Daily Postings
film : interview

Raam Reddy

by Daniel Kasman

“Freedom and bondage I find interesting. Or purity—and a contrast to that purity.”

This year’s edition of New Directors/New Films served as the perfect place for the North American premiere of Raam Reddy’s Thithi. To make this film, the crew—along with its 25-year-old director—immersed themselves in their south India location and built the narrative directly from the community. The story involves a modest saga of three generations of village men, each searching for their own kind of happiness. Their struggles and delights are seen as inextricable from their customs, which are effortlessly revealed in a manner suffused with generosity, understanding, and humor far wiser than the youth of its director might suggest. Here we are introduced to a town (Nodekoppalu), a language (Kannada), and an interconnected group of people—cast mainly from local non-professionals—rich and full of humanity. To watch Thithi is to be invited into a sprawling and diverse world—and to step through the cinema screen to explore a new place and meet new people. The film’s next stop on the festival circuit will be at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where screenings begin April 30, 2016.

Director Raam Reddy—who, incidentally, wrote his first novel at age 19—took home the First Feature and Cineasti del presente (Filmmakers of the Present) prizes at the Locarno Film Festival last year. I have no doubt he’ll be introducing more cinema to us soon. We began our conversation by talking about how Thithi might be received in his native India.

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film : interview

Adam Green, Alia Shawkat, & Francesco Clemente

“You’re looking at the human inverse of a technological idea.”

When I first learned that Adam Green—perhaps best known as the lead singer of the on-hiatus, indie stalwart band The Moldy Peaches—had made Aladdin, I thought the obvious: Macaulay Culkin should interview Green for BOMB. Reason? Culkin has a key role in this new film, and the Green-Culkin connection has already birthed several exasperating collaborations, plus it’s not often that the ex-star of Home Alone gets the space he deserves. But alas, it was not to be.

Miraculously, Francesco Clemente—who needs no introduction, and happens to play Aladdin’s Genie (WTF?)—was available. Even more surprising was the addition of another member of the cast, Alia Shawkat, who, among other things, is the actress who played the essential Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development. She turned the proposed one-on-one into a free-associative three-way.

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film : interview

Tom Sachs & Van Neistat

by Chris Chang

“I’ve always wanted to make something as good as an iPhone, and I never could, but Apple could never make anything as shitty as one of my sculptures or movies. And that’s a huge advantage.”

My intention at Tom Sachs’s Lower Manhattan art compound was to interview the artist and his longtime collaborator, the filmmaker Van Neistat. I wanted to talk about their new film, A Space Program, which chronicles the Sachs studio crew’s profoundly ambitious voyage to Mars as it was executed in a massive installation staged at the Park Avenue Armory back in 2012. That they actually complete this mission, albeit with plywood spaceships and hot glue, is a real tribute to their bulldog ingenuity.

NASA… Part of the original Eisenhower idea, in 1958, was that government research projects related to aeronautics or outer space need not necessarily focus on war and weaponization. The agency could, instead, set seemingly loftier, fantastic engineering goals, like the moon mission. The Sachs-brand NASA, with that same rigor, expands such a mission with excursions into zero-gravity opium cultivation and Japanese tea ceremony. Indeed, the Sachs studio could itself be described as a tea ceremony, or ritual, that—thanks to American innovation—has wonderfully lost its mind. (By all means, see Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony at the Noguchi Museum; it runs through July 24, 2016.)
 
The Sachs studio’s creed, “Creativity is the Enemy,” is another way of saying, “Stay on Task.” It was my intention to speak with Neistat and Sachs about their new film. Which is another way of saying, “Epic Fail.”

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film : interview

Arnaud Desplechin

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“I wanted to build the script as if we were entering into a brain or a memory, where you have separate elements existing in the same time and you don’t understand the logic.”

French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin—well known for Kings and Queen (2004) and A Christmas Tale (2008)—has made a sort of “prequel” to his first major cinematic work, My Sex Life ... or How I Got Into An Argument (1996). My Golden Days assigns an origin story to Desplechin’s former protagonist Paul Dédalus. It’s a personal and golden-hued tale of careless youthful passion. It stars Mathieu Amalric (the original Paul), and introduces the gusty newcomers, Quentin Dolmaire (the new Paul) and Lou Roy-Lecollinet (Esther).

Remembering his adolescence from the ripe old perch of middle-age, Paul Dédalus recalls three distinct chapters of his early life: the first, a painful childhood involving a depressed mother and violent father; the second, a strange trip he took to the USSR, where he offered up his own identity to a young Russian whom he deems his ghostly “double”; and the third, detailing his love affair with Esther. She’s the girl who matters most.

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film : interview

Nabil Ayouch

by Liza Béar

“There’s rampant hypocrisy in this society—a hypocrisy verging on schizophrenia.”

French-Moroccan writer-director Nabil Ayouch, now forty-six, is known for enlightening, nitty-gritty films like Ali Zaoua: Prince de la Rue, about a Casablanca street kid with big dreams, and Les Chevaux de Dieu (Horses of God), a rigorous study of what draws young men to Islamic fundamentalism. Ali Zaoua won the Ecumenical Prize at the 2000 Montreal Film Festival, and Horses of God was in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2012. Both films were Morocco’s selection for the Oscars in their respective years, so it must be particularly galling to Ayouch that his latest film, Much Loved, was censored there and not in other Muslim countries—such as Algeria and Tunisia.

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film : interview

Ricky D’Ambrose

by Steve Macfarlane

“I don’t want to continue making movies this way.”

Ricky D’Ambrose isn’t just discerning, he’s exacting. It’s palpable from the first frames of either of his short films: Pilgrims, from 2014, or Six Cents in the Pocket, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival. It’s also palpable in the way he stresses the syllables of the new film’s name, as if the title has been proofed for maximum poetic lucidity. D’Ambrose initially made a name for himself in the New York zone of film criticism for his rigorous-yet-casual video interviews (Chantal Akerman, Dan Sallitt, Gina Telaroli, Bruno Dumont, etc.), any of which you can watch for free, right now, on his Vimeo page. Like these conversations, both Pilgrims and Six Cents in the Pocket are productions of humble means (D’Ambrose paradoxically calls them “private”). Nevertheless, they are startling in their aesthetic sensibility. The elegance of the filmmaker’s taste speaks for itself, but what’s ultimately most beguiling about these short-form works are their formal ambition. Pilgrims mines its drama from the refusal of filmic proximity, as its protagonist monitors a protest gone full riot somewhere outside his apartment. D’Ambrose juxtaposes exegetic audio with diegetic—we hear sounds as the protagonist might be imagining them in his mind, or as a tinny broadcast from an offscreen computer.

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film : interview

Adam & Zack Khalil

by Pamela Cohn

“It’s the trickster element that exists throughout Ojibway storytelling and history, engaging both the sacred and the profane, turning things upside down and looking at them from a fresh perspective.”

The Ojibway are the fourth largest Native American tribe in a swath of country spread across both Canada and the United States. A once powerful and bountiful nation, the Ojibway are known for their sacred birch bark scrolls—legendary documents that contain prophecies along with the group’s history, songs, maps, memories, and stories. Raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and currently making their home in New York, Ojibway filmmakers Adam and Zack Khalil (twenty-seven and twenty-four years old respectively) have been working on their latest project for several years. And it’s one they started with their mother, an indigenous scholar, in their hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. Carrying on her legacy, they posit that the history of an oppressed people can be rescued from complete extinction by reclaiming their own narratives from the archives and museums that would have their people bound, gagged, and confined to the past.

Ultimately a deeply personal quest, their film cleverly and passionately opens up an arsenal of archival imagery, interviews, animations, performances, and rapid-fire, poetic cut-ups to make a case for the Ojibway to be their own storytellers once again. Having done shorter work both separately and collaboratively, INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place/it flies. falls./] is their first feature-length work. Most of their projects to date have been video installations that sculpt moving image and sound to create bespoke landscapes of the Ojibway experience. The first iteration of this work was as a looping, multi-channel installation with various objects arranged around it, but as a film it stands on its own as an artful and brilliant collage, expressing hope, pain, despair, and the trickster humor that is so evocative of its people.

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film : interview

Ciro Guerra

by Andrew Bourne

“It was no longer important to be accurate. I came to understand that imagination and dreams were as important to them as any fact.”

While Embrace of the Serpent—Ciro Guerra’s third, incantatory feature film—took the top Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes and, among other honors, is the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Oscar (and also the first with an indigenous protagonist), these superlatives are perhaps less intriguing than its upending of the familiar heart-of-darkness jungle narrative. Like a potion, or better yet, like a blast of medicinal “sun’s semen” from a shaman’s snuff pipe, the visionary mode of Amazonian storytelling is here at the helm. Although worlds more solemn and far less abstract, it’s as close as major independent filmmaking will get to, say, the flavor of Juan Downey’s experimental ethnographic video art. Excruciatingly well shot and cast, Embrace doses us with a waking dream of the early twentieth-century Amazon, turning mainstream depictions of the region, and even Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, inside out.

As with Guerra’s previous film, The Wind Journeys (2009)—which is a Western of sorts, replacing the gun-slinging shootout with a piqueria vallenata (something akin to a rap battle, but with dueling accordions)—the Colombian landscape is every bit as expressive as the actors. Both films drink deeply of roadtrip and even buddy-film tropes, and both portray native peoples as our healers, but only Embrace, with its bruising indictment of materialist civilization, comes on like a spirit or a drug.

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film : interview

Abigail Child & Peter Bo Rappmund

“Immaculate breakage! Elegant mobile! Yes! Yes! That’s it exactly!”

This interview begins—as many things should—with self-confessed ignorance. I was unaware of the films of Peter Bo Rappmund, until MUBI, the cine-website, programmed three. His work obviously belongs to a canon I revere. The criterion for that canon, which extends beyond film, has no official “ism.” Its contributing members—according to me—include Joseph Beuys, La Monte Young, and Walter De Maria. Marina Abramovic, Chantal Akerman, and Maya Deren, also fit the bill. James Benning, an archon of the aesthetic, tutored Bo Rappmund at CalArts.

I intended to assign a piece that would focus on Peter (born 1979, Wyoming), but when I made contact, I learned that his new work, Communion Los Angeles, wasn’t quite ready. I then noticed that Abigail Child’s 1983 short film, Mutiny, was scheduled for MoMA PS1’s Greater New York exhibition. I believe Child (born 1948, Newark) belongs to a completely different canon. Maya Deren (born 1917, Kiev) is perhaps the fold in the Child/Bo Rappmund fabric. Mutiny’s humanistic delirium is a far cry from Peter’s landscape lucidity. Or is it? I asked Peter to interview Abby. I placed them in touch. Abby admitted her ignorance of Peter’s work. Peter, the youngest, was of course aware of Abby. As Abby accepted, she described the pairing, “quixotic.” Truth be told—that’s the highest compliment anyone can get.

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film : interview

Jia Zhangke

by Nicholas Elliott

“I don't see myself as an ambassador of Chinese reality.”

Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s new film, Mountains May Depart, bears all the hallmarks of the seven previous features that have made him one of the most important filmmakers of our age. As always, Jia threads intimate moments in the lives of a few individuals into a canvas that works both as muted melodrama and large-scale reflection on Chinese society. Yet the film also features a significant misstep that has left many of his admirers wondering what went wrong.

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film : interview

Brian Oakes

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“If you can’t go to church, and the only way you can pray, or connect to your god, is through another process, then that becomes the thing you do.”

The image of journalist James Foley, the first American to be murdered by ISIS in 2014, is now infamous. Wearing an orange jumpsuit, he was crudely executed in a video made public by the militant religious group. With the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story, Foley’s childhood friend Brian Oakes makes his feature directorial debut. The result is an intimate portrait of the man behind the sensationalized image. Oakes takes the political and renders it personal. The doc tracks Foley’s life through stirring footage shot in Syria and Libya (much of it taken by Foley himself) and interviews with his family, friends, and colleagues. Most harrowing are the director’s conversations with Foley’s fellow hostages—the men who were imprisoned with him in Syria before his death. These reporters reveal details of their joint captivity that are both frightening and beautiful. Their connections with Jim are strong and lasting.  

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film : interview

Ross Partridge

by Gary M. Kramer

“She’ll be like an apple tree among all the ash-colored buildings of that granite city.”

Ross Partridge wrote, directed, and stars in Lamb, an adaptation of Bonnie Nadzam’s celebrated first novel of the same name. The film chronicles an abnormal relationship that develops between David (Partridge), a forty-seven-year-old man, and Tommie (Oona Laurence), an eleven-year-old girl. An ostensible love story, Lamb describes a peculiar platonic bond. Both David—whose father has recently passed away, and Tommie, whose parents may as well have—are depicted as lost, lonely souls, looking for any sort of human connection possible. They find it, of course, in each other. When David takes Tommie to his family’s cabin in Wyoming, the trip reveals psycho-emotional volumes. Their seemingly inappropriate pairing generates a strange power—one cast over the film’s audience.

Partridge, a character actor best known for his collaborations with the Duplass Brothers (Baghead, Do-Deca-Pentathlon) and in the underseen comedy, Treatment, takes a sincere yet distanced approach to this material. He never exploits or sensationalizes.

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film : interview

Bob Mankoff

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“Humor teaches us that you can be a good person but also have bad thoughts.”

Very Semi-Serious, a documentary by first-time director Leah Wolchok, follows a gaggle of cartoonists and one colorful editor who produce work for The New Yorker—a magazine that, perhaps, boasts the most intellectual cartoon consortium in the world. Bob Mankoff, the department’s grizzled and energetic editor, acts as this doc’s narrator. From his perspective, we peer behind the scenes of the iconic publication: he meets with editor-in-chief David Remnick to show him the latest laughs, reads hundreds of cartoon submissions, listens to pitches from young hopefuls and old hats, and draws his own funnies, always stippled with his signature tiny dots. Though Mankoff claims he can’t draw very well, he concedes that “the marks you make on paper outlast you—and they have the spontaneity that life has.”

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film : interview

Jason Harvey & Josh Safdie

“I draw bad guys for a living.”

Thanks to the undercover work of Josh Safdie—one of our most trusted civilian independent filmmakers—and Jason Harvey—a stalwart of the NYPD’s Forensic Investigation Division—so-called criminal minds can seriously collide. Josh, with his brother Ben, co-directed the must-be-seen Heaven Knows What (2014), a deliriously existential vision of lost NYC youth. And Jason Harvey is, of course, a police officer. He’s also a visionary of a different stripe. His first solo gallery show, co-curated by Safdie and Adam Shopkorn, is up through January 10, 2016 at Fort Gansevoort. Shopkorn, as it happens, collaborated on the Safdie’s 2013 film, Lenny Cooke. So it’s either all in the family—or just circumstantial evidence.

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film : interview

Radu Muntean

by Gary M. Kramer

“Everyone operates in their own world.”

Radu Muntean is part of the New Wave of Romanian directors whose work was recently showcased at Lincoln Center’s compact yet insightful Romanian Film Festival. Unlike his compatriots who make politically charged allegories—such as Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective (2009), Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), or Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)Muntean’s focus has been more on ordinary citizens in the domestic sphere. For example, his 2008 film, Boogie, concerns a man trying to reconnect both with his lost youth and his present-day family; he runs into old friends on holiday and spends an evening carousing, which causes a fight with his wife. Muntean is also probably best known for Tuesday, After Christmas (2011), about an ill-timed love affair. (Aren’t they all.)

With One Floor Below, Muntean continues to explore the fragility of everyday life with a story that hinges on a crucial moment outside of his protagonist’s control. Patrascu (Teodor Corban) eavesdrops on his next-door neighbors Laura (Maria Popistasu) and Vali (Iulian Postelnicu) while they argue. When Vali discovers Patrascu listening it leads to an awkward encounter. But things become even more uncomfortable when Laura dies—possibly murdered. A policeman investigates, but Patrascu does not reveal everything that he knows. The subtle suspense builds as Patrascu and Vali test each other to see who will crack first. One Floor Below is a slow-burn character study that benefits greatly from Muntean’s naturalist style.

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film : interview

Miguel Gomes

by Tânia Cypriano

“What I believe is that you just keep filming.”

Inspired by the original tales—mainly to borrow the help of Scheherazade’s beauty and storytelling abilities—Arabian Nights, the new work by Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes, is a body of three films that combine different cinematic styles and moods to address the state of things in present-day Portugal. The country has suffered great socio-economic hardships due to a financial crisis that began in 2008. Setting out to give a voice to his countrymen, Gomes embarked on a year of filming a series of both fictional and real stories—the latter scouted by journalists, as they were happening across the country. With tales of the absurd and fantastical mixed with the harsh realities of unemployment, suicide, police incompetence, and even an exploding whale, Arabian Nights is about narratives and the many ways of expressing them.

Thirty minutes is certainly not enough time to speak about six-plus hours of film, and definitely not for Arabian Nights. But here we’ve started to chip away at it.

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film : interview

Mathieu Amalric

by Nicholas Elliott

“As soon as you film someone it accelerates the deterioration of love.”

On the late October morning that I interviewed French actor-director Mathieu Amalric his IMDB profile cited 106 movies. I expect by the time this interview is published the number will rise. Amalric is everywhere—and everywhere expands to make more room for him. Over the last twenty years, viewers have seen his nervous but alluring energy in six films by Arnaud Desplechin—one of the leading French auteurs of our era—and in movies by a literal who’s who of contemporary French directors, including his regular collaborators the Larrieu brothers, and the late, great Alain Resnais. He has turned up as James Bond’s nemesis in Quantum of Solace, a lunatic in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, and an insufferable theater director in Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur. He is possibly the only man alive to have worked with both Raul Ruiz and Steven Spielberg. Not to mention Julian Schnabel and Eugène Green.

Amalric, to borrow his own word, was “invented” as an actor by Arnaud Desplechin—whom he met in the early ’90s. Desplechin cast him in a small part in his first feature, The Sentinel, and then cast him again as the lead of the cinematic milestone, My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument.

It is difficult to make generalizations about Amalric’s films as a director. Of his five features, he has only acted in the last two, which seem like polar opposites. On Tour follows a troupe of American burlesque dancers, and their washed-up manager (played by Amalric), across France. The movie feels sprawling, open to distractions and digressions, messy, and generous like the dancers who are at its center. The Blue Room is as concise as concise gets: this 76-minute adaptation of a George Simenon novel moves back and forth in time, but takes no detours in dealing with its cold facts of adultery and murder. Perhaps the difference between the two films comes down to their protagonists: the manager in On Tour has nowhere to go but up—while the adulterous husband in The Blue Room has everything to lose. Many of Amalric’s defining roles have featured men staring into the abyss of failure. That he has managed to capture the frustrations and fears of his generation while remaining utterly charming makes him a great movie star.

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film : interview

David Shapiro & Alix Lambert

“What is this? The Sophie’s Choice of creativity?”

Artist and filmmaker, David Shapiro, is a keeper and teller of stories. Through attention to detail, patience, and a methodically intuitive approach, he has produced work in numerous forms. He was inspired to make his award-winning film, Keep The River on Your Right, by a book he found in the garbage. In his new film, Missing People, Shapiro continues his exploration of people’s idiosyncrasies and obsessions through the intersection of art and memory. Missing People is a nonfiction mystery about Martina Batan, the former director of the prominent New York gallery, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Off duty, Martina obsessively collects the violent work (and life) of Roy Ferdinand, a little-known self-taught artist from New Orleans. As Martina begins to research Fedinand’s life, she also opens a private investigation into her younger brother’s long unsolved murder (from 1978) and her own demons. As Martina struggles to process the information she has dug up, the inevitable collision of these parallel narratives leads to a chain of dramatic events. Through multiple story lines, art, murder, and a constant searching, Missing People shows us how similar we are in our differences.

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film : interview

Rick Alverson

by Gary M. Kramer

“A cat and mouse game between attraction and repulsion.”

Entertainment may be the most disturbing movie about a stand-up comedian since Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. It’s certainly another fascinating film by writer/director Rick Alverson, whose blistering last effort, The Comedy (2012), was equally unsettling.

In Entertainment Gregg Turkington plays “The Comedian,” a sweaty stand-up comic (his Neil Hamburger alter ego) on a tour of prisons and bars in the Mojave desert. His act, which includes off-color humor—often involving celebrities—is met more with heckles than laughs. Offstage, things are equally bleak. The Comedian tries to reconnect with his daughter, but only leaves voice messages. He has encounters with various people, ranging from his cousin (John C. Reilly), to a bathroom hustler (Michael Cera), and a pregnant woman (Ashley Atwood). Each magnifies each other’s despair. On occasion, he takes tours of airplane graveyards, oil fields, and western towns, but generally he sits in his hotel room watching Mexican TV.

Alverson’s style of filmmaking uses a deadpan approach that forces audiences to react to the characters and events being presented.The awkwardness will get under the viewers’ skin—if it doesn’t get on their nerves.

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film : interview

Lisa Immordino Vreeland

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“She wasn’t loved, so she didn’t know how to give love.”

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is a documentary portrait of one of the world’s most legendary female art collectors and patrons. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s last film, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, was a similar retrospective on the life and career of the fabled fashion icon. This time, Vreeland (the director—not the style maven) explores the vivid, art-filled life of Peggy, a champion of creative talent. The film is a mixture of vast archival footage, still photographs, and interviews with some of the art world’s prominent movers and shakers—mostly men—such as Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Larry Gagosian, Marina Abramović, and Arne Glimcher. Vreeland also unearthed the last interview Guggenheim ever gave and wove those sound bites into the narrative; featuring Peggy’s long conversation with biographer Jacqueline Bograd Weld, these audiotapes reveal her particular brand of bawdy humor.

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film : interview

Frederick Wiseman

by Nicholas Elliott

“The best comedy is sad comedy.”

As its title indicates, Frederick Wiseman’s documentary In Jackson Heights is a plunge into the Queens neighborhood unofficially known as the most diverse in the world. From the mosque to the Jewish community center, from a poultry slaughterhouse to the strobing lights of a gay bar with go-go dancers, and from the taxi school instructor who missed his calling as a standup comedian to the receptionists stoically taking angry calls for a city council member, Wiseman has scoured the streets to bring us not only a portrait of a neighborhood but a reflection on the very idea of our nation. The Jackson Heights of Wiseman’s film functions as a powerful microcosm. It’s a place where civil liberties flourish, but safe havens are threatened by free markets, with recent arrivals exploited for cheap labor and small shopkeepers driven out by a Business Improvement District designed to usher in big-box stores. Viewers will be delighted by a film as dizzyingly varied in its colors and moods as the area it focuses on, heartened by the commitment of the grass-roots organizations and activists that are at its center, but also chilled by the processes endangering the neighborhood and its population. As such, the film is most valuable as a primer on the American experiment today.

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film : portfolio

Portfolio

by Abounaddara

“The enemy is indifference.”

Working anonymously, Abounaddara is a filmmaking collective that produces videos about individual Syrians on all sides of the current conflict. The work depicts daily life in a society wracked by atrocities. As self-styled “emergency cinema,” the group seeks to transcend mainstream war reporting by making use of both the wide reach and anonymity afforded by online video platforms. Each week, videos are posted as missives in the fight for freedom and dignity of all Syrians—implying that the Syrian crisis is far from “local” or “isolated,” but rather a matter of global concern and global doing.

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film : interview

Jenni Olson

by Steve Macfarlane

“I’m not thinking about the market. I’m thinking about what I want to say.”

Would that we could all be as eloquent as Jenni Olson. Built entirely of static, real-time 16mm panoramas, the San Francisco-based archivist and filmmaker’s new sixty-four-minute essay film, The Royal Road, investigates California history alongside Olson’s own projections of romantic happiness (and its opposite). It lulls the viewer down State Route 1—the Camino Real, or “Royal Road”—to the tune of a meandering voice-over. The Road was so named by the Franciscan monks colonizing the then-Mexican state under the guidance of the recently canonized Junipero Serra, monuments to whom Olson finds dotting the landscape during her sojourn, wherein “the painful truths of conquest are successfully buried under tales of heroic missionary priests, and grandly picturesque Spanish California ranches.”

At the end of Route 1 lies a woman with whom Olson is, according to her narration, infatuated—but the film obscures what will happen when she arrives in Los Angeles, preferring to ruminate on classic Hollywood movies like Vertigo and Sunset Boulevard. If the filmmaker has one eye crooked in the rear-view direction of history and its countless nullifications (resettlement of the indigenous population, forced annexation, and so forth), the other eye stares unnervingly forward.

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film : interview

Laurie Anderson

by Gary M. Kramer

“I watched language falling apart.”

Laurie Anderson’s wistful, elegiac film, Heart of a Dog, uses animation, video, home movie clips, and dream sequences to chronicle not just her life with Lolabelle, her rat terrier, but more generally how humans and animals communicate, their shared sense of companionship, and our processes of death, grief, and coping with trauma. That said, Anderson’s film is essentially about storytelling—a theme the artist/filmmaker/musician has been exploring since the start of her long and storied career. Here, her voice carries us into a kaleidoscope of images, textures, and music that evoke both human and canine experiences of the world.

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film : interview

Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson

by Steve Macfarlane

"I’m always dipping myself into our stuff and seeing what color I turn."

In the films of Guy Maddin, fabulist par excellence, memories don’t just emerge or recede per usual—they gallivant, threatening to take whole works hostage, punctuating and/or mutating the frame with phantasmal surreptitiousness. Co-directed with Evan Johnson, his spellbinding new The Forbidden Room is disguisable for Maddin at his most Maddin-esque: the film is a whirligig cross-indexing of recreations of long-forgotten films (based entirely on their titles), bookended—to the extent such a term applies—by scenes from something called How To Take A Bath, written by the poet John Ashbery, as played by Maddin regular Louis Negin. Shrinking, blotching, and clarifying on a dime, the protoplasmic nature of Johnson and Maddin’s digitally mediated imagery is of a piece with The Forbidden Room’s amnesiac framing device, allowing for the abrogated mini-narratives to crumble and dissolve into one another like novellas with pages ripped out.

Lest I’m making The Forbidden Room sound like some kind of anti-structural exercise: the film is also really fun. Maddin and Johnson’s scenelets were performed and shot live at the Pomidou Centre in Paris, and the picture throbs with the excitement of on-the-spot creativity, thumbing its nose at earthly notions of verisimilitude and revealing new ingenuities in the construction of its every last scene and backdrop. Like many of Maddin’s works, Room is both a paean to a certain bygone cinema and a dissection of its vernacular, drawing sustenance (and a not-insubstantial number of belly laughs) from the limits and liberations of playing dress-up in front of a rear projection.

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