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Film Friday Essay

The Act of Cinematic Witness: On “Dear Comrades!” and “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

Acts of cinematic witness come close to the limits of what a film can, in all good conscience, show. After Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, a film that, as Gilberto Perez puts it, ‘bears witness visually to the act of bearing witness verbally,’ * the terms of dramatising or representing atrocities in film changed. No repeats of […]

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Film

Review: Mayor

“I literally can’t deal with this shit,” the mayor says, as untreated sewage seeps into the valley. It’s a cute line. It’s almost as knowing as the interaction between sentence and edit earlier in that sequence, when he complains over the phone that he “can’t put out fires every day”—cut to: a small dumpster fire. […]

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Television

Review: Pretend It’s a City

In the plentiful footage showing Fran Lebowitz trudge along the pavements of New York City, she never seems more than a moment away from rolling her eyes at something—oftener still at someone—in her immediate vicinity. And that sets the tone for Pretend It’s a City, Scorsese’s follow-up to Public Speaking. Cultural figures make a skill […]

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Literary Matters

2020 Readings

(R) = reread, * = favourite. Molly Haskell: From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. * Larissa MacFarquhar: Strangers Drowning: Voyages to the Brink of Moral Extremity. Laura Scott: So Many Rooms. Ocean Vuong: Night Sky with Exit Wounds. (R) V.F. Perkins: Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. Robert Crawford: […]

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Film

2020 Favourites

Features: Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson) Bird Island (Maya Cosa and Sérgio da Costa) The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo) Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa) Time (Garrett Bradley) To the Ends of the Earth (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) The Portuguese Woman (Rita Azevedo Gomes) End of the Century (Lucio Castro) Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline […]

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Film

Review: The Woman Who Ran

I was flustered the first time I saw The Woman Who Ran, the newest film (but, given his prolificity, not for long) by Hong Sang-soo. I couldn’t get a full sense of the game the film plays, though I was pleased by the performances, an equable sound design, and its amiable mood. This last property […]

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Film

Review: Days

After being told that the film is “intentionally unsubtitled,” the first thing available to a viewer’s senses of Days is a sound, and at that a sound often heard in the work of Tsai Ming-liang: the patter of falling rain. But then a shot completes it: it’s of Kang (Lee Kang-sheng), sitting in his home, […]

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Film

Review: Stray

One of the least helpful remarks made by critics about documentaries is also one of the most frequent: it’s a variation on the idea that being aware of the camera’s presence changes the behaviour of the person it’s capturing—“but they wouldn’t act like that if the camera wasn’t present!” The impact of surveillance on this […]

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Film

Streaming Recommendations: October 2020

MUBI: —Bird Island (Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa, 2019) —India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975) —Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016) —The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher, 2014) —Brigitte (Lynne Ramsay, 2019) BFI PLAYER: —Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960) —Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984) —Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2019) —Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2008) —Day […]

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Film

New-to-me Favourites: September 2020

Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2010) L’innocente (Vischino Visconti, 1976) Court (Chaitanya Tamhane, 2014) Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)