Written in August 2016 for my November 2016 “En movimiento” column in Caimán Cuadernos de Cine. — J.R.
Do we value actors for their visible and audible skills, or for their capacity to make us forget that they’re actors? Over the past month, both at the Melbourne International Film Festival and back in Chicago, at cinemas or watching home videos, I’ve been asking myself this question in relation to such new films as Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Albert Serra’s La Mort de Louis XIV, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, and Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins, and such older films as Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73, Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey, and Jerry Lewis’s Smorgasbord. And, needless to say, my answers to this question differ enormously, mainly according to how familiar I am with the actors involved — which doesn’t necessarily mean how many times I’ve seen them before. For instance, prior to Paterson, I’d already seen Adam Driver in J. Edgar, Frances Ha, Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Midnight Special, but I only know this now because I just looked up his credits.… Read more »
Written for Film Comment‘s web site in mid-August 2016. — J.R.
Although it isn’t widely recognized, Melbourne’s historical status as the cradle of online film criticism — as signaled by the founding of Screening the Past in 1997, Senses of Cinema in 1999, and Rouge in 2003 — remains a significant part of its film culture, so highly developed and serious that not once, during fourteen festival screenings, did I ever notice any viewers activating their mobiles. It’s equally evident that the pioneering web sites which helped to foster this kind of seriousness were neither accidental nor coincidental. All three were calculated gestures of outreach from a remote outpost to the rest of the world — allowing everyone a glimpse into a literary culture and a branch of cinematic savvy unhampered by the twang of regional accents or the pressure of imminent local releases. And as outreach gestures they no less clearly succeeded and flourished — so well, in fact, that their innovations and energies were quickly absorbed into the Internet mainstream without leaving behind many telltale markers of where they’d been nurtured. (If the Internet sometimes fosters historical blindness, this is especially true of the Internet’s own history.) Above all, the kind of criticism practiced by these three influential sites avoids the thumbs up/thumbs down reflexes of market-driven criticism for the sake of more open-ended discussions, closer to the example offered by Manny Farber (whose reviews could rarely if ever be quoted in ads) than to those of the Siskel-Ebert or Rotten Tomatoes persuasion.… Read more »