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Film

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.

Such Things Have Done Harm

Such Things Have Done Harm

The only people I ever hear saying the world needs stories are the people involved in telling them

We should be willing to demand more than fellow feeling. The New York City Council crowed about its progressivism in passing a billion-dollar reduction in the NYPD’s budget. That number would just about return the department budget to the levels it was under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. It is indicative of a dangerous lack of imagination if the best we can do is make a tacit admission that it was unwise to give the police more resources in the years after the rise of Black Lives Matter.

Dreams Are Lost Memories

Dreams Are Lost Memories

There is fatalism and then there is stoicism

Domino takes place in Copenhagen, where police detectives speak English and used to be in Game of Thrones. The director seems to have contempt for both his leads. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, playing a not-bright cop who sets the plot in motion by forgetting his gun one morning, has a second-choice feel. Carice van Houten, who exists in Domino like she’s waiting for each take to end so she can go outside and smoke, resembles Noomi Rapace in De Palma’s earlier film Passion, but why? In the past, the resemblance would have been evidence of directorial obsession. Here, it’s probably a coincidence.