Did You See This?

To Truly Feel Everything

Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO (2022)

Paul Vecchiali, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of ninety-two, was “an icon of a rebellious, reflexive, and emotionally excessive cinema, one of the few in France,” writes Mathieu Macheret in Le Monde. Vecchiali’s work left its mark on “a whole galaxy of young disciples,” including Axelle Ropert, Serge Bozon, and Yann Gonzalez. “Above all,” writes Macheret, “he leaves a heritage of artistic independence, having produced and distributed not only his own films but also those of others, thanks to his company Diagonale, one of the rare creative collectives in French cinema.”

The sudden death of Ravi Srinivasan, the thirty-seven-year-old senior manager of festival programming at the Toronto International Film Festival, has shocked the city’s arts community. Death has been relentless this week, taking Yoon Jeong-hee, who appeared in more than 300 films, retired in the mid-1990s, and then returned to give one final astonishing performance in Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry (2010); producer Edward R. Pressman, who worked closely with Terrence Malick, Mary Harron, and Oliver Stone; cinematographer Brian Tufano, who shot Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia (1979) and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996); Teodor Corban, who appeared in films by Radu Jude, Cristian Mungiu, and Corneliu Porumboiu; and Piers Haggard, who directed the British series Pennies from Heaven (1978) and Quatermass (1979).

This week’s bright spot in the ongoing effort to wrap 2022 is Sight and Sound’s poll of forty-four video essayists, critics, academics, and curators that has resulted in an overwhelmingly diverse collection—in terms of length, style, platform, and so on—of favorite audiovisual essays of the year. Way over in a different corner, few would have expected Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front, the first German-language adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, to lead the BAFTA nominations with fourteen. Writing for Cinema Scope, Josh Lewis finds the film to be “handsomely scaled and crafted with the loud soundscape and digital technical bravura of other recent war films such as Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019), but [it] is given a tone of almost mythic severity that at times rubs up against the haunting ugliness of the material.”

Here’s what’s stuck with us over the past seven days:

  • Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966) “fails its star,” argues Robert Rubsam in the Baffler. The serially abused donkey “is only ever considered as the sum total of everything impressed upon him,” writes Rubsam. “But what is he, beyond what has been done to him?” Bresson is “compelled by the donkey’s steadfastness,” but in EO, Jerzy Skolimowski “conveys his sentience.” EO’s “lovesickness renders the human dramatics around him pitiful, paltry. He really, truly feels, with a passionate force that compels him, restlessly, across the world. He is more than what is done to him; he is not a metaphor; his suffering is his own.”

  • Yasmina Price’s introduction to her interview with Alice Diop for Screen Slate is one of the finest analyses yet of Saint Omer. The conversation touches on the influence of Chantal Akerman, the absence of Senegalese filmmaker Safi Faye in cinephilic culture, and the porous division between fiction and documentary. “Diop is a historical filmmaker in the least usual but most urgent ways,” writes Price. “Although none of her films abide to historical genres in any traditional sense, they are all dynamic participants in the ongoing necessity of interrogating and revising the narratives of the past—particularly those produced by dominant structures of power. As a rejoinder to this orientation, Diop actively refuses the ahistorical tyranny of the exceptional which shadows so many black women filmmakers; her work intentionally enlivens a lineage to which she has not always had access.”

  • From today through January 29, Anthology Film Archives is presenting a wide-ranging series of films by Alexander Hammid, who is known to most for making Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) with his wife at the time, Maya Deren. “Who was Hammid beyond this lionized short, one that film historian David E. James has called ‘the single most consequential film in the American avant-garde and hence one of the pivotal achievements in the history of cinema’?” asks Erika Balsom at 4Columns. “Unlike Deren, who possessed an indelible signature and whose films are inseparable from her sorcerous persona, he was a shapeshifter, an anti-auteur who receded into his collaborations with others . . . What emerges from a holistic look at his career is not the consistent articulation of a singular vision, that thing so dear to film criticism, and perhaps nowhere more so than in avant-garde circles. His peripatetic arc tells a different tale, one of a film worker who connects experimental, educational, promotional, and sponsored forms of cinema.”

  • On a recent episode of the podcast A Very Good Year, Bilge Ebiri talks about his five favorite films from 1987, one of them being Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. But as Ebiri explains, it was Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) that first turned him into a dedicated cinephile. A new 4K restoration opens at New York’s Film Forum today, and Ebiri urges Vulture readers to revisit “one of those canonical titles whose place in history is a given at this point.” We can see its influence in The Godfather and countless other films “and yet, it remains as startling and revolutionary as it was upon original release, in part because few filmmakers nowadays are willing to embrace the sensuous and the monstrous at the same time. You never quite know what you’re supposed to feel at any given moment of The Conformist, because it asks you to feel everything.”

  • Due to what the festival calls “the ongoing turmoil over the future of San Francisco’s Castro Theatre,” the twentieth-anniversary edition of Noir City will open today at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland and run through January 29. When Eddie Muller launched the festival in 2003, he only screened films set in San Francisco. This year, every film in the program was released in 1948, and one film included in both editions is The Lady from Shanghai, starring Rita Hayworth and writer, director, and producer Orson Welles. What may be the “most striking location shoot was for a rendezvous between Welles and Hayworth in the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park,” writes Brian Darr for SFGATE. “The scene deftly combines on-location filming with rear-screen projections timed to match dialogue (sharks and eels swim in the background when certain aggressive or slippery characters are mentioned). American Cinematographer called it ‘a masterpiece of mood.’”

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