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Cinema Scope, Film Comment, Cineaste, Offscreen

Suddenly this weekend, generous samplings from a slew of new issues from some of the best film magazines around have appeared online. In this brisk overview, let's start with Cinema Scope, in which Michael Sicinski quickly outlines the current status of the cases of Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi, both facing up to six years in prison, "along with a 20-year prohibition on leaving the country, talking to foreign press, or writing or directing any films. Their official crime: 'assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country's national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.'" He notes, too, that, while international attention has been primarily focused on Panahi, "the coverage of Rasoulof has been rather secondary, given that he is a director of lesser stature. This is regrettable, particularly because his most recent work finds him going from strength to strength, and his latest film" — The White Meadows (2009) — "is one of the finest Iranian films in recent memory." He then presents "an in-depth analysis of Mohammad Rasoulof's four feature films. Together, these films provide a picture of an artist increasingly at odds with his society's inability to find room for its misfits and free thinkers, an artist employing elemental imagery to turn the merely sociological into the near-mythic. If the imams have their way, and effectively end this burgeoning career, the loss would be immeasurable."

This new issue also features a special section on "German Cinema at the Berlinale," with Mark Peranson considering Ulrich Köhler's Sleeping Sickness and Dennis Lim: "Like the Red Riding Trilogy (2009), Dreileben consists of three self-contained but interlinked films, each by a different filmmaker (Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhäusler), all dealing with related crimes in the same location. But while the Red Riding films span a decade, Dreileben circles around a single time and place, locating different entry points (which turn out really to be points of departure) and refracting the nominally central incident through different perspectives (which often means marginalizing it). Each installment tells what the filmmakers call a 'horizontal' story — impelled by the forward motion of a romance, an investigation, a manhunt — but the point of Dreileben is to stack them on a vertical axis. While Red Riding enforces a unity of mood, each Dreileben film, despite existing within the same clearly delineated physical world, suggests a subtly different universe from the others. Which comes as no surprise given how it originated: not through omnibus-film gimmickry or convenience but in the course of an actual exchange of ideas."

Dennis begins his piece by noting that after "a decade-long procession of HBO critical darlings, in the wake of Olivier Assayas's Carlos and now Todd Haynes's Mildred Pierce, received wisdom holds that television — or more precisely, its funding structures and serial configurations — represents our best hope for narrative filmmaking." For Richard Porton, Haynes, with his Mildred Pierce, "reinvents" James M Cain "for a new generation with audacious finesse… If some critics felt that Far from Heaven (2002) was a bit too much of an on-the-nose retro homage to Douglas Sirk or that I'm Not There (2007) was an exercise in empty virtuosity, it will probably be more difficult to lob similar accusations at Mildred Pierce, a scrupulously faithful adaptation of Cain's novel with no trace of snark. This is not because Haynes has become less preoccupied with raiding film history and the vicissitudes of pastiche; it's merely the case that the film's resourceful allusiveness, which references the Hollywood movie brats' vision of the Depression, large chunks of Fassbinder, and the aesthetics of long-form cable dramas, cannot be reduced to a one-dimensional gimmick. For attentive viewers, Haynes offers a multiplicity of entry points: the reverberations of the 30s within the ongoing Great Recession, a scary view of dysfunctional family dynamics, a highly ironized look at the machinations of show business, and a mordant commentary on the early stirrings of contemporary consumerism — to name only a few tangible thematic tributaries. Rather surprisingly for the quintessentially postmodern Haynes, the not-so-hidden injuries of class nearly trump the ramifications of gender." And Adam Nayman has an overview of television in 2010.


Also: Quintín on Monte Hellman's Road to Nowhere, Olaf Möller's books column and Andréa Picard on Israeli sculptor Absalon, José Maria de Orbe's Aitá and Théo Court's Ocaso. DVDs: Jerry White on North Korean Cinema and Matt Losada on José Val del Omar's Tríptico. Interviews: Max Goldberg with Nathaniel Dorsky, Robert Koehler with Fred Kelemen (with specific regard to shooting Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse) and José Teodoro with Rubber director Quentin Dupieux.

In the new Film Comment, Amy Taubin and Laura Kern look back to this year's edition of Sundance, Gavin Smith to Rotterdam. Plus: Dan Sullivan on Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent, Chuck Stephens on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Michael Koresky on James Wan's Insidious, Chris Chang on Huang Weikai's Disorder and Violet Lucca on Miguel Arteta's Cedar Rapids. Jesse P Finnegan: "Brainchild of Casey Pugh, the crowdsourced masterpiece that is StarWarsUncut was realized with the help of a handful of developers and designers and hundreds of fanatical contributors." And Scott Foundas: "So far, relative anonymity has been the lot of Serge Bozon and a half-dozen other young French cinéastes who, between 1997 and 2005, contributed to the film journal La Lettre du cinéma, and who have since gone on to create a series of films as highly original and formally innovative as any of the more celebrated 'new' national cinemas (Argentina, Romania, South Korea) that have dominated the conversation over the last decade." That "relative anonymity" is dissipating, of course, and next month sees the series Free Radicals: Serge Bozon and the New French Cinema running at the Walter Reade. See also Dmitry Martov and Larysa Smirnova's interview with Bozon and Pascale Bodet.

Cineaste has been raiding the Warner Archives: Gary Crowdus on Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale (1995), Leonard Quart on Michael Curtiz's Black Fury (1935), Richard Porton on Joseph Cates's Girl of the Night (1960ish), Robert Cashill on Ranald MacDougall's The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) and Robert Sklar on Nicholas Ray's Hot Blood (1956). More DVDs: Royal S Brown on David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983), Peter Tonguette on Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles (2008), Juliet Jacques on Karlheinz Martin's From Morning to Midnight (1920), Aaron Cutler on Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Martha P Nochimson on the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol 5, Randall Conrad on Buster Keaton and James L Neibaur on Chaplin at Keystone.

Also: Nana Asfour on Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains (2009) and Michel Khleifi's Zindeeq (2009), David Sterritt on Steven Soderbergh's And Everything Is Going Fine (2010), Karen Backstein on Lucy Walker's Waste Land (2010) and Christopher Sharrett on Catherine Corsini's Leaving (2010). Matthew Hays talks with Bruce LaBruce and Gary Crowdus and Richard Porton with the late Arthur Penn.

Offscreen follows up on its last issue, devoted to Andrei Tarkovsky, with "Tarkovsky Redux," featuring Donato Totaro on Ivan's Childhood (1962), David Hanley on Solaris (1972) and Zoë Heyn-Jones on Stalker (1979). Also: David Hanley on "Tradition and Modernity in Japanese Yakuza Films of the 1960s and 70s" and Alireza Vahdani on Yôji Yamada's The Hidden Blade (2004).

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Strange to see Reese Witherspoon on cover of Film Comment off Isabelle Huppert’s back.
Many people told me about this movie. I´m looking forward to wacht it
A useful compendium. Thanks for doing all the reading!
The New Zealand World Cinema Showcase Festival is showing Rasoulof’s “The White Meadows” in April. To all Kiwis who read MUBI please go and see this film. His last film “Iron Island,” was an extraordinarily powerful and beautiful experience. For screening schedule:

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