Monthly Archives: January 2015

Performing Spectators: The Audience as Stray Dogs

Written for Cinema Guild’s Blu-Ray of Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs, released in mid-January 2015. — J.R.

STRAYDOGS

Stray-dogs-signs

Stray Dogs (2013), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 70th Venice International Film Festival, is Tsai Ming-liang’s tenth theatrical feature. It was described by Tsai at its premiere as his last, and in many ways it’s his most challenging. Considered as the apotheosis of his film work to date — which also includes eleven telefilms made between 1989 and 1985, and ten shorts or segments of portmanteau features, culminating in the 2014, 56-minute Journey to the West – it constitutes a kind of nervy dare to the viewer, and to prime oneself for it, it might help to look at Journey to the West first.

journey-to-the-west-monk-climbing-dark-stairs

journey-to-the-west-subway-stairs

Even though both films flirt with stasis, usually in the midst of extremely long takes, they’re also performance pieces that hark back to Tsai’s roots in experimental theater and television. And the performers are not only hired actors but also unsuspecting street pedestrians, places, weather conditions, the camera, and, perhaps most crucial of all, viewers watching the activity of all of the above. If Tsai’s films typically qualify as questions rather than answers, foremost among the questions is how we perform as spectators – a question that we’re obliged to pose in relation to all the materials offered.… Read more »

Films of the Year [2015]

 From the January 2015 issue of Sight and Sound. — J.R.

HorseMoney
Horse Money
Director(s): Pedro Costa

 

adieu-au-langage

Adieu au langage
Director(s): Jean-Luc Godard

 

locke
 
Locke
Director(s): Steven Knight

 

TheOwners
 
The Owners
Director(s): Adilkhan Yerzhanov

 


 citizenfour
Citizenfour
Director(s): Laura Poitras

 

Borgen sc1244

TV vote
Borgen
Director(s): several

***

Today

redrosetrailer

WORDSANDPICTURES

Remarks:
 
Sadly, I’ve had to omit two exceptional Iranian films (Reza Mirkarimi’s
Today, Sepideh Farsi’s Red Rose), two exceptional performances by Juliette Binoche (Fred Schepisi & Gerald Di Pego’s Words and Pictures, Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria), Alain Resnais’ final feature (Life of Riley), and the belated appearance of Orson Welles’ unfinished and ancient but still-sprightly Too Much Johnson. But my top five continue to provoke and expand. Horse Money and The Owners need to travel more, and Locke, which feels like a classic heroic Western, deserves to be recognized as more than just a stunt or tour de force. Adieu au language re-invents 3-D and cinema, and Horse Money, like The Owners, Citizenfour, and Today (not to mention Borgen, in its own fashion). re-invents both the world and its moral prerogatives.

cloudsofsilsmaria

aimer-boire-et-chanter

TooMuchJohnsonRead more »

Interview with Matthew Asprey Gear

 Published in Contrappasso, coedited by Matthew Asprey Gear and Noel King, in 2015. — J.R.

CONTRAPPASSO

AN INTERVIEW WITH

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM

Matthew Asprey Gear

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM is one of the most respected film critics in the United States. His many books include Moving Places: A Life in the Movies (1980/1995), Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (1995), Movies as Politics (1997), Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films You See (2000), Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004), and Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinéphilia: Film Culture in Transition (2010).

Rosenbaum has also been a lifelong champion of Orson Welles. Many of his writings on Welles are collected in Discovering Orson Welles (2007). He also edited and annotated This Is Orson Welles (1992/1998), an assembly of the legendary Peter Bogdanovich-Orson Welles interviews.

This brief conversation for Contrappasso, an update on Rosenbaum’s recent activities, was conducted by email in early 2015.

 

ASPREY GEAR: Jonathan, you retired from your position as film critic at the Chicago Reader in 2008. You now teach, write as a freelancer, and republish your voluminous archive at www.jonathanrosenbaum.net. How have your priorities changed since 2008?

ROSENBAUM: I’m no longer a regular reviewer, and therefore I no longer have to keep up with current releases and see films that I don’t want to see (the majority of what I was seeing at the Reader).… Read more »

A Shocking Death, and a Gratifying Message (“Still learning…”)

perez-gilberto

I can’t remember the first time I met Gil Perez, but the first time I got in touch with him, which must have been in the late 60s, it was to reprint a remarkable essay of his about Murnau that had appeared in Sight and Sound for an anth0logy I was editing called Film Masters, a book that for various complex reasons never came out (although, if memory serves, it twice reached the galley-proof stage). I do recall that Gil was still a theoretical physicist at the time, in the U.S. but still relatively fresh from Havana, and he was most likely making his academic transition to film studies and film theory when we eventually met in New York. (See his Introduction to his magisterial 1998 The Material Ghost, “Film and Physics,” for more    details.) Years later, circa the early 80s, we became neighbors in Hoboken, living only a few blocks apart, and we remained loosely in touch for the remainder of his life, during his various stints at William Paterson, Princeton, Harvard, Missouri, and, most permanently, Sarah Lawrence, where he ran the film history program.

TheMaterialGhost

A slow and methodical writer, but also a prolific one, Gil wrote frequently about film for the The Hudson Review, The Yale Review, and the London Review of Books and less often for film and academic journals, and I was often envious of the way he was both welcome and able to hold his own as a public intellectual with a literary sensibility in those and similar venues, such as The Nation.… Read more »

Conspicuously Absent or Apt to be Overlooked

My “Global Discoveries on DVD” column for the Winter 2015 issue of Cinema Scope. — J.R.

 

For now the truly shocking thing was the world itself. It was a new world. and he’d just discovered it, just noticed it for the first time.

– Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

I: Some Conspicuous Absences

As a rule, this column has been preoccupied with what’s available in digital formats, but I’d like to start off this particular quarterly installment with a list of some of the things that aren’t available, at least not yet. This alphabetical checklist is by no means even remotely exhaustive and is entirely personal, based on a few of my recent experiences:

statues

 

aimer-boire-et-chanter

Alain Resnais (two titles): The two most glaring lacunae here are Resnais’ first major film and the last of his features, neither of which can be found yet with English subtitles. Les Statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die, 1953), written by Chris Marker, a remarkable half-hour essay film about African sculpture, also qualifies as his own first major film work –- its beautiful and corrosive text is the first one Marker chose to print in his (still untranslated) two-volume 1967 collection Commentaires.Read more »