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Robert Bresson

Before we turn to the highlights of a week dominated by the return of the Cannes Film Festival, we need to note that, over the past seven days, cinema has lost not only Robert Downey Sr. but also Richard Donner. He directed Gregory Peck in The Omen (1976), Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978), Richard Pryor in The Toy (1982), Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988), and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in four Lethal Weapon movies. When Donner’s death at ninety-one was confirmed on Monday, Steven Spielberg, who worked with Donner as an executive producer on The Goonies (1985), released a statement: “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and—of course—the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time.”

Dilip Kumar, often referred to as the “Tragedy King” and one of the first Method actors in Hindi cinema, died on Wednesday at the age of ninety-eight. Kumar was “widely regarded as the finest actor India has ever produced,” writes Abid Rahman in the Hollywood Reporter. “Starring in some of the all-time classic films of Indian cinema, Kumar’s versatility and command of his craft allowed him to excel across genres.” You can watch two of his most popular films, Devdas (1955) and Madhumati (1958), both directed by Bimal Roy, on the Criterion Channel.

Romanian actor Luminița Gheorghiu, who won international acclaim for her performances in Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2006) and Călin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose (2013), passed away on Sunday at the age of seventy-one. Gheorghiu also appeared in films by Lucian Pintilie, Cristian Mungiu, and Radu Jude.

  • Colin Burnett, the author of The Invention of Robert Bresson: The Auteur and His Market (2017), argues in a new paper that Bresson sought to demonstrate in his films that rhythm was the key to liberating cinema from its ties to photography and theater. “For Bresson, rhythm was inherently non-cerebral, preconscious, bodily,” writes Burnett. “Some critics interpret his films as profound Christian messages about the crisis of the human spirit in the modern age. Others see his works as radical leftist commentaries on the injustices of late capitalism. While often at odds, both critical approaches have merit. And yet neither seems entirely adequate. The central ambition of Bresson’s cinématographe lays elsewhere.”

  • Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1932), independently produced by Howard Hughes, is “a display of directorial bravura and bravado that stands out to this day as a high point of invention, audacity, and startling idiosyncrasy—in Hawks’s career and in the history of cinema,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Scarface is featured in our Criterion Channel program of films starring Paul Muni, and Muni’s performance as Tony Camonte, loosely based on Al Capone, is “one of the most hyperbolically theatrical yet cannily cinematic performances ever filmed.”

  • Over the course of a career that began in the mid-1950s, Hungarian filmmaker Márta Mészáros has won the Grand Prix in Cannes and the Golden and Silver Bear in Berlin. With her ninetieth birthday coming up in September, the BFI is presenting a retrospective in London and Michael Brooke has put together an introduction to her work for Sight & Sound (see, too, Kat Sachs’s primer in the Notebook). Mészáros’s “attention to human detail is augmented by the accretion of exquisitely observed background elements, especially the procedural nature of workplace and domestic chores,” writes Brooke. “The camera choreography is as formally virtuosic as that in the films of Mészáros’s former husband Miklós Jancsó, but less showy.”

  • In the late 1970s, No Wave filmmaker Beth B couldn’t get her work screened in galleries, never mind cinemas. But then Lydia Lunch, who was performing with Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, introduced her to the people running the legendary club Max’s Kansas City. “It was the perfect venue for the films we were making,” B tells Forrest Cardamenis at Hyperallergic. The occasion for the interview is the release of B’s latest documentary, Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over. “What I’m doing is still No Wave,” says B. “It’s a rejection of what is, and it’s embracing what is not: what we don’t see, what we don’t hear. My mode is to really bring those things to the fore.”

  • For Newcity Film, Ray Pride has asked over a hundred filmmakers, programmers, and critics in the Chicago area whether or not they’ve been back inside a movie theater since March 2020. He’s selected nearly two dozen responses, and the range may surprise you. Deborah Stratman, whose Optimism (2018) and The Illinois Parables (2016) are currently streaming from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, has “not been back to the dark palace,” though she’s caught a few outdoor screenings. Jonathan Rosenbaum currently plans to see his first films indoors again when he arrives in Bologna for Il Cinema Ritrovato. And filmmaker Alex Thompson (Saint Frances) is heading back in, too. “Popcorn, loud noises, and air-conditioning is my baseline joy right now.”

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