Notebook's 10th Writers Poll: Fantasy Double Features of 2017

In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2017 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.

How would you program this year's newest, most interesting films into double features with movies of the past you saw in 2017?

Looking back over the year at what films moved and impressed us, it is clear that watching old films is a crucial part of making new films meaningful. Thus, the annual tradition, now in its 10th edition, of our end of year poll, which calls upon our writers to pick both a new and an old film: they were challenged to choose a new film they saw in 2017—in cinemas or at a festival—and creatively pair it with an old film they also saw in 2017 to create a unique double feature. Together, the two films form a snapshot of the year's viewings—not limited just to the latest releases—that were important to them.

All the contributors were given the option to write some text explaining their 2017 fantasy double feature. What's more, each writer was given the option to list more pairings, with or without explanation, as further imaginative film programming we'd be lucky to catch in that perfect world we know doesn't exist but can keep dreaming of every time we go to the movies.


Susana Bessa

Carolina Benalcázar

Philip Brubaker

Celluloid Liberation Front

Henri de Corith

Adam Cook

Jordan Cronk

Jesse Cumming

Adrian Curry

Ruben Demasure

Doug Dibbern

Kelley Dong

The Ferroni Brigade

Nate Fisher

Sara Freeman

Greg Gerke

Sean Gilman

Isaac Goes

Duncan Gray

Jaime Grijalba

Michael Guarneri

Glenn Heath, Jr.

Patrick Holzapfel

David Hudson

Sherry Johnson

Andrei Kartashov

Daniel Kasman

Jonathan Kiefer

Ehsan Khoshbakht

James Lattimer

Zach Lewis

Dave McDougall

Ben Nash

Ben R. Nicholson

Mike Opal

Michael Pattison

Chelsea Phillips-Carr

Michael Sicinski

James Slaymaker

Joe Sommerlad

Christopher Small

Elissa Suh

Scout Tafoya

Mike Thorn

Matt Turner

Alejandro Veciana

Neil Young


NEW: El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki, USA)

OLD: Un homme qui dort (Bernard Queysanne, 1974)

“In the desert, night is like day—the sky is a roof of light, an illuminated room.”

If I was to replicate the sentiment this year prescribed, I would have to stare at a snow globe after shaking it mad and contemplate its audible minutiae. That said, these two films together not only speak for the meditation revolving around the suspension of time that such an act imbues, along with the sudden realization that those enclosed within are indeed trapped inside, but also manage to bring the memory-cloth of the sensorial elements at play to the foreground.

In the prefiguring of mood over narrative, both films work as vehicles that look at the physical in order to excavate the psychological. Before El Mar La Mar’s hostility of the region for the individual versus the hostility of the region that lies within the individual in Un homme qui dort, the undressing of invisibility that shines a light on the Man in Queysanne’s existential essay film finds itself ignited in Bonnetta and Sniadecki’s empathetic geopolitical poem. A map of the human crisis we have among us right now around the world is thus quickly consolidated.

Looking closer and closer, the pairing could lull the audience into the kind of dangerous tranquility wherein all is absorbed, kept on the cusp of perception and reaction, no sense of relief ever to be bestowed in the horizon. Time as landscape, and landscape as mythos—walking across the Sonoran Desert and walking across yourself in the city. As such, soporific in format and poetic in texture, it would be accurate to say they look like what exhausted feels. Ghost stories; never too aware of their imprisonment, with death always at their feet. Or so did the slight tilting of heads during one of El Mar La Mar’s 10 min sequences at London’s ICA—in which a tiny figure of a man walks across the desert—inferred at a different point in time by each one of us, seemed to suggest. That stoppage, that ‘nowness’ inscribed.

Yes. Like a snow globe suspended in time, this double feature bill could be strong enough to remain in one’s mind as one that speaks of the act of wanting to live life as one of heroism, the embracing and detachment of one’s humanity alike.


NEW120 Beats Per Minute (Robin Campillo, France)

The Grand Prix winner in Cannes this year is a fly on the wall account of the actions brought about by Act Up Paris during the 90s. With the goal of pushing the French state towards more responsible care for those affected by HIV and creating awareness on sex education and protection, the HIV activist group constantly meets in a university classroom to evaluate their interventions in the public sphere. Despite the film's interest in the ways in which internal politics are defined and negotiated, the heart of its narrative is the love story between two Act Up members: Sean and Nathan. The intimacy of their relationship and the way the camera follows it, especially during their sexual encounters, immediately brought me back to Joaquim Pinto's What Now? Remind Me and its candid depiction of sex. 

OLDWhat Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto, Portugal)

An intimate portrayal, in the form of a film-essay, of a couple's experience with HIV could be a short definition of What Now? Remind Me. The romantic relationship between Joaquim (the director) and Nuno (his husband), like Sean and Nathan's in 120 Beats Per Minute, gives way to a wider narrative. Here it crisscrosses politics, memory, love and death as if reading excerpts of a deeply personal journal kept across decades. The contrast between Campillo's fiction and Pinto's non-fiction prompts a discussion on the way the presence of HIV in masculine lives has been and is being told through cinema in recent years. The intense and lyrical intimacy that palpitates in both films, and the contrasting portrayal between Campillo's young love and Pinto's enduring one make this my Fantasy Double Feature. 


NEW: The Disaster Artist (James Franco, USA)

OLD: The Room (Tommy Wiseau, 2003)

Obvious, but undeniable.  Wiseau was trying to create a masterpiece and failed.  Franco was trying to re-create a failure.  Was he successful?  The most interesting thing for me about this pairing is how fastidious James Franco's team was in replicating exact scenes of The Room for side by side comparisons at the end of The Disaster Artist.  Through result-oriented direction, Franco elevates The Room into a classic, flattering Wiseau through imitation.  Even more interesting than that is how the comparisons are not even a part of the narrative; by the time they appear, the comedic tale of Tommy Wiseau's unwitting phenomenon of a film is over.  The comparisons invite you to evaluate both films the way a video essayist would.  It's rare that a Franco brothers comedy begs an actual videographic reading and not just a viewing.    

NEW: The Square (Ruben Östlund, Sweden)

OLD: I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)

The welfare bureaucracy and the artistic intelligentsia, both skewered for their hypocrisy.  These two films show conflicting presentations of poverty.  Can anyone climb out of that pit?  Daniel Blake tries hard, and it kills him.  The beleaguered chief curator, Christian, is well-off, and feels guilty for it.  Two films about two men, down on their luck in their respective films, both recent winners of the Palme d'Or.  Daniel Blake is uneducated, working class and warm.  Chrisitan is cultured, tech savvy and preening.  They both care about the plight of the less fortunate.  But the exception is that Daniel truly is a member of the have-nots, yet he cares enough to sacrifice for the well-being of others.  Christian feels a sense of obligation that makes him buy food for the homeless, yet he bristles at their ungratefulness.  He's more interested in satisfying his urges: for self-righteousness as well as for sex.  Daniel Blake has had a hard life so he wants his friend to have an easier time.  Two great character studies, although The Square is a cynical satire, I, Daniel Blake won me over with its big heart and indictment of an inhuman pension system that is ridiculous enough to be satire, but is sadly all too true.  It makes Christian's contemporary art dilemma look frivolous by comparison.  


NEW: The Dust Channel (Roee Rosen, Israel)

OLD: Flüchtlinge (Gustav Ucicky, 1933)

Like at the end of every expansionist cycle of capitalist accumulation, Fascism is back as a false solution to the problems of an impoverished middle and working class suddenly feeling ethnically threatened. The cinema of today bears no traces of this unremitting cancer, detached for the most part as it is from the material reality it should reflect, directly or indirectly, realistically or metaphysically, poetically or politically. In this regard cinema is healthier than ever, fulfilling its historical task of private, escapist salvation.


NEW: November (Rainer Sarnet, Estonia)

OLD: The Devil (Andrzej Zulawski, 1972)

While it would be reductive to classify November or The Devil as ‘horror films,’ each extrapolates horror from its sense of religiosity and characters’ reckoning with members of a foreign power. November takes place in rural Estonia (then a part of the Russian Empire) in the early 19th century. There was a cultural exchange taking place between the country and Germanic Prussia, which resulted in a conflict that the film portrays indirectly: the Estonian peasants are ostensibly Catholic and the Germanic aristocrats are Lutheran, but the region is also a kind of furnace of superstition and belief. In contrast to the rest of Europe, the spread of Christianity throughout the Baltic region in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries resulted in a ‘compromise’ of sorts between it and paganism, and more-so than in other European states, the peasantry in the region rejected Christianity. The Devil takes place in 1793, during the last days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which after two centuries of existence had begun to disintegrate. The Russian Empire had invaded the country and immediately began to partition the land between itself and neighboring Austria and Prussia, which resulted in part in a conflict between numerous ethno-religious groups, among them Uniates, Ruthenians, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. One of the strengths of both films is their ability to connote religious conflict through film language. The films’ objects and spaces turn these conflicts into emotional ones: the birch trees, ruins, and empty corridors of The Devil and the estate grounds, streams, and hovels of November become theaters of jealousy, superstition, and madness that are in Bakhtin’s words “charged with and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history.”


NEW: Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, USA)

OLD: La région centrale (Michael Snow, 1971)

Worlds spinning on an axis. Formal odysseys that move in every direction only to end up in the same place. What we should send into outer space in case an alien species might be curious about what cinema was.


NEW: Zama (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina)

OLD: Diego Rísquez’s American Trilogy (Diego Rísquez, 1981-1988)

Inverted utopias: In Rísquez’s ambitious trilogy of Super 8mm features—which includes Bolívar, a Tropical Symphony (1981), Orinoko, New World (1984), and Amérika, terra incógnita (1988)—a fully synesthetic language is employed to reimagine Venezuela’s development under colonialist rule; while in Martel’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, the sights and, especially, the sounds of 18th-century Paraguay spring vividly to life through a hallucinatory mix of historical truths and aesthetic abstractions. Call it a fantasy foursome.


NEW: A Season in France (Mahamat Saleh Haroun, France)

OLD: Class Relations (Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 1984) 

Kafka and the Kafka-esque, Europe as a homeland to abandon and a site to cling to, as well as a thorny reminder of the chasms between “(im)migrant” and “refugee." For both filmmakers the continent operates as a land of dreams: like Kafka, Straub-Huillet work almost exclusive Europe with familiar landscapes doubling as an imagined elsewhere, as the protagonist Karl ricochets through a series of misfortunes. Haroun, in his turn, casts as the European Union as a place of fantasy and hope, one seemingly in reach but irreconcilable with the lived existence and desperation of a refugee father, his children, and his brother as they struggling to secure residency. Straub-Huillet’s adoption of the title Class Relations is resonant, as A Season in France shares a similar chastisement of social ills and misplaced values, while the films might be equally well-described by the original, working title for Kafka’s unfinished novel: The Man Who Disappeared


NEWThe Square (Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2017)

OLDThe Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, USA, 1979)

The night I finally saw The Square—six months after its debut in Cannes—I came home with one other task to accomplish: Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer was at the end of its 30-day rotation on MUBI and I had just an hour or so left to start watching it. The genius of MUBI is that it twists your arm to watch films that you might always have wanted to see but still might never get around to. The Driller Killer was one of those films, but after the rich, precise and beautifully filmed mind-fuck that was The Square, the last thing I really wanted to do that evening was watch another film, let alone a grungy low-budget slasher movie. The Square is a satire of the art-world in all its overblown inanity and as a satire it accomplishes little more than leaving a few dead fish in a barrel, but I thought the best way to appreciate it—or to rationalize it—is as a multi-roomed art exhibit itself. As in any Biennial or similar group show, some rooms are more interesting than others, some exhibits work and some don’t. Some are thrilling (the black tie ape-pocalypse, pictured), some make you laugh (the audibly collapsing bicycle structure) some make you roll your eyes (the accidental vacuuming of a Smithson-like room full of piles of dirt), and some leave you cold. For me, The Square had more hits than misses, but as a social satire I’ll admit it did seem rather glib. Östlund notably contrasts the flagrant expenditure of the art world with the beggars and refugees scrounging a living on its fringes and its art museum curator protagonist finds himself caught up in both worlds. All I knew about The Driller Killer, beyond the fact that it was Abel Ferrara’s first feature film (if one discounts his 1976 porn opus 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy), is that it was legendary to anyone growing up in Britain in the early ‘80s. Driller Killer (for some reason we knew it without the definite article) was the original Video Nasty. Released on VHS in Britain in 1982, it caught the attention of self-assigned moral watchdog Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. Driller Killer’s home video distributor Vipco had taken out full-page ads in movie magazines depicting a man being drilled through the forehead and the leave-nothing-to-the-imagination tagline “The blood runs in rivers… and the drill keeps tearing through flash and bone,” which sparked a nation-wide crusade against home video resulting in a list of 72 films considered to have violated the Obscene Publications Act. (The list included Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.). As a result, Driller Killer was banned in the UK for 15 years. What I did not know about Driller Killer is that its protagonist (played by Ferrara himself under a pseudonym) is an artist who, unable to sell a painting to pay his rent and avoid eviction, ends up taking out his rage against the world by murdering homeless men. In other words, by pure confidence I found myself on the same day watching maybe the only other film in existence apart from The Square that trucks in both high art and homelessness. Both films are very much contemporary satires that are rooted in their particular urban capitals: Stockholm in the mid ‘10s and New York in the late ‘70s (notably Ferrara’s film was shot in and around his own apartment in Union Square), and must be two of the most violent and sensational films to deal with artists and the art world. In fact, I wouldn’t wonder that Ruben Östlund, a filmmaker who loves to shock and get under people’s skin, would love to have one of his films on a list of Video Nasties.


NEWDunkirk (Christopher Nolan, USA)

OLDImages d'Ostende (Henri Storck, 1929)

In Henri Storck's short, Images d'Ostende [Scenes of Ostend], one of the chapters, titled "L'écume" ("The sea foam"), shows nothing but froth on wintery shores, quivering in the wind. Watching the film recently on a 35mm print, in my mind, the foam was blowing to another beach of one of this year's blockbusters, similarly using natural chapter titles. In a scene in Dunkirk, thick shivering spume is collecting around the legs of three soldiers sitting on a foam-filled beach while they quietly watch a lone man stride out into the waves not to return. It was the only image in Nolan's film that resonated with me, despite the attempt for abstract and visual storytelling (downplaying exposition, backstory and dialogue). Storck shot his silent 'coast symphony' only 27 miles farther and about ten years prior to the actual Dunkirk evacuation. By that time, Storck, who continued to work during the German occupation of Belgium, would be as much questioned for his politics as Nolan is now. 

“What lies before us is the task of marking multiplicities of individual space among humans as processes of foam in which defense and invention merge into each other - as speaking foams, one could say, as immune systems that dream beyond themselves ... via the establishment of a personalized traffic system, to the creation of a customized world picture poem.”

—Peter Sloterdijk in his poetics of plurality, Spheres III: Foams, 2004, p. 232


NEWFaces Places (Agnes Varda, JR, France)

OLDMur Murs (Agnes Varda, USA, 1981)

Over the years, I’ve become less interested in formal pyrotechnics; these days I tend to be drawn more towards mere personality. Is the filmmaker or artist someone I’d like to hang out with? Could we grab a beer together? Could we be friends? Agnès Varda’s documentaries have become much more important to me the last few years. Both of these films focus on seemingly small subject matter—works of art that are not very well known and not particularly important but which speak of communities that most of us tend to ignore. The films are improvisatory, genuinely curious about other people, leisurely, and joyful. Varda imbues both movies with a degree of tenderness one rarely sees in art of any medium any more. And by focusing on these seemingly insignificant artworks, she makes an implicit defense of her own aesthetic project. If I ever got to hang out with a hero of mine like Orson Welles, I imagine we’d have a nine-course meal featuring roasted boar and bottle after bottle of twenty-year-old Barolos. But if I got to hang out with Agnès Varda, I imagine we’d have a simple salad, maybe with some bib lettuce, shaved fennel, and a few elegant slivers of some rare citrus fruit. I can see Agnès and me sitting in a nondescript courtyard, drinking mineral water and making pleasant small talk about the weather. We’d have such a nice time together. And no hangover.


NEWA Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Shunji Iwai, Japan)

OLDThe Matrix Revolutions (Lana & Lily Wachowski, 2003)

Real love in a virtual world, real selves bound by virtual rules. 

NEWThe Day After (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

OLDBeasts of Prey (Kim Ki-young, 1985)

Men who demand the nurture and pity of their wives and mistresses are no different from children. Kim offers the Freudian diagnosis and the Oedipal solution to Hong's mythology. 



NEW: Making Judith (Klaus Lemke, Germany)

OLD: Das Casanova-Projekt (Arnold Hau [= Arend Agthe. Bernd Eilert, Robert Gernhardt, Friedrich Karl Waechter], 1981)

As things shall get sombre soon enough, getting off to a start full of jest seems sensible. Ditto that said jest comes by way of movies about movies both telling us: no film could ever be as outrageously weird than our daily lives. Which is true, of course.


NEW: Silence (Martin Scorsese, USA)

OLD: I 26 martiri giapponesi [Salesian Mission sound digest of Junkyō kesshi: Nihon nijūroku seijin] (Ikeda Tomiyasu,1931/35)

NEW: The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Giṓrgos Lánthimos, USA)

OLD: Cielo sulle palude (Augusto Genina, 1949)

NEW: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, USA)

OLD: Hellfire (Robert Gordon Springsteen, 1949)

Six views of sinners in the hands of an angry God. Throughout most of these films it feels like He’d sooner suddenly make a fist and get it all over with than have mercy with His very flawed creations….

NEW: The Tower (Keith Maitland, USA)

OLD: The Deadly Tower (Jerry Jameson, 1975)

NEW: Erase and Forget (Andrea Luka Zimmerman, UK)

OLD: Psychological Operations in Support of Unconventional Warfare (Kathryn Bigelow, 1975)

NEW: Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Travis Wilkerson, USA)

OLD: The Killing of America (Sheldon Renan [& Leonard Schrader], 1981)

More violence, this time of the un-Godly for depressingly human variety—that nevertheless loves to evoke Him with disturbing regularity...

NEW: Zhuībǔ (Ng4 Jyu5 Sam1 {John Woo}, Hong Kong)

OLD: Kimi yo fundo no kawa o watare (Satō Jun’ya, 1978)  

NEW: Pengabdi Setan (Joko Anwar, Indonesia)

OLD: Pengabdi Setan (Sisworo Gautama Putra, 1980)

NEW: Xīyóu fú yāo piān (Ceoi4 Hak1, China)

OLD: Jīn hóu xiáng yāo (Tè Wěi & Lín Wénxiào & Yán Dìngxiàn, 1980)

Things are lightening up a bit here, even if the going remains tough and at times horrific: A set of remakes (or re-workings of the same materials) in which Good does usually prevail, and often heroically at that!

NEW: Poesía sin fin (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chile)

OLD: ORG [Premiere version] (Fernando Birri, 1967-78)

NEW: Phantasm: Ravager (David Hartman, USA)

OLD: Adventurous und Magick Haüs: Episode 3 (David Hartman, 2005)

NEW: Kras̄ụ̄x khrụ̀ng khn (Biṇṯh̒ Brrlụ̄xvthṭhi̒, Thailand)

OLD: Who Killed Captain Alex? (Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey, 2010)

A heritage of surrealism, whether passed on to an appropriately warped new generation by elder statesman Don Coscarelli, or born automatically from VJ-frenzied action wackiness in Wakaliwood and dwarf-fart-horror-comedy by the Thai Terrence Malick, or as epic artist visions intricately connected to the [inner] life and times.

NEW: Io sono Valentina Nappi (Monica Stambrini, Italy)

OLD: Il comune senso del pudore (Alberto Sordi, 1978)

NEW: Vedete, sono uno di voi (Ermanno Olmi, Italy)

OLD: Finché dura la memoria: Piazzale Loreto (Damiano Damiani, 1980)

NEW: Ammore e malavita (Marco & Antonio Manetti, Italy)

OLD: Lacrime napulitane (Ciro Ippolito, 1981)

From surrealism to the Italian pop ordinary is but a short hop: Here, it all starts with a wisely nutty comedy on the 70s porno wave, and ends with a smartly subversive meta-musical demonstrating that mistaking film and reality leads to disasters whereas making movies can actually make that proverbial difference—and safe your arse. In the middle, though, things get serious with two highly personal essays on politics and memory, the sinister power of forgetfulness and the dire need to remember.

NEW: Le serpent aux mille coupures (Éric Valette, France)

OLD: Le val d'enfer (Maurice Tourneur, 1943)

NEW: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul William Scott Anderson, Germany)

OLD: Omicron (Ugo Gregoretti, 1963)

NEW: A Ghost Story (David Lowery, UAS)

OLD: Nuretsuzuketa onna. Suitsuku kahanshin (Fukamachi Akira, 2008)

Revenants, visitor, invaders, saviors, lost souls stuck between fury and melancholia, damnation and deliverance.

NEW: Polte (Sami van Ingen, Finland)

OLD: Nuorena nukkunut [Fragment] (Teuvo Tulio, 1937)

NEW: Teräväreunaisten siirtymämerkkien surullinen laulu (Mika Taanila, Finland)

OLD: Huono filmi (Felix Forsman, 1950)

NEW: Tuntematon sotilas remix (Jarkko Räsänen, Finland)

OLD: The Big Picture [# 448: Phantom Fighters] (Army Pictorial Service, 1959)

NEW: “The Aalto Natives” [moving image installation] (Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen, Finland)

OLD: Se alkoi omenasta (Teuvo Tulio, 1962) + Taape tähtenä (Armand Lohikoski, 1962)

NEW: Perkele 2 - Kuvia Suomesta (Jörn Donner, Finland)

OLD: Perkele! Kuvia Suomesta (Jörn Donner & Erkki Seiro & Jaakko Talaskivi, 1971)

Our tribute to Finland’s centennial: All hail the nation of mad mavericks and prank-happy avant-gardist!

NEW: Copacul lui Gagarin (Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor, Romania)

OLD: [Petrograd i revolutionens tegn] (Sven Brasch?, 1917-24?)

NEW: Zum Begriff des „kritischen Kommunismus“ bei Antonio Labriola (1843-1904) (Günter Peter Straschek, 1970 [Reappearance: 2017], Germany)

OLD: Warum sich der 60. Jahrestag der Oktoberrevolution nicht für die Wodkawerbung in der BRD eignet (Lew Hohmann, 1977)

NEW: Philip Rosenthal – Der Unternehmer, der nicht an den Kapitalismus glaubte (Dominik Graf & Martin Gressman, Germany)

OLD: Waa4 Lai6 Seong2 Baan1 Zeok6 (Dou6 Kei4 Fung1{Johnnie To}, 2015)

Some serious political thought shall be the center of this list.

NEW: Genre (Klim Kozinskij, Russia)

OLD: Kulisy Ėkrana [fragment] (Georgij Asagarov?, Aleksandr Volkov?, 1917)

NEW: “Viaggio in Russia (1989-2017)” [Six-channel video and sound installation] (Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi, Italy)

OLD: Kruževa (Sergej Jutkevič, 1928)

NEW: “360 Select Committees” [app videofilm] (Katie Davies, UK)

OLD: Le Phénakistiscope de projection de J. Duboscq 1824-1826 (Jean Vivié,1972)

NEW: Monzetsu jōei. Ginmaku no kyonyū (Katō Yoshikazu, Japan)

OLD: A Little Romance (George Roy Hill, 1979)

NEW: Frühformen filmischen Erzählens - Teil 3: Italien im Mittelalter (Klaus Wyborny, DE)

OLD: Ellīnismós kai Dýsī [TV-Series] (Dīmosthénīs Théos, 1991)

SPASMES FRÉNÉTIQUES! A little revery on cinema and television and museums, apparati of vision, and the conditions put on what we can see and when and where; but most importantly: a paean to film as a way of unleashing and living out desire(s)—be it in Venice facing the sunset together, be it in rural Japan where a long-time patron in love with the owner of her favourite cinema decides to take care of him when he turns blind.

NEW: 33 situací (Anna Daučiková, Slovakia)

OLD: Le F.H.A.R. (Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire) (Carole Roussopoulos, 1971)

NEW: The Preacher’s Daughter (Brad Armstrong, 2016)

OLD: The Fireworks Woman (Wes Craven?, 1976)

NEW: “Cunnilingus in North Korea” [hypermedia work] (Chang Yŏnghye Junggongŏp {Chang Yŏnghye & Marc Voge}, KR)

OLD: Virgin Mary’s Love Juice (Roxman Gatt, 2015)

Blessed are the perverts: for they shall inherit cinema.

NEW: Martinac (Čisti film) (Zdravko Mustać, Crotia)

OLD: Sve ili ništa (Ivan Martinac, 1968)

NEW: ˁUbūru l-Bābi s-Sābiˁa (ˁAlī ṣ-Ṣafī, Morocco)

OLD: Sittā wa Ṯānīyat ˁAšara (Aḥmad Al-Būˁanānī & ˁAbd al Mağīd ar-Rašīš & Muḥammad ˁAbd Ar-Raḥmān at-Tāzī, 1968)

NEW: Rosemberg - Cinema, Colagem e Afetos (Cavi Borges & Christian Caselli, Brazil)

OLD: Imagens (Luiz Rosemberg Filho, 1973)

Three decidedly unusual documentaries about solitaires too little known (Ivan Martinac, Aḥmad Al-Būˁanānī and Luiz Rosemberg Filho) plus a film by each of them. The world is so incredibly big, and cinema so vast…

NEW: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (Osgood Perkins, Canada)

OLD: The Secret Cinema (Paul Bartel, 1968)

NEW: Black Mirror: Shut Up and Dance (James Watkins, UK)

OLD: When Michael Calls (Philip Leacock, 1972)

NEW: Annabelle Creation (David F. Sandberg, USA)

OLD: Dead Silence (James Wan, 2007)

The horror film as study in form and moral barometer, bespeaking horrific times: Sound and Light (and its absence), pointing, sometimes opaquely, to repressed fears—in Wan-world the guiding principle of revenge continues to expand in space and time beyond the material dimension; as a capper, phone paranoia turns from classical curse to wicked contemporary humiliation; even as the centerpiece has already proven that humiliation and repression, once the stuff of countercultural comedy, has been replaced by a sense of artfully inhabited doom.

NEW: Jiànjūn dàyè (Lau4 Wai5 Keong4 {Andrew Lau}, China)

OLD: Chángzhēng zǔgē – Hóngjūn búpà yuǎnzhēng nán (Wáng Píng, 1976)

NEW: Kunhamdo - Director’s Cut (Yu Sŭngwan, South Korea)

OLD: Asian Blue. Ukishima-maru sakon (Horikawa Hiromichi, 1995)

NEW: Der Hauptmann (Robert Schwentke, Germany)

OLD: Saints and Soldiers (Ryan Little, 2003)

A triple pack of movies on war and men and hidden pasts, kicking off with some almost delirious main melody beauty apart, ending with a pair of works rooted in final phase crimes committed by Nazi German armed units. Artfully inhabited doom is ultimately—despite all the Wáng glitz and Lau4 glory—also the name of this game…

NEW:K̄hun phạnṭh̒ (K̂xngkeīyrti K̄homṣ̄iri, Thailand)

OLD: Requiem for a Gunfighter (Spencer Gordon Bennet, 1965)

NEW: New World, (Gavin Hipkins, New Zealand)

OLD: Fort Utah (Lesley Selander, 1967)

NEW: Western (Valeska Grisebach, Germany)

OLD: The Virginian: The Sins of the Fathers (Walter Doniger, 1970)

The evening redness of the West and the many-fold strange shadows it casts all across the globe…

NEW: Oni samo dolaze i odlaze (Boris Poljak, Croatia)

OLD: Fokus (Ivan Martinac, 1967)

NEW: Invest in Failure (Notes on Film 06 C / Monologue 03) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, AT)

OLD: Pamjatniki sovremennomu sostojaniju (1973; Vadim Sidur)

NEW: Brodovi i dalje ne pristaju (Ivan Ramljak, Croatia)

OLD: “ASLAP (AS Long As Possible)” [animated gif] (Juha van Ingen, 2015)

A final meditation on time, eternity and the splendid, only too human folly of creation.



NEW: Neko atsume no ie (Kurakata Masatoshi, Japan)

OLD: Kak statʹ bolʹšim (Vladimir Degtjarev, 1967)

But let’s not end this on a note darkly! Let’s end this in high spirits—with a pair of cat movies! Yes, our animal is the donkey, and we know that 2018 will see the world premiere of a true moment of asinophile avant-garde moving image art. Yet, many of the dearest and closest to us love cats. Without further ado: This one is only for you—a Soviet animation about a mischievous kitty learning a thing or two about life and a Japanese feature about a struggling writer learning a thing or two about life from a stray cat and its pals. 


NEW: Song to Song (Terence Malick, USA)

OLD: Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984)

You could swap out the lead couples and I wouldn't notice. Oh, that's not enough? Fine. The two rock odysseys are lyrical but hardly pop-ish; their attention to detail feels very personal. Malick and Hill anchor their films on broad archetypes, then lavish those archetypes with grace notes. The young, spritely characters and their many operatic romances demand mega-widescreen canvasses photographed with a flourish. The archetypes spend the films bouncing off of each other causing (literal, as is the case in both films, shout out to Val Kilmer) sparks throughout. The core of the films are romantic, the conclusions idealistic and upbeat, but the jagged rhythms and jarring emotions buried within each register lingering beats long after the films' endings. All in all, Streets of Fire has its nose in front because Michael Fassbender doesn't make for quite as good a music producer as Rick Moranis.


NEW: Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

OLD: A Summer Place (Delmer Daves, 1959) 

Sandy-haired beefcakes sweep in for a summer and change lives forever. One dances awkwardly to 80s music. The other gets all shook up hearing about King Kong. Both guys make you cry, but you only want to see one eat that peach.    


NEWTwin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, 2017)

OLD: ABC's Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Lynch and various, 1989-92) and, distantly, Out 1, noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) 

Twin Peaks, the entire 44 some hours of it, can now be said to be the long duration American classic of motion pictures. It should be spoken of with Moby-Dick, Walden, and Huckleberry Finn as an indelible fixture of American post-WWII art. “The Return” portion cinches what threatened to be a Fleetwood Mac reunion show. Tantamount is the fact dropped that Lynch and Frost worked on the script for four or five years. Cooper, every one of him, gets Icarusized, as Lynch broke new ground in his quest to “show” doppelgängers. I don't think I'm going too much out on a limb to say one of the few experiences parallel with this Twin Peaks is Out 1—indeed Lincoln Center programmed Rivette/Lynch just two years ago. Of course, the means are much different, but seeing how Lynch has basically done what he's wanted (glorying in the long takes of seemingly nothing important, Episode 8, and the long devotion to Good Cooper escaping the black lodge), there is more than a little cross-over with the waiting out or glorying in the long rehearsal scenes in Out 1 to get to the mystery story and the protein of the characters (actors) coming together and playing off of each other. 


NEW: Baahubali: the Conclusion (SS Rajamouli, India)

OLD: Ace Attorney (Takashi Miike, 2012) and The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 1960)

The total filmmaker points the way forward, breaking all the accepted rules of verisimilitude for the sake of a gag, while no director over the last 20 years seems to be having for fun than Miike, and his intoxicatingly bizarre courtroom drama/video game adaptation is him at his most free. Rajamouli follows in their footsteps with the second half of an epic that, while intricately and classically structured, a story that could be thousands of years old, obliterates the dull realism of Hollywood convention like a stampede of flaming cattle. In a year where three major motion pictures have the word “wonder” in their title, only Baahubali actually knows what it means.

NEW: 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran) + OLD: An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1963)


NEW: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, USA) + OLD: The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934)

Motherhood on the margins of society. The classic of Shanghai cinema is a Griffithian morality tale, the incandescent Ruan Lingyu the victim of a cruel society and even worse men, while Baker modernizes the classic story, complicating the mother figure, transferring the narrative perspective to that of the child and arraying a system of support, inadequate though it is, against the system of oppression that allows the Magic Castle and Magic Kingdom to exist side-by-side, but meet only in fantasy.

NEW: Our Time Will Come (Ann Hui, China/Hong Kong) + OLD: Merrill’s Marauders (Samuel Fuller, 1962)

Men in war. Women in war.

NEW: Chang-Ok’s Letter (Shunji Iwai, Japan-South Korea) + OLD: Vampir-cuadecuc (Pere Portabella, 1971)

Catalan director Portabella’s making of film transforms Jesus Franco’s lugubrious Count Dracula into an object of mystery, the primal anxieties of horror cinema made all the more unsettling by the apparent craft of filmmaking. Shunji Iwai’s quaint domestic melodrama features of terrific performance from Bae Doona, a brief film so warm and satisfying you almost forget the whole thing is actually just a long-form commercial for Nescafé. Cinema is where you find it.

NEW: Bad Genius (Nattawut Poonpiriya, Thailand) + OLD: Dangerous Encounters-First Kind (Tsui Hark, 1980) and Rock ’n’ Roll High School (Allan Arkush, 1979)

Teenage rebellion ain’t what it used to be. Tsui Hark’s bomb-throwing nihilists, while they have the market cornered in rage, are far less effective at fighting the machine than Poopiriya’s standardized test-cheaters. But both are ultimately eaten by the forces of capital. PJ Soles and The Ramones might know the way out: 

Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em

That I got no cerebellum

Gonna get my Ph.D.

I'm a teenage lobotomy


NEW: 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)

OLD: Truth and Illusion: An Introduction to Metaphysics (King Vidor, 1964) 

Both films forgo almost all of filmmaking's usual presuppositions, approaching motion pictures with a reflexive focus on the relationship between viewer and image often taken for granted in our considerations of the illusory art form we have come to know as cinema. While far from alien territory for Kiarostami, the remarkableness of 24 Frames derives from its introduction of CGI and alternating frame rates into his investigations of representation, advancing his practice in tandem with cinema’s technological progression.

Vidor’s film is perhaps a little more unprecedented in its stylistic departures, retroactively placing his entire oeuvre (and consequently Hollywood cinema’s entire history) under metaphysical scrutiny. Seemingly an Idealist, Vidor posits an epistemology in which thought precedes matter, wherein reality is understood as a product of consciousness. Put forthrightly in the first third of the film, a voiceover states: “The world is formed by each one of us in his own mind,” and shortly after, quoting Whitehead: “Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent: the nightingale for his song: and the sun for his radiance.” From this metaphysical conclusion follows a necessary evaluation of its parallel workings in cinema, a relationship which only inquiry into the constitution of the medium can reveal.

While differing in many respects, I find it striking that the artist’s final/penultimate works arise out of a preoccupation with the relation between image and reality, between representation and presentation.

Kiarostami: “I always wonder to what extent the artist aims to depict the reality of a scene. Painters capture one frame of reality and nothing before or after it.”

Vidor: “It [Truth and Illusion] repre­sents an almost abstract attempt to illustrate philosophical thoughts and ideas with strictly photographed—not manufac­tured—images. What, it asks, is truth, and what is illusion? It draws its examples from obvious things like the movies’ il­lusory ‘motion,’”

Probing this relationship in both cases leads to a deconstruction of the mechanical intricacies of cinema, and it is not of little note that in both films this results in the inner-workings of the frame rate and illusory motion taking center stage.


NEW: The Lost City of Z (James Gray, USA)

OLD: Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

A mystery with no definitive solution, plus an ill-fated hunt for a place that may not ever have existed—in other words, two films that ask how you can make a movie based on historical events when historians themselves aren't certain how the story ends. The answer is that you make it about the search, about the obsession for answers, and most importantly, about how so much time can pass in the process. On display, you have the methods of two contemporaries: Fincher, who generally gets his due at American theaters, and Gray, who doesn't, no matter how vocally he's praised by a loyal cinephile base. Fincher is nothing if not dextrous and fastidious when it comes to conveying information; he's an expert at procedurals, and in Zodiac, for better or worse, even the characters' descents into madness come across as data points. Gray strikes me as something of the opposite: his handling of exposition, of delivering (or selling) plot points to the audience, is the stiffest, rockiest, least elegant aspect of The Lost City of Z. But as for thematic and emotional arcs, for poetic visuals and subtly surreal atmosphere, The Lost City of Z is one of the richest and most purposeful films of the year, and a reminder of what "time" can mean in cinema. Nowadays, streaming video is pumped into households like a utility; The Lost City of Z is 140 minutes long, and I'd wager that millions of viewers regularly binge-watch that much content and don't feel considerably different at the end than they did at the beginning. But as the years flip by in The Lost City of Z, it becomes a film of rare ambition, texture, and scope. The gorgeous final shot, conveying intimate emotions with such unironic grandeur, has stayed with me ever since.

NEW: On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) + OLD: The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935)

A director and an actress airing their relationship on screen, where the woman in front of the camera has the power to take the film from the man behind it. And it reminds me that, as much as I admire the structural and thematic complexities that Hong can create with so few elements, pure baroque cinematic hedonism is closer to the reason cameras were invented.

NEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, USA) + OLD: Le samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

A bit obvious, perhaps, particularly in a year when Melville centennials popped up at cinematheques left and right. But side by side, they're a two-pronged triumph of stylish, shadowy neo-noir slow burns. There will always be just one Alain Delon, but Ryan Gosling makes a fine fallen angel for a city where only poetic deaths can make up for the lack of human connection. If I believed in poetic deaths, I might even say that 2049's box office performance counts as one.

NEW: Wind River (Taylor Sheridan, USA) + OLD: The Informer (John Ford, 1935)

A true masterpiece by Ford and a solid sleeper by Sheridan make for a plainspoken double bill of crime and punishment. The outcome of each is purely a matter of inevitability, but the reward comes in how the "thriller" aspects explore the interlocking parts of a beleaguered community doing its best to hold strong for the future.

NEW: Song to Song (Terrence Malick, USA) + OLD: A Safe Place (Henry Jaglom, 1971) 

Not the easiest double bill, to be sure. In fact, both films—each about a lost young woman adrift in a counterculture scene—are unwieldy, pretentious, inspired, beautiful, and frustrating in much the same way. But an American cinephile should value them for taking narrative methods most closely associated with the international arthouse and applying them to a culture and a setting we can recognize as our own. The great upheaval of American cinema in the early 70s, which made the debuts of both Jaglom and Malick possible, may be long gone. But Malick has somehow managed to double down on that restless, reckless experimentation, even as his latest work—a new, divisive phase of searching—could belong to no time but the present.


NEWLa Telenovela Errante (The Wandering Soap Opera) (Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento, Chile)

OLDGrandeur et decadence d'un petit commerce du cinema (Jean-Luc Godard, 1986)

The cultural conversation about the relations between Cinema and TV has been as old as both mediums started to co-exist, but here we are, in plain 21st century, still picking sides and having the same conversations that people have been having since the 1950s. What is cinema, what is TV, what is televised cinema, what is cinema made for TV, is TV cinema or is cinema TV—all the questions that have arisen, peppered throughout this decade as if it were a novel debate (and direct product of what some insist to call The Golden Age of TV), while we can read the same arguments, the same hot points, the same excuses and exceptions done for the past 60 years or more. If there's anything new in the conversation at all is the appearance of web-based content (YouTube videos, all-episodes-dump-seasons of series on streaming platforms, video essays, even *shivers* Vines), but mostly to be shunned upon and not to be even remotely compared to the two "giants" that are TV and Cinema (or they are quickly assigned one or the other category). Of course, all of this resurfaces again in the context of these year-end lists due to the apparition of the TV series Twin Peaks: The Return on several individuals and grouped lists as one of the best films of 2017. Personally, I say it doesn't matter, let whoever is making their list make whatever rules they want, make them combine, include or be strict as possible. I'm personally fascinated by that, and everyone has their own rules, and while I'm not an everyday watcher of serialized audiovisual content (I seem to be unable to stand the continuous plots that never end, specially when a series last several seasons, under which time I could've watched dozens of separate and closing narratives in movies, but hey, that's just me), I can admire the passion and the fascination of these people with these old debates that sincerely don't really matter. So, here I have two films, which could easily (under the eyes of who you ask) could change place in the NEW/OLD spectrum, as the Ruiz film was originally filmed in 1990 and was only finished by his widow Sarmiento in 2017 and then premiered in the competition at the Locarno Festival, while the Godard is an episode of the Swiss TV series "Série noire" originally aired in 1986 and has rarely been seen in a cinema until the restoration that was made and premiered at the Locarno Festival. There's also the fact that the Ruiz/Sarmiento joint is a film that speaks about TV narratives (in this case, soap operas), while the Godard takes the format of a TV film to speak about the movies. They're both audiovisual works about the permanent fight of these realms, about the fictive animosity between the mediums (fueled by the economical structures behind them, and not by the artists who structure its images), about the importance of the image, the tales you tell yourself, the culture of the country you're living, the actors that return from the edges of the frame, the music that disrupts sequences...

Extra pairings:

NEWScaffold (Kazik Radwanski, Canada) + OLDLe livre de Marie (1985, Anne-Marie Miéville)

Occam's razor applied to short filmmaking: the simplest approach is always the richest.

NEWAlso Known as Jihadi (Eric Baudelaire, France) + OLDSans soleil (1983, Chris Marker)

The shadow of Japan.

NEWLa isla de los pingüinos (Guille Söhrens, Chile) + OLDLa Chinoise (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)

The revolution that slowly turns useless.

NEWLass den Sommer nie wieder kommen (Alexandre Koberidze, Germany/Georgia) + OLDNow Showing (2008, Raya Martin)

Extremed aesthetics.


NEWFarpões, baldios (Marta Mateus, Portugal)

OLDAna (António Reis & Margarida Cordeiro, 1982)

"You have hands and they a memory to build."

—Manuel Gusmão


NEW: Song to Song (Terrence Malick, USA)

OLD: Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

The relentless noise of negativity felt inescapable this year, more so than even the partisan fever pitch of 2016. At times, I felt myself getting sucked into a demoralizing cycle—shock, anger, pessimism, and lethargy—wash and repeat.

Normalizing this headspace is dangerous, especially for a soon-to-be first time father. So I found myself consciously combating these feelings by diverting more positive energy to the people I love, the ideas I cherish, and the movies I adore. Listen carefully. Be present. See things differently. My two favorite film experiences of 2017, both boundary-busting musicals about the overlap between public and private performance, became symbolic of this process.

Song to Song destroyed me emotionally. Terrence Malick’s films usually do, but in this case the Austin-set romance between Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling’s lost souls struck a personal nerve. Raw and surprisingly hopeful in ways I couldn’t have expected, it’s a film of life experiences culminating in real time to capture the emotional cost of vulnerability. Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera spins and sprints and drops, living in the moment instead of trying to catch some elusive notion of closure. Friendships and betrayals, confessions and secrets are broken open and laid bare in a messy configuration of personal feeling. It continues to shape shift in my head.

One could imagine a prequel to Stop Making Sense where Talking Heads front man David Byrne orchestrates his own version of Song to Song backstage. Only in dreams. Jonathan Demme’s blissful 1984 concert film is itself a navigation of competing impulses, artistic identities, and visual expressions. Beginning with an acoustic rendition of "Psycho Killer," the brazenly expressive and joyous documentary evolves several times, adding and layering musicians, instruments, backdrops to fully realize what becomes an untethering of limitation and expectation. Like Song to Song, it unhinges itself from genre conventions to become free of constraints, something so alien it begins to feel human.


NEW: A Marriage Story (Helena Třeštíková, Czech Republic)

OLD: L’invitation au voyage (Germaine Dulac, 1927)

See on the canals
Those vessels sleeping.
Their mood is adventurous;
It's to satisfy
Your slightest desire
That they come from the ends of the earth.
— The setting suns
Adorn the fields,
The canals, the whole city,
With hyacinth and gold;
The world falls asleep
In a warm glow of light.

 —From Charles Baudelaire’s "Invitation to the Voyage", translated by William Aggeler

The sky is torn across
This ragged anniversary of two
Who moved for three years in tune
Down the long walks of their vows.
Now their love lies a loss
And Love and his patients roar on a chain;
From every tune or crater
Carrying cloud, Death strikes their house.
Too late in the wrong rain
They come together whom their love parted:
The windows pour into their heart
And the doors burn in their brain.

—Dylan Thomas, "On A Wedding Anniversary"


NEW: Casting (Nicolas Wackerbarth, Germany)

OLD: Eight Hours Are Not a Day (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)

Fassbinder had mapped out dark fates for the two overlapping groups in his television miniseries, a team of factory workers and the extended family of one of them, but protests from German trade unionists led to his realizing only five of the projected eight episodes. The truncated and uncharacteristically upbeat version we have, though, is, in the end, a happy accident that validates RWF’s own argument in defense of Eight Hours: “As a group, there exist possibilities that an individual doesn’t have.” In Casting, the indecisiveness of an inexperienced director overseeing a remake of Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (also 1972) for German television sets every man and a whole lot of women against all comers. Divided, they fall, one by one. Still, there are well-earned laughs all around, and while Casting ends on a melancholic note, Eight Hours culminates in one of the most spectacularly choreographed and shot party sequences ever.


NEW: The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki, Finland)

OLD: Pelle the Conqueror (Bille August, 1987) 

Here are two films with characters who, displaced and desperate, have made hope a central part of their lives. In the Palme-winning Pelle the Conqueror, we find Swedish widower Lasse (Max von Sydow, in one of his greatest performances) and his son Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard) immigrating to Denmark in the 1850s. Lasse is full of naïve promises to Pelle, soon revealed to be illusory, about the conditions they’ll have in their new homeland. As an elderly immigrant Lasse has difficulty finding work and is placed on the farm owned by Kongstrup (Axel Strøbye) where he and Pelle sleep in the barn with the animals which Pelle helps to tend. We have here a portrait of the brutal classism of the times, the master of the farm having little sympathy for his workers and preying on local impoverished women. Lasse takes refuge in the bottle and, fueled by stories of an older worker, Pelle dreams of seeing the world, of being a “conqueror,” an image standing in stark contrast to the destitution and immobility of these characters. In The Other Side of Hope (which won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale) Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) seeks asylum in Finland. His family bombed in Aleppo except for his sister Miriam (Niroz Haji), who was lost while they were in transit, Khaled wishes for nothing more than safety and to be reunited with Miriam. After his application is rejected and he escapes police custody, Khaled is hired by shirt-salesman-become-restaurateur Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) at his new restaurant. The film casts a sharp and critical gaze (filmed in Kaurismäki’s usual minimalist mise en scène with very striking compositions) on the plight of refugees, the rising tide of white supremacy, and the thankless and dehumanizing nature of bureaucratic systems. But while on one level The Other Side of Hope might seem as despairing as Pelle the Conqueror, we also see a lot of humanity here, and empowerment. Two films which are a must-watch for anyone interested in the cinema of social conscience.   


NEW: Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, France)

OLD: Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971)

Bertrand Bonello, I’ve been told, never saw Out 1, and that he cast Hermine Karagheuz in a small part in Nocturama was a coincidence, not a conscious homage. The final film of his “modernity trilogy” (House of Tolerance and Saint Laurent being the first two), made in the era of Brexit, Trump and ISIS, is at the same time oddly reminiscent of Rivette’s 12-hour masterpiece, released during the post-1968 historical depression, and its opposite. In both, “Paris is happening” (as per the working title of Nocturama): the capital of the 19th century as deemed by Baudelaire and Benjamin is a labyrinth, a cobweb of chance encounters, missed connections, random routes of flâneurs and, of course, conspiracies. Rivette’s is an attempt worthy of Borges or Mallarmé to turn a giant city into a text, and so his Paris is ever fluid, malleable, improvised—as is Out 1 itself. It feels like I will see a different film altogether if I commit myself to a second viewing of Noli me tangere; in fact, Rivette himself edited another film from the same material (Out 1: Spectre). For the secret society of the Thirteen in Out 1 whose purpose is never revealed, a conspiracy is a way of interpreting chaos, bringing order to where there’s none. We know just as little about motives of the young terrorists in Nocturama, but their act is inscribed in the logic of the world they live in. Bonello’s Paris of subway trains, commercial offices and shopping malls is a public, anonymous space: a Paris that belongs to no one. This city is a total postmodernist performance, a simulacrum emblematized by the empty-faced dummies that are scrutinized in long takes at the terrorists’ shopping center hideout, and these young men and women blow up modernity from within—exploding windows of an office tower and a burning statue of Joan of Arc are an ultimate performance. “It was bound to happen,” says Adèle Haenel’s passer-by. Liberal order descends into chaos to the tune of Blondie’s Call Me.


NEW: The first four films of the "Aboretum Cycle" — Elohim, Abation, Coda and Ode (Nathaniel Dorsky, 2017)

OLD: Appointment in Honduras (Jacques Tourneur, 1953)

Immersion into the deepest, densest foliage, verdure of purest feeling and tensions—split between the American avant-garde and studio storytelling.

NEW: Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, France) + OLD The Store (Frederick Wiseman, 1983)

Dramatizing with masterfully oppressive control the crux of Western civilization as the opulence, absurdity, and dangers of the luxury department store.

NEW: Am Abend aller Tage (Dominik Graf, 2017) + OLD: A Visit to the Louvre (Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 2004)

A mystery and an essay film, wherein art proves to be the profound, over-spilling secret that binds us all.

NEW: Closeness (Kantemir Balagov, 2017) + OLD: Being Gypsy (Peter Nestler, 1970)

Essential stories of social outsiders: religious, sexual, ethnic, and gendered.

NEW: Split (M. Night Shyamalan, USA) + OLD: Dufus (a.k.a. Art) (Mike Henderson, 1970)

Basement filmmaking fun, performance art, multiple personalities, the thrill and humor of concept pursued to its very limit.


NEW: On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

OLD: All the Light in the Sky (Joe Swanberg, 2012)

As you can see by the poster art, this double feature was simply meant to be. And presumably I’m not the first person to have thought so. Well, isn’t it always nice to feel like you’re not alone? Before I’d even discovered its poster, though, something early on in Hong’s On the Beach at Night Alone called up the fondness I have for Swanberg’s All the Light in the Sky, a favorite to which I regularly return. Nothing fancy, just two women of different ages standing together on a balcony and talking through their lives, sharing a sweet spot between expectancy and reflection. This kind of warmly melancholic companionship happens between Kim Min-hee and Seo Young-hwa in Hong’s film, and between Sophia Takal and Jane Adams in Swanberg’s. In both cases, to the great credit of performers and directors alike, there’s just something so lovely about the balance of self-exposure and humility, of vulnerability and fortitude. Of course, that’s just what these two filmmakers do, so reliably and nonchalantly well. It’s why I love them. (And sure, a good eye for dusky wistful beachscapes also doesn’t hurt.) Both have specialized in thriftiness as a new mode of narrative elegance, and both of these particular films are about moviemaking itself, if only as a way toward the more worthy and thorny subject of human intimacy. I’m encouraged by these reminders that resourcefulness isn’t just a method of production; it’s a compassionate worldview. 


NEW: Wajib (Annemarie Jacir, Palestine)

OLD: Time Without Pity (Joseph Losey, 1957)

On the surface, simply pairing two father-son films (of which there are probably far too many out there), striking the so-called universal chord. However, here, the universality is only secondary, if not entirely irrelevant, to what binds them internally—it is in their particularities of that relationship and their ties to the place (Nazareth/London) that a decent double-bill might emerge. Both films never abandon their political agendas but somehow move to more personal territories. They, in fact, are about those "territories", personal or impersonal: characters with their vague hope traversing in hostile cities in which the place of the saved and the savior is interchanged.


NEW: From a Year of Non-Events (Ann Carolin Renninger, René Frölke, Germany)

OLD: Berlin Express (Jacques Tourneur, USA)

Two visions of a country, the north, the west, the 1940s, the 2010s, it’s all the same: fragments, traces, the collected detritus of an era gone for good. Lines and shapes once new already in ruins, a house taken over by cats and cobwebs, bullet holes in barrels, cracked panes and peeling paint, the meadows each side of the train tracks, the meadows that fan out from the farmstead and only stop at the Baltic Sea, so many images, so many gaps. A fiction with a running commentary and a documentary without one, each of which carry you across the land with total smoothness: to the chairs on the banks of the River Po, to that all-important rendezvous in Sulzbach, to a past already hazy, to a future that will not last, to Germany, to Germany.


NEWRose Gold (Sara Cwynar, USA)

OLDPourvoir (Patrice Énard, 1982)

Sara Cwynar’s materialism (which skirts between its colloquial and philosophical definition) is on full display in Rose Gold. No lofty ideas about the “cellphone” or its effect on daily life make its way into the film; rather, it’s about the very specific Rose Gold iPhone 7. It’s about Trump Tower and the Grand Canyon, Acne Studios and New Balance. It’s still life and architecture, landscape and portrait study. The signs, signifiers come and go, and layers and layers of narration blur history, philosophy, off-hand observations, secrets. Rose Gold asks us to consider the history of a color, one that was all but made-up during an era of “graphic design” that thrust the evils of advertising into world of art and tricked us into curating ourselves for the world—at a price. Cwynar’s admittance of being drawn to the color (and it does look very flattering on her 16mm) while knowing its history is an admittance that any artist must make: the sublime can be sold. Rose gold is fake, rose gold is evil, rose gold’s history is tainted with that very 20th century evolution of branding and “consumer identity,” and I want to bathe in rose gold.

Énard’s Pourvoir takes the hyper-specificity of Cwynar and wipes it away. All objects are now white screens, the actors can only wear white, there are only white chairs to sit in. There is green grass and blue waters. But any connection to the material world is tenuous: actors walk in, perform their scene, disappear. It’s one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen; perhaps the only film precedent here is the Warhol screen tests. However, like Rose Gold, Pourvoir is also about color. It’s also at times a landscape or a portrait or a still life or a sculpture. Most importantly, it’s about actors and their environment, natural and artificial, free of logos or even utility. Pourvoir is a complete recalibration of how we think about us.

NEWA Restoration (Elizabeth Price, UK)

OLD: Héraclite l’obscur (Patrick Deval, 1967)

Thinking about the past is hard work.

NEWPlus Ultra (Samuel M. Delgado, Helena Girón, Spain)

OLDHalloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982)

Thinking about the dead is hard work.

NEWDid You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Travis Wilkerson, USA)

OLDBlood Beat (Fabrice A. Zaphiratos, 1983)

Thinking about your past and your dead is hard work.


NEW: Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, Germany)

OLD: À nos amours (Maurice Pialat, 1983)

What does it mean to be a parent, or a child? Two films about the distance between fathers and daughters, of the space between adults and children, and the ways that we grow apart and together again.

À nos amours is a melodrama about breaking free from familial instability and towards uncertainty; Toni Erdmann is a restrained film about rediscovering familial stability underneath everything else uncertain. The films share an observational deftness (of unhappy families, of global management consulting culture), and episodic narrative strategies (based in the rough choppiness of emotional violence, or in the ironies of a form-over-content workplace). Both center on relationships with fathers ill-equipped to speak to their daughters except through histrionic gestures, and both culminate in small moments in which those fathers arrive at subtle ways to say “I’m here for you, always”—before the women depart for their next chapters.


NEW: Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, USA)

OLD: Out 1, noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971)

Absurdist maximalism abstracted into a ragged compendium of disparate, temporally indeterminate episodes. Any and all attempts at narrativizing these anomalous entities is inevitably doomed to failure. Lynch and Rivette channel cinema in its purest form; structuring in terms of images and ideas rather than story and character, more in line with some feverish iteration of Lumière or Méliès by way of les arts incohérents. Rivette always intended the ‘1’ to mark the first in an unending parade of counter culture and image radicalization, a tradition arguably continued by his own Duelle, Jerry Lewis’ Cracking Up, Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth without Youth and Raùl Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon. Lynch’s magnum opus is yet another in this esteemed history of what can only be described as ‘WTF.’ Also they both have Jean-Pierre Léaud and Kyle MacLachlan playing mentally-handicapped savants. I mean come on, this sells itself.

Also Consider:

NEW: Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, France) + OLD: A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013) / Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015)

NEW: On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) + OLD: Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012)

NEW: Piazza Vittorio (Abel Ferrara, USA) + OLD: Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010)


NEW: Edith Walks (Andrew Kötting, UK)

OLD: The Battle of Orgreave (Mike Figgis, 2001)

"All re-enactments are recreations as close as we can make them, but things have changed..." Re-enactments form the crux of the two films that I've selected for this year's Fantasy Double Feature. Andrew Kötting's Edith Walks (seen on MUBI!) is built around a pilgrimage from Waltham Abbey to the south coast of England in the footsteps of Harold II's eponymous, grieving widow. Her own journey was in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, a pivotal conflict in the country's history, which is featured in a video re-enactment by British schoolkids in the 1960s. In Mike Figgis' 2001 documentary The Battle of Orgreave, the wounds are much fresher. The film presents a re-enactment of a key clash between picket lines and police during the 1980s miners' strike, at a British Steel Corporation coking plant in South Yorkshire. Both films deal with era-defining violence, its effect on those involved, and its legacy for the British psyche.

Some other double-bills from this year's film viewing:

NEW: November (Rainer Sarnet, Estonia) + OLD: By the Dike Sluice (Peter Nestler, 1962)

The woe of the inanimate object!

NEW: It Comes at Night (Trey Edwards Shults, USA) + OLD: The Black Tower (John Smith, 1987)

Two lingering portraits of (self-?) destructive paranoia.

NEW: Still the Earth Moves (Pablo Chavarría Gutiérrez, Mexico) + OLD: River Yar (William Raban, Chris Welsby, 1972)

Formal studies in time and landscape.

NEW: Life Imitation (Chen Zhou, China) + OLD: Black Hair (Lee Man-hui, 1964)

Deconstructed psychology and the constructed city.



NEW: Atomic Blonde (David Leitch, USA)

OLD: Le gai savoir (Jean-Luc Godard, 1969)

Godard’s recently re-released entry in his “didactic” (I would say speculative) phase, 1969’s Le gai savoir, breaks apart sound and image in order to build from base to superstructure a Maoist—rather than capitalist—cinema. This involves a light narrative touch and a heavy editorial hand, all the better for analysis rather than representation. Atomic Blonde exploits the Cold War thriller’s built-in ideological ballast for its technological (read: cinematic) spy games, pitting a sound-fearing East against an image-fearing West—centering around the transfer of visual information (a list of names) into sonic information (speaking those names into a tape recorder) as it crosses the Wall. That is, both use the Cold War capitalism/communism debate as the stage for a sound/image debate, each reaching back to the capabilities and limitations of Soviet montage. Cf. Hito Steryl: “In the age of reproduction, Vertov’s famous man with the movie camera has been replaced by a woman at an editing table, baby on her lap, a twenty-four-hour shift ahead of her.” Atomic Blonde’s vaunted travelling take has eclipsed the montage that structures the other fights and many of the interstitial formal quirks (the insistence that the soundtrack resolve into diegetic sources, for example), but the film finally offers Lorraine as post-production executive who gets revenge for her lover through the tools of montage (The Gay Savior?), even if this process either prolongs or simply happens to the side of the Cold War itself. As Le gai savoir offers for a communist cinematic program: “misotodiment,” one character’s neologism for method and sentiment. The problem of the spy in love.


NEW: Transitions (Aurèle Ferrier, Switzerland) + OLD: Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015)

Mid-movement cuts and Steadicam roams: jumps in time, space, abridged energies. I've seen the unwaveringly paced walking-shots of Aurèle Ferrier's extraordinary short described as 'menacing,' but I read them more neutrally: from an edgelands void, the camera stalks its way to the apparently evacuated streets of a desert city. It might be eerie, this casino town, but the film apparatus never reveals its intentions. In Knight of Cups, Christian Bale drifts through the film-stages of Hollywood, a knock-off world lensed and sold as authentic. In late Malick, emotions are cued if never quite dramatized, but the headlong essayistic delve into renderings of loss is no less devastating. Both films haunt their space until it must inevitably haunt. Absence as presence and all the rest of it. These are real and these are not real: felt but unseen.

NEW: Ruins Rider (Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt, Canada) + OLD: The Swimmer (Frank Perry, 1968)

As that DJ Shadow track puts it: "Pure energy!" One film runs on its own: a relentless strobe that regenerates the telluric currents of ancient pilgrimage sites in Montenegro (this too has mid-movement cuts and Steadicam roams, and a sonic bombardment that should be heard and endured and enjoyed and suffered—in full). The other, a seriously bonkers and bizarrely serious drama, encapsulates an ageing man's delusional investment in life as a thing of meaningful linearity. (Bad news: it isn't. Good news: it is.)

NEW: 38 River Road (Josh Weissbach, USA) + OLD: Passing Summer (Angela Schanelec, 2001)

Weissbach refashions a photo album into family noir—threatening phone calls, home video, dark secrets, and one beautifully sustained final shot, on a boat, of a woman who can no longer answer back. Schanelec, my greatest personal discovery of the year, also gave me the single most moving film scene of 2017, in which a sister asks her brother to dance with her in a bar: it re-taught me the pleasures of abandoning yourself to a fleeting moment grounded in old bonds. You can watch a low-quality clip of it here.

NEW: Catalogue Vol. 6 (Dana Berman Duff, USA) + OLD: The Stepfather (Joseph Ruben, 1987)

Domestic construct: family sham. Get out while you can!


NEW: Le redoutables (Michel Hazanavicius)

OLD: Medea (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969)

Le redoutable plays out like a depressingly sexist version of Barbara Loden’s Wanda. Both films about women beaten into submission by the abusive men they cling to, Loden’s heroine is given sensitivity, and the situation used as a comment on misogyny. Nearly fifty years later, Hazanavicius takes the similar plot from Anna Wiazemsky’s autobiographical novel, and abducts it: the woman loses her presence—Wiazemsky becomes a peripheral object to the central figure of Godard, in a perverse mirror of Loden’s 1970 look at sexism and abuse. So while Wanda matches Le redoutable in near perfection, the corrosion of Loden’s feminist masterpiece is less satisfying than a pairing of Hazanavicius’ film with Medea. Maria Callas’ glorious revenge is purely refreshing in the face of sexist stupidity. The film is a perfect counterpoint to Hazanavicus’ oblivious objectification in its satisfying, driven, productive outrage.

NEW: 47 Meters Down (Johannes Roberts) + OLD: L’atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)

Aquatic fever dreams: both sea-bound melodramas full of tension and longing, the thing that makes these two films such a perfect pair is not simply the emotional exploration by women in over their heads, but the beauty of the water. Floating in the Seine or the ocean, Dita Parlo’s dream-swim is reflected beautifully in Mandy Moore’s equally dreamy tread to the surface.


NEW: Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, USA)

OLD: Still (Ernie Gehr, USA, 1969-71)

Both are quintessential New York films, and in their own way both have to do with the preservation of media. Wiseman's newest film is about circulation, not only of books and other data forms, but of his own camera around the five boroughs in an attempt to show the city as a properly functioning organism, a machine for living that is actually holding its own against budget cuts and demonization from the Right. Meanwhile, Gehr's stationary film, shot from inside the Anthology Film Archives building where Gehr was working at the time, stakes out a position and watches people and cars as they circulate. This was the scene out the window beside Gehr's desk, but it could just as easily be the perspective of any library employee, or anyone who spends their day filing, cataloguing, preserving, and safeguarding the future.


NEW: Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, USA)

OLD: The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira, 2010)

Two fantastical masterworks from two aging mavericks clearly energized by the artistic possibilities of the digital image. Both revolve around a man who is driven towards self-destruction by his obsession with a deceased woman who is accessible to him only through images, dreams and stories. Both works are suspended in transitional states: between the realm of the living and the dead, between the present and the past. Both work in the mode of high-definition digital expressionism, with elements of the otherworldly materialized through simple camera tricks and intentionally artificial-looking CGI. Lynch, like de Oliveira, composes in lengthy wide-shots, with the action often pushed into one side of a deep-focus composition while the minutiae of the surrounding environments vie for the viewer’s attention. Darkened interior spaces are lit with a single key-light, as in von Sternberg, to create stately chiaroscuro tableaux, while the daytime scenes are lit with an even plastic sheen. Of course, there are ways in which the two features couldn’t be more disparate (one is maximalistic and unwieldy, propelled by a labyrinthine narrative filled with red herrings, loose ends and rambling passages; the other is refined and hyper-focused), yet there seems to be a deep kinship in each work’s striving to utilize the most modern of image-making technologies to tap into the spirit of the silent fabulists. If Strange Case is Méliès, Twin Peaks is Feuillade.


NEW: Sleep Has Her House (Scott Barley, United Kingdom) + OLD: Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Jean-Marie Straub / Danièle Huillet, 2008)

NEW: Alive in France (Abel Ferrara, France) + OLD: Ne change rien (Pedro Costa, 2009)

NEW: Silence (Martin Scorsese, United States) + OLD: 7 Women (John Ford, 1966)

NEW: Song to Song (Terrence Malick, United States) + OLD: Lost, Lost, Lost (Jonas Mekas, 1976)

NEW: The Architecture of the Trees (Eli Hayes/Ian Flick, United States) + OLD: Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)  

NEW: Ou en estes vous, Jean-Marie Straub (Jean-Marie Straub, France) + OLD: JLG/JLG- Self-Portrait in December (Jean-Luc Godard, 1994)

NEW: Piazza Vittorio (Abel Ferrara, Italy) + OLD: A Talking Picture (Manoel de Oliveira, 2003)


NEW: Prevenge (Alice Lowe, UK)

OLD: Mama (Andy Muschietti, 2013)

Alice Lowe shot and starred in this ghoulish British black comedy while eight months pregnant, a remarkable achievement. Building on her associations with the genre from projects like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004) and Sightseers (2012), Lowe plays a serial killer taking murderous orders from the unborn infant nestling inside her womb. The film presents London as a dank nightworld of grotty underpasses and blandly lit social spaces populated by sad, grasping men whom we’re none too sorry to see dispatched. A superbly accomplished directorial debut that owes something to Vincent Price Ggrand Guignol of the early 70s like The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Theatre of Blood (1974).

I thought this would make a nice two-parter with Andre Muschietti’s Mama, a horror thriller I sought out after the Argentine’s impressive job reworking Stephen King’s It for the multiplexes. Like Prevenge, Mama concerns itself with the perversion of maternal instincts and conjures a distinctly feminine evil presence. The creature design owes plenty to Muschietti’s mentor Guillermo del Toro but when was that ever a bad thing?


NEW: Unforgettable (Denise Di Novi, USA)

OLD: Play Misty for Me (Clint Eastwood, 1971)

“I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.”


NEW: Unforgettable (Denise Di Novi, USA) + OLD: Le cri du hibou (Claude Chabrol, 1987)

Unfulfilled B-picture potential. The lanky peeping-tom who monitors his pretty young prey in Le cri du hibou turns out to be less of a creep than his initial characterization delineates, as the woman’s full-blown infatuation soon instigates her jealous fiance’s scheming. Psychologies here are less fleshed out than forgivingly molded to the mechanics of plot, winding its way to double crosses. The same goes for Unforgettable, a crazy ex-girlfriend movie not nearly as trashy as expected, at times regrettably so; its denouement could easily have been finessed into a last fatal twist of Chabrolian cynicism. But, its stilted performances (a pantominishly worried Rosario Dawson and a manicured Katherine Heigl chiseled from the January-Jones/Betty-Draper-ice) complement the awkwardly affable ones of the French players, almost urbane in their clumsiness.


NEW: Untitled (Gina Telaroli, USA)

OLD: Utopia (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1983)

Two earth-shattering portraits of free-market societies, both at different points focused on a woman's blank-eyed, half-gawping face. Telaroli's film, probably her best, rehashes the classic They Live / Midnight Mary walk down main street in which a face is juxtaposed/superimposed with ugly neon signs or gaudy, Reaganite holiday posters that each transform into obscenely direct appeals to sexuality, fear, and conformity. She brilliantly reanimates and reconfigures this near-cliché, making it, as it was in the Wellman, a clever, stinging, alive half-metaphor for advertising's pernicious and ongoing assault on women. What put me in mind of Shahid Saless' masterpiece, a true scream into the void if ever I've seen one, was a similarly opaque expression lingered on in that film, sometime close to the mid-point. A prostitute lies in bed, as her client is on top of her, shuffling back and forth with agonizing monotony and dispassion. Instead of indulging in the man's perspective, Shahid Saless pointedly emphasizes just this woman's face, the face of another woman dehumanized by a society in which everything—sex, freedom, a chance at a career—is reducible to a commodity. It's an enormous event in an enormous film, the point where we feel Sohrab Saless' true subject begin to uncoil beneath the austere surface. Indeed, these two remarkable, wildly different emphases of just that—a woman's disembodied face—stuck with me in this, a year of partial public reckoning with the destructive possibilities of male sexuality.


NEW: Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, 2017) + OLD: Get Rhythm (David Fincher, 1988)

Harry Dean Stanton haunting dusty backwaters like a deposed king, looking around a bar, still able to be surprised even though every choice brought him here. 

NEW: Ismael's Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin, 2017) + OLD: That Most Important Thing: Love (Andrzej Żuławski, 1975)

A film set as a site of psycho-erotic dislocation. 

NEW: Visages Villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017) + OLD: Golden Eighties (Chantal Akerman, 1986)

Godard the bastard, the distant older brother, giving and taking away. The women, stronger for their admitting their need for company, creating in his wake and supplanting his curmudgeonly self-involved innovation. Vibrancy. Music. Ring My Bell. 

NEW: Godless (Scott Frank, 2017) + OLD: 3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold)

It's maybe bad to praise a gunfight. But I can't help myself. The new westerns may not be better than the old ones, but they move me. 

NEW: Justice League (Zach Snyder & Joss Whedon, 2017) + OLD: Red Heat (Walter Hill, 1988)

Preening Übermensch and their glib sidekicks. "I'm rich." *Long sigh* "...capitalism."

NEW: Whose Streets? (Sabaah Jordan, 2017) + OLD: Surf Nazis Must Die (Peter George, 1987)

Black heroes trying to take back a measure of safety on streets that are theirs by rights. 

NEW: Valerian And The City of a Thousand Planets (2017) + OLD: Willow (Ron Howard, 1988)

Patchwork fantasies with the center sucked out like a deflated donut. Handsome, sure, and that ain't poverty, but it ain't exactly cinema either. 

NEW: Contemporary Color (Bill & Turner Ross, 2016) + OLD: The Perfect Kiss (Jonathan Demme, 1985)

The way music transforms a space, seems to change the way time moves around rhythmic figures. Hope for future in the simple act of standing and performing. 


NEW: 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)

OLD: Barque sortant du port (Louis Lumière, Auguste Lumière, 1895)

Louis and Auguste Lumière’s 1895 single-frame film evidences cinema in the early stages of creation-as-discovery; a static shot frames three men rowing a boat away from a harbor while two women and two girls watch their departure. Near the end of the shot, wind lifts a wave that nearly knocks the boat backward. This is one of cinema’s earliest examples of visual narrative, laying out a progression of events while also documenting an instant of the unexpected. Along with a number of the Lumière brothers’ other films (Auguste frequently collaborated with Louis), Barque sortant du port provides part of the edifice of filmmaking itself. For the purposes of this double-feature, it’s interesting to align it with the notion of artistic “birth.”

Abbas Kiarostami’s posthumous final film 24 Frames probably takes some inspiration from the early Lumières works and the advent of cinema at large, considering its construction and its overwhelming infatuation with the medium’s potential. The film is built from twenty-four single frame “narratives” or “tone pieces”—some paintings, some moving images, and some photographs, which Kiarostami experimentally modulates using digital effects and sound design. Kiarostami directed the film with the knowledge of his own impending death, which affects its sensibility and tonal impact: these strange and often haunting images (i.e. a snowy field, an animal’s untimely death, treetops brushed by wind) carry with them the sense of profound appreciation and novelty. Looked at from a certain perspective, it’s almost a paradoxical piece—it lifts its foundation from the birth of its medium, while quietly announcing and reconciling with the death of its maker.   


NEW: Highview (Simon Liu, 2017)

OLD: Deja Vu (Tony Scott, 2006)

Earlier this year a friend came up with a clever term to describe the sensation of feeling like you have seen a film before despite it being your first encounter with it: "deja viewing." He meant it pejoratively, as in a film that feels overly familiar or derivative of others, but it could also be applied positively to the unique sensation invoked by seeing Tony Scott's Deja Vu for the first time. A film that contains components of many others, layered with familiar thematic elements, recognizable stylistic touches and a host of references to cinema's history and the continuing experience of spectatorship, it is at once a film made out of other films, and one entirely of its own, something fresh that feels familiar. Seeing Simon Liu's Highview produces a similar effect. A collage pieced together from so many layers of personal past that are momentarily specific, but accumulatively, come to feel universal. As the viewer is hit with staggered flashes of the inside of an overactive brain, they are enveloped in, and then overcome by, the sensation of compounded memory displayed by this sensorial barrage of every-color pictures of the everyday. In both films, images function as displays of the spectacle of voyeurism, the obsession that can be found in looking in. In Deja Vu, a man is seen falling in love with an image. In Highview you can see a product of that love.


NEW: The Square (Ruben Östlund, Sweden)

OLD: Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

It felt evident to draw parallels between the absurd imagery in Ruben Östlund’s The Square with that of Luis Buñuel. Even though the comparison is tempting, particularly in a dinner scene towards the end of the film where an uncomfortably brutal gorilla-like performance by Planet of the Apes actor Terry Notary torments the VIP guests at a black-tie museum gala. It’s an extraordinary scene that begins as an awkward humorous stunt but becomes increasingly violent. One can compare the patrons in that scene with the dinner guests in The Exterminating Angel (1968), both trapped by their own privileged bubble. But it would be too easy to read such a scene as a Buñuelian attack on the bourgeois social constructs by their very own primordial and most perverse instincts. Instead, it’s far more interesting to pair The Square with another great film scrutinizing the European bourgeoisie—Caché (2005). Michael Haneke's take on the European white liberal middle-class is more sadistic than Östlund’s satirical approach yet both hit a nerve in modern European consciousness. For it is the collective guilt as a force that makes their characters behave the way they do. This unspoken guilty conscience is omnipresent in both films. Both Christian, the museum curator in The Square and the Laurent family in Caché try to redeem themselves of a guilt they can’t get rid of, partly because it is ingrained in their DNA, it is about who they are as a culture and class.


NEWArábia (João Dumans & Affonso Uchôa, Brazil)

OLDFigures in a Landscape (Joseph Losey, 1970)

"Tenha até pesadelos, se necessário for. Mas sonhe."


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