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“Alive to the Senses”

Arie and Chuko Esiri’s Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) (2020)

Coming this fall: Shakespeare in the dark. This year’s New York Film Festival will open on September 24 with the world premiere of Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. NYFF director of programming Dennis Lim says that Coen “has made an inspired and urgent interpretation of an eternally relevant classic, a moral thriller that speaks directly to our time.”

In April 2020, when the pandemic shut down the production, Italian stage director Damiano Michieletto spoke with Coen and McDormand, and Jordan Raup transcribed much of their conversation for the Film Stage. Pointing out that both she and Washington are in their sixties, McDormand said, “We’re postmenopausal, we’re past childbearing age. So that puts a pressure on [the Macbeths’] ambition to have the crown. I think the most important distinction is that it is their last chance for glory. It puts a very specific time pressure on the characters, but also on the storytelling, which I think is the real brilliance of the adaptation that Joel has done. There’s a real suspense and a real ticking clock.”

In other news from New York, the lineup for the fifteenth edition of Japan Cuts (August 20 through September 2) is set. Eight films, including recent work from Kiyoshi Kurosawa and the late Nobuhiko Obayashi, will screen at Japan Society, and twenty features and two programs of short films will be available virtually nationwide.

Venice (September 1 through 11) will announce its full lineup on Monday morning. In the meantime, Chloé Zhao, Saverio Costanzo, Virginie Efira, Cynthia Erivo, Sarah Gadon, and Alexander Nanau have joined president Bong Joon Ho on the jury. One of the programs running parallel to the festival, the Venice International Film Critics’ Week, has already unveiled its full program. The thirty-sixth edition will open with Jake Wachtel’s directorial debut, Karmalink, the futuristic story of two teens in Phnom Penh who seek to unravel mysterious dreams of past lives.

This week’s highlights:

  • Nigerian twin brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri tell two stories set in Lagos in their debut feature, Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), which opens today at New York’s Film Forum. Both Mofe (Jude Akuwudike), an electrician by day and a security guard by night, and Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams), a hairdresser and bartender, dream of emigrating to Europe. “They’re at the mercy of a city where every interaction is a transaction, and where the myths of bootstrap capitalism come to die,” writes Devika Girish in the New York Times. At Reverse Shot, Kelli Weston notes that cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan, shooting on 16 mm, “captures crowded, bustling streets and alluring bursts of color.”

  • Introducing the new second issue of Animus, editor Elena Lazic issues a call for “a more sensual cinema that is actually alive to the senses.” James King writes about The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) and director Tran Anh Hung’s decision “to eschew plot mechanics in favor of what is essentially a succession of sensory interactions.” Mark Asch suggests that Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) remains “tormenting in its evocation of knowledge never quite grasped. Kubrick likely felt those torments too—why would he be so exacting about his productions, why would he demand so many takes, except in obsessive search of the world behind the world?” The film’s famous last line, so definitively pronounced by Nicole Kidman, “evinces an incredibly hopeful belief in the evidence of the senses.”

  • Presenting a new dossier at Sabzian, editors Gerard-Jan Claes and Stoffel Debuysere note that Atteyat Al-Abnoudy’s “graceful focus on the disadvantaged and the unrepresented in Egyptian society would earn her the nickname ‘the poor people’s filmmaker,’ but it also enkindled a confrontation with censorship.” In 1991, Al-Abnoudy told Johanni Larjanko and Riitta Santala that she came “from the working class, but film is a middle-class medium, so you have to be strong in order to maintain your relationship to your class. Otherwise you are lost.”

  • With her Floor Plan Croissant project, architect Boryana Ilieva has been rendering the designs of cinematic spaces into fetching pencil drawings and watercolors. Her latest project is a set of studies of La Cupola, a house in Sardinia designed and built in the late 1960s by Italian architect Dante Bini for Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti. If these intrigue you, read more about La Cupola in a marvelous piece Leanne Sharpton and Niklas Maak wrote for the New York TimesT Magazine in 2016.

  • When the dazzling Paprika (2006) arrived in the U.S., Mark Slutsky sent eight questions to director Satoshi Kon, and for the first time, Slutsky has published the anime legend’s generously expansive responses in full. “The dreams we have while we are sleeping are, in a sense, ‘My Unexpected Movies,’” wrote Kon. “However, because dreams are offspring of the images the dreamer has inside himself, I find the irony of the dreamer not understanding it very interesting . . . I can say with confidence that movies that are one hundred percent comprehensible are absolutely boring.” Writing for ARTnews about Pascal-Alex Vincent’s documentary Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist, which just premiered in Cannes, Shanti Escalante-De Mattei notes that just before Kon passed away in 2010 at the age of forty-six, he left a farewell letter. “I loved the world I lived in,” he wrote. “Just thinking about it makes me happy.”

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