News to Me: Pauline Kael, Ken Jacobs, and Peter Whitehead
Caleel Harris and Ava DuVernay on the the set of When They See Us (Ava DuVernay, 2019)
1. Next week marks the hundredth anniversary of Pauline Kael’s birth. Much has been written already to celebrate the upcoming centennial, with The New Yorker publishing this collection of some of her finest works (reviews for Bonnie and Clyde, Star Wars, and The Godfather, among them). Perhaps more importantly, the moment has brought to a head the pertinence (and paucity) of female critics today. See, for example, this piece by Film Quarterly, which laments film criticism new and old: “For some, it is easy to be wistful for the good old days—but it’s hard to feel that way when the good old days weren’t good for people like you.”
2. Critic Emily Nussbaum has a new book, I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution, out later this month. To mark the occasion, Nussbaum joined The Art of the Process to talk about writing, deadlines, and the critic as artist: “I think the relationship between artists and critics is inevitably fraught . . . I’m proud of what I create but I actually do think it’s parasitic. I don’t have a problem with that. Some artists benefit from critics, but artists don’t need critics. Critics do need art.”
3. Belgian website Sabzian, an online guide for cinephiles so named for the main character in Kiarostami’s Close-Up, recently posted this selection of upcoming book releases. The list includes various works by or about Chantal Akerman, a new English translation of Luc Dardenne’s On the Back of Our Images, a collection of works pertaining to Manny Farber (Kelly Reichardt’s short essay from the book is available via our website), and lastly, J. Hoberman’s Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan, available July 2, from which we published this excerpt in 2018.
4. A few weeks back we mentioned that Le Cinéma Club would be relaunching (and expanding) with a new sponsor, Chanel. Claire Denis’s rare 40-minute film Keep It for Yourself is now available to stream, thanks entirely to a Japanese-subtitled VHS tape—the only screenable copy known to exist (IndieWire’s Kate Erbland breaks down how the service managed to save the film here). To kickstart the website’s new “journal” department, Denis has contributed her own curated film list, including Dead Man, Trust, and Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still.
5. “We are now supposedly in the era of the ‘unlikable woman,’ which means that we celebrate that women too can be dirty, repulsive, mean, cruel, and flawed.” Over at Another Gaze, Rebecca Liu writes on “The Making of a Millennial Woman”—a thorough examination of the beguiling female figures who catch fire in our cultural zeitgeist: Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag, Sally Rooney and her Normal People, and Kristen Roupenian’s Cat Person.
6. Hong Kong director Guan Hu’s highly anticipated World War II drama, The Eight Hundred, was suddenly pulled from the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival on Friday. Regulators cited “technical” difficulties for the change in programming, but there’s speculation that censorship issues with Beijing’s Central Propaganda Authority are to blame. In place of the film, a 4K restoration of Midnight Cowboy will be screened instead.
7. The 2019 BAMcinemaFest continues until June 23. This year’s mini-festival opened with Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (discussed on our Sundance podcast) and continues with a number of other Sundance debuts: Jawline, The Sound of Silence, and Brett Story’s The Hottest August, which just got snapped up by Grasshopper Film. Criterion posted their full round-up of the event here.
8. Last week, Netflix tweeted that Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us—the story of the Central Park Five and their false convictions—has been the streaming platform’s most-watched series every day since its release on May 31. In our 2016 interview with the director, DuVernay spoke in depth about “the relationship between the police and communities of color,” coinciding with the release of her previous Netflix series, 13TH. (As some further reading: The Cut recently published this extensive piece on “The Central Park Jogger,” Trisha Meili.)
9. Peter Whitehead passed away last week. Often touted as the great chronicler of counterculture, Whitehead is renowned for his rock-documentaries—including London ’66—’67 and Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, which both feature early performances by Pink Floyd. In our July-August 2006 issue, we published this piece on the underground filmmaker, but for a firsthand encounter with Whitehead’s political sensibilities, check out his 1969 film, The Fall, a study of American violence and revolution.
10. A retrospective of Ken Jacobs’s work, The Adventures of Ken Jacobs Across the 3rd Dimension, is now underway at Anthology Film Archives. (Amy Taubin’s review of Jacobs’s latest, The Sky Socialist, is available here). Over at BOMB, Jacobs penned this short piece on his film Joan Mitchell: Departures as it relates to his concept of “Eternalism”—an editing style which makes possible “3D without the need for glasses.” (Followers of Jacobs’s Twitter account will be familiar with the effect.)
See the film in its entirety here: