News to Me: Frederick Wiseman, Jean-Marie Straub, and Saving Art-Houses
Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006)
1. Frederick Wiseman has a new film on the way, this time set in his hometown of Boston. In an interview with Please Kill Me, Wiseman states: “I’m just finishing up a film on Boston City Hall. The editing is done, so I don’t mind mentioning it. I don’t know what I’m going to do after that.” Though he doesn’t reveal much else about the film, the interview is still replete with insights into Wiseman’s working method: “I never start with a theme or a point of view. I always start with the notion that if I hang around a particular place long enough, I’ll find the themes, I’ll find the point of view, and I’ll have enough material to cut a film. I always discover the film in the editing.” Wiseman’s previous film, Monrovia, Indiana, featured in our September-October 2018 issue.
2. A new short film from Jean-Marie Straub, France Against the Robots, is now available to stream until April 12. The film marks the online debut for Kino Slang Presents, a “series of repertory and sometimes new cinema screenings programmed by Andy Rector.” New films are set to be presented weekly while quarantine continues. France Against the Robots is told twice over, first at night, then during the day. Both sequences feature the same monologue, which ends: “In short: regimes formerly opposed in ideology are now directly united by Technology. A world dominated by Technology is lost for Liberty.”
3. FC contributor Christina Newland recently published She Found it at the Movies: Women Writers on Sex, Desire, and Cinema, an anthology of writing on “women’s secret desires, teen crushes, and one-sided movie star love affairs.” In an interview for i-D magazine, Newland discussed her inspiration for the book, and selected a program of some essential films in the canon of female desire: “Even though it’s directed by Paul Schrader, in terms of interrupting the male gaze, American Gigolo has an unusually focused erotic gaze on Richard Gere, his tanned, toned, mostly undressed body and the sensual details of his life . . . Gere was one of those actors that became the woman’s man rather than the man’s man.”
4. Isiah Medina has released his new film, Inventing the Future, available for free online (both on YouTube and to download). Medina’s previous film, 88:88—also available for free online—marked a breakthrough for the then-23-year-old artist, premiering at Locarno in 2015. In an interview with Cinema Scope, Medina discussed 88:88 in relation to poetry: “Cinema itself is not poetry, but in thinking poetry in cinema, in a free play of being able to reflect on poetic forms, perhaps we can return to poetry again in a different way, by going through this passage of movie-making . . . What is interesting about the cinema is that via the cut perhaps we can be hit by a poetic form, a thinking of love, a discourse on infinity, a political idea, all at the same time, and yet still recognize it as an experience you can universally transmit to a friend.”
5. Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, is now available via independent publisher Skyhorse. The book’s release was marred by controversy, initially to be published by Hachette but dropped after a letter from Allen’s estranged son, Ronan Farrow, and an organized staff protest. For The New Republic, Rumaan Alam takes a closer look at “the book’s strange odyssey,” covering Allen’s films, his marriages, and the book itself: “Apropos summarizes the artist’s early years, then tells the story of his scandal, and finally collapses into a rush of recap—I made this movie with this star, then this movie with another star. It is muddled, odd, and, frankly, boring.”
6. As part of MUBI’s ongoing Perfect Failures series, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales streamed last night to a worldwide audience, with running commentary from the director himself. Before things got underway, however, Kelly announced that he hopes to release a prequel, “using a hybrid of animation and live-action,” that could be released in tandem with an expanded version of Southland Tales. (If you’re interested in the expanded lore of this famed film maudit, a full near-500-page novelization is available here.) Speaking with Love magazine to discuss their series, MUBI stated that the film’s “commentary on the Patriot Act has become startlingly prescient over time, while other parts such as ripples in the space-and-time continuum make it the perfect blend of black comedy, sci-fi escapism, and socio-political commentary.”
7. Given the way the coronavirus is currently affecting the film industry, the question remains of whether, once movie-going sanctions are lifted, audiences will dutifully return to their seats. In a recent study on “Social Distancing Moviegoing and TV Habits” by analytics company EDO, 70% of those polled indicated that they planned to return to cinemas, with 45% saying this was “highly likely.” (Just under 5% were “highly unlikely.”) However, the immediacy of this return is a little less clear—with nearly half of respondents stating that they would wait a few weeks before coming back, and 11% stating they would wait a few months. Deadline covers the report in full, looking also at audience streaming habits and the growing appreciation for video on demand.
8. Cineuropa has done the yeoman’s work of listing every COVID-related delay or cancellation affecting European cinema. Broken down by country—as well as some non-European mentions, like the postponement of the Tribeca Film Festival, which will take place partly online—the list covers whether or not cinemas have closed, the protective measures put in place by that country’s government, and regular updates about festivals big and small. (One noteworthy trend: a number of festivals seem to be delaying things until August, a faint and far-off light at the end of this terribly lonely tunnel.)
9. Some festivals, however, are simply moving online, such as SXSW, which recently teamed up with Amazon Prime to launch “Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection.” The collaboration will take place over a 10-day period, with filmmakers invited to opt in to the online screening. (Filmmakers will be paid a screening fee; audiences can watch for free.) Though the date has yet to be announced, SXSW are apparently targeting late April (filmmakers were only invited to take part as of April 2), with more details about special events forthcoming.
10. Last up this week is another community effort to keep cinema alive during these trying times: The Art-House America Campaign, which “aims to provide financial relief to struggling independent cinemas across the country so they can pay staff and their essential bills and survive until it is safe to reopen their doors.” The campaign was kickstarted with an initial donation of $50,000 from The Criterion Collection and Janus Films. As of the time of writing, the campaign had already raised $350,000 of their $500,000 goal, with nearly 3,000 unique donors aiding the cause.
We leave you this week with an extraordinary performance by Faye Dunaway in a deleted scene from a possible Perfect Failure–candidate, Emir Kusturica’s cult favorite Arizona Dream—a preview of Sheila O’Malley’s next Present Tense column, posting later this week: