Daily Briefing. Dorsky, Snow, Kael

The DailyCompline

A two-evening cycle in Los Angeles, Seeing and Awakening: New Films by Nathaniel Dorsky at REDCAT on Monday — Pastourelle (2010), The Return (2011) and the world premiere of August and After — and A Quartet of Recent Films by Nathaniel Dorsky at the UCLA Film & Television Archive's Billy Wilder Theater on Friday — Sarabande (2009), Compline (2009), Aubade (2009) and Winter (2008) — is the occasion for an appreciation by Manohla Dargis in the New York Times:

Because the films are silent and don't come with explanatory on-screen text, you can luxuriate in the visual complexity of the images. You may, amid all this loveliness, worry about what it all means. Although Mr Dorsky gestures in certain interpretive directions, notably with his titles — "Compline" is the name of the final prayer of the day in the Roman Catholic Church — he never forces you down this or that path. Then again, what can the image of eye-poppingly purple flowers mean? "Interpretation," as Susan Sontag memorably wrote "is the revenge of the intellect upon art." A few pages later in the same essay, "Against Interpretation," she extols transparence in art (and criticism), writing that it "means experiencing the luminousness of the thing in itself, of things being what they are."

Art, as Sontag persuasively argued, doesn't stand for something else but is itself a thing, and while Mr Dorsky's films can inspire explanatory reveries, they are also beautiful objects.

Reading. "This week, MoMA's recent acquisition of [Michael] Snow's slide installations Slidelength (69-71) and Sink (70) brought the Toronto-born artist back across the border for an edition of the museum's Modern Mondays series," writes Emma Myers for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. "Although the main focus of the evening's discussion was his gallery work — Snow doesn't like to talk about his films without screening them, and seeing 'snippets is never a good idea' — the influence of the filmic is pervasive in his art, which plays with themes of vision, perception, pattern, repetition, framing, and the relationship between time and space. Favoring the participatory over the didactic, Snow's conceptual visions are transformed into physical experiences that reward the engaged viewer."

Andy Rector runs a passage from the John Ford section of Colin Young's 1959 essay in Film Quarterly, "The Old Dependables."

Books. In the run-up to and immediately following the all but simultaneous publication last fall of Brian Kellow's biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark and the Library of America's collection The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael, edited by Sanford Schwartz, "a critical furore erupted, with lengthy reviews, reviews of reviews, symposia, staged conversations, and hectic blogging," writes Elaine Showalter in the TLS, and you'll find much of it here. Showalter concentrates on Kellow's book: "Kael emerges from his biography as a great cinematic character, a kind of Citizen Kane, with a life lived and shaped by the dark."

The Astaires: Fred & Adele

Recommending The Astaires: Fred & Adele, the Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley quotes author Kathleen Riley: "The story of the Astaires conjures up a vanished world. Born at the close of the nineteenth century, they, in effect, grew up together with the next century. Manifestly children of their time, they glamorously embodied the interwar style they had partly invented. At the same time, their appeal as performers, particularly in London, was based largely on their apparent defiance of the darker aspects of the interwar psyche, their modernism free of modernist angst."

And you may remember Arlene Croce's fine piece on the Astaires in the New York Review of Books.

Palm Beach. Tara Wray and Josh Melrod's Cartoon College, a doc on the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, sees its premiere today at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, where it screens again on Tuesday. USA Today's Whitney Matheson recommends catching it: "Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Art Spiegelman and Jules Feiffer all contribute to the flick, as do several friends of this blog, such as Douglas Wolk and Robyn Chapman."

In the works. Nancy Meyers has lined up two projects, directing Felicity Jones in The Chelsea and Tina Fey in The Intern, reports Deadline's Mike Fleming.

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