Did You See This?

“Cinema Is a Two-Way Phenomenon”

Rob Tregenza’s Inside/Out (1997)

After presenting the lineup for this year’s Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, artistic director Thierry Frémaux gave his usual round of interviews. Talking to Deadline’s Melanie Goodfellow, he mentioned that he and his team are putting together a tribute to the late Jean-Luc Godard. “That will be one of our future announcements,” he said. “We’re still reflecting on the details.”

Godardians have been passing around a poster for Funny Wars, one of at least two projects JLG was working on—or maybe even completed—before he left us last fall. Keeping in mind that the poster could easily be the product of wishful thinking and a rudimentary set of Photoshop skills, it’s interesting to note that it claims that Saint Laurent, and more specifically, Anthony Vaccarello, the fashion house’s artistic director, will present the film.

Vaccarello has told Variety’s Elsa Keslassy that his company’s new banner, Saint Laurent Productions, will have two short films at Cannes, one of them being Pedro Almodóvar’s Strange Way of Life, a western starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal. The second film isn’t mentioned again. Just as intriguing, though, are the other projects Vaccarello says he’s been working on, collaborations with David Cronenberg, Wong Kar Wai, Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara, Gaspar Noé, and Paolo Sorrentino.

On Saturday, Walter Chaw wrote a clearly heartfelt appreciation at RogerEbert.com of cinematographer Bill Butler, who died last week just two days shy of his 102nd birthday. Butler “cut his teeth shooting ‘thousands’ of shows and documentaries with abrasive, driven, upstart television director William Friedkin.” He shot Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) and Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and he’ll always be remembered first and foremost for shooting Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). “They were artists who complemented each other,” writes Chaw: “Spielberg, who could see everything in his head, and Butler the engineer who could make it happen.”

Michael Lerner, who played a lawyer in Bob Rafelson’s The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), a racketeer in John Sayles’s Eight Men Out (1988), and a Hollywood mogul in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Barton Fink (1991)—that performance earned him an Oscar nomination—has died at eighty-one. Lerner was “a versatile character actor whose specialty was imbuing heavies with nuanced depth,” writes Michael Carlson for the Guardian, where he notes that while Lerner was attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in the 1960s, he “found himself sharing a house with Yoko Ono and eventually John Lennon. Lerner appeared in Yoko’s Film No. 4, aka Bottoms, as ‘one of the bare asses walking on a treadmill.’ Another was Paul McCartney.”

The film and music blog Ultra Dogme passes along the very sad news that writer, editor, and programmer Tony Pipolo has passed away at the age of eighty-two. The author of Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film and The Melancholy Lens: Loss and Mourning in American Avant-Garde Cinema, Pipolo taught film and literature at CUNY, edited the Psychoanalytic Review and Millennium Film Journal, contributed essays to two Criterion releases, and frequently covered New York film events for Artforum with keen insight.

A few of the items that have caught our attention over the past seven days:

  • Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is “about finding the perfection in imperfection.” Luke McKernan will explain exactly what he means by that, but first, he tells us that, for him, this romantic comedy cowritten by Samson Raphaelson and Ben Hecht and starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, and Frank Morgan is one of those “touchstone films,” an “old friend met once every few years, yet without whom you would not know where you are. You know every scene, every word is familiar to you, but you must see it again. It is not so much that the film matters to you but that you matter to the film. It needs you and your type to understand it best. Cinema is a two-way phenomenon.”

  • The Film Stage has posted an impressive run of interviews this week. Daniel Eagan talks with Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose second feature, Passion (2008), begins its first theatrical run in the U.S. today in New York and Los Angeles, and Jordan Raup discusses Human Flowers of Flesh, which also opens today, with Helena Wittmann. The coup, though, is Nick Newman’s conversation with Rob Tregenza, whose rarely screened films are playing at MoMA through the weekend. Tregenza’s work has been championed by Richard Brody,Dave Kehr,Jonathan Rosenbaum, and most crucially, Jean-Luc Godard, who produced Tregenza’s third feature, Inside/Out (1997). “He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met but one of the most mercurial,” Tregenza tells Newman. “He was his films.”

  • At the Overlook Film Festival a couple of weeks ago, Jim Jarmusch mentioned that he’s preparing to shoot his next feature, “a funny and sad film,” later this year. This is probably not the short he’ll be making for Saint Laurent. Vikram Murthi has written a Notebook Primer on Jarmusch, noting that he “gets tagged as a ‘minimalist’ filmmaker even though his films, while frequently devoid of conventional dramatic action, aren’t especially sparse or minute in scope . . . However, the cliché that actually does apply to Jarmusch is one he has tacitly endorsed: he adopts the eye of a keen foreigner while chronicling his home country.” Jarmusch “approaches America as an irreducible phenomenon from multiple vantage points—sometimes with distance, sometimes with wonder, always eager to absorb people and spaces without preconceived notions.”

  • For Ari Aster Selects, the weeklong series opening today at Film at Lincoln Center, the director of Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019) has handpicked eleven features from filmmakers as divergent as Hitchcock, Tati, and Tsai Ming-liang. Aster’s new film, Beau Is Afraid, starring Joaquin Phoenix as an introvert whose journey to his mother’s place becomes an unpredictable odyssey, will be in theaters next week. The reviews are out, though, and they’re all over the map. Michael Koresky, who’s spoken with Aster on the Criterion Channel about some of his all-time favorite films, talks with Aster again at Reverse Shot, this time around about Beau and its reception. “As a narrative, it reaches an emotional peak about two hours in,” says Aster. “When I’m watching it, I always get a little giddy knowing there’s an hour left.”

  • Another new work opening at FLC next week is Trenque Lauquen, a pair of features cowritten by Laura Citarella and Laura Paredes, directed by Citarella, and starring Paredes as an academic named Laura who has disappeared. Melissa Anderson, the film editor at 4Columns and the author of Inland Empire, a book-length study of David Lynch’s 2006 film, finds Trenque Lauquen to be “one of the greatest romances I’ve seen since (Lynch again) Mulholland Drive.” Citarella and Paredes’s twelve-chapter, four-and-a-half-hour work “reaffirms what we are too perilously close to forgetting: that going to a cinema, especially to succumb to a movie that makes a not-insignificant demand on your time, is itself a commitment to adventure—a folly, perhaps, but what memorable romance isn’t?”

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