News to Me: Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Lee, and John Sayles
Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
1) Paul Thomas Anderson has announced his next film, a yet-unnamed project set in the 1970s. Returning to the San Fernando Valley of Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love, the film will focus on a high school student who is also a successful child actor. One of PTA’s previous films, the underappreciated Inherent Vice, is getting some love from The New Beverly’s Kim Morgan: “Doc bumbles around on his own stoner wavelength—he’s good at his job in the way he works it . . . Madness doesn’t perturb him for too long, this is the sea the fish swim in, and he’s got a case to solve.” Catch Morgan also on the recently-launched podcast Increment Vice (successor to the much-loved One Heat Minute).
2) “Neorealism, a spontaneous development without leaders and with few manifestos, which took shape in the last days of the Second World War, was in some sense a negation of both Fascism and Futurism . . . born in opposition to Facist propaganda, both aesthetic and political.” For London Review of Books, J. Hoberman writes on Enrica Viganò’s recently published NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-1960. And if you’ve ever wondered what came next for the neorealists, Nick Pinkerton covers “one of the most ambitious projects in the history of cinema” for our most recent issue, unpacking all 42 hours of Rosselini’s “historical” period.
3) Spike Lee now has two new projects on the horizon: first up, Da 5 Bloods, his Netflix project set for a 2020 release, focusing on a group of Vietnam veterans and starring Chadwick Boseman; and the second, only recently announced, is Prince of Cats, an “‘80s-set hip-hop take on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet” as seen through the eyes of Tybalt. The film is based on a graphic novel written and illustrated by Ron Wimberly and will be rewritten by Lee, Wimberly, and Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. Legendary acquired the rights midway through last year, apparently meant as a star vehicle for Lakeith Stanfield.
4) A small production-distribution house based in Mexico City is becoming increasingly involved in the auteur industry: Piano recently signed on to produce Abel Ferrara’s long-gestating Siberia—“an exploration of the language of dreams” starring Willem Dafoe as an introspective, isolated cabin-dweller. Siberia adds to Piano’s already impressive catalogue of forthcoming films, including Leos Carax’s Annette and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (which was just picked up by Neon for a North American release).
5) Speaking of Apichatpong: as we await the release of the aforementioned Memoria (still a vague object despite its imminence—make what you will of Apichatpong’s set photos), The Paris Review recently published this piece on Tropical Malady, part of a newly-launched column by Tash Aw that focuses on masterpieces of Asian cinema. For more great writing on Apichatpong’s 2004 breakout film (championed by none other than Quentin Tarantino at Cannes that year), check out our own Nicolas Rapold’s review for Reverse Shot: “Taken from any one point in the transition, the second half is an apparition, a reverie, a vision, a refigured memory, a trickster’s interruption.”
6) In what may need to become a regular feature for the next few weeks, there’s another end-of list demanding your attention—this time dealing with the best of Latin American cinema. Cinema Tropical names their 25 best of the decade, including work from Kleber Mendonça Filho, Mariano Llinás, and Carlos Reygadas. “The list is a clear proof that, for another decade, Latin America continued to be one of the main epicenters of international cinema,” writes executive director Carlos Gutiérrez. (Cinema Tropical’s best of the naughts list is available here—featuring three films from Lucrecia Martel!) Also, don’t miss a screening of Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa’ The Milk of Sorrow on Monday, November 25 at Cinépolis Chelsea, with proceeds going toward the construction of a physical space for the non-profit Latin American Film Center.
7) “In the ten years between the releases of Atlantics the short and Atlantics the feature, Diop’s sense of isolation has given way to something that approximates celebrity. Her filmmaking, once marginalized, will now be distributed by the world’s largest streaming platform, a change she attributes to the burgeoning desires of black spectators.” Vulture recently released this profile of French-Senegalese director Mati Diop, coinciding with the release of her much-anticipated Atlantics. We’ve had plenty to say about the film since its Cannes debut, including Dennis Lim’s feature from the Jul-Aug issue, Jonathan Romney’s Film of the Week review, and Sierra Pettengill’s piece on the film’s use of sound from our most recent issue.
8) Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in: with hopefully the final word on Joker (a film that just made history as the first R-rated film to gross a billion dollars—ha ha ha!), noted comedian Slavoj Žižek writes for LARB on the film’s strange success: “Something unimaginable till recently: a combination of two genres perceived as totally disparate, the realist depiction of social misery and fantasized horror, the combination which, of course, only works when social reality acquires the dimensions of horror fiction.” (Here’s Žižek’s take on Nolan’s Batman, taken from The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema—which apparently has a third installation coming soon.)
9) Fans of Michael Koresky’s Queer & Now & Then column will be pleased to hear of the recent Criterion Channel release, Queersighted: The Ache of Desire—featuring such films as Yentl, Happy Together, and Stranger By the Lake. And better yet, this marks just part one of an ongoing series highlighting “the presence of a non-heteronormative, non-gender-binary cinema that has always existed alongside, parallel, or underneath the status quo.” Announcing this first batch of films is Koresky’s essay on the program, as well as a conversation with fellow critic Melissa Anderson.
10) In further Criterion news, John Sayles’ Matewan has just been added to the Collection, accompanied by this A.S. Hamrah essay: “His career is unique in American cinema. No other writer-director who began making his own films post-Star Wars has managed to achieve as much while staying true to his ideals.” On the most recent episode of the FC podcast, Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold sat down with Sayles and critic/organizer Teo Bugbee to discuss the portrayal of work and class in American cinema. (And one last piece on the Criterion-Sayles linkup: here’s Sayles picking a few of his favorites from the Criterion closet.)
Finally, we’d like to note the passing of Vlada Petric, co-founder of the Harvard Film Archive, on November 13, 2019. Over the course of his long, varied life and career, Petric contributed to film culture in innumerable ways, directing and producing film, television, and theater, in addition to his extensive scholarship on American and Soviet cinematography. Listen to Petric’s commentary on Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev on the Criterion Channel. We leave you this week with Petric’s appearance in Ross McElwee’s Bright Leaves.