News to Me: Godard, Mambéty, and Loznitsa
First off, some banner news from our parent organization: Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today the launch of a new name—Film at Lincoln Center—as well as a slate of free summer programming and a renewed commitment to its mission. Find out more and read the full press release here, and help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of Film at Lincoln Center, all summer long.
1. Though some predicted that The Image Book may be Jean-Luc Godard’s final film, at age 88 the French-Swiss pioneer is already planning his next project: a story centered on the Yellow Vest protests and inspired by Jean Racine’s play Bérénice. “It won’t be made just of what you call archival images. There will also be a shoot,” Godard said in an interview with Les Inrockuptibles. “I don’t know whether I’ll find what one calls actors. I’d like to film the people one sees on news channels but plunging them into a situation where documentary and fiction blend.”
2. Metrograph Pictures, the newly launched theatrical distribution offshoot of New York’s Metrograph cinema, is releasing a restoration of Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas. Screenings began in New York last week, and the film will travel North America over the next few months. In this 2015 essay for e-flux, Charles Tonderai Mudede probes what he labels the “New Afro-Pessimism,” unpacking Mambéty’s claim that the film “depicts a human drama. My task was to identify the enemy of humankind: money, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.” For more on Mambéty, keep an eye peeled tomorrow morning for our next entry in our From the Archives series, which posts every Tuesday.
3. This weekend Disney continued its global onslaught as Avengers: Endgame made nearly $1.5 billion worldwide. But the bloodshed doesn’t stop there: with the recent $71 billion acquisition of Fox, Disney’s studio chief Alan Horn has already begun to axe multiple projects. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this corporate crackdown includes the strangely puritanical practice of curbing smoking in films—even in something as innocuous as Steven Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story.
4. As a 22-year-long culmination of brand loyalty, the aforementioned Marvel juggernaut has proven almost immune to criticism—partly due to its protective layer of prickly zealots. In response, Catherine Shoard, film editor for The Guardian, writes that the “cumulative effect of compulsory positivity is guaranteed disappointment. The tyranny of niceness discourages anything that might immediately upset anyone.” Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair covers similar territory, criticizing those who would be critical of critics, responding to recent outbursts from Michael Che, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber.
5. Staying with pop-corporate news just a little longer: in recent months, Netflix has solidified its status as king of the “brands saying bae” marketing style. That is, the “apparent mandate to be as meme-worthy as possible,” throwing “all sense of corporate distance out the window.” Writing for The Baffler, Corey Atad rants poetic on the oh-so-cloying nature of Netflix’s predatory wokeness.
6. It’s not all doom, gloom, digital media and Disney, however: for Filmmaker magazine, Vadim Rizov has compiled his annual roundup of U.S. films shot on 35mm. More than just a diligent work of accounting, Rizov investigates the various factors—economic and aesthetic—that influence contemporary filmmaking.
7. Sergei Loznitsa has announced his next film, State Funeral, which will focus on the absurd spectacle of Stalin’s death. “The film will follow the chronology of the four days,” said Loznitsa, “from the announcement of Stalin’s death to the funeral in the Red Square.” Unlike Donbass, the film will see Loznitsa return to his montage mode of filmmaking, with State Funeral comprised of material from the Russian state archive, and in particular, footage from the unreleased 1953 film The Great Farewell. Also: check out a video of Loznitsa’s recent “masterclass” on the use of found footage.
8. Two new announcements coming out of Cannes this week confirmed both the Directors’ Fortnight and Cannes Classics lineups. The former includes work from Lav Diaz, Johnny Ma, and Bertrand Bonello—as well as Robert Eggers’s much-anticipated sophomore film, The Lighthouse. The classics selection will see the boomers take a bow, as Easy Rider returns to the festival 50 years after its debut, with Peter Fonda in attendance. (This interview with Fonda, on the troubles between him and Dennis Hopper, is as tragic as the film itself.)
9. In this two-part interview with Suburban Birds director Qiu Sheng, the filmmaker shares his experiences growing up in China, seeing the massive shifts in wealth, the movement from rural to urban spaces, and the shock of returning home one day and finding it unrecognizable.
10. Experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon passed away earlier this month. (Some of his work is available via his Vimeo channel, such as the opening section of American Falls, embedded below.) Two touching tributes come from David Hudson at Criterion and Kyle Harris at Westword. Solomon’s films (and the filmmaker himself) featured in Film Comment‘s 2010 Best of the Decade: Avant-Garde poll, but perhaps the most extensive write-up on the late artist comes from Jacob Waltman’s blog, Making Light of It.