News to Me: Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, and Adam Sandler
Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2019)
1) Yorgos Lanthimos is in talks to direct an adaptation of The Hawkline Monster. The novel, a “gothic western parody” by Richard Brautigan, has been on the cusp of production for years—first as a Hal Ashby project with Jack Nicholson set to star, and then later as a Tim Burton project with… Jack Nicholson set to star. Set mainly in Oregon, the story follows a pair of oddball gunmen hired by a young Native American woman, Magic Child, to hunt the “monster” that lives in the “ice caves” under her home—a strange place filled with magic and mind-bending chemicals. Lanthimos will re-team with the production cohort behind The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster.
2) Lanthimos recently featured in Variety’s “Directors on Directors” series, heaping praise on Josh and Benny Safdie’s new film Uncut Gems: “There is a suspenseful plot, there are complex characters, there are high stakes, but the most important thing is the sense that you are watching something which is one of a kind.” For more on the Safdies: Jonathan Rosenbaum penned this piece for Metrograph’s Edition, arguing that the brotherly duo “aren’t quite the nihilists that they’re sometimes cracked up to be,” and Interview magazine recently sat down with Wayne Diamond to discuss his role in the film—aptly credited as “Handsome Older Man.”
3) “The last scene we shot of the main principal photography was the colonoscopy scene. I think the proctologist was a real one, and we were all laughing so hard because of how monotone he described Adam Sandler’s rectum . . . It was another pure non-actor moment.” On the making of those titular gems, Filmmaker magazine spoke with Deneice O’Connor, the prop department’s “Opal Quarterback,” to discuss whether that blinged-out furby was real or fake (“There were a lot of times I had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry in my bag”). And one last thing on Uncut Gems—assuming you’ve already read Michael Koresky’s print-only essay—is the Bill Simmons podcast with Adam Sandler and castmate/courtmate Kevin Garnett, where the two talk SNL and NBA.
4) Last week, we mourned the sad passing of Anna Karina. Since then, Criterion’s David Hudson has put together one of his typically all-encompassing obituaries for the French New Wave icon, writing that “any discussion of Karina’s illustrious career always circles back to the seven features she made with Godard. Fairly or not, it’s this short-lived yet remarkable partnership that continues to capture critics’ imaginations.” This includes a recently unearthed piece from French critic Serge Daney, published in 1988, who writes on the importance of filmmakers being “madly in love with their actresses.” And finally, as something of a farewell, La Cinémathèque française posted this short video of the actress—“Anna Karina – Hommage.”
5) On the other side of that epochal pairing: a recent Cahiers du cinéma interview with Jean-Luc Godard has been (mostly) translated from French thanks to Srikanth Srinivasan and Andy Rector. In it, the self-identified “refugee” describes his current status: “I’m in this no-man’s-land. I’m lost. What I’ve always done, and consciously so, is to remain in cinema, despite the activism, the signatures, the social movements, despite being for the gilets jaunes, whoever they are . . . Cinema is the little history, but it’s grand as well.” The interview also includes some details on Godard’s forthcoming Scénario—a six-part collage of current events, myth, literature, “fake news,” and more.
6) Having now covered Godard and Karina, it seems only fitting to turn to Agnès Varda and the just-begun retrospective of her work at Film at Lincoln Center. For 4Columns, Sukhdev Sandhu writes on Varda’s late-era transformation from underappreciated Nouvelle Vague–adjacent figure to meme-ified tote bag emblem: “Her distinctive look—a sly nun with hair that resembled avant-garde crème brûlée—helped make her an icon, a cuddlier Yayoi Kusama . . . It was hard not to feel this belated spotlight was distorting, that Varda was being defanged and patronized.” Playing until January 6, the retrospective carries us from Varda’s incisive early films through to her fitting finale, Varda par Agnès, with appearances by producer and collaborator Rosalie Varda, and a special Film Comment talk with filmmakers about the influence of the director’s groundbreaking body of work. Our In Memoriam piece from the May/June 2019 issue is available here.
7) Peter Wollen, a critic and filmmaker integral to the development of film history, theory, and criticism, passed away on December 17. Verso books have made Wollen’s seminal “An Alphabet of Cinema” available via their website (“Back to zero. Begin again. A is for Avant-Garde”). More of Wollen’s work is available with access to The New Left Review or Screen—the BFI-backed journal he re-founded in 1971 with then-wife Laura Mulvey. Artforum have published an obituary, and so too has Tilda Swinton, announcing that Wollen’s almost-lost film, Friendship’s Death, is receiving a new print thanks to the BFI, hopefully available in 2020.
8) “With ten years’ distance, we’ve more or less come to a cultural consensus on what was important then, and what we can forget about now. But before we close the book, and on the tenth anniversary of her death, I’d like to nominate to the critical pantheon the work of Brittany Murphy.” For Flood magazine, Lizzie Logan dives into a lesser-appreciated career, reappraising Murphy’s work and how the circumstances of her death “affected her legacy, or lack thereof.”
9) As with the above, the end of the decade prompts reflection on what’s come and gone, and to this end the Frameland team are wrapping up 2019 with a series on defining figures: directors, actors, cinematographers, and more. FC contributor Nick Davis has begun his Top 100 countdown—not simply a bare-bones list but a series of exciting and excavating essays. And of course, we have our own Decade Project underway, now three episodes deep (films, crew members, and actors). There’s plenty more on the decade that is coming soon in our next issue, so keep your eyes peeled!
10) And finally, a few words on the forthcoming Berlinale: new helmsmen Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek have reordered things a little, removing the “out of competition” category and replacing it with the Berlinale Special Gala. Its inaugural guest: Matteo Garrone’s Pinocchio. More film announcements include entries in the Perspektive, Panorama, and Forum Expanded categories. And as part of the festival’s special 70th Anniversary events, Rissenbeek and Chatrian have scheduled a series of inter-director dialogues. The list currently includes parings of Ang Lee and Hirokazu Kore-eda, Claire Denis and Olivier Assayas, and Jia Zhang-ke with countryman Huo Meng.
Since we’re away on important holiday business this week, we leave you this Christmas Eve-Eve with something festive: Miguel Gomes’s short film Christmas Inventory, a special gift from year-round Santa du cinéma, Le Cinéma Club.