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Perfectly Imperfect

Faye Wong in Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 (2004)

This week has seen fresh announcements from Cannes and Venice and lineup rollouts from Locarno and Karlovy Vary. Cannes, which opens on Tuesday, has selected Mélanie Thierry to preside over this year’s jury that awards the Camera d’Or to the best first feature. The festival has also invited Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Isabelle Huppert, Marco Bellocchio, and Steve McQueen to deliver master classes in a series of conversations it’s now calling Rendez-vous with . . . On September 8, Venice will present a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Jamie Lee Curtis before an out-of-competition screening of David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills.

Abel Ferrara will turn seventy on July 19, and he’s keeping busy as ever. He’s programmed a series to herald the reopening of Manhattan’s Cinema Village that runs through next Thursday, and he’s given one of the funniest interviews you’ll read in a while to A. S. Hamrah at Screen Slate. Today, Locarno announced that Zeroes and Ones, Ferrara’s new film starring Ethan Hawke as an American soldier tracking down the source of a global threat in Rome, will premiere in its international competition. The lineup for the seventy-fourth edition running from August 4 through 14 includes new work from Marco Bellocchio, Gaspar Noé, Radu Jude, and Yann Gonzalez, and the retrospective will be dedicated to Alberto Lattuada. Variety’s Nick Vivarelli notes that, in his first year as artistic director, Giona A. Nazzaro is “steering the Swiss fest known as an international incubator and indie cinema temple on a more audience-friendly course.”

Karlovy Vary (August 20 through 24) has set its two main competitions and unveiled a series of special screenings that includes Jan Němec’s dark parable The Party and the Guests (1966). There will also be a tribute to the Film Foundation featuring ten restorations ranging from George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood (1932) to Nina Menkes’s Queen of Diamonds and Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day, both from 1991. Programmers for Il Cinema Ritrovato, in the meantime, are presenting a guide to the thirty-fifth edition running in Bologna from July 20 through 27.


Menelik Shabazz was working on a new project in Zimbabwe when he passed away on Monday at the age of sixty-seven. His 1981 debut feature, Burning an Illusion, was the second feature by a Black director to be made in the UK after Horace Ové’s Pressure (1976). Throughout his career, Shabazz made several groundbreaking documentaries, including Step Forward Youth (1976), a portrait of young Black people in London; Blood Ah Goh Run (1981), a response to the New Cross fire that killed thirteen Black people and sparked widespread demonstrations; and The Story of Lover’s Rock (2011), a history of the reggae subgenre celebrated in Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock from last year’s anthology, Small Axe. When Ashley Clark asked Shabazz in 2011 whether he found the term “Black British Cinema” too confining, Shabazz replied, “I don’t think it paints me into a corner at all. In the same way you have Italian filmmakers, it’s a way of identifying who you are, interfacing with your experience, your culture, and the very thing that makes you who you are.”

Director, writer, and producer Clare Peploe was raised by semi-bohemian parents in Kenya, then Italy, and then England. There was never a television in the house, and it wasn’t until she attended Oxford that friends—including future theorists and filmmakers Peter Wollen and Laura Mulvey—introduced her to cinema and the French New Wave. She met Michelangelo Antonioni and worked with him on the screenplay for Zabriskie Point (1970), and in 1979, she married Bernardo Bertolucci, with whom she’d bonded over the films of Jean-Luc Godard. She cowrote Bertolucci’s La Luna (1979) and Besieged (1998) while making films of her own. “In her seductively enchanting debut film, High Season (1988),” wrote Michael Sragow in a 1999 profile for Salon, “and in her far-out comic fantasy Rough Magic (1995), she uses exotic locales—the Greek island of Rhodes in the first film, the Mayan heartland in the second—to catalyze rowdy mystery and lovemaking.” Peploe passed away last week at the age of seventy-nine.

On Monday, we lost Lauren Berlant, who is remembered in Artforum as “a profoundly influential American scholar and cultural critic known for their rigorous and playful explorations of intimacy, citizenship, and affect.” Their most widely cited book, Cruel Optimism (2011), “harnessed affect theory to neoliberalism, anticipating the rise of the social-media-driven politics that would shape the following decade.” In 2019, Hua Hsu wrote a piece for the New Yorker that serves as an excellent primer on Berlant’s work and affect theory, which “provides a way of understanding the sensations and resignations of the present, the normalized exhaustion that comes with life in the new economy.”

This week we also learned that producer and screenwriter Cynthia Hargrave passed away on June 9 at the age of sixty-four. Often working alongside her husband, L. M. Kit Carson, who died in 2014, Hargrave “frequently produced short films to help boost the careers of promising young talent,” writes Ethan Shanfeld in Variety. In 1993, she produced a short by first-time filmmaker Wes Anderson, and in 1996, she produced the feature, Bottle Rocket. At TheWrap, Umberto Gonzalez quotes from a statement from Anderson: “When Bob Wilson introduced me and his sons Owen, Luke, and Andrew to Kit Carson and Cynthia Hargrave thirty years ago, he introduced us to the pathway to the rest of our lives.”

This Week’s Highlights

  • The title of Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 (2004) refers to the end of Hong Kong’s 50-year period of self-regulation following the 1997 handover of the former colony from the UK to China. “Even without that political subtext,” writes Charles Taylor for Dissent, “the sense of loss in 2046 hits you with the velvet glove of the most luxuriant and melancholy jazz singing. You sink down into exquisite sadness and, immersed in it, wonder if it isn’t worth skipping the pleasures of romance to get right to this . . . 2046 has a reputation as somewhat self-indulgent and ill-shaped. For me, it’s an imperfect paradigm of romantic longing that, like another movie that can be described that way, Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou, is perfect in its imperfections. I don’t watch this movie as much as buy passage to it.”

  • Putting Tilda Swinton on the cover of the Cannes 2021 issue of Variety makes a lot of sense. She is, after all, appearing in five films at the festival this year, including Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir: Part II, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria. “She considers herself one of the workers in the film who shares responsibilities,” Apichatpong tells Manori Ravindran. “She is there not only for the narrative but for the synchrony of everything that contributes to what’s in the frame. So in a sense, she’s a filmmaker as I am and as others are.”

  • For the Smart Set, Matt Hanson surveys the oeuvre of Federico Fellini, who “was never shy about following the labyrinth of what Carl Jung (a key influence) once called ‘memories, dreams, reflections.’ Much of his imagery emerged from a mix of private intuition and the theoretical buzz of the intellectuals he never fully trusted but kept around anyway. At their best, his films end up creating, as if by sleight of hand, an ontology of the carnival: what’s real in his films looks that way because it’s fake and what’s fake somehow ends up looking more real.”

  • The New Beverly Cinema, the Los Angeles repertory theater owned by Quentin Tarantino, has reopened, and on Tuesday, there will be a Claudia Weill double feature, a 35 mm print of Girlfriends (1978) and a 16 mm print of It’s My Turn (1980). “I like seeing people move in relation to each other in a way that tells you what’s happening in the scene emotionally,” Weill tells Jim Hemphill. “If a scene is properly staged, you can understand what’s happening even if the film is in another language.  You can read the scene because of the physicality of it and where people are moving. To me, that’s so much more interesting than Cuisinart movies where you cut, cut, cut and everything’s covered from a million angles and a million lenses and you’re just cutting between them. That’s not really filmmaking to me.”

  • Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, which the New York TimesA. O. Scott calls “a tight and twisty against-the-clock crime caper with an obvious debt to Elmore Leonard,” arrives on HBO Max today. Soderbergh has been giving his usual wide-ranging, wide open, and always entertaining interviews, most recently to Sam Fragoso on the Talk Easy podcast and to Nick Schager at Esquire. “It sounds odd to say that a movie about rapacious capitalism, systemic racial bias, corporate corruption, and organized crime in 1950s Detroit has a ‘summer vibe,’” writes Dana Stevens in her review of No Sudden Move at Slate. “The whole thing vanishes pretty quickly from memory once it’s over. But for that hour and a half of fluid, kinetic filmmaking, you are putty in the hands of Steven Soderbergh, a reliably pleasurable place to be.”

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