Daily Postings
film : interview

Albert Serra

by Steve Macfarlane

Casanova, Dracula, and art in the age of digital filmmaking.

Albert Serra’s maniacally self-effacing The Story Of My Death is a shadow play of European philosophies, clearly shot in DV but somehow blown up to widescreen—nearly panoramic—35mm. The twilight years of the Enlightenment, embodied in the flesh by a grape-gobbling, cheese-snuffing Casanova (Vicenç Altaió), give way to darkness and temptation in the countryside as the aging lothario’s remote getaway is visited by none other than his new neighbor Dracula (Elisu Huertas). To describe Serra’s vision out loud is to parody it, but the picture is drenched in allusions, meanings, and whispers of games; as a viewer, your guess on the narrative significance of any individual scene is as good as anybody else’s. One way of putting it might be that the thirty-eight-year-old Catalan filmmaker builds a narrative with isolated tableaux—his shots linger in my memory like the Met’s most opulent still lifes.

Albert Serra, with glistening jewels wrapped around his knuckles, and with a classic rock soundtrack as backdrop, persistently employed an increasingly meaningful neologism—“performatic”—over the course of our serpentine discussion. He told me he submitted forty-nine scripted scenes to get the movie made, wrote an additional 128 more, shot everything, then spent a year editing The Story of My Death down to a total of fifty-three. Infamously, he shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio and then—without remorse, it seems—cropped his images down, printing them in a vertically tight strip that looks as if somebody cluelessly left the CinemaScope camera setting on. Though his explanations of on-set techniques made me blush, only a fool would call Serra sloppy. Every one of his answers was a passionate counterdefense, hammered out one syllable at a time.

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film : interview

Robert Greene

by Pamela Cohn

Exploring performance in documentary film.

The recent professorship bestowed upon filmmaker Robert Greene by The Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia comes with the title Filmmaker-in-Chief (really). The prolific thirty-eight-year-old could be considered a cine-polymath of sorts since he works in both narrative fiction and documentary/nonfiction film as a producer, director, and editor – on his own films, as well as those of others, including Alex Ross Perry’s recent hit Listen Up Philip.

His is also an emerging critical voice for the never-ending debates surrounding international nonfiction cinema, a topic that’s been close to my heart for a long time. I first met Robert in Columbia at the True/False Film Festival many moons ago when he was exhibiting his feature début called Kati With an I about his much younger half-sister and her drama-filled life. To this day, he is still working with the same producers, 4th Row Films, run by Douglas Tirola and Susan Bedusa, and the same cinematographer, Sean Price Williams.

His latest directorial effort is Actress, a project in which he’s raised the bar on performance in documentary, an obsession, he tells me, he will be devoted to exploring for at least his next twenty-five films. His previous documentary Fake It So Real, about a group of wrestlers, dealt directly with this topic. But for Actress, Greene forged a unique and intimate partnership with his main protagonist, Brandy Burre, a professional actress. The two create a semi-improvised film that explores Burre’s troubled psyche as she is going through a major identity crisis. Simultaneously, the relationship with the father of her children is disintegrating. Burre’s home, where most of the film is shot, is in the picturesque bedroom community of Beacon, New York with just a few feet separating her house from Greene’s. The town, as Greene shoots it, is a Cheever-esque locale that exudes the strange melancholia typical of American suburbia.  

Greene has just completed a successful crowd-funding campaign for music rights clearances for a few of the songs in Actress. He stubbornly refused to replace them because they are too integral and necessary to his story. The campaign had some urgency since the film is set to have its US theatrical release this month through the film’s distributor Cinema Guild. Actress will also have its European festival premiere at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen as a selection in its main competition for the DOX:AWARD. Also appearing in the same competition is a film that Greene edited, Amanda Rose Wilder’s Approaching the Elephant, a beautifully realized profile of a grammar school in New Jersey that untethers itself from conventional classes and school rules—unconventionality and rule-breaking being subjects Greene holds forth about regularly when he talks about nonfiction cinema in his regular column for Sight & Sound Magazine.  

One of Greene’s forthcoming projects has also been selected for this year’s CPH:FORUM. Kate Plays Christine is a continuation of the kind of work he did with Burre. The film follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil of House of Cards as she encounters her own ambivalence about the film industry while role-playing a thirty-year-old TV host named Christine Chubbuck who committed suicide on live television in Sarasota, Florida in 1974. 

Greene and I convened over a Beacon-Berlin Skype connection in early October just as he was launching his crowd-funding campaign. At 8 am in New York, Greene, fueled by coffee and his own boundless energy, spoke to me in a flood of staccato exhortations about his cinematic passions.  

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film : interview

Marshall Curry

by Gary M. Kramer

A crash course on manhood caught on camera.

Documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry’s latest film Point and Shoot is a fantastic portrait of Matthew VanDyke, a young man who left his life in Baltimore to become a freedom fighter in Libya during the Arab Spring. It’s a remarkable story, and Curry has made a remarkable film. In fact, Point and Shoot won the Best Documentary Feature prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. 

The film edits together home movies and footage VanDyke shot overseas with interviews between Curry and VanDyke, showing how this young man went from leading a comfortable life to being an active participant in a war halfway around the world. Moreover, Curry’s film shrewdly addresses the issue of citizen journalism, as VanDyke’s footage is not only a document of his experiences in the Libyan war and elsewhere, but also a comment on the culture of immediacy abetted by YouTube and other online media outlets. 

Curry has helmed two Oscar-nominated documentaries: Street Fight, about Cory Booker challenging incumbent mayor Sharpe James in Newark, and If a Tree Falls, about the Earth Liberation Front. He also directed the terrific Racing Dreams, about a trio of kids who want to one day compete in NASCAR. 

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Film : Interview

Laida Lertxundi

by Katie Bradshaw

Setting soundtracks to the desert, the sea, and the sky.

Laida Lertxundi makes films using landscape and sounds. The first of Laida’s films I saw was Footnotes to a House of Love (2007), a thirteen-minute 16mm film in which a few people spend time in and around a dilapidated house in a southern California desert listening to Shangri-Las cassettes along with other, less immediately recognizable sounds. Footnotes struck me visually and sonically, though at the time I don’t think I was able to fully grasp the complexity in method or the way in which she, as Genevieve Yue has phrased it, “treats feeling as material.” As I moved through her filmography, Laida’s films felt threaded together. They could locate minutes that I felt I had already seen, previously collected but unnoticed till now, almost memories-in-progress—the sun at a particular time of day, the quiet feeling of being at home with another person, simply co-existing.

I am interested in her choice of careful frames, her relation to the body and its representation, and how uniquely and interestingly she succeeds in emphasizing the aural environment so that it directly influences and cannot be pulled apart from the image. There is a mysterious quality to her films that is both natural and unpretentious. I watch her films over and over again, the same way I’ve rewound a mix-tape over and over again to a specific track that pulls me out of myself.

Born in Bilbao, Spain, Lertxundi has had solo exhibitions at Alhóndiga Bilbao (2014) and Marta Cervera Gallery in Madrid (2013), and her work has been exhibited at the 2013 LIAF Biennial, 2013 Lyon Biennial and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Lertxundi is also a film and video programmer in the US and Spain and has published numerous articles on film, most recently in the anthology La Risa Oblicua and in Bostezo magazine. She teaches film at the University of California San Diego and resides in Los Angeles. Her last film, We Had the Experience but Missed the Meaning (2014) had its New York premiere this summer at BAMcinemaFest and has already exhibited internationally.

A few weeks after a preview screening of Utskor: Either/Or(2013), Laida came to meet me in between screenings at Spectacle, a microcinema in Williamsburg. It was December, in the middle of a blizzard, and I remember the snow was twice as deep when we left a couple hours later as it had been when we’d begun. I program films at Spectacle, and Laida and I began our conversation around curation:

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Film : Essay

On Bridges over Argentine Cinema

by Gary M. Kramer

The cinematic influences of an emerging director.

Given that I strongly believe you are what you watch, filmmakers’ personal choices fascinate me. When Martin Scorsese or John Waters promote some gem that influenced them—be it an Asian action film or an existential French drama—it explains some part of their personalities and artistic sensibility. They, as filmmakers, best understand the craft that went into a film and perhaps consider the work more intently than most viewers—even critics. When filmmakers curate films, they choose titles because they are obscure, because they feature something that makes them special, and because they want to reveal something about their tastes. With the Anthology Film Archive’s series, Matías Piñeiro Selects: Bridges over Argentine Cinema, one can get a sense of what films influenced this emerging director.

Piñeiro previously curated films while at university in Buenos Aires, so he has some experience with programming. When I spoke with him about the series recently, he said that his goal in this New York series was to showcase “neglected” films—titles that never screen in New York. They provide a new perspective on Argentine cinema for American audiences. As evidenced by the thirteen titles in his Anthology series, I’d argue that Piñeiro deliberately selected films that represent his own passions and obsessions. Yet he insists the films he is showing in this series expose what he enjoys watching, not necessarily making.

What may be the unifying factor of the selections is that these films are highly stylized, and resist formal narratives, mixing genres and conventions. Many of these films are challenging, but each one is exceptional in its own way. But they also appreciate the possibilities of cinema, and this, perhaps more than anything else, is what excites Piñeiro and explains why he programmed them.

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Film : Interview

Alex Ross Perry

by Nicholas Elliott

Isolation, writer's block, and break-ups on the road to success.

Alex Ross Perry’s third feature, Listen Up Philip, follows the young New York writer Philip (Jason Schwartzman) over the course of a period during which he publishes his second novel, chooses to reject all promotional efforts, leaves his live-in girlfriend Ashley (Elizabeth Moss), and, most significantly, befriends the ornery master of prose, Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce). Perry has remained faithful to celluloid and the sharp dialogue and occasionally scathing portrayal of human relations seen in his previous film The Color Wheel, but made good use of the step up to a sizable indie budget by expanding the scope of his narrative, devising a relatively complex structure, and creating a visually rich experience whose patina remains long after the film is over.

Listen Up Philip captures a self-imposed isolation that is very specific to New York. Perhaps this proximity to the familiar explains why I found the film profoundly demoralizing, despite all the comedy in Philip’s mule-headed pursuit of honesty. I was eager to talk to Alex about his characters and their loneliness, and get a sense of whether or not the title is an injunction to tread carefully with your one life. We had fifteen minutes to toss ideas around a few days before Listen Up Philip screened at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

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Film : Interview

Matías Piñeiro

by Giovanni Marchini Camia

Shakespeare in Buenos Aires.

Argentinean director Matías Piñeiro has accrued an impressive cult following in the eight years since his first feature. His latest, La princesa de Francia (The Princess of France), was one of the most anticipated films at this summer’s Locarno International Film Festival, which also included new features by such arthouse lions as Pedro Costa and Lav Diaz in its program. The film, which was met with ecstatic reviews and will also play at the New York Film Festival on October 5 and 6, is the latest installment in the director’s ongoing filmic experimentations with the work of William Shakespeare.

While As You Like It and Twelfth Night provided the foundation for Piñeiro’s previous features, Rosalinda (2011) and Viola (2012) respectively, the main source text this time around is Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. Again the play is placed in the hands of a group of Buenos Aires bohemians, played by the director’s regular troupe of actors. Here they are preparing a radio adaptation, a playful wink at the fact that Piñeiro’s films eschew and subvert conventional adaptation as well as a metonymic reflection of the film’s infatuation with language.

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Film : Interview

Mathieu Amalric

by Liza Béar

The Blue Room, Simenon, and non-linear narrative.

4:3 is the algebra of Georges Simenon’s terse psychological thriller The Blue Room: four individuals, three couples, two of which are married. 4:3 also happens to be the aspect ratio in which the film was shot. In a small French town, the redundant pair, illicit lovers, meet secretly in the titular blue room of Hotel des Voyageurs overlooking a public square; a passionate affair on the wane morphs into crime the way at high temperatures metal liquefies.

Written and directed by Mathieu Amalric and cowritten with his real-life partner Stéphanie Cléau, this adaptation hews closely to the unusual (for Simenon) non-linear structure of the 140-page novella. Both Amalric and Cléau—in her first major role—star in the film as the defiant lovers: Julien Gahyde, a tractor salesman, and Esther Despierre, a pharmacist—incidentally, very fitting professions for the story. The narrative intercuts the present reality of a magistrate’s criminal interrogation of Julien with Julien’s reminiscences: obsessive memories of love-making and haunting snatches of dialogue that give the film a chamber music quality. In a feat of aesthetic economy, the interrogatory format enables the story to unfold as the facts of the case—a double spousal murder—are unravelled through the minutiae of the legal discovery process.

No spoilers, but in a proactive twist on the femme fatale, Esther’s desire to be with Julien forever is satisfied, though not quite in the way she had envisioned.

A note in defense of small films: Compact at 74 minutes, the film’s Director of Photography Christophe Beaucarne uses the old Academy 4:3 format to box in and highlight visual details. Enhanced by Grégoire Hetzel’s chilling score and François Gédigier’s editing, The Blue Room evokes character and atmosphere better, and creates more mystery and tension than another current 20th Century Fox Oscar-contender, the 150-minute Gone Girl, which also plays with tropes of adultery and crime.

A high-profile, versatile actor (Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum Solace, Arnaud Despléchin’s A Christmas Tale and Kings and Queen), this is Amalric’s fourth feature as a director. His stylistically very different previous film On Tour (2010), in which a group of contemporary American “new burlesque” dancers are taken on tour in France, won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010.

I spoke with the enigmatic Amalric in French following the US premiere of The Blue Room at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

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Film : Interview

Orwa Nyrabia

by Pamela Cohn

Civil war, exile, and documentary as art.

Toward the end of his film Eau argentée, Syrie autoportrait (Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait), director Ossama Mohammed states that his country has made history’s longest film and that the 1001 filmmakers whose images he has used to craft it have recorded and participated in Syria’s longest funeral. Through an ongoing dialogue, both verbal and written, Mohammed and co-director Wiam Bedirxan—a young Kurdish woman whose name in her native language is Simav, which means silvered water—create a poetic lamentation for their disintegrating country caught in a brutal civil war between warring factions entrenched in regime-, ISIS-, and opposition-controlled zones. Over 170,000 civilians and counting have been killed, and there continues to be a massive exodus of refugees. The war has destroyed their homeland, making the landscape of one of the most ancient civilizations on the planet unrecognizable.

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Film : Essay

On Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

by Nicholas Elliott

Discovering a cinema of civil war.

At the Cannes Film Festival this year a gossamer young woman in a red shawl and ankle-length black dress stood before rows of film professionals and sobbed. She was not weeping tears of gratitude for her latest award, nor was her thinness a product of the Paleo DietTM. The woman was Wiam Simav Bedirxan, co-director with Ossama Mohammed of Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait. She was crying because she had just arrived on the Côte d’Azur from Homs, a Syrian city being turned into a vast heap of rubble as we clapped. She was thin because it’s hard to get a square meal in a city under siege. As Wiam Simav Bedirxan stood speechless, buffeted by the prescreening ovation, I felt a little less jazzy about my first taste of the palm tree and cocktail hour life and my fascination with the yachts that glimmered in the harbor as I fought for hors d’oeuvre on the beach. Yet all this pomp and circumstance were supposed to be for movies, right? And Bedirxan and Mohammed were being applauded for what turned out to be an essential movie. It was also one of the most painful things I have ever seen.

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Film : Interview

Michael M. Bilandic

by Gary M. Kramer

The art world, horror rap, and Delaware.

Hellaware is a cheeky satire of the New York art scene. Nate (Keith Poulson) is an uninspired photographer who becomes depressed after his girlfriend (Kate Lyn Sheil) dumps him for Jordan (Chuck McCarthy), a more successful artist. However, when Nate sees a rap group, Young Torture Killers, perform their song, “I Cut Your Dick Off,” on the web, he becomes enamored with their “outsider art” and sets out to find and photograph MC Rusty (Brent Butler) and his posse. Nate soon heads to Delaware with his friend Bernadette (Sophia Takai) to check out the band and one of the film’s best jokes is the venue and the turnout at the gig they attend. His photographs soon catch the attention of Olivier LaFleur (Gilles Decamps), a trendy gallery owner, who wants him to do a show.

Hellaware is a very knowing, very funny comedy that skewers white rappers and New York artistes. Writer/director Michael M. Bilandic uses the precise language of the art scene and the rap-rock music world to poke fun at Nate and Rusty and their friends. Bilandic, who attended grad school for film at NYU, and worked at Kim’s Video as well as on several features with Abel Ferrara (including Mulberry Street), spoke about making Hellaware.

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Film : Interview

Martín Rejtman

by Giovanni Marchini Camia

"I prefer the film to be independent of myself. If you and your film are the same, then why make films?"

Martín Rejtman’s Dos disparos (Two Shots Fired) opens on a shot of a teenager dancing by himself at a nightclub. At dawn, he rides the bus home, alone and expressionless. Once there he swims laps in the garden pool, timing himself each round. Then he mows the lawn. Then he finds a gun in the shed. Then he goes up to his room and shoots himself twice.

“It was very hot,” is the boy’s explanation when later asked why he almost killed himself. Whether they’re attempting suicide, dropping acid, or engaging in threesomes—all sensational events in this consummately anti-sensational film—Rejtman’s characters go at it with the same enthusiasm afforded to the insipid hamburgers that comprise almost every one of their meals. That is to say: none.

If all this sounds depressing, it’s because it doesn’t account for Rejtman’s singular and exquisite brand of humor. In his four fictional features, released at intervals of up to a decade following his 1992 debut Rapado, the Argentine director has painted a highly idiosyncratic portrait of urban alienation in his native Buenos Aires, a portrait of a middle class mired in meaningless cycles of repetition and wholly insouciant about it. Rejtman gets great comic mileage out of his urbanites’ deadpan obliviousness, leaving them stranded in a world governed by absurdity and limiting their conversations to exchanges of non-sequiturs like the one above.

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Film : Essay

Feeling Hou Hsiao-hsien

by Nicholas Elliott

Emotion, both authentic and synthetic, in the films of the Taiwanese New Wave master.

Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Good Men, Good Women (1995) was the first film to have such a devastating emotional impact on me that I had to hide my face from my fellow spectators to avoid setting off a sanitation panic. I’m sorry to admit my reaction was at least partially brought on by the comedown from the MDMA I had indulged in at a Goa Trance club in Brixton the previous evening. MDMA provides a momentary rush of global solidarity, which at that time in London was manifested in the sharing of water bottles with total strangers and, I assume, a lot of chemically-enhanced sex. The morning after was rough. The love of your fellow dancer was replaced by the disdain for your fellow commuter, and the knowledge that the glow had been utterly synthetic rolled in with a forecast of heavy depression. My memory of strobe-lit celebrants with pinhole eyes and whistles in their mouths fit well with the contemporary half of Good Men, Good Women, which edged Hou’s cinema into a present of neon nights and fuzzy dawns.

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Film : Interview

Martha Stephens

by Steve Macfarlane

Directing a comedic travelogue set in Iceland.

Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz's Land Ho! emerged as the no-joke feel good movie of the summer, a gently spun yarn about two former brothers-in-law (Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn) who reconvene for a once-in-a-lifetime jaunt to Iceland. With unhurried grace, the film puts time and pleasure into revealing how it's not going to reveal too terribly much of any one thing. Instead, Land Ho! becomes a study in counteracting textures, gorgeous, wind-blown landscapes, agonizingly repetitive conversations, and pivotal character details that rise and fall in conversation without being remarked upon further.

As a comedy, Land Ho! has an eye for naturalism and languidness of pace that connects its gags back to real life, not an attendant sub- or specialty genre. Stephens and Katz's readiness to put their movie in the hands of their leads influences its shape and direction, making it a more performative collaboration than the form normally allows. It's a film as strong as it is light, and its depiction of late middle age is a remarkable contrast to the types of old-folks comedies being churned out by major studios today—which, happily, was a topic brought up by Stephens in our cellphone conversation.

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Film : Interview

Tim Sutton

by Gary M. Kramer

God, nature, and Memphis

Tim Sutton’s Memphis, like his earlier feature, Pavilion, is a gorgeously made impressionistic drama. An observational film that emphasizes mood, place, and atmosphere over plot or character, Memphis presents the quotidian aspects of its characters’ lives with visual flair. Sutton creates real emotion from still images, such as main character Willis (played by musician Willis Earl Beal), lying asleep with his arm over his face, or Lopaka (Lopaka Thomas), sitting in a car staring at an ignited lighter. Lengthy tracking shots—down the aisle of a church, or through the streets of the titular city—are also freighted with meaning.

Sutton practically eavesdrops on his characters as scenes create a loose narrative, eschewing any overtly climactic moments. The writer/director’s approach is firmly rooted in documentary, and he envelops viewers in dreamy landscapes that are transfixing. Sutton makes watching glass fall from a broken car window a truly hypnotic experience.

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Film : Interview

Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam

by Liza Béar

The two filmmakers on their new documentary, Web Junkie, about rehabbing the addicted youth of China.

For those of us who’re not aficionados, the cinematic YouTube trailer for World of Warcraft’s third installment, Cataclysm, announces blood and gore, crude humor, mild language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, and violence. WoW is classified as a MMRPOG, a massive multiple role player online game, and the 16,998,014 trailer viewers, with a fourteen to one like-to-dislike ratio attest to its worldwide popularity. Still, it’s a video game, and small potatoes, you may think, compared to the devastation endured by civilian populations in the real world, and the concomitant, ubiquitous imagery thereby generated by the carnage, putting us, as the artist Carolee Schneemann recently emailed me, in “a whirligig of grief and outrage.”

But what if your sixteen-year-old son dropped out of school and spent forty days straight at the computer playing WoW? Or lied and spent nights at the Internet café instead of staying with friends? In China, obsessive Internet use by teens has been classified as an addiction and the number one public health threat to teenagers. Desperate parents are tricking or forcing their sons into one of 400 rehab centers run as military boot camps, where if you don’t make your bed in the morning, at night you sleep on the floor.

Two award-winning Israeli documentary filmmakers, Shosh Shlam (Good Garbage and Last Journey Into Silence) and Hilla Medalia (To Die in Jerusalem and Dancing in Jaffa), who have made a dozen films separately, collaborated on the just-released film Web Junkie, which follows three Chinese boys going through a treatment cycle in Daxing, Beijing, the first of these rehab centers, where the filmmakers lived for four months.

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Film : Interview

Daniel Dencik & Michael Haslund

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Melting glaciers, Metallica, and the Arctic.

Expedition to the End of the World is an adventure documentary filmed aboard the Activ, an Arctic schooner that set sail in Northeast Greenland with a crew of artists, philosophers, and scientists. Greenland is an enormous country, but also the least populated in the world. The film showcases the great island’s icy beauty, its towering glaciers and lonely blank horizon.

The characters on board are akin to caricatures, referred to merely as “the geochemist” or “the artist.” Each crewmember has his or her own specialty, but each is there for an indistinct purpose: to observe, to experience, to ask existential questions. The expedition has no formal goals. Everyone is mixed together in a hodge-podge of expertise. These artists and scientists venture into the landscape, and are struck by its immensity and power—but as one crewmember puts it, “what we are really struck by, is ourselves.”

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Film : Interview

Joaquim Pinto

by Paul Dallas

Portuguese cinema, dealing with illness, and "the tissue connecting the cosmic and the corporeal."

A bee lands on a cheeseburger being held by Joaquim Pinto. The camera moves in and, with microscopic focus, captures the perverse comedy and unexpected beauty of the creature determinedly sawing off a chunk of meat before flitting away. It’s one of a dozen extended sequences of bodies close up—insect, canine, and human—that could strike the first-time viewer of Pinto’s latest film, What Now? Remind Me, as curious, poetic digressions. But the deliberate and obsessive attention imparted to such incidental observations underscores an urgent and necessary function. They act as tethers to the present, pulling the filmmaker back from the hazy edges of memory and exhaustion. Cumulatively, they become the tissue connecting the cosmic and the corporeal in the film’s unique cosmology.

It’s safe to say that you will not see another film like What Now? Remind Me in cinemas this year. Pinto’s 162-minute epic—made in collaboration with his husband, Nuno Leonel—is a deeply personal love letter to life lived fully, in the face of so much decay. The fifty-seven year old director, a central figure in Portuguese cinema who has worked with auteurs like Raúl Ruiz, Manoel de Oliveira, and João César Monteiro, has been living with HIV and Hepatitis C for nearly twenty years, and his latest documentary is an intimate diary of a year spent in a clinical trial for experimental treatment.

As the film shuttles between life on the couple’s remote farm and trips to medical centers, it weaves past and present, reverie and reality, the personal and the political. There are glimpses of Pinto’s early days in cinema, on set with Ruiz in 1981, and flashes of the vital generation of critics and filmmakers (including friends Derek Jarman and Serge Daney) devastated by AIDS. There are glimpses of his remarkable first two features, Tall Stories (1988) and Where the Sun Beats (1989). But What Now? Remind Me deftly skirts the solipsistic and the sentimental, and its striking images, evocative dissolves, and terrific soundtrack remain with you. It’s a testament to Pinto and Leonel’s extraordinary filmmaking, as well as to their remarkable decades-long relationship, that together they’ve produced a film that looks outward as generously and deeply as it looks inward.

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Film : Essay

Leos Carax's Boy Meets Girl

by Nicholas Elliott

Modern love in slow motion and black-and-white.

The French director Leos Carax made Boy Meets Girl (1984) at the age of twenty-three. You would expect a filmmaker in such a hurry to get his first feature out the gate to make something that zips past or hurtles forward, a youthful bullet train that leaves you with a smeared impression of shapes and faces and—if all went well—the promise of movies to come. But Boy Meets Girl is a slow movie, moving at a zig-zagging crawl to an inevitable but long-delayed outcome: the meeting of Alex (Denis Lavant), a nocturnal loner betrayed by his girlfriend Florence, and Mireille (Mireille Perrier), left alone on a summer’s night by her insensitive boyfriend. The movie is drawn out by the rich, dark shadows of its black-and-white images—deep pools in which the gaze finds no end—and the way Carax’s constant inventiveness lights up the peripheral action—nearly obscuring the central business of girl meeting boy—with a density of details including a woman driving to the mountains with her skis and ski poles poking through a hole in her windshield, and a man opening a giant empty fridge to kneel before it and cool off.

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Film : Interview

Josef Kubota Wladyka

by Gary M. Kramer

Companionship and levity emerge from the exploitation of the drug trade.

Manos Sucias, co-written and directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka, is a tense and urgent drama. The ripped-from-the-headlines story has nineteen-year-old Delio (Cristian James Abvincula) and Jacobo (Jarlin Javier Martinez) transporting a torpedo full of drugs to a rendezvous spot in the middle of the ocean off the Pacific coast of Colombia. Their journey—a coming of age road movie set on the water—has the pair encountering racism and setbacks as they also contemplate their future.

Wladyka, who deservedly won the Best New Narrative Director at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, has created a gritty but lyrical drama. Many of the elements in Manos Sucias are palpable—from the heat that beats down on the characters, right down to the rocking of the boat. Wladyka shrewdly makes the characters’ moments of boredom and anxiety interesting and authentic by emphasizing the space—from a cramped boat on the open water to the barrios and jungles the characters inhabit. The film memorably conveys a vibrant sense of time and place.

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Film : Interview

Lev Kalman

by Steve Macfarlane

Excess as a state of mind: intellectualism, vacation, and the pleasure of scenic rhythms.

Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s early ‘90s period piece, L For Leisure, is a simultaneous ode to—and interrogation of—the bourgeoisie’s right to a vacation. Spanning a series of jealousy-inducingly lush locales (including Laguna Beach, Long Island, the south of France, Baja, and Iceland) the film revels in those tiny, implacable moments of bliss and introspection perhaps best remembered by being left unarticulated. But if the film’s “body” is mostly made up of ravishing 16mm vistas, its mind is unerring in its specificity: Kalman and Horn’s characters are a smattering of grad students yakkety-yakking about whatever feels right at the time, alternately vain, insightful, sweetly curious, hilariously pretentious, and ultimately, all too human.

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Film : Interview

Nadav Lapid

by Liza Béar

Ritualistic contradictions, moral complexity, and minimalism shed light on issues of inequality in Policeman.

In Policeman, writer-director Nadav Lapid’s invigorating debut feature, Yaron (Yiftach Klein) balances his role as leader of an elite Israeli counterterrorist unit and that of expectant father, with a tantalizing mix of masculine bravura and sensitivity. The close-knit, five-man combat team, already under trial for civilian collateral damage—death and permanent injury of family members during the routine elimination of a suspected Palestinian terrorist—faces a special challenge when a group of young, upper-class Jewish radicals stage a kidnapping at the wedding of a billionaire’s daughter. Their aim is to draw attention not to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict per se but to sky-rocketing income disparities which have provoked widespread unrest in Israel. A morally complex, Bressonian film, which telegraphs its fractured storyline through minimalist but intensely physical scenes, Policeman draws the maximum power from its shrewdly observed characters, exploiting the irony of their situations. The film’s impact is enhanced by Shai Goldman’s pristine cinematography and the sparing use of dialogue or added soundtrack.

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Film : Interview

Jesse McLean

by Pamela Cohn

Jesse McLean simultaneously critiques, appropriates, and examines the pull of popular culture.

In Jesse McLean’s five-minute video work from 2011, Lose Yourself, a tinny disco beat bops on the soundtrack as words float on and off a throbbing pastel-colored background—the kind of palette one might encounter in a dentist’s office or radiating off a karaoke machine. The words are snippets of lyrics from chart-topping pop songs: “Let’s go all the way tonight,” “No regrets, just love,” “We can dance until we die, you and I,” “We’ll be young forever.” And also: “Drink that Kool-Aid,” and “Now, you’re one of us.” Most of McLean’s work attempts to parse our personal relationships to mass media and pop culture—how it can empower, define and unite us with others, but also how it can manipulate, confound, and impart a sense of loneliness. In McLean’s world, pop culture has ineffable power and influence over our everyday existences. I have not run across too many artists who consistently explore this relationship in such fresh and moving ways.

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Film : Interview

Nathan Silver

by David Louis Zuckerman

The director discusses Uncertain Terms, which is both the title of his newest film and an apt description of his filmmaking style.

In the past five years Nathan Silver has made four feature films, The Blind, Exit Elena, Soft In The Head, and premiering at the LA Film Festival next month, Uncertain Terms. Aesthetically, each of these films is its own animal and that is how Nathan prefers it. He is a process-oriented director, preferring to orchestrate anarchic improvisations in lieu of formal scripts. But in talking with him it is clear that the strategies and techniques he has experimented with have yet to settle into a strict set of rules. Instead Nathan speaks of each new project as a reaction against the previous. Uncertain Terms may be his most accessible film to date, with its broad plot and troupe of up-and-coming actresses. However, he seems to be preparing to turn the tables with his next project Stinking Heaven, a film about drug addicts that will be shot on grainy Beta Cam this summer. While most directors expend energy piloting their productions toward calmer waters, Nathan seems most in his element when surrounded by chaos. We recorded the following conversation in sound designer Gene Park’s mixing studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Nathan was finalizing the sound and score for Uncertain Terms.

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Film : Interview

Alejandro Jodorowsky

by Alex Zafiris

The theater director, filmmaker, and comic book artist on The Dance of Reality, his first film in over twenty years.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a legendary, incendiary artist. Escaping Chile and arriving in Paris in the late 1950s, he immersed himself in mime, surrealism, theater, and performance art, taking cues from Marcel Marceau, Luis Buñuel, and Antonin Artaud. His first short film, The Transposed Heads, appeared in 1957, followed by his first feature film, Fando y Lis, in 1968. Already writing comic books and heading a troupe called The Panic Movement, Jodo (as he is affectionately known) was now living in Mexico, where he filmed and then unleashed El Topo in 1970, a hallucinatory, brutal western starring himself as a gunfighter. The film entered the consciousness of the cultural elite—with Dennis Hopper and John Lennon as early champions—which helped secure funding for his tour-de-force,The Holy Mountain, whose central themes of alchemy, materialism and spiritual self-awareness were depicted with such radical imagery that it caused a riot at its 1973 Cannes Film Festival premiere.

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