Film Comment, Offscreen, Acidemic, Brooklyn Rail

For the most part, the September/October issue of Film Comment is a New York Film Festival preview. We've seen Scott Foundas's piece on David Fincher's The Social Network, whose world premiere will open the festival, and Amy Taubin's on Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme. Now we can read Tom Mes prepping us for one of the two NYFF Masterworks series, Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda.

Let's focus for a moment on what seems to be the turning point in Shinoda's oeuvre: "Set during the tumultuous last days of the feudal shogunate in the mid-19th century, The Assassin [1964] is a very subjective biopic of Hachiro Kiyokawa, a masterless samurai hired by the shogun to combat rebel forces intent on restoring the emperor to power.... Seen today, what is remarkable about The Assassin is how far removed it is from both the scathing pamphleteering of Oshima and the increasingly inward works of Yoshida. It has far more in common with the later films of Kinji Fukasaku — all frenzied action, freeze-frames, flow-chart narrative, and unwritten history. Donald Richie provided a pointer to the kinship between the two filmmakers when he likened the many scenes of backroom political scheming to 'feudal newsreels.' Unlike Fukasaku (and Shohei Imamura), what interests Shinoda is not so much the history that Japan forgot but the patterns of behavior that are repeated throughout that history into the present. The confusing historical narrative of The Assassin and Kiyokawa's wavering loyalty only serve to blur the distinction between the old power and the new: whether it be militarist or imperial rule, there is no real change."

As a NYFF Special Event, the Schulberg/Waletzky restoration of Stuart Schulberg's Nuremberg (1948) will screen on September 28. For Nicolas Rapold, it's "a ritual as much as it is a movie. Split between footage of the trials and a retelling of the rise of the Nazis, it was originally intended as Allied propaganda for German audiences, featuring a dutifully clear message and dour drumbeat pacing.... [T]his is clearly a film whose communal theatrical experience will be qualitatively different than home viewing."

Also in this issue: Andrew Sarris on Sacha Guitry, Chris Chang on Mariano Llinás's Extraordinary Stories, Jesse P Finnegan on jonasmekasfilms.com, Amy Taubin on Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe, David Zuckerman on Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Andrew Chan on Lixin Fan's Last Train Home and "short takes" on Rodrigo Cortés's Buried, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's Catfish, Pascal Chaumeil's Heartbreaker, Claudia Llosa's The Milk of Sorrow, Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy and Margarethe von Trotta's Vision.





Online only are a list of the 50 "Best Films Set in the Film World," Chris Chang's report from this year's Fantasia International Film Festival, Michael Chaiken on John Gianvito's latest ("Neither patronizing nor simplistic, the scope and humanist grandeur of Vapor Trail (Clark) raises eternal questions about our collective responsibility to history, the efficacy of organized political action, and the hellish effects bureaucratic capitalism has had on developing nations") and the second part of Paul Brunick's broad survey and deep assessment of online film criticism, from which I will happily take my new job description: criticism jockey.

 

OFFSCREEN


Paul's piece leads us directly to the latest issue of Offscreen to be posted online: "Film Criticism and the Internet." The very word "Internet" in that title arouses a suspicion that Offscreen, and while we're at it, Jump Cut, another otherwise excellent, even essential film journal whose editors have been "fretting about film criticism," have both done a fine job of catching up with the evolution of the practice of criticism up to around 2008 or so, at the latest. Paul W Salmon's piece opens with a reference to a discussion of Inception but immediately takes Armond White's participation in that discussion as a bridge back to the old print-vs-online debate. Surely with print (sadly) on the wane (and possibly even the Web right along with it), the day is coming soon when we'll be reading and/or listening to and/or watching all film critics on the same screen, and it will likely feel so natural that it'll be difficult to wrap our heads around the parameters of some faraway argument that flared up briefly back in the mid-00s.

At any rate, Offscreen editor Donato Totaro introduces the pieces in the rest of the issue: "My own brief essay follows with the minor goal of laying out some of the strengths of internet writing (added to those noted by Salmon). I hold Daniel Garrett's work, which has appeared in Offscreen‘s electronic (electric?) pages for many years, as a model of intelligent and forceful film criticism. Garrett's writing always comes from a storehouse of personal expression (political, ideological, cultural, philosophical), but moderated by the reasoning mind of critical objectivity. Garrett opens his piece with a preamble on the cultural worth of the film critic and film criticism, before moving on to a series of mini-reviews of recent films which are again a model in succinctness. The final two pieces in the issue stand as examples of what we are talking about: good film criticism. These two reviews embody what I argue in my think piece 'Film Writing and Sturgeon's Law' constitutes the proper work of a film critic: writing that is informed by a background of proper contextualisation (national, industry, auteur, or genre). The two reviews, the first on the Bourne trilogy and the second on Green Zone, are written by first-time Offscreen writer Leon Saunders Calvert."

 

ACIDEMIC


"Perhaps sex is to the French what guns are to America, part of the national landscape," suggests editor Erich Kuersten, introducing Acidemic #6: "Sex and the French." "As Marlene Dietrich famously noted: 'In Europe, sex is a fact, in America an obsession.'"





Featured in this issue: Todd McGowan on Godard's Contempt, Kim Morgan on Gaspar Noé's I Stand Alone, Severine Benzimra on "Sex in French TV and cinema" and Jean Marais, Ethan Spigland on Jean Rollin's Requiem for a Vampire, John Bredin on Godard's 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Samantha Charlip on Jacques Saurel's Joy et Joan and Erich Kuersten on Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard, Andrzej Zulawski's L'amour braque and Clint Eastwood's Breezy.

 

BROOKLYN RAIL


The BAMcinématek series Bela Lugosi's Dead, Vampires Live Forever runs on through the end of the month and in the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail, Sarahjane Blum finds "funny vampires (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Innocent Blood), ancient vampires (Nosferatu, Vampyr, Dracula), lady vampires (Dracula's Daughter, Nadja, The Addiction) child vampires (Mr Vampire II, Let the Right One In), alien vampires (Planet of the Vampires, Lifeforce), and zombies masquerading as vampires (Last Man on Earth). There's pretty much every flavor of vampire besides overweight.... They are all tremendously attractive, and can wear anything. The long-standing popularity of the vampire film may simply be that vampires present great-looking variations on the themes of human desire and fear."

Julia Sirmons looks back on MoMA's summertime Sally Potter retrospective: "Of all the female directors to emerge from the 70s and 80s, Potter remains the most radical and vital because she is the sexiest; that is to say she has created an atmosphere of sensuality both safe and thrilling enough for the viewer to dwell in."

"Film Forum 2's Classic 3-D and Anthology Film Archives's William Lustig Presents, two of New York's recent reparatory film seasons bear witness that old movies are better than ever," argues Bruce Bennett.

And Sean Glass brings us full circle back to the NYFF: "Carlos is Olivier Assayas's five and a half hour epic tale of the 70s punk rock terrorist Illich Ramirez Sánchez, known by his nom de guerre Carlos, and later dubbed by the press 'Carlos the Jackal.'... Avoiding the trademark sentimentality that defined genre benchmark Army of Shadows, Assayas instead draws out comparisons to iconic tragic rockers of the 70s and early 80s."

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