Did You See This?

Harmony and Horror

Suzanne Fletcher in Sara Driver’s You Are Not I (1981)

The Directors’ Fortnight, which has been running parallel to the Cannes Film Festival since 1969, is a noncompetitive program, but for the past several years, two of its partners have presented awards. In 2017, Europa Cinemas, an association of exhibitors, distributors, producers, and other movers and shakers in the industry, gave its Europa Cinemas Cannes Label for the best European film in the Fortnight to Jonas Carpignano for A Ciambra. That film and his first feature, Mediterranea (2015), “shot with a muscular contemporary neorealism, captured two sides of life in the hardscrabble underside of the Calabrian city Gioia Tauro,” writes Jay Weissberg in Variety.

This year, the Label goes to Carpignano again for A Chiara, which “adds another facet to the earlier stories, one more intimately connected to the region’s mafia,” writes Weissberg. But “it’s perhaps too soon to call Carpignano’s three features a triptych since the panorama he’s built could easily keep extending further.” In the new film, fifteen-year-old Chiara (Swamy Rotolo) suspects that her father has ties to the criminal underworld. “A too-protracted final act notwithstanding,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney, “this chronicle of a keen-eyed teen’s loss of innocence builds to a shattering climax.”

The Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers has given its SACD Award to Vincent Maël Cardona for his first feature, Magnetic Beats. Set in a small town in the French region of Brittany, the film begins in the summer of 1981 as Philippe (Thimotée Robart), a shy teen, and his outgoing older brother, Jérôme (Joseph Olivennes), are running a pirate radio station out of their garage. “Playing all its cards with delightful nerve,” writes Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa, “the film also (surreptitiously) explores a generational shift taking shape, the limits of a provincial existence, a geopolitical world in embryonic form, and a time which was reeling from the bad omen of Bob Marley’s death.”

In other festival news, the New York Film Festival will kick off a citywide Amos Vogel centenary celebration in the fall. From 1947 to 1963, Vogel and his wife, Marcia, ran Cinema 16, which Film at Lincoln Center calls “America’s most influential film society.” He then cofounded the NYFF with Richard Roud, and ten years later, he wrote his influential book, Film as a Subversive Art, which will soon be reissued by Film Desk Books. Meantime, Variety’s Elsa Keslassy hears that Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as Lady Diana, will premiere in Venice.

This week’s highlights:

  • Jim Jarmusch has designed the new issue of Zoetrope: All Story, and three pieces are online. There’s a short story from Thomas Pierce, and Jarmusch himself writes about his love of Polaroids and cathode-ray tube televisions. Also don’t miss Sara Driver’s recollections of making her first film, You Are Not I (1981), an adaptation of a story by Paul Bowles. She recalls learning that firemen are “unsettlingly enthusiastic when asked to create fires and blow up cars,” striking up a correspondence with Bowles (whose “envelopes often arrived decorated with kef-fuelled doodles”), and horrifyingly, losing all of her original elements—“negative, internegative, interpositive, prints.” But there’s a happy ending! In 2009, a pristine print was found in Tangier.

  • In the films of Jacques Tati, every character is “capable of being a little ridiculous,” writes Zach Campbell in his latest newsletter. “The general spirit of a film like Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is eclectic, pluralist, democratic . . . In an important if indirect way, it feels like a picture of harmony,” which is “not the perfect absence of friction or waste; rather, harmony requires some amount of friction and of inefficiency. It requires living with differences, it requires translation, it understands that miscommunication is both inevitable and necessary. Harmony is not instrumentalist. There will be accidents.”

  • Any time is a good time to talk to Bill Duke, but the Los Angeles TimesMark Olsen has three reasons for talking to him right now. Duke plays a “pivotal” supporting role in Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, No Sudden Move. Duke’s first feature as a director, The Killing Floor (1984), has just screened in the Cannes Classics program. And our release of Deep Cover (1992), starring Laurence Fishburne as undercover cop Russell Stevens, is out this week. “Watch his work,” Duke says of Fishburne; “he’s a great listener.” Writing in the new Brooklyn Rail, Edward Mendez argues that Deep Cover “thrives off of the multiple expressivities illuminated through content most films would gloss over with colorblind liberalism, such as the interracial buddy coupling of Stevens and David Jason (Jeff Goldblum).”

  • Our new release of Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls (1986) comes with an essay by So Mayer whose title is taken from a question Molly, a sex worker, asks Lucy, who runs the Manhattan brothel: “Have you ever heard of surplus value?” At the A.V. Club, Borden tells Katie Rife that particularly with sex work, “the emotional labor on top of the physical labor adds up. And so that line is the cornerstone of the whole thing.” Borden counts Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman among her favorite films and says that she “actually stole a shot from Klute, of Bree looking at her watch during a session. But at that time, I hadn’t seen this kind of middle class prostitution [in a film], where it seems so ordinary, a stop on the way to Long Island for a half an hour. But what I’ve seen over the years with the growth of social media, is a transformation of shame into pride.”

  • Among the five essays in the new issue of [in]Transition, the journal of peer-reviewed videographic film criticism, is Georgia Thomas-Parr’s seventeen-minute piece on Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977), “Hausu of the Rising Sun: Death of the Girl.” Lori Morimoto writes that the cult film’s “singular relevance to Thomas-Parr—revealed in the discovery of a still from the film clipped and saved by her teenaged self—takes on a kind of horror of its own in the way it seems to reflect an unspoken (or maybe unspeakable) terror about the experience of entering into womanhood.”

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