Film’s physicality is one aspect of Refn’s gleeful proclamations of doom.
A few highlights from our movie-watching week.
Pierre Etaix was nearly left out of cinema history, thanks to a long-ago disastrous contract dispute, but has steadily clawed his way back from the margins — with some help from Criterion, not to mention the legions of fans and admirers who petitioned to end the decades of legal wrangling over his films’ distribution.
Increasingly, our mainstream cinema seems consumed with the act of storytelling itself. We can add American Animals to a list that already includes recent films as different as I, Tonya and Bisbee ‘17. This inward turn is nothing new for the avant-garde and the art-house, long characterized, from Bergman to Godard to Kiarostami, by the foregrounding of artifice.
The events of May 1968 exist in memory, of course, but whose memory, and how? The overlapping texts of Philippe Garrel‘s Regular Lovers, Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Dreamers, and Olivier Assayas’ Après mai offer clues.
Amid all the recollections of ’68 in the past few weeks — whether extolling the energy of a revolutionary moment or gleefully trumpeting its failure, or something in between — I’ve been surprised how many people in my generation, in the U.S., are at a loss for context.
How do you approach making a bio-pic about a filmmaker like Jean-Luc Godard, whose aesthetic and political concerns are so deeply interwoven into the cinema of a particular time and place that entire strains of film history are unthinkable without him?
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.
With the 50th anniversary of May ’68 – and the famed “events” thereof – approaching, it was a good time to come across the vital documentary Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque at my local library. Jacques Richard‘s seven-years-in-the-making account of the father of film preservation only briefly touches on those events, and has its eyes too fixed to the screen to contextualize them rigorously in the larger social upheaval of that year, but it’s scope feels right all the same.
Don’t let the name or the opening moments trick you: Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog is not really about dogs. But that feint is itself representative of Julian Radlmaier’s comedy, which propels itself along by sudden swerves.
Its first real narrative thread is inauspicious: Radlmaier, playing himself, out of money to make his next film, is forced to work at a peach-picking plantation, convinces a woman (Deragh Campbell) he is doing research for a new film that he wants her to star in.
Happy Labor Day!
You know, the day in early September that Grover Cleveland declared a federal holiday as a halfhearted apology for his troops murdering several workers during the Pullman Strike in 1894, a desperate, election-year attempt to stave off radical reform while also conveniently distancing the U.S.