News to Me: NYFF57, Mati Diop, and Toni Morrison
L to R: Bacurau, The Wild Goose Lake, To the Ends of the Earth, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Synonyms, Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story, Wasp Network, Martin Eden
1) The Main Slate of the 57th New York Festival is now online! The line-up features several films we’ve covered in detail in the July-August 2019 issue of Film Comment—including Atlantics by Mati Diop and Synonymes by Nadav Lapid—as well as exciting new work by Bong Joon-ho, Pedro Costa, Kelly Reichardt, Corneliu Porumboiu, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Bertrand Bonello, and others. A special highlight: the Film Comment Presents selection, Céline Sciamma’s Queer Palm-winner, Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
2) Mati Diop was recently awarded the rank of “Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Lion” or the “National Order of the Lion” by the President of Senegal in a meeting where the creation of a national center for cinema was also discussed. Earlier in May, Atlantics became the first film directed by a black woman to screen in competition at Cannes, ultimately winning the Grand Prix. In his feature on Atlantics in our latest issue, Dennis Lim writes that the film “synthesizes the intoxicating moods of Diop’s previous work into an oneiric fable of migration and transmigration—suspended between realism and fantasy, the living and the dead, here and elsewhere.”
3) In advance of its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival next week (and U.S. premiere at NYFF57 in September), Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela has been picked up for a 2020 release by American distributor Grasshopper Film. The Portuguese filmmaker’s much-awaited follow-up to 2014’s Horse Money stars the eponymous actress with two other Costa regulars, Ventura and Isabel Cordoso.
4) “She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen. . . There the flawed became whole, the blind sighted, and the lame and halt threw away their crutches. There death was dead, and people made every gesture in a cloud of music.” Nobel Laureate and icon of American literature Toni Morrison, who passed away this morning, wrote thus of the allure of cinema in her novel, The Bluest Eye. (Via @gracesimone on Twitter.)
5) “Criticism is first and foremost a work of record, about how artists are responding to the world. . . Using history to make sense of new work in context is a valuable practice, but if we’re to understand radical artists who are challenging and speaking back at that history, rather than simply taking it for granted as gospel, criticism has to evolve beyond what it has always been.” Simran Hans, film critic for The Observer, gave this year’s Philip French Memorial Lecture at the Cinema Rediscovered Festival in Bristol, touching upon, amongst other things, the role of diversity and fandom in film criticism and the cultural significance of film beyond its consumer value. Read the full transcript of her speech, which includes a shout-out to Michael Koresky’s Queer & Now & Then column.
6) Playing through August 6 at BAM, the (unfairly) maligned demographic du jour is thrust under the spotlight in We Can’t Even: Millennials on Film. Over at Hyperallergic, Dana Reinoos surveys the complex array that begins in 2003 with Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, and spans such varied choices as Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama, Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood, and Mark Waters’ Mean Girls. Buffeted by pessimism, paranoia, and self-commodifying slogans, these millennials, writes Reinoos, “are the true children of Marx and Coca-Cola.”
7) For The Baffler, Nick Pinkerton makes a case for “durational epics”—from Jacques Rivette’s Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (1971) to Mariano Llinas’s La Flor (2019)—and “the pleasures that can be found in not only going to the cinema but sentencing one’s self to it—the pleasures of punishment, of confinement, and of the disorientation of inevitable parole.”
8) This month on the Criterion Channel, a selection of pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck gems stream with a new introduction by film scholar Catherine Russell and frequent FC contributor Imogen Sara Smith. Read Margaret Talbot at The New Yorker on some of her favourite Stanwyck performances, or here on FC, dive into Morgan Wilcock’s account of Stanwyck’s more obscure stint as a star on Lux Radio Theatre from 1936 to 1955.
9) For Artforum, Max Nelson reviews America: Films from Elsewhere, a hefty collection of essays edited by Shanay Jhaveri that consider how foreign auteurs—Babette Mangolte, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sophie Calle, Raúl Ruiz, amongst others—have imagined the United States and its peculiarities on screen. What these outsiders share, writes Nelson, “is a sense that it wouldn’t suit them to project smug or complacent expertise. They needed to give themselves room to hurl their own idiosyncratic impressions at the settings they filmed and permission not to understate how much cruelty, injustice, and repression they found there.” The anthology also forms the inspiration for a current, eponymous series at Film at Lincoln Center, featuring a free talk with Jhaveri on August 8.
10) And now, a report on the vagaries of the movie theater business: iPic, pioneer of the dine-in movie-viewing experience, has filed for bankruptcy, citing increasing competition in the “luxury theater space,” while LA’s historic, family-owned arthouse chain, Laemmle Theaters, has gone up for sale. In more positive LA-based tidings, Alamo Drafthouse recently opened its first location in the city, featuring its signature, 80’s-style Video Vortex (“a video store/bar/arcade/board game hub/retail store”) and a yearlong programming partnership with video-store-turned-non-profit Vidiots.
We leave you this week with… the official NYFF57 poster designed by Pedro Almodóvar, who makes his 11th appearance in the festival with Pain and Glory: