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Film

Our Godard

Our Godard

On Jean-Luc Godard (1930 – 2022)

Godard always seemed to be asking What is a movie? What can it do? knowing that he would never find a satisfying answer, forever in pursuit of what was still beyond the grasp of his own prodigious powers.

Our Godard

Our Godard

Godard never forgot that in art, as in life, beauty persuades

“Art today is Jean-Luc Godard,” the French poet Louis Aragon wrote in 1965. “Godard is not satisfied with the world as it is, he remakes it in his own manner . . . in Pierrot le fou red sings like an obsession.” It would again, decades later, in The Image Book. Godard has long been one of the few who believe that color is not a given, that it is a craft like any other. If his movies—the ones with Belmondo, with Gorin, with Miéville—have staying power, it is because he never completed his own search, for color or anything else. It is customary for any legendary artist to lapse into an academicism of the self. They have figured out how to do what they do and do so indefinitely. Godard wasn’t like that.

Chino, Do You Know Your Miranda Rights?

Chino, Do You Know Your Miranda Rights?

Sooner or later, the gringos kill everything

My favorite genre is the movie musical; my least favorite, the musical-theater-kid movie. Both Spielberg’s Story and last year’s other corny pretender, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, have arrived as quaint, todos-juntos representatives of the latter brand. Bright, high-pitched, and would-be weird, they come from a time when we weren’t shaken by a global pandemic that wiped out millions of the bottom and made billions for the top. Miranda had the audacity to state in a promotional podcast for In the Heights that he wanted to “transcend” (“progress beyond”) West Side Story by not making “yet another gangster movie.” Good for him.

Long Day’s Journey into Slight

Long Day’s Journey into Slight

In his attempt to swap out comedy for cautionary tales, Adam McKay has become one

Gravity is at the center of Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, an apocalyptic comedy in which Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play twin Chicken Littles gesturing broadly toward a falling sky. But more than anything it’s gravitas that McKay seems to be after. Don’t Look Up was recently voted the winner of this year’s Writers Guild Award for Original Screenplay, and, this Sunday, it may win a few Oscars as well. The film, which was subsidized by Netflix, is a messy and inane statement of purpose by a director who is drowning in purpose—and statements. At this point, another statuette could serve as a life preserver.

Digital Rocks

Digital Rocks

How Hollywood killed celluloid

Eventually DCI scrubbed celluloid film almost entirely from the film industry, ushering in the most significant technological shift since the introduction of sound. The digital revolution transformed nearly every aspect of filmmaking for Hollywood and independent filmmakers. This revolution was invisible, and it was designed to be that way. Its success depended on audiences never noticing at all.

Jesus, Etc.

Jesus, Etc.

On Benedetta

Within the first two minutes of Benedetta’s prologue—in which its namesake’s younger incarnation compels a bird to shit in the eye of a potential assailant—it’s clear that Verhoeven is in his comfort zone; if the movie doesn’t necessarily push beyond those confines, it confirms them as a uniquely spacious and fertile patch of cinematic terrain, where provocation and pleasure get intertwined on a molecular level and nearly every line cuts two ways, as a statement of principles and a sick joke.

Nothing After This

Nothing After This

On Gregg Bordowitz’s Fast Trip, Long Drop

A man flips a baby through the air while standing on the edge of a high roof, a cityscape surrounding him. A car runs into a brick wall on a race course. Over the archival footage, Bordowitz tells of his father’s death: he went to see Evel Knievel jump across the Grand Canyon, then was fatally struck by a bus as he left the event. Bordowitz lays in his bed and describes getting fucked in the ass for the first time, his gaze trained daringly on the camera. When he speaks of the man coming inside him, no condom, the image jumps: a stuntman shoots out of a canon. Unlike the moralizing narratives of the era, Bordowitz equates contagion to chance.

Rohmer in Quarantine

Rohmer in Quarantine

I was seized by the very Louise-like notion that I could make myself feel better by ordering a Himalayan salt lamp

As I embarked on my quarantined viewing project, the films started to reveal themselves as pricklier and more ambiguous than I remembered. Their explorations of what it means to exist in a public space, enmeshed within a web of relations with other people, celebrate the possibilities that emerge from that position just as much as they brood over the dangers that lurk there. They shed light on some of the less salubrious aspects of communal existence that, as we start to stagger back into the world like dazed bears after a long hibernation, we may have overlooked or forgotten.

Silver Screen

Silver Screen

On Joan Micklin Silver (1935–2020)

If, as Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson wrote, the Godfather movies are uppercase filmmaking, the movie synonym for those Gothic friezes that one submissively admires before walking into the garish church that they adorn, then Hester Street is proudly lowercase.

Streaming Diary

Streaming Diary

You know how insulted I am by mediocrity

This is not the languidity burdened by sameness and doom which we’ve grown accustomed to in the stuffy, unaired bedrooms of quar. Instead, The Portuguese Woman is a mesmerizing historic wormhole into a plein air future: the wind rushes in from a window, dresses ruffle and drag, the sun filters across a maid’s quarters to lift its bleakness.