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Tears and Giggles

Jean-Luc Godard at the Festival d’Avignon in 1967

Two months ago, many of us were wondering whatever happened to Howard Hawks. Sight and Sound had just published the results of its Greatest Films of All Time poll of 1,639 critics, programmers, and scholars, and none of his films had made the top one hundred. This week, that list expanded to 250, and four of Hawks’s movies are in. Rio Bravo (1959) shares the #101 spot with Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black (1963) and Agnès Varda’s Vagabond (1985), and just a bit further down the list we find Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and His Girl Friday (1940).

At the Film Stage, Jordan Raup notes that four more directors who went missing in the top one hundred now have two each in the big 250: Terrence Malick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Jacques Demy. Lucrecia Martel has three. Among those still absent from the now-complete results of the poll are Krzysztof Kieślowski, Jia Zhangke, Theo Angelopoulos, Michael Haneke, Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Anderson, and David Fincher.

A different set of critics went to Sundance last month, and 367 of them cast ballots in IndieWire’s survey. Their favorite film of the festival is Chloe Domont’s Fair Play, starring Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich as Manhattan hedge fund analysts embroiled in a secret affair. It’s “a pacy workplace thriller fired up by sex and spite,” writes Caitlin Quinlan for Sight and Sound, and while it premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, it won no awards. The $20 million sale to Netflix should more than compensate.

Coming in at #2 is Celine Song’s Past Lives, which we’ll be hearing more about when it screens in competition in Berlin. The Berlinale (February 16 through 26) has now set its juries, topped off its competition lineup with the addition of Liu Jian’s animated Art College 1994, and announced that this year’s Berlinale Camera will be presented to cinematographer Caroline Champetier, who has worked with Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, Chantal Akerman, Leos Carax, Arnaud Desplechin, Anne Fontaine, Philippe Garrel, and Margarethe von Trotta.

SXSW (March 10 through 18) has expanded its lineup to include several Sundance favorites; Kelvin Yu’s American Born Chinese, an action comedy series featuring Michelle Yeoh; and documentaries on Joan Baez, Donna Summer, Max Roach, and Swinging Sixties-era hitmakers the Zombies. Rotterdam, in the meantime, will wrap this weekend, and at Little White Lies, David Jenkins looks back on ten highlights of this year’s edition.

Sylvia Syms, the English actress whose star blazed brightest in the late 1950s and early ’60s, passed away last Friday at the age of eighty-nine. The Guardian’s Ronald Bergan especially appreciated her “beautifully understated performance” in Basil Dearden’s Victim (1961) “as the wife of an in-the-closet barrister (played by Dirk Bogarde), especially notable in the scene when she reacts painfully to her husband’s confession of his desire for a young man.”

On Monday, we learned that Cindy Williams was gone at seventy-five. Williams appeared in George Cukor’s Travels with My Aunt (1972), George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) before landing the role that would define her career, Shirley Feeney, the best friend and roommate of Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall). The pair debuted on the hit sitcom Happy Days and then starred in their own long-running series, Laverne & Shirley.

This week’s recommended reading:

  • Melancholia permeates much of the Notebook’s outstanding collection of seven brief pieces on Jean-Luc Godard. A scene from Keep Your Right Up (1987) once again has Richard Brody tearing up, Andréa Picard revisits a moment in Soft and Hard (1995) that “never ceases to seize my heart,” Miguel Marías writes about JLG/JLG (1994) as an “equivalent of some sort of epitaph,” and Lucía Salas asks, “how do we begin again?” But there are moments of celebration as well. Ephraim Asili connects the dots between the French New Wave and the Black Arts Movement, A. S. Hamrah recalls the teenage thrill of chasing after that first brush with Breathless (1960), and most thrilling of all, Rachel Kushner, drawing on notes from Tom Luddy, reconstructs the shooting of one scene in Une bonne à tout faire on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart in 1981. Edited for an exhibition in 2005, Une bonne à tout faire is “one of Godard’s most beautiful films.”

  • With On the Bowery: Lost and Found Films of Sara Driver running through next Wednesday at New York’s Roxy Cinema, Sierra Pettengill (Riotsville, U.S.A.) talks with Driver for Screen Slate about casting unemployed Russian soldiers as extras in the ghost walk scenes in When Pigs Fly (1993) and dealing with Neo-Nazis and negligent producers while shooting the film in Wismar, the northeastern German town where Murnau shot Nosferatu (1922). “I had the weirdest dream the other night where I was tickling an alligator,” says Driver. “Under its arms. And it was laughing, and it had a big smile.” SP: “I think that is a perfect metaphor for your films! Like going so close to the mouth of the beast and then .‌ . .” SD: “.‌ . . giving it a giggle.” Driver has written her next film, which Nicoletta Braschi, her close friend and lead actress, describes as “Alice in Wonderland at the end of her life.”

  • Kira Muratova once looked back on shooting The Asthenic Syndrome in Odessa in 1989 and noted that she “had the great fortune of working in a period between the dominance of ideology and the dominance of the market, a period of suspension, a temporary paradise.” The quote comes from a marvelous piece for the Paris Review by poet, musician, and translator Timmy Straw, who writes that “the film is a realization of inbetweenness, an assembly of frictions and crossover states we feel through form: through Muratova’s use of juxtaposition; through her uncanny overpatterning of echoes and coincidences; through the shifts of register between documentary and opera. The film doesn’t proceed so much as weave itself in front of us, in a dazzling ivy pattern of zones and occurrences. You could call it late-Soviet baroque realism.”

  • Joyce Chopra will be in Cambridge this evening when the Harvard Film Archive screens Joyce at 34 (1974), the landmark documentary she shot with Claudia Weill, and Smooth Talk (1985), Chopra’s debut feature starring a then-eighteen-year-old Laura Dern. “The event is being held in celebration of Chopra’s recently released memoir Lady Director, a blisteringly candid and compulsively readable tell-all from a trailblazer who isn’t afraid to name names,” writes Sean Burns for WBUR. Burns walks us through the stormy career all the way up through Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front (2006): “I can’t believe I cried at a movie based on the backstory of a plastic doll.” Chopra is also Thom Powers’s guest on the latest episode of Pure Nonfiction: Inside Documentary Film.

  • One of the challenges CGI presents to filmmakers and scholars alike “involves recognizing the hegemonic studio aesthetic as just one of many possibilities,” write Luise Moerke and Jack Seibert in the introduction to the dossier they’ve guest-edited for Senses of Cinema. The new issue also offers articles on Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) and puppetry in Leos Carax’s Annette (2021) and Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Véronique (1991) as well as interviews with Dominik Graf (Beloved Sisters), Christophe Honoré (Les chansons d’amour), Mark Jenkin (Enys Men), Ann Oren (Piaffe), Cyril Schäublin (Unrest), and the late Amy Halpern.

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