One of cinema’s great ironies is that, for all the talk of representation and making the hidden visible, much of its power comes from withholding instead. Certainly this is true of slow cinema, of that poetic tendency which, in his landmark 1972 treatise, Paul Schrader called “the transcendental style in film.” The eternally self-lacerating Taxi Driver scribe’s brilliant latest, First Reformed, deserves a chapter in the updated edition – and the boxy image of a despairing reverend, mixing whiskey and Pepto Bismal while researching suicide vests on a laptop in a parsonage, should go on the cover.
All movies, of course, come to us pre-packaged in some way, sure. But there is packaging, and there is packaging.
1979’s The Visitor is firmly in the second camp, at least for those of us who see it for the first time now, in hi-def, remastered form and given an aura of the cult secret.
Amid all its other signifiers, then and now, 1968 was about youth – its dangerous and liberatory possibilities. Two years earlier, Godard had cheekily announced the arrival of “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” but ’68 was their decidedly anarchic coming out party, from Nanterres to Columbia University to Mexico City to the Red Square.