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Bric-à-Brakhage and Curiosities

Filmstrips from Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight (1963)

The new year is taking shape, even as we carry on wrapping up the old one. The juries are set for Sundance, which opens next Thursday, and the Berlinale now has an opening film. Peter Dinklage plays a composer struggling to complete his magnum opus in Rebecca Miller’s romantic comedy She Came to Me. Earlier in the week, the festival, whose seventy-third edition will run from February 16 through 26, unveiled tantalizing lineups for its Retrospective and Classics programs, and today, the Berlinale expanded its lineup with titles slated for the Forum Special,Shorts, and Berlinale Special sections.

SXSW has rolled out a first wave of titles for its thirtieth edition running from March 10 through 18. Highlights include Julio Torres’s Problemista, starring Tilda Swinton as an unpredictable artist; Penny Lane’s new documentary, Confessions of a Good Samaritan; The Lady Bird Diaries, a portrait of the First Lady from Dawn Porter; Ondi Timoner’s The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution; and Boots Riley’s I’m a Virgo, a series about a thirteen-foot-tall Black man living in Oakland, California.

2022

As for sorting through the best of 2022, the Golden Globes came and went, and now the nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards are out. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin lead with five each. Everything tops a list that Talkhouse contributors have annotated and illustrated, while Banshees is the favorite at the Austin Chronicle. On Thursday evening, Cinema Eye Honors presented its top awards to Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes (Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Filmmaking as well as the award for Cinematography), Laura Poitras’s All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Outstanding Direction), and Sara Sosa’s Fire of Love (Outstanding Editing, Visual Design, and Original Score).

You can watch a couple of best-of-2022 lists. In a little under an hour, you can take in all of the Art of the Title’s favorite opening sequences. Another highlight of every awards season is David Ehrlich’s supercut, and this year’s is a seventeen-and-a-half-minute countdown of twenty-five films all the way to Aftersun. Charlotte Wells’s debut feature also leads the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards and is #1 on Reveal cofounder Keith Phipps’s list. Scott Tobias, the other cofounder, goes for Todd Field’s Tár.

The top ten from Reverse Shot always rewards an attentive read-through, and this year, contributors have voted Saint Omer up to #1. “The first fiction feature from documentarian Alice Diop is a courtroom drama, a mother daughter deep-dive, and a ripped-from-the-headlines true story that somehow defies the typical trappings of all these genres,” writes Farihah Zaman. Vince Keenan and Girish Shambu are simply listing things they liked in 2022, and Steven Soderbergh has once again posted his entire media diet. Everyone immediately noticed that he watched David Fincher’s forthcoming The Killer four times in August.

Remembrances

Since Michael Snow passed away last week, Lukas Brasiskis,J. Hoberman, and Jonathan Rosenbaum have written appreciations for e-flux, the New York Times, and the BFI, respectively. The day after Snow died, cinematographer Owen Roizman passed away at the age of eighty-six. Roizman worked with William Friedkin on The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973) and with Sydney Pollack on Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Tootsie (1982). Roizman’s incredible filmography also includes Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), Ulu Grosbard’s Straight Time (1978).

Editor Mike Hill, who worked with Ron Howard on twenty-two consecutive features and won an Oscar for Apollo 13 (1995), has died. Hill was seventy-three. Dorothy Tristan, who appeared in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971), Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow (1973), and Frank Perry’s Man on a Swing (1974), is gone at eighty-eight. And on Tuesday, we lost He Ping, who combined western and wuxia tropes in Swordsmen in Double Flag Town (1991), Sun Valley (1995), and Warriors of Heaven and Earth (2004). He was only sixty-five.

This Week’s Highlights

  • Seeking Brakhage, a collection of writing on the giant of American experimental filmmaking by artist, filmmaker, critic, and historian Fred Camper, will be released tomorrow, Saturday, the day that Stan Brakhage would have turned ninety. The Museum of the Moving Image will screen a program of Brakhage’s work followed by new restorations of Camper’s films. On Sunday, Anthology Film Archives will present a different Brakhage program—also curated by Camper—and then Camper’s films on Monday. “To be a visionary is to be a seer,” Brakhage told Suranjan Ganguly in a 1993 interview that Sight and Sound has republished this week. “The problem is that most people can’t see.”

  • With To Save and Project, MoMA’s festival of film preservation, now running through February 2, Ben Kenigsberg talks with archivists around the world for the New York Times about how they go about deciding which titles are in most urgent need of saving. Farran Smith Nehme, in the meantime, focuses on Jeanne Eagels, the star of The Letter, Jean de Limur’s 1929 adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s play about a murder committed in a jealous rage. Eagels, as big a star on Broadway as she was in Hollywood and “fated to die in a matter of months after filming on The Letter wrapped, was working at a level of reckless abandon that remains rare to this day,” writes Nehme. “It’s like watching a live broadcast of someone’s nervous breakdown.”

  • Over the past week or two, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu have been gathering to reflect on their tight friendship, their work, and the past and current state of cinema in Mexico—and in general. In a conversation opened by Deadline’s Joe Utichi, Cuarón mentions that “the communication between us is brutally honest. It is brutal . . . But the funny thing is that before the anger rises, laughter does.” Del Toro suggests that in all three filmographies, the work has become “a lot more personal, not necessarily in visible ways, but sometimes. I think Roma, Pinocchio, and Bardo all have that in common, even if one of them is pure biography, one is a classic children’s fairy tale, and the other is obliquely a biography but also isn’t.”

  • Hirokazu Kore-eda has been talking to Deadline’s Liz Shackleton and Time Out’s Emma Steen about his new Netflix series, The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House; campaigning for better working conditions in the Japanese film industry; putting the final touches on Monster, which will open in Japan on June 23; and setting up another feature for Netflix that he says will be unlike anything he’s ever done before. He’s also spoken with the Academy about his five favorite films, and one of them is Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray (1986). “To create films with that level of lightness, that flowing storyline, and also to direct with such freedom is a very, very challenging process,” he says. “It’s something that I came to realize as well. It’s not an easy thing to do at all.”

  • The New Yorker’s Richard Brody has a list that runs to thirty-four titles. “The history of cinema is rich in movies that depict the world of movies—which spotlight the personalities, celebrate the art, look frankly at the business, reveal the off-camera conflicts that fuel and hinder productions, and lay bare the ravenous force of filmmaking’s commercial and emotional demands,” he writes. Among Brody’s favorites in the genre, presented in chronological order, are films by Buster Keaton, Vincente Minnelli, Satyajit Ray, Agnès Varda, Stanley Kwan, Abbas Kiarostami, Catherine Breillat, Hong Sangsoo, Leos Carax, and Claire Simon.

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