Every June for cinephiles who read Cinema Scope the same questions are always asked: When does it come out? What’s going to be on the cover? It has become almost like a game. Though there are always some hints. Like what has the Cinema Scope account and its regular contributors tweeted from the Croisette? From there it’s a process of elimination with usually two or three strong contenders. After that it's a guessing game until the cover is finally revealed. With the new summer issue it’s Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann that makes the final cut. But it’s not just the summer issue that’s important as with an exclusive four issues a year the quality and the anticipation value of these cover films are trusted more so than even each year’s Palme d'Or.
After having already covered the nationality and age of the filmmakers that have made it onto their yearly top ten lists, the following is a study of their covers since the famous Fifty Filmmakers Under Fifty issue from Spring 2012. That was an important issue for the magazine as it represents a milestone since its inception in 1999. For that issue they got fifty past contributors and fellow traveler filmmakers to write on a respective director. This offered Cinema Scope the opportunity to strongly reaffirm the taste of the magazine and suggest future support for their following films. As well the magazine seemed to have matured as it evolved its formatting from the casual loose stapled binding to a more prestigious firm one. (As well issue 50 is as far back as its online archive goes up to).
A short description of their covers seems due: its trademark title and subtitle (usually in white, though this can vary) can be found in the top left corner, there’s a still from recent favored film that adorns the cover (with the memorial Akerman and the Hong Sang-soo as exceptions), then there is around seven full names to promote the other filmmakers discussed in the issue, and there’s also an inside-cover picture. The films on its cover and its graphic design recalls those of high quality art journals as they aim for a contemporaneity, striking designs, beauty and that of surprise.
To better understand the filmmakers behind these cover films the following is some brief context of where they were at in their oeuvre (though for simplicity gathered from IMDb):
N.67: Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann (2016) is her 3rd feature in an oeuvre that goes back to 2003 (The Forest for the Trees) and with two shorts going back to 2000.N.66: Lewis Klahr’s Sixty Six (2002-2015) is his 17th work in a oeuvre of mostly short- and medium-length work that goes back to 1987.N.65: A memorial Chantal Akerman cover. An oeuvre of 47 credits with a wide-ranging variety of works that goes back to 1968.N.64: Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then (2015) is his 21st credit (mostly of features) that goes back to 1996.N.63: Miguel Gomes’ the Arabian Nights trilogy (2015) is his 4th-5th-6th feature with his earlier short-films going back to 1999.N.62: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s The Forbidden Room (2015). Maddin’s 13th feature with a total of 54 total credits that goes back to 1985. Johnson’s 1st feature with 5 shorts going back to 2014.N.61: Christian Petzold’s Phoenix (2014) is his 7th feature with a total of 14 credits, which includes television work, that goes back to 1992.N.60: Pedro Costa’s Horse Money (2014) is his 8th feature in an oeuvre that includes 16 credits (with shorts and contributions in omnibus projects) that goes back to 1984.N.59: Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja (2014) is his 5th feature with 7 total credits (including short-films) that goes back to 1995.N.58: Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game (2014) is his 5th feature in an oeuvre that goes back to 2000 (including 6 short-films).N.57: Jodie Mack’s New Fancy Foils (2013) is her 27th work in a career of experimental short films that goes back to 2003.N.56: Albert Serra’s Story of My Death (2013) is his 7th features in an oeuvre that goes back to 2003.N.55: Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake (2013) is his 7th feature, along with some television work and short-films, that goes back to 1990.N.54: Denis Côté’s Vic + Flo ont vu un ours (2013) is his 7th feature and with his earliest work going back to 2005.N.53: João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata’s The Last Time I Saw Macao (2012). It is Rodrigues’ 4th feature with his first being from 2000 (O Fantasma) and earlier short-films and documentaries going back 1988. It is João Rui Guerra da Mata 1st feature in an oeuvre that includes 4 short-films that go back to 2007.N.52: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan (2012). It is Castaing-Taylor’s second feature after Sweetgrass from 2009. Also Paravel’s second feature after Foreign Parts (which was made with J.P. Sniadecki) from 2010.N.51: David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) and Leos Carax's Holy Motors (2012). Cronenberg’s 20th feature film with his first Stereo from 1969 and earlier short-films going back to 1966. Carax’s 5th feature since 1984 (Boy Meets Girl) along with a short-film in 1980.N.50: Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (2012) is his 3rd feature since 2004 (The Face You Deserve) with 5 earlier shorts going back to 1999.
Of these eighteen covers that spans a bit more than four years: fifteen of the films can be classified as world cinema, two of them as experimental (Klahr, Mack) and one as a documentary (Leviathan). With a caveat being that they are all somewhat hybrid as they take up forms proper to a variety of types of filmmaking. Of this list there is only one returning filmmaker which is Miguel Gomes for Tabu and Arabian Nights. The cover status of these films arrive at different stages in the filmmakers' oeuvre: there were eleven filmmakers which the film is between their 1st to 5th film, five which the film is between their 6th to 10th, three between their 10th and 20th (Klahr, Maddin, Cronenberg), and finally three with more than 20 (Akerman, Hong Sang-Soo, Mack).
Any reader of Cinema Scope already knows that it’s a serious film magazine that builds upon a rich history of film criticism (far from the gossip, reviewing and hot-takes of most contemporary journalism). The feature cover essays and interviews provide a model of both the type of privilege forms of filmmaking and of writing at the magazine. The highest amount of cover feature essays are by its chief editor Mark Peranson with six of them (Ade, Gomes, Maddin, Costa, Serra) which strongly dictate the editorial line of the magazine and then all with two of essays there's Adam Nayman (Cronenberg, Petzold), Jordan Cronk (Klahr, Poromboiu), and Phil Coldiron (Mack, Leviathan).
But finally it's the filmmakers themselves who propel themselves to the covers - making work that's relevant, challenging, productive, invigorating, troubling, beautiful, affective. A glimmer of hopeful light for troubling times.