News to Me: Max von Sydow, Leilah Weinraub, and Kelly Reichardt
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
1. Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown is currently available for free on Pornhub until the end of March. The film, featured in our 2018 list of Best Undistributed Films, traces the black lesbian strip club scene of early-2000s Los Angeles through interviews, archival materials, and handheld footage.
Weinraub, equally famous for her work as CEO of the street-wear fashion brand Hood By Air, told FC in an interview that her collaboration with Pornhub began during a trip to Milan, while visiting Hood By Air’s Italian distributor. Watching their friend’s lesbian soccer team play, Weinraub noticed that the team’s jerseys were ostensibly sponsored by Pornhub, and thought, “Is that real? That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” She then decided Hood By Air would do the same. “Collaborations in fashion are extremely common now, and you do them for a number of different reasons. I think with Hood By Air it felt like a natural collaboration because so many of our references came from that world—power, do-it-yourself; the aesthetic of nighttime and club culture. It seemed like an area that was already our terrain, so I wanted to see if we could push that further.”
The month-long stint on Pornhub begins Shakedown’s upcoming “online tour”—with the film soon heading to Dis.art, Le Cinéma Club, and Criterion. Weinraub mentioned that she wanted “a partner that was going to put some kind of power into promoting the film,” and that she “didn’t want the limits of the industry to affect the viewing.” She continued: “I think it really has to do with how the film is introduced and placed—I don’t think there’s such a thing as the wrong audience, but there is such a thing as respectful placement of the work. So I had the opportunity to build out that website, and to really create and craft the language that the project is talked about with.” The Pornhub page (complete with its own “/art/” URL) includes a live chat experience—“alone together”—designed by Weinraub herself, where you can chat with the filmmaker and stars of the film. Hoping to recreate the collective “dream space” of “being in the room with people,” Weinraub said: “I think the internet is awesome, but there’s nothing like watching it in real life, with real people. It’s sad. So, I kind of wanted to have the opportunity to say that, and say that by echoing the experience in a digital way.”
2. A website dedicated to the life and work of Barbara Hammer is now online. Hammer, who passed away last year, is widely considered to be the pioneering filmmaker of lesbian cinema—her 1974 Dyketactics is a breakthrough for its time. The website’s homepage is built as a timeline of Hammer’s life, beginning with her time at San Francisco State University and ending with her fight for a dignified, medically-aided death. The website includes news about her work, grant information, and a breakdown of her filmography (often with clips or vimeo links), as well as a list of Hammer’s writing—this from Shaking the Archive: “My strategy then and throughout the seventies was to put a ‘lesbian’ body on the screen, to bring a lesbian subjectivity to film, to question hetero-normative experimental film.”
3. Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow is in theaters at last, having played at NYFF last year and then more recently at Berlinale. FC Digital Editor Clinton Krute was joined by FC Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold and Phoebe Chen to discuss the film on the latest Film Comment Podcast. In the cover story for our March-April issue, Krute writes: “With typically understated, formal grace, Reichardt weaves together the disparate themes of her filmography into this critique of the root-and-branch rot of unfettered capitalism.” For more from Reichardt herself, check out this interview with Bong Joon-ho (a huge fan of her work) where the two trade questions and compliments, as well as her recent Top 10 for Criterion.
4. SXSW 2020 has been shut down in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In a recent statement, festival organizers note that they are “exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible.” IndieWire has published a list of all the ways in which the virus is affecting the entertainment industry—such as the unfortunately-titled James Bond film, No Time to Die, having its release delayed. After the cancellation of several international events, as well as the news that Italy has implemented a regional lock down, questions loom over the forthcoming Cannes Film Festival—though, at this stage, there are no plans to cancel. (For any curious catastrophists wanting to know more, this LRB piece sums the virus up nicely. Short version: please wash your hands.)
5. “The virus seriously rattles your nerves, and you may want to start stockpiling antibacterial soap now. Yet what’s really scary in Contagion is how fast once-humming airports and offices, homes and cities empty out when push comes to shove comes to panic in the streets.” Two throwback reviews this week—for fun, not fearmongering—one from Manohla Dargis at the Times and another from our own Amy Taubin in Artforum. Writing on Steven Soderbergh’s virus-outbreak film from 2011, wherein the meeting of “the wrong pig and the wrong bat” led to a SARS-like pandemic set to kill 1 in 12 people on earth, Taubin compares the film Hitchcock’s The Birds. “The big difference: Birds are visible to the naked eye, viruses not.”
6. PalFest 2020 kicks off at the end of this week, with the theme of “Palestine & the Global South”—a term that “delineates rich versus poor countries, developing versus industrialized nations, first versus third worlds, as a status that is geographically locatable.” Featuring films from Sky Hopinka, Ana Vaz, Deborah Starttman, among others, the festival curates “a handpicked selection of films, woven into the program, [which] provide an alternate vision to the ruling class’s ownership over history, the present, even the future.” UPDATE: Palfest 2020 has been postponed. Check the festival’s website for updates going forward.
7. MoMI’s First Look festival begins March 11 with the New York premiere of Hubert Saupert’s Epicentro. The full lineup includes a number of premieres and director Q&As—Nina Wu with Midi Z, Ridge with John Skoog, Bird Talk with Xawery Zuławski— as well as workshops, master classes, and performances. FC contributors Michael Koresky and (the newly-gilded) Jeff Reichert will be collaborating with the festival on behalf Reverse Shot, teaming up with (other FC regulars) Eric Hynes and Farihah Zaman to present Reverse Shot’s first ever “live” symposium.
8. Mohammad Rasoulof, whose film There Is No Evil recently took home the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, has been summoned to serve a one-year jail sentence by the Iranian government. Rasoulof was unable to attend the film due a two-year travel ban imposed by courts, who cited “propaganda against the Islamic government.” A statement from his lawyer notes that Rasoulof plans to appeal the sentence, one argument in their favor being that Iranian prisons are currently under strain from the aforementioned coronavirus (8% of Iranian MPs have currently tested positive for the disease).
9. Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau is now in theaters, playing at Film Lincoln Center with director Q&As on March 10, 12, and 13. “In a world run by Bolsanaros and Trumps,” writes Ken Foster at BOMB, “the filmmaking of Donelles and Filho is an act of heroism in itself, which mirrors and measures up to the unity and defiance portrayed in their fictional town.” (Another great read on the film, Leo Goldsmith begins his piece for 4Columns with: “Popular art and politics always seem to collide in awkward ways.”) Following the film’s release, FLC will also play host to Mapping Bacurau, a collection of films handpicked by the directors, laying out their many genre inspirations. For more from the directors, don’t miss our Film Comment Podcast interview with the duo from last fall’s NYFF.
10. We end this week on a sad note, with the news that Max von Sydow has passed away. Best known for his collaborations with Ingmar Bergman—in The Magician and The Seventh Seal, among many others—von Sydow is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in the medium’s short history. Von Sydow was introduced to an American audience as Jesus Christ in George Stevens’ 1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told, and reached a mass audience with his work in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. His immense on-screen gravitas earned him such roles as Zeus and the Devil (this is the man who played chess with Death, after all). Criterion recently re-posted this short video profile from Bergman scholar Peter Cowie, who breaks down von Sydow’s best roles, writing that, in Bergman’s quieter works, “von Sydow was finally able to plunge into the darkest recesses of the human psyche, using his looming frame to embody a number of memorably cowering characters.”
We leave you this week with the theatrical trailer to one of von Sydow’s lightest films, 1983’s Strange Brew.