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How It All Ends

On Film / The Daily — Nov 15, 2019
Hélène Chatelain in Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1963)

The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit has spent the week breaking stories of promising projects in the works. Paul Thomas Anderson is putting together an as-yet-untitled film centering on a famous child actor attending high school in Los Angeles. Emma Stone may play Clara Bow, Hollywood’s first “It” girl, in Damien Chazelle’s 1920s-set Babylon, and Brad Pitt is in talks to come on board as well. And Spike Lee will direct an adaptation of Prince of Cats, a 2012 graphic novel by Ron Wimberly. You can see Wimberly’s work on the cover of our new release of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). Prince of Cats, set in the Da People’s Republic of Brooklyn in the 1980s, is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet as seen through the eyes of Tybalt, Juliet’s fiery-tempered cousin.

We also learned this week that Lee will be honored at Film at Lincoln Center’s Chaplin Award Gala in April, that Robert De Niro will receive a life achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild, and that Kristin Scott Thomas will be recognized for her outstanding contribution to British cinema at the British Independent Film Awards. Meantime, the nominations are out for the European Film Awards and the Cinema Eye Honors for the year’s best nonfiction films.

Over the past few days, we’ve lost three significant figures who have left their marks on cinema. Branko Lustig was a coproducer on Schindler’s List (1993) who survived the camps in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. His is “a story to which children from some of today’s unthinkable environments can aspire,” says Steven Spielberg. Lustig was eighty-seven. Vlada Petrić, the film studies scholar and cofounder of the Harvard Film Archive who discusses Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966) on the Criterion Channel, was ninety-one. And Lawrence G. Paull, the visionary production designer best known for his work on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), was eighty-one. “Dark, storm-swept, a landscape of neon and cultural cross-pollination,” the Los Angeles of Blade Runner “remains as evocative as a set of memories implanted from an invented source,” writes Alta books editor David L. Ulin—and that brings us to this week’s highlights.

  • Ulin recently revisited Chris Marker’s 1963 short La Jetée, in which the survivors of a cataclysmic event escape their desolate environs by traveling through time rather than space. Writing for Literary Hub, Ulin suggests that the film “might have once been viewed as a corrective; by imagining the bleakest sort of future, in other words, we might dream our way—if not by time travel then by awareness or a kind of will—into a different, more enlightened one. Yet where is our corrective in a world gone mad with its own negative capabilities: nuclear proliferation, rogue states (including this one), the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, and the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf, among other climate catastrophes? In the face of that, how do we have faith in any future, even a dystopian one?”
  • PROTEST!, an exhibition of over 150 works in diverse media by Derek Jarman, marks twenty-five years since the death of the British artist and filmmaker. The retrospective has prompted AnOther Magazine to ask John Waters, Tilda Swinton, Luca Guadagnino, costume designer Sandy Powell, and novelist and cultural critic Olivia Laing to select a text by Jarman and introduce it with a few words. “Take down the fences, that’s Derek’s message,” writes Laing. “Keep making what you love. Keep making love. Steal cuttings. Cross-pollinate. Plant a garden, even at the end of the world.”
  • In his latest column on Asian cinema for the Paris Review, novelist and essayist Tash Aw revisits Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (2004). He finds that it revives memories of holidays spent with relatives in a small town in Malaysia at the edge of a jungle. “One of the myths that most troubled me as a child was the legend of the were-tiger,” writes Aw, and in “the ravishing closing scene” of Tropical Malady, such a creature confronts a lost soldier. “We wait, expecting the tiger to devour the soldier, but there is no need, they are one and the same . . . [W]e feel it now too: love is dangerous, love will consume us; we are powerless before our desire.”
  • With a season of musicals on in London through January, Pamela Hutchinson sketches a brief history of the genre for Sight & Sound, taking us from the advent of sound through MGM’s heyday to the landmark works of Jacques Demy and Bob Fosse. “The artistry of the musical has embraced everything from avant-garde set design to modern dance in its dedication to shimmering spectacles that defy the logic of space, time, and narrative,” writes Hutchinson. “In the nine decades it has been around, the screen musical has been resolute in tackling difficult subject matter, and diverse in its approach to depicting gender and sexuality. It’s also been profoundly self-reflexive, a space in which performers reflect on performance and the form itself chews itself over and reforms before our blinking eyes.”
  • On the latest Film Comment Podcast, editor Nicolas Rapold and contributor Teo Bugbee spend an hour with John Sayles. They talk about the making of Matewan, Sayles’s 1987 film about the violent clash between striking miners and a coal company in West Virginia in 1920, and more generally, about the depiction of labor and class throughout the history of American cinema.

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