lack of resources here (no synthetic images, no carnival colors, even no Johnny Depp) leads to his most disincarnated work for the cinéaste. The stakes though are there, and it would have been more interesting to take the character by their weaknesses: the silence of the couple in front of the usurpation, the discrete entrance of the Jehovah witnesses, or see the contestable quality of the work - that the critique of Ed Wood which it really proposed - while here there exists only two scenes, its best, led by Terence Stamp who reveals the whole film… And to look at his future projects (that of a new Alice, a Beetlejuice 2), the confounding failure of Big Eyes seems to really show a resignation of Tim Burton to re-play his best titles, now without anything keeping him in check.”
Notes Critique: Ben Rivers and Ben Russell’s A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness
“For his second full length feature after Two Years at Sea, the English artist Ben Rivers joins the American Ben Russell, an auteur of several films made under the seducing banner of psychedelic ethnography. What form does this seducing promise of the réel and its loss take in A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness? Like in the earlier films of Rivers, we’re always floating around a character that we don’t know much about, but which we slowly start to know more about in this remote community in Estonia, through these forest trips in Finland, and a heavy metal concert scene. The subject of the film denies itself through its cryptic research into the communion of others, nature, and then music, but the veritable instant of psychedelia never truly occurs, as if trapped by the formalism of a gesture that pretands to be indifferent to what it films. The camera glides on-top of its subjects, creates images that are too sleak, it mimes a fall but never risks the unexpected.We can admire this cold beauty, but we remain at the doors of the darkness that is promised, just like in front of other films by the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab (like Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, for example): the immersion aims for a dispositif that is falsely abstract, where its this front of the false that we are usually seeing. It lacks the fragility, obsession, failures, that are more tangible in the trips otherwise psychedelic of Brakhage, Snow or Raymonde Carasco and Regis Hebraud.”
Notes Critique: Noaz Deshe’s White Shadow
“On paper, it’s an important project: to place in front the horror of the situation of the Albinos in Tanzania, persecuted and assassinated in the North, and constrained to deplacement to avoid the illegal organ trafficking… Because the meaning is pre-existing in almost each shot, all of the ambiguity, all breathing room, all shattering is killed instantly, the mise en scène can’t remedy this and lacks inspiration by trying to make up for it by a clumsy stylishness, between an Adidas commercial and a social issue clip.”
Cahiers (April 2015, N.710): Anti-Manuel: Comment écrire un scénario
Notes Critique: Brigitte Sy’s L’Astragale
“Second full length feature by Briggite Sy, after Les Mains Libres, L’Astragale also treats the prison system, this time from an exterior perspective, of the difficulty of being outside, outside of its walls, but still sometimes outside of society… To reconstitute, is to choose what has happened between the periods, that which disappears and that which remains. Fifty years after the real event and the novel that Albertine Sarrazin had written in 1964, before his unexpected death, the scenario of Brigitte Sy and Serge Le Péron takes the volition to approach as close as they can the true story, to align the silhouetes of the film with historical photographs which are shown in the credits. It’s with this regret that instead of going overboard with passion, we find the story stalling with details that should be inconsequential: stilted acting, picturesque decors, or the fact that Lelia Bekhti is ten years older than model. There’s no worst enemi than a sensible gaze and a prudent script.
Notes Critique: Barry Levinson’s The Humbling
“It’s like Birdman, but the version gold-plated, the film has a foot in the imagination of a libiduous decorative tragedy, with the scenes of the tribalism with chinese shadows, and a cheap humor with a forcibly dramatic program. Just as coarse as Inarritu (on the subject of theater), but also as sophomoric as a Barry Levinson (that’s what it is!), the film advances through the regime of the sitcom gag of the old age and constructs a reflexivity that is just as tired, through psychiatrist sessions via Skype… You grind your teeth in front of this: the spectator of The Humbling is an emberassed spectator, in front of what can only be called, in one word, a disaster.”
Notes Critique: Ryan Gosling’s Lost River
“To watch Lost River, is like watching an anti-trailer, a recalling-trailer that would recall all that was produced outside of Hollywood by American auteurs from the last ten years, the tendancy Southern Gothic, swamps and ghost towns, and it says: ‘you’re going to see what you’ve already seen’. A dose of Malick, some Jeff Nichols, Harmony Korine, part Beasts of Southern Wild or Blue Ruin. The first film by Ryan Gosling, Lost River, puts on the desire of really wanting to be part of the club… The sentiment in front of your eyes is that of an unsaveable film, a collage that’s not joyous nor a total monster, which comes from the spectacle of itself, it’s too rushed to impress.”
Notes Critique: Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
“Thirty-seven fixed long-takes, the procession of numb bodies that have bizarre white makeup, played slowly in series of absurd instants, stupid deaths, pathetic exchanges and cruel gags, in decors and under a pale light. The little theatre of Roy Andersson, always cynical and half-alive, keeps playing the same note as that from his two previous films in his ‘existence trilogy’, Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007). It’s that which assure us that humanity is really ugly, and he confirms this in his films by chasing out any breathing room to prove the otherwise. There’s nothing more vain than this phantasm of absolute control, that of these empty images that aspire to painting… To understand what others see in Pigeon, it’s good to return to a Renoir père phrase on the weakening works of his time: ‘Artworks in frocks will always stun.’ For sure, that of Roy Andersson, will always ensnare.”
Cahiers (May 2015, N.711): Cannes 2015
Cahier Critique: Fellipe Barbosa’s Casa Grande
“What’s a film made in one’s house when it’s more than just a home movie for your own little circle? Kleber Mendonca Filho answered this last year with Neighboring Sounds, where his neighborhood stood strong against the anxiety that was arriving in the deepest of night, barking, guards and explosions. Less of a metteur en scène, more so auteur of characters, Fellipe Barbose answers today with Casa Grande, where his house crumbles, then, it becomes the anxiety that is born, but where the characters remain strong, or by looking elsewhere if they have to… The success of the film is to know how to muddle its direction. All of the deplacements are under the sign of desire, Jean passes the master bedroom to that of the domestic to seduce her, then from the house to the street to punctuate his direction in an unexpected way… Barbosa doesn’t construct this irruption of the réel with images that would stop the film, but with tangents where he gets lost… To leave one’s home takes time, but the best home movies are those that take to the street.”
Notes Critique: David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn
“To the question, ‘What to do with Al Pacino today?’, the answer of Manglehorn by David Gordon Green is similar to that of Barry Levinson’s The Humbling from last month. The great two films of 2013, Prince Avalanche and Joe is far, and all that remains is well used: the metaphor for happiness launched by a mime right out of Blow Up, the terrible gags with their generic pit-falls, the over-acting which accompanies the monologues by the pancakes, and the emotions that are revealed are not surprising especially as they are accompanied by some unexpected songs… All of the recognizable marks of the folk auteur are there but they’re held together by clichés, a sad auto-recycling of his better days, forced as if the film wanted to fit a lighter skin which isn’t its own. It brings a frown and disappoints our expectation, the spectator of Manglehorn is an incredulous spectator, leaving the cinema with the question that he was starting to forget: ‘What to do with David Gordon Green today?’”
Notes Critique: Masa Sawada’s Parole de kamikaze
“It’s a short film that takes its time, as if it was conscious of being an impossible film, and that it needed to make us conscious of this. It’s a film on a Japonese Kamikaze who is supposed to talk about death, as there’s someone on the screen… Parole de kamikaze doesn’t rush its subject as he’s searching for a truth that’s there in the details, just as for Lanzmann or Rithy Panh. It’s even the inverse: the film offers the luxury of remainding in silence, for time to play out, to see the unflexible ideas of this 90 year old loyalist… That which resists to its parole, that which knots the variations of the dispositive, is the precious subject of the film, the soul of man, maybe: that of a mixture of absurdity and horror that haunts him since the last years of the war, that of his first reaction to a suicide plane (‘So here is my coffin!’) and the memory a friend officer that he signed to death with the order of a mission.”
Journal Article: Off the Air
“A series of incomprehensible flux images roll infront of our eyes, without a commentary, without any references, with only a one-word title for direction (Food, Animals, Body…) and under enflamed music, we are allowed to be transported towards abandonment, in a free fall of visions that are thrown to our eyes. What matters, is that we don’t understand what we see… The result is a hallucinating bastion of a anti-commercial, even though it play on Adult Swim at 4AM in the morning, is a zone of avant-garde visuals of some of the most enthousiastic of the 2010 years… On top of the psychedelia, we could place the series into three stories: that of the film of the montage, tendance Amerika d’Al Razutis (1972-1983), and its flux of consciousnous of some of the lost images of America of the 19th century. That of the ‘alternative’ television, since Dave Hughes, the creator of Off the Air started out at MTV in the nineties when the chanel cultivated a taste for the hors-format. And that of veejaying: It’s in the improvising in the montage concerts by Adult Swim, in 2009, that Dave Hughes elaborated the form clipesque of the serie… But the formalism of Off the Air isn’t intransitive: it’s a veritable elegy to the world, and the million of gazes upon it before being lost on the web, which is a parelel enterprise… It’s not more or less a montagealternative to datamoshing that Off the Air invents, recreating the slow-motion, for three minutes, with music by Dan Deacon, through a chase which destroys its respective space to invent a third, living and plastic, surpassing the imperatives of a montage interdit to an improbable datamoshing necessary. The space discovers something new. The state of the spectator is unknown. It’s the quiet victory of a psychedelic gaze, at four o’clock in the morning, on American television.”
Cahiers (June 2015, N.712): Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights
Notes Critique: Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain
“With Tsui Hark, visual invention takes the form of a progressive taking off from the réel. The films start in a sort of grotesque realism, then shakes it off towards a madness of a imaginary that reconfigures the models (think of Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, of the classic battle at the beginning up to the final combat outside of time and space with evil personified). In The Taking of Tiger Mountain, latest Tsui Hark to arrive on our French screens on the sly, it’s one of the eight ‘model operas’ of the cultural revolution that the intrigue takes its heroine story of a battalion of the Red Amer delivering the mountains fron a outside-of-the-law gang. If the film embarases with these plot points that are deep down nationalist, and if the beautiful frenze of Detective Dee is replaced by a heavy cartoon quality of its side ‘war film’, the taking off from the réel is well towards what’s appreciated today. Without achieving the hallucinatory spacial re-articulation of his best films, Tsui Hark’s mise en scène runs dry all of the possibility of a series of scenes that’s in service of the 3D: a duel with a tiger (which isn’t hidden) in the trees, a scene of defense in a village à la Seven Samurai (in the snow more so then in the rain), or a final assault in a synthetic avalanche… The end-title conclusion isn’t only a marvel of visual invention that Tsui Hark is offering us but his intact and precious though: instead of this moralizing legend, he prefers this extravagant action.”
Notes Critique: Anna Muylaert’s Une Seconde mere
“Brasilien cinema and class struggle: the sequel. After Casa grande last month, Une seconde mere reproduces the terrain ‘rich house + worker revolution = problem’, by putting forward the arrival, in an upper-class family in Sao Paul, the ambitious daughter of the cleaning staff, who has come to the city to study… It holds one attention by a series of scenes where the young woman, just as maniputalive as insolent, is offered the master bedroom, books, paintings, and reconfigures all of the stakes of the house (she’s the one who wins the university contest, and not the family’s daughter)… The revolution will take place in the details; and the promise of insolence reduced.”
Book Review: Philippe Roger’s Lumière d'été de Jean Grémillon
“One of the first accomplishments of the book is exposing the returning motifs of the film all the while preserving its meandering nature and secret form… The inner réel, the secret of Jean Grémillon’s oeuvre, approaches a magical réel.”
Cinéma Retrouvé (Orson Welles dossier): Welles, toujours plusieurs
“Was Orson Welles the most abstract iconoclastic actor?... Whether it is when he’s listening to others or when he’s talking, Welles seems to always be escaping the present moment, turned towards an indistinct point, over or beyond the film, in a sort of personal hallucination. When he returns to his peers, Welles is in two modes, that of the seduction/hypnotism or of anger/madness… You can’t believe that Welles is a pure technician, adapting each scene to its limit, blind to the proper beauty. It’s the inverse: Welles takes the word aside, by multiplying their possibility, the tones, rhythm, angles, and when he films, he tries to rediscover their meaning.”
Cahiers (July/August 2015, N.713): Érotisme (encore)
Cahiers Critique: Alante Kavaite’s Summer
“One must maybe, to justly render the surprising beauty of Summer better than its generic French title (in Lithuania it’s called Sangaile, based on the name of its heroine), address the film by its ending, and by the sentiment with which it leaves us as we leave the theater. This is after about an already stuning first hour of a certain right of passage story in the register of Monika, where a solitary adolescent meets and falls in love with a young women of her town, the film then takes a detour. The relationship ends, which we were expecting, but it’s to better the film to re-start it’s secret scenario, it’s hidden idea: the desire of Sangaile to become a pilot. We have seen, films about adolescent that passed through physical activity as a metaphor for their discovery of their body; but aviation isn’t here an aside of love, it’s essentially what the film is aiming towards in secret… This is no longer Bergman’s territory, but Gremillon’s: the sky is hers.”
Notes Critique: Andrei Konchalovsky’s Les Nuits blanches du facteur
“Somewhere in the deepest of Poutine’s Rusia, so tells us Andrei Konchalovsky, there’s postmans that knock off their work through several villages at once, while still being regular guys, with a bored love, disappointing finances, and a sigh every morning in front of their sandles that lie by the side of their bed (this, the films met en place with a precision, which is surely why it won the Silver Lion at Venise)… Les Nuits blanches du facteur is a routine film on routine. What it does the best is its end credits, when the amater actors finally breaks from their roles and are presented to the camera laughing, embarrassed, tired, therefore taking to life, but for too little and too late. When it comes to weak stories, what’s better is always the littlest amount of the reel.”
Notes Critique: Peter Greenaway’s Que viva Eisenstein !
“Peter Greenaway has such a spirit of contradiction, that not only does he make a film on one of the greatest directors of the silent era, but who does not even talk about cinema, and also never shuts up, which is saying a lot… Que Viva Eisenstein! remains a sort of loud encyclopedia, which tries to say all that it can about its cineaste Eisenstein and puts into dialogue all of the Logorrheic of his turmoil of Sergeui, the man… Greenaway seems to fabricate these courses for himself, only… Like La Ronde de nuit in 2007, Greenaway touches when he starts to laugh.”
Notes Critique: Amos Gitaï’s Tsili
“One of the rare Amos Gitaï film to arrive on French screens in the last ten years, Tsili only confirms the free-fall of its auteur. It’s not so much his solemn authority that plomps the film (that would be enough), but it’s form that follows a series of concepts that are not fully elaborated… Where the book by Aharon Appelfeld said his proper experience of pursuit in a forest, the film by Amos Gitaï retranscribe his own: wandering in festivals pursuing only one idea.”
Journal: Sense8, ca suffit!
“Sometimes a grating disaster, it is still traversed by a beautiful idea (like the last few Wachoskis)… It explores the prominent theme for the Wachoski’s, a rudimentary variation on emancipation.”
Cahiers (September 2015, N.714): Le vide politique du cinéma français
Notes Critique: Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence
“The film The Look of Silence wanted to show their madness, but more so it was taken over, the falseness of a desire for the spectacular made him omit, first off, the direct reason for the murders… Like an answer The Look of Silence seems to wants to correct this… but the result is just as problematic. First off because the whole is still filmed under the regime of the spectacular in its pathetic form (the shots of Ani’s senile father, naked and delirous, can’t be distinguished who filmed them). Especially a direct consequence, again the bastards are left with positive representations… It isn’t the difficulty of living with these stories that stupefy, but that the film is satisfied with these emotions instead of by justice – what’s trying to be said instead is through the shot-revershot of silent gazes, surely when their edited in a way that’s so disperse, visibly without a Montage interdit auspiciously. It’s hard to delve into such a subject, when all that matters is the spectacle, spectacle, spectacle.”
Notes Critique: Lionel Baier’s La Vanité
“Those that say regularity mean a return of ideas. Those that say return of ideas mean variations. La Vanité is an answer to Low Cost (2010).”
Cahiers (October 2015, N.715): Paul Verhoeven
Cahiers Critique, M Night Shyamalan’s The Visit
“Is The Visit a minor film? Surely, but minor sometimes signals a breath of fresh air, and without a doubt through the vision of the Shyamalan’s film for Blumhouse, the production company of micro-budget b-films, it allowed to find an inspiration which was once lost… Shyamalan reactivates even in some moments that which was the beautiful project of his cinema of the 2000 years: creating incomprehension, that which can’t be grasped, the unstable, to plunge the characters and the spectator, and to show these possible encounters with the unwkown… That which Shyamalan constructs which is the best are these scenes of simple stakes like whether to open a door or not… The Visit doesn’t have the grandness of Lady in the Water or The Village, but it’s still telling stories to overcome being scared… It’s been too long that Shyamalan hasn’t been this funny… That the film ends (closing its circle) with such an attention to its charcters, and therefore also its spectators that has followed him, going against the Blumhouse sequel style, is only one of its successes. Like during his best days, Shyamalan belivies in the fiction. We could return him the favor, and start to believe again in Shyamalan.”
Notes Critique: Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel’s Le Chant d’une ile
“When all of the critics can’t find anything else to say about the ultra-manipulative The Look of Silence, instead we should really champion the gesture of Le Chant d’une ile, a film that is less slick, less calibrated, which doesn’t tell its spectator what to think, which makes its politics more combatative… Less a documentary on the work of creation, it is instead a portrait of a community in face of disparearing. At the same time, in his territory, Pedro Costa was doing the exact same thing in the Fountainhas neighborhood in Lisbon, even though Le Chant d’une ile has more the quality of a filmed journal… This is what a shared cinema finally looks like, taking care of those that are being filmed, like also the spectator, where the other is always the subject, and never the object.”
Cahiers (Novembre 2015, N.716): Nanni Moretti
Cahiers Critique, Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups
“One must now use gloves to talk about Terrence Malick. Who could have imagined before The Tree of Life, before the discovery of the fragmentations created by Emmanuel Lubezki who is become more and more co-author of the images, that three years later we would approach Malick, curiously of course but with a reticence, anxious after seeing the enthouiastic momentum becoming these empty shells in To The Wonder?... Malick keeps the cap of a downward-looking intimatist, who is almost autistic, and risks loosing the spectator in his formel pursuits. We know the danger of this: the last two films shot by Lubezki, Gravity and Birdman, exulted this ‘virtuosity’ trait (with its dangerous prolongment: ‘masterfulness’), to the limit of the over-full for Cuaron, towards the frank brutishness for Inarittu… Knight of Cups holds up better than To The Wonder… The direction of the film is quite impressive… even though we can still prefer the penetrating clarity of the last films by Apichatpong and Pedro Costa, where present and past, the world and the between-world co-exist without an edit, by the sole power of the word and light… It’s impossible to not be fascinated by this montage which has become a hemorrhage, like as if not being weighed down by weights going through a unique speed flux: but all advances in the film as if it was on the same train, without ever stopping for nothing… The pitfall of the last Malicks has a name: purety. The film lacks a resistance that would drop the house of cards… To believe in the possibilities of a Adieu au langage, this film is over-budgeted which doesn’t authorize itself ever to ruin itself. When in a scene Christian Bale approaches his face towards a television screen to watch a race, this scene recalls Ferrara: but where are the register of images that Lubezki and Malick could use or retrieve?... Knight of Cups provides its own ghost but it lacks one essential thing: impurity.”
Notes Critique: Pablo Larraín’s El Club
“For his newest film returns to a swanky low, and masks poorly the little it even has to say… Exit the ambitious political gaze, get ready for a simple metaphor.”
Notes Critique: Radu Muntean’s One Floor Below
“One Floor Below, don’t doubt it, would please those that like the ordinariness of Romanian cinema… Radu Muntean, a discret piller of the Romanian school, is pretty good when he describes the ordinary gestures of the characters who finds himself taking the innocent perversion, but it finishes, like for the character, on an empty gaze… And we leave with the certitude that the recipe of the Romanian school, in their nakedness, are finally inneficient.”
Journal Article: Lav Diaz, après la tempete
“Just a few years ago, when we were searching to watch films by Lav Diaz, there was murmur on the internet that one must contact the cineaste directly. There was an address that circulated with the promise, for 90 dollars, to receive from the Philippines signed burnt DVDs, which would be sent by the hands of the auteur. The invisibility had for a long time constructed a mystery around Lav Diaz, but this aura of inacisibility is not entirely strange to the project of the films, themselves difficult to embrace the gaze. Lav Diaz is really far from the canon of Philipino melodrama of those by his contemporaries as seen in France as seen in the films of Brillante Mendoza or Raya Martin. His cinema is both minimalist (in its mise en scene) and collosal (in its ambition), it is both a political fiction and a work on the country, a critical reflection on the country and on cinema… At the beginning of the 2000s, he’s the neighbor of some of the great markers of the period, with In Vanda’s Room by Pedro Costa or West of Tracks by Wang Bing… That which resists in each film, is the history of the Philippines, who itself has a troubled history, that of four centuries of colonization, occupation dictatorship, corruption. Duration for Lav Diaz, on top of what it can do discursively and in terms of the documentary gaze, seems to stretch as it retracts, that the traumatism of the country is never fully achieved… We’ve compared the cinema of Lav Diaz to that of Pedro Costa and Wang Big, but he has more to deal with the stretched temporality, of the deep wounds of the cinema of Tsai Ming-Liang, where time is embalmed.”
Cahiers (Decembre 2015. N.717): End of 2015
Cahiers Critique: Amos Gitai’s Le Dernier Jour d’Yitzak Rabin (‘Que les choses soient claires’)
“Finished for a November 4th Isreal release, to commemorate the 20 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the new film of Amos Gitai is luckily not a ceremonial film… Le Dernier Jour d’Yitzak Rabin returns to, and it’s its first surprise, to what Gitai does the best since his beginning: a certain art of insistence, a manner of returning scene after scene to the same idea, or even the same location, or even the same point in time, and to go around it physically (the major motif of the travelling) or dialectically (by confronting the analyses), just to make sure nothing is overlooked… What’s at stake is to add more. That the answers find numerous answers. That everything is layed out several times… The insistence can be laborious, but the disequilibrium is also stunning… It’s a veritable dialectical madness that the montage reveals itself slowly: and it is that which finally holds the project together, its form, and its spectator.”
Notes Critique: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s The Forbidden Room
“The idea of The Forbidden Room is an old and beautiful one of the cinema: what would happen if characters started to dream in other films then their own?... Guy Maddin is at his most fetichistic (and that’s saying something), and expects from the spectator that he’s on board. Everything has to do with style, special effects, and one-liners that are pretty brilliant; everything comes together in this Frankenstein-like film, at the same time fascinating and awkward, and a little hard to totally love, just like all monsters. The structure is over-active, and we wouldn’t reproach a stitched together film of lacking in consistency. But the force of his gaze when it’s tied together (like in My Winnipeg, where it was autobiographical) adds more than just within the register of a post-surrealist game.”
Notes Critique: Vincent Dieutre’s Orlando Ferito
“To enter Vicent Dieutre ‘intimite journal’ films is always complex. Are we necessarily invited? Orlando Ferito counts as one of the most successful of the director, due to there being many points of entry.”
Notes Critique: Roberto Minervini’s The Other Side
“It’s not without saying that The Other Side disappoints those who liked its gesture… Minervini, who takes a major inspiration from Pedro Costa, wants to say the most disturbing things about America… But his mise en scène, allusive and invasive, relegates each moment of weakness to voyeurism… And then because each scene is reduced to a sommet of disgust, nobody escapes this project for the better… To film when one’s heart’s not in it, it’s maybe the first sign that you’re doing it wrong.”
Journal Article: Mikio Naruse’s Yearning (1964)
“We know that Mikio Naruse brings together many terrible moments in his cinema; irremediable fissures, there there in all of his films from the silent to his last TohoScope… But there’s also, up the fissure, before it, these thrilling moments of happiness… All of the film takes place to deny this happiness. And it’s in this intimite game, through what’s not brought up, that Naruse construct that which shakes up; by that which shakes up these intimate emotions, and by this product which the cinema boils.”
DVD Reviews: Coffret Shôhei Imamura
“Japan in the sixties… Shôhei Imamura, employed by Nitkkatsu since 1954, stops making concessions. Pigs and Battleships (1961), The Insect Woman (1963), The Pornographers (1966): these three titles are being restored by Elephant Films and were made by Imamura when he was distancing himself from the studio, as he’s going further with each films towards vulgarity, like his stylized representations of the poor, crime rings, the relation of the occupant and the general history of his country, which is much further from the general concensus… In the agitation of the sixties, Imamura is the one with his nose to ground, searching for new insects to celebrate.”