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Film Comment in Full

On Film / The Daily — May 8, 2020
Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness (2019)

Starting today, every article, review, and column in the new issue of Film Comment will be freely available online. This will be the last issue until the magazine returns from its lockdown-imposed hiatus, but there’s more than enough here to tide us over. The cover features an image from Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness “with a pair of flying lovers who look like ghosts from a Chagall canvas,” as Imogen Sara Smith notes in her piece on the winner of last year’s Silver Lion in Venice.

Aboubakar Sanogo contributes an essential introduction to the late actor and filmmaker Med Hondo, whose work “centered on the migrant condition—the single most dominant theme in his oeuvre. Hondo tackled the question of migration in cinema long before most filmmakers did and was one of the very first to present a genuinely complex historical, political, and economic understanding of the phenomenon.” Other highlights include editor Nicolas Rapold’s conversation with Amy Seimetz about She Dies Tomorrow and Eric Hynes’s thoughts on watching Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s The Viewing Booth in our present moment.

Which brings us to the two features presented together in an opening section entitled “Cinema in Isolation.” Devika Girish conducts an experiment: “What if, like hackers trying to reverse engineer code, we homebound cinephiles could patch together a shadow of the moviegoing experience within our personal screens?” And Nick Pinkerton “can scarcely think of a moment when the threat posed by the laws of profit to moviegoing tradition has been greater, and behind anything else in this quarantine has been one thought: while we’re trapped alone with the cinema, we must already be working together for it.”

This week’s other standouts:

  • After sixteen years and three locations, the Chicago video store Odd Obsession has closed its doors for the last time. At the A.V. Club, in one of the most beautifully written pieces you’ll read this week, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky notes that the store was named “after a Kon Ichikawa movie that no one ever rented. Most of the people who ever worked there were volunteers who shelved DVDs a few times a week for free rentals, but we were all fluent in a certain dialect, a movie-ese of Putney Swope and mondo. This language was magic, because anyone who spoke it was your friend . . . Chances were you thought of yourself as struggling against a media monoculture. It was probably pretentious, but in my experience pretension is a very effective motivator for young people.”

  • When the Cinematek in Brussels presented a Hong Sang-soo retrospective two years ago, Sabzian editor Gerard-Jan Claes and Courtisane programmer Stoffel Debuysere put together a collection of essays and interviews with contributions from Claire Denis, James Quandt, and Hong himself. The dossier is now freely available with new additions and a new introduction: “Stemming from a wariness of generalizations that claim to be transcendent and all-encompassing, [a] constant interplay between concrete presence—of the people involved and the environments they occupy—and abstract construction is what, more than anything, propels Hong Sang-soo’s singular cinematic investigations into the dynamics of repetition and difference. It is also what brings his work, film after film, ever closer to the art of cinema as it was once devised by Bresson: as a method of discovery.”

  • In 2013, Max Goldberg catalogued the papers of experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert, and now he has an essay up at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in which he writes that in Sonbert’s films, “each image is treated as a discrete unit of attention that is precisely of pivotal importance. Combining a painter’s touch with a tabloid photographer’s killer instinct, a choreographer’s rhythm with a ringmaster’s crack of the whip, Sonbert brought daring to both cinematography and cutting.” Sonbert wrote program notes for BAMPFA on films by Douglas Sirk and Nathaniel Dorsky, and Goldberg notes that both filmmakers “actually appear together, alongside Jerome Hiler, toward the end of Sonbert’s 1981 film Noblesse Oblige.” In 1986, Sonbert delivered a talk on Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964), and on a somewhat related note, Laurent Kretzschmar has just translated Serge Daney’s 1984 piece for Libération on Hitch’s Rear Window (1954).

  • For Interview, Barry Jenkins talks with Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, the breakout stars of Eliza Hittman’s powerful Never Rarely Sometimes Always. The story of cousins who leave their small town for New York so that one of them can have an abortion won plaudits at Sundance and in Berlin, but its theatrical release was cut short by the lockdown. Jenkins, who recalls meeting people reluctant to see Moonlight because it’s about a gay man, suggests that anyone worrying about watching a movie about abortion in public may work up the courage to see it at home. Flanigan agrees, noting the number of heartbeat bills being passed in several states: “And now, with COVID going on, they’re relentless in trying to take away reproductive freedom. It makes women feel so powerless.”

  • Late last month, the Dutch magazine Filmkrant posted a letter Jia Zhangke sent in from his home in Beijing. It’s now prompted a response from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who notes that Jia’s letter “made me feel the importance of kinship in our time of confinement.” Writing from his home in Chiang Mai, he floats the idea that the current situation might “breed a group of people who have developed an ability to stay in the present moment longer than others.” They might “be introduced to the films of Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang, Lucrecia Martel, maybe Apichatpong and Pedro Costa, among others. For a period of time, these obscure filmmakers would become millionaires from a surge of ticket sales.” But a minority of the “easily distracted” could get itchy and begin to “gather in dark alleys. They sprint together and talk fast. They don’t wait for the others to finish their sentences. They indulge in multiple thoughts at once.” Read on. There’s more.

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