The weekend's must-read is Michael Idov's report in GQ from the set of Ilya Khrzhanovsky's (4) latest project, Dau, which "has been in production since 2006 and won't wrap until 2012, if ever." I first came across it via a tweet from Vince Keenan: "It's Synecdoche, New York. Only it's real. And Russian." Very. Ostensibly a biopic based on the life of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Lev Landau, Dau has become "an entire city, built to scale" in eastern Ukraine and populated by 300 cast and crew members who literally live, day in and day out, inside a simulacrum of Moscow, circa 1952. It is also an Institute, of which Khrzhanovsky is the Head "or simply the Boss." There's a narrative arc to Idov's piece: "A day into my stay at the Institute, I begin to feel its pull." By the third day, "I have been reduced… to a sniveling Soviet stukach, a snitch." By the way, I didn't want to use any of the images by GQ's photographer, so what we have up there is the cover of a Russian biography of Landau.
"A look back at the great tradition of the political avant-garde reveals exactly what our age is missing," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "From Dziga Vertov in the Soviet Union of the 1920s to the wave of European filmmakers who emerged or became radicalized amid the convulsions of the late 60s — Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, who formed their Dziga Vertov Group 'to make films politically'; the husband-and-wife team of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the German film essayists Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky — it's clear that radical politics and radical art go hand in hand. There is little in the current cinematic landscape that matches or evokes the anger and the sense of injustice that have galvanized the protesters at Occupy Wall Street and its proliferating offshoots. You know things are bleak when people are positioning the financial-crisis indie thriller Margin Call as a movie of the moment. Perhaps it will take time, but while we're waiting, class warriors and curious bystanders alike might want to check out Travis Wilkerson's An Injury to One, one of American independent cinema's great achievements of the past decade, just issued on DVD by Icarus Films."
"These days, film theory courses in the universities have gone crazy for 'affect' — which is not exactly the same thing as old-fashioned emotion, but comes close. In any case, it's all about feeling — often strong feeling. Affect theory adds back into film studies what it has so often lacked: the current or charge of the spectator's experience, which usually eludes discussion based squarely on theme or genre or the director's signature…" Adrian Martin in De Filmkrant: "I have been pondering sadness lately."
The Observer's Philip French reviews Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, a "superbly designed book, with its 1,480 illustrations" and "a work of filial piety on the part of [Elaine and Saul's] daughter Jennifer Bass, herself a graphic designer, in collaboration with the design historian Pat Kirkham."
"Doris Day will receive the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn's Career Achievement Award," reports the LAT's Susan King.
From the festivals: Michael Wood in Morelia (London Review of Books) and, at the House Next Door, Aaron Cutler in São Paulo, Ronald Bergan at the Viennale and Glenn Heath Jr at the San Diego Asian Film Festival.