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Summer Programming

Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls (1986)

Summer’s heating up. As many of us venture back into theaters, institutions such as Film at Lincoln Center and the Museum of the Moving Image are announcing programs that offer the opportunity to see revivals and new releases on their big screams or at home via streaming. FLC’s season features highlights from last fall’s New York Film Festival and this spring’s New Directors/New Films, while MoMI’s First Look 20/21, running from July 22 through August 1, will blend as-yet-unseen highlights from last year’s edition with brand new works of innovative moving image art. BAMcinemaFest, Brooklyn’s showcase of independent film, opens Wednesday for a week-long run. And in Chicago, the Tribune’s Michael Phillips previews Doc10, the city’s “small but vital” festival of nonfiction filmmaking running through the weekend.

Cannes jury president Spike Lee is on the festival’s newly revealed poster. Meanwhile, organizers have announced that Arthur Harari’s Onada - 10000 Nights in the Jungle, the true story of a Japanese Army officer who carried on fighting the Second World War on an island in the Philippines for twenty-nine years, will open Un Certain Regard on July 7. The jury for that program will be headed up by Andrea Arnold. Looking ahead to the tail end of summer, Venice has confirmed that Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet, will premiere out of competition on September 3.

This week’s highlights:

  • A new 4K restoration of Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls (1986) opens at IFC Center in New York this weekend, and writing for the New York Times, J. Hoberman finds it “as witty, gimlet-eyed, and discomfiting as when it won a special award at the 1987 Sundance Film Festival.” It’s also “an anticapitalist critique that has scarcely dated.” Molly (Louise Smith) is a photographer who turns trick at a Manhattan brothel to make ends meet. “Is it all worth it?” asks Erika Balsom at 4Columns. “Costs and benefits make up the calculus of survival, and Working Girls is all about keeping track of the ever-changing tally, without passing judgment.”

  • Before the Berlinale wraps this weekend, a special Teddy Award will be presented to Jenni Olson, a filmmaker, curator, and historian who, as the Teddy Foundation puts it, “embodies, lives, and creates queer film culture.” Best known for her essay films The Joy of Life (2005) and The Royal Road (2015), both of which are available on the Criterion Channel, Olson has spent decades putting together programs of vintage 35 mm movie trailers and gathering prints, negatives, digital masters, and production and distribution documentation related to LGBTQ cinema. The Harvard Film Archive acquired her collection last summer. “I know it’s the industry side of it,” she tells Ryan Gilbey in the Guardian, “connecting filmmakers and festivals and distributors and all that, but it’s also been all about friendship. These people are my friends. They’re my life.”

  • Dorothy Arzner’s Merrily We Go to Hell was released in the summer of 1932, almost exactly two years before the studios were compelled to begin enforcing the Hayes Code. “It was a box-office hit, and its depiction of wedlock as a trap still has razor-sharp jaws,” writes Pamela Hutchinson in the Independent. Sylvia Sidney plays Joan, “a doe-eyed debutante” who falls for Jerry, “an alcoholic newspaper hack” played by Fredric March. The duo has “just enough awkward chemistry to foster hopes for their burgeoning romance.” But Merrily is “Arzner’s most ambivalent film about marriage, right up to its uncomfortable last scene, which makes a mockery of the idea of a happy ending.”

  • In the Spring 2017 issue of the Cine-Files, Mary Wiles wrote about Marguerite Duras and Jacques Rivette as “mavericks within the respective domains of film and literature from which they had emerged in the 1950s. As filmmakers, they were united in their mutual desire to conceive of a new relationship between the soundtrack and the image, to discover a new approach to acting that would involve musical space, and to achieve a radical transformation of the male-focused system of representation of mainstream cinema.” The new issue of photogénie gathers essays that further explore the oeuvres of these two filmmakers who, as Charlotte Wynant writes in the introduction, “developed aesthetics that both answered the call of their time and responded to an art history that far preceded them, showing an acute sensibility to the potential and limits of their medium, which they set out to both disclose and destroy.”

  • Introducing the seventh issue of MAI, editors Anna Backman Rogers and Anna Misiak argue that television crime drama that “centers on the female detective offers one of the few spaces within global popular culture to address some of the cardinal conjectures and concerns of feminism: agency, autonomy, professional and personal identities, sexualized male violence, misogyny, race, gendered politics, and aging.” There are essays here on Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue and Carey Mulligan in Collateral, but also on series from Italy and Russia. “We wish you a calm and peaceful summer,” write Backman and Misiak, “and—most of all—happy reading.”

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