From the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R.
Let the Sunshine In (a stupid and misleading translation of the French title, Un beau soleil intérieur)
Loosely inspired by Roland Barthes’ nonfiction book A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments – which dives into the absurd language of solitude and mythology that lovers and would-be lovers recite to themselves and others — this rapturous and faintly comic concerto for Juliette Binoche may well be the most pleasurable and original film Claire Denis has made since Beau Travail (1999). Binoche plays a divorced painter whom Denis pairs sexually, amorously, and/or tentatively with a succession of men played by everyone from Xavier Beauvois to Alex Descas to Gerard Depardieu. The filmmaker’s skill in framing her protagonist’s various trysts, moods, and dialogues, sometimes even setting them to music, is matchless. Novelist Christine Angot collaborated with Denis on the script. –- Jonathan Rosenbaum
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Ironically, Juan Antonio Bardem (1922-2002) might be better known today as the uncle of actor Javier Bardem than as the master of sound and image that he is. Antifascist filmmakers who stuck around during Franco’s reign are often forgotten outside Spain — unlike Luis Buñuel, who came back just long enough to make a few films and then left again. A communist, Bardem stayed, struggled, and was jailed more than once; he was in prison when he won an award at Cannes for this creepy, claustrophobic 1955 melodrama. An adulterous couple (Alberto Closas and Lucia Bose) in a country-club milieu accidentally run over a cyclist and flee out of fear that their relationship will be revealed; their guilty paranoia opens many sores while awakening the man’s social conscience. As in Bardem’s still greater Calle Mayor (1956), Death of a Cyclist follows the antifascist strategy Henri-Georges Clouzot used in Le Corbeau for Vichy-era France, transposing the ugliness of power relations in a repressive society to the spheres of sex and gossip. In Spanish with subtitles. 99 min. a Wed 1/24, 5:30 PM, and Thu 1/25, 9:40 PM, Music Box.
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From the April 2017 issue of Sight and Sound. — J.R.
ABBAS KIAROSTAMI AND FILM-PHILOSOPHY _________________________________________________________________________________________________
By Mathew Abbott. Edinburgh University Press. 167 pp. UK£70.00. ISBN 9780393243123.
Reviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum
It isn’t only the hefty price that makes this volume look forbidding to most readers of this magazine. However inviting it might seem to regard the features of Abbas Kiarostami as genuine works of philosophy—not merely as philosophical statements but as brazen acts that challenge viewers into making them rethink and reformulate many of their assumptions about both life and cinema—the academic etiquette of tracing this concept through a labyrinth of other philosophers and other Kiarostami critics may often prove to be less user-friendly to the lay reader. And it must be admitted that for readers more accustomed to journalistic paraphrase than to the rigours of scholarly hair-splitting and jargony word-spinning, a bumpy ride is in store. Mathew Abbott’s Introduction pivots on page 4 from Kiarostami to Stanley Cavell, but by this time the author has already had recourse to the philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy on the previous page, and he will be chasing after Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Descartes soon afterwards
Even so, this book is after much bigger game than a daunting bibliography.… Read more »
From the April 2017 Sight and Sound. — J.R.
FILM IS LIKE A BATTLEGROUND
Sam Fuller’s War Movies
By Marsha Gordon. Oxford University Press, 314 pp. £24.07, ISBN 9780190269753
Reviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Some Samuel Fuller fans may find it surprising that
the two most substantial academic studies of him so
far have both been by women—Lisa Dombrowski’s 2008
The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I’ll Kill You! and
now Marsha Gordon’s more specialised volume. But for
anyone lucky enough to have known Fuller personally,
isn’t surprising at all. An unabashed feminist whose
feisty mother remained a key figure for him, Fuller
confounded macho stereotypes as much as those
associated with familiar ideological and Hollywood
patterns, even while remaining a feverish self-mythologizer.
Gordon’s principal strength is as a researcher, and her access to such items as Fuller’s letters home and diaries during his wartime service and some of his lesser-known publications, productions, and projects (such as a 1944 magazine story, an unsold 1959 TV pilot called Dogface with some striking anticipations of his White Dog, and his subsequent unrealized screenplay The Rifle) allows her to treat her elected subject with a great deal of thoroughness.… Read more »
My column for the Spring 2017 issue of Cinema Scope. - - J.R.
Probably the most important DVD release of last year, inexplicably overlooked by me when I made out my lists for Sight and Sound and DVD Beaver, is Josef von Sternberg: The Salvation Hunters (1925) and The Case of Lena Smith (fragment, 1929), a single all-region disc from www.edition-filmmuseum.com for 19.95 Euros. It includes a wonderful new 32-minute audiovisual essay on The Salvation Hunters by Janet Bergstrom, and a new score to Sternberg’s first feature by Siegfried Friedrich, but the real pièce de résistance here is the dazzling four-minute fragment from the otherwise lost The Case of Lena Smith, discovered by Japanese film historian Komatsu Hiroshi in a Chinese junk shop in Dalian in 2003. (See the Filmmuseum’s exhaustive 2007 book about The Case of Lena Smith for more details.) In Edgardo Cozarinsky’s 1995 Citizen Langlois, Langlois’ companion Mary Meerson is quoted as saying, “The Case of Lena Smith will reappear one day when mankind deserves it.” In the meantime, here is a fragrant glimpse of what undeserving mankind is missing.
Although most of the recent Blu-Ray releases of Olive Films have tended to steer clear of their previous auteurist commitments, Otto Preminger’s underrated if sometimes problematic 1969 Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon is a very welcome exception.… Read more »