News to Me: Imperial Disney, Halloween horrors, and a decade in review
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
1) No trick, all treat: at the end of October, our new Nov-Dec issue will be released—that’s the last Film Comment for the 2010s! Our cover story on Little Women sees Greta Gerwig sit down for an extensive interview with Devika Girish, with other features on The Irishman, Uncut Gems, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire inside. To hear the early word on new issues and all other good things Film Comment, it’s well worth subscribing to our weekly Newsletter, which features a word from the Editor-in-Chief, recently digitized archival pieces, and our Weekly Streaming Picks.
2) “We’re now 11 years into the imperial phase of Disney’s expansion . . . Disney’s overall goal is to claim as many screens at a theater as possible for its newer titles, even if some of them are packing the house but others are selling just a handful of tickets per show.” There was some speculation back in September that the Fox acquisition would spell doom for smaller for-profit cinemas. Many of those worst fears have been confirmed of late, with Matt Zoller Seitz writing on Disney’s “long-standing ‘Disney Vault’ strategy of artificially creating excitement for a repertory title by keeping film prints out of theaters.”
3) “Who was the Joker of 1915?” J. Hoberman asks the question on everyone’s mind for The New York Times. The answer, for those playing at home, is Mario Roncoroni’s Filibus, the story of a sky-pirate cross-dressing jewel thief, playing at Anthology Film Archives until October 30. Hoberman notes that the film’s writer, Giovanni Bertinetti, famous for his science-fiction novels, would go on to pen a manifesto in 1918, where he labels cinema “the exponent of an entirely new way of considering life and the universe.” (For Hoberman in a more serious review-mode: here’s his piece on Synonyms, now screening at Film at Lincoln Center.)
4) In synonymous news: Melissa Anderson reviews the film in the latest edition of 4Columns, writing that Synonyms’s protagonist, Yoav, “approaches language acquisition as a martial art . . . it is while he is in motion or outdoors that his self-directed vocabulary lessons start to resemble an incantation.” (Anderson had another great piece last week on Downtown 81, now playing at Metrograph.) Synonyms director Nadav Lapid recently picked five of his favorites for Le Cinéma Club, writing on Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man For Himself as being unfairly labelled “the return of JLG to commercial cinema”—“If so, let’s all be commercial.”
5) The only thing film critics like more than watching movies is making lists, and for that activity, ‘tis the season. Several critics are submitting their best-of lists for the annual Sight & Sound poll, including Jonathan Rosenbaum and Jordan Cronk. There will be plenty more in the coming weeks, with the year, decade, and planet all coming to an end, but for a more formal announcement of what art was objectively better than others: the Gotham Independent Film Awards have posted all their nominees, with the award ceremony set to take place on Monday, December 2.
6) It’s Black History Month in jolly old England, and to mark the occasion Channel 4 is showcasing work from young artists on the theme of “Black Britain.” All six of the films are available here, with Little Whites Lies offering a short synopsis of each title, as well as quotes from the various directors. And for a double-up of short film celebrations: Strand Releasing is commemorating its 30th anniversary by asking 30 of its filmmaker friends to produce short films on the new iPhone. Last month saw films from Fatih Akin and Karim Aïnouz posted on IndieWire, with Filmmaker Magazine recently releasing films by Ira Sachs, James Schamus, and Elisabeth Subrin.
7) After an unlikely ten-year relationship between the country’s premiere nonfiction film festival and a conservative evangelical megachurch, True/False Film Fest and The Crossing are parting ways. The Ragtag Film Society—a non-profit who run True/False and Columbia’s Ragtag Cinema—announced last week that they “will not give a sponsor’s place of prominence to any organization that discriminates or explicitly devalues LGBTQ+ citizens.” The statement comes as a response to one of The Crossing’s pastors, Keith Simon, giving a sermon in genderism earlier this month, titled “Male and Female. Ancient Text. Modern Debate.”
8) “The decade was a decade of change. On one hand, you have Disney owning everything, and every single franchise on earth . . . [And on the other], streaming services are providing a key outlet for filmmakers who wouldn’t get their film’s funded otherwise.” Earlier this month, Senses of Cinema published their enormous new issue, reflecting on the decade that was with a dossier titled, “This Is What Defined Cinema in the 2010s.” Editors Mark Freeman (whose introductory essay can be found here) and Cesar Albarran-Torres recently sat down with (Australia’s) ABC to discuss the issue’s many conflicting ideas.
9)“Art doesn’t save the world or save anybody. It comes after. Far too late after.” Talkhouse recently posted an excerpt from the diaries of Luc Dardennes—as featured in On the Back of Our Images, Vol. I, released earlier this year. The passages are filled with plenty of lament and vitriol (“God is dead. We know this. We’re alone. We know this.”) but it’s mostly directed at television and its viewers: “Art and modern life blur together. The divide disappears. Have to make a film for which viewers would forget to eat and drink.”
10) The Film Stage posted two great pieces on The Irishman this weekend, both revolving around a recent discussion between Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee for The Director’s Cut, the official podcast of the DGA. The first is their wrap-up of the occasion, pulling all the most important quotes for your reading pleasure (on Frank’s daughter, Lucy: “I decided she doesn’t have to say anything. You see your father do something like that, I’m sorry . . . other kids maybe, but this kid couldn’t take it); and the second, unpacking all the films and literature that inspired Scorsese in making the film (like Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night: “A whole life. Something I can never explain to you. You had to live it with me. You had to be me. That’s what we were trying to go for in the film.”).
11) BONUS: In a much-appreciated act of off-the-clock curation, BAM’s Ashley Clark offered up a pre-Halloween treat on Twitter: Antonio Mercero’s 1972 short film, La Cabina. “Go in blind, come out scarred for life,” writes Clark. The film was featured ten years ago by Reverse Shot as part of their regular Halloween symposium, “A Few Great Pumpkins,” with Adam Nayman writing: “there are some wonderful details in the reaction shots of the gawkers, like how one man, who has brought a chair, magnanimously offers it to a stooped old woman so that she might better appreciate the unfolding human tragicomedy.” (“A Few Great Pumpkins” returns this year—a week-long list of horrors opening with Unfriended: Dark Web.) Also: keep your eyes (and ears) open this week for a very special—and very spooky—Film Comment podcast.
We leave you this week with the film in question.