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Rushes. Jerry Lewis, Locarno Festival, Serge Daney in English, "Nocturama" Debate

This week’s essential news, articles, sounds, videos and more from the film world.
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Jerry Lewis
  • We are devastated by the death of performer and director Jerry Lewis this week at the age of 91, one of the 20th century's greatest—and most inspiring—artists. Dave Kehr for The New York Times has penned an excellent obituary, and it's worth revisiting Christoph Huber's 2013 coverage of the Viennale's epic retrospective of Lewis's work as an actor and a filmmaker. Last year, Adrian Curry published a selection of the international poster designs for Lewis's films.
  • The Locarno Festival wrapped last week, with the top prize going to Chinese documentarian Wang Bing's Mrs. Fang. We were at the festival covering it day by day, including its retrospective of Hollywood genre director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, Out of the Past). See all the awards and read our coverage from the Swiss film festival.
  • The Shining vibes suffuse Yorgos Lanthimos's second English-language film, the Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman-starring The Killing of a Sacred Deer—and you feel it really strongly in the film's first trailer. The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where we reviewed it.
  • American indie director Aaron Katz revisits the mystery-laden Los Angeles of Brian De Palma in his film, Gemini, a lovely treatise on female friendship and riff on beloved detective tales. Its first trailer plays the genre elements a bit too hard, but is still a fun time.
  • Also fun is the first English trailer for Claire Denis's unusual new movie, Let the Sunshine In, a dialogue-heavy romantic comedy starring Juliet Binoche. We interviewed the director about the film during Cannes.
  • Critics Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin have made a new video essay for Filmkrant devoted to Raúl Ruiz's beguiling fantasy City of Pirates (1983). As chance would have it, the film is playing now on MUBI in the United Kingdom, and will be coming to the platform in many more countries in September.
  • The essential translation blog Serge Daney in English has begun publishing English versions of the film critic's tremendous 1988 weekly column for Libération, "Ghosts of Permanence," writing about films shown on French television. Here is Daney on watching Michael Cimino's Year of the Dragon:
Year of the Dragon has to be seen as a (sometimes futile) exercise in style on this question of what’s close and what’s a long way away. This is the effect TV has on the film. What has to be seen is how Cimino tries everything before getting to the only confrontation which could tie up every loose end in the film. What has to be seen is the way Cimino builds up his scenes from big camera movements, within which there’s a proliferation of actions which aren’t simultaneous (as on TV), but parallel (as in the cinema). Once, the crucial question was how to get close to things. But where the zoom has replaced the actors’ movements with the movements of our eyes, Cimino thrusts [Mickey] Rourke like a living zoom into the thick of what suddenly shifts from ‘too far’ to ‘too near’, from jealousy to phobia. 
  • Two excellently written reviews of Bertrand Bonello's young terrorist drama Nocturama get at the pleasures and difficulties of this tricky film. First, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's rave:
 Instead of casting the movie into a moral void, its totally abstract treatment of terrorism cuts through the bullshit. It doesn’t matter if these characters make sense as a terror cell, it says, because they are credible as different kinds of terrorists. Nocturama embraces abstractions and contradictions and locates meaning in them: the terrorists’ need for attention and fear of being caught; the symbolism and meaninglessness of the plan; their status as sworn enemies of the status quo and creatures of the modern world; the contrast between the scale of the attack and the claustrophobia of the group’s blinkered point-of-view.
The frivolity of the film’s unexpressed political earnestness—Bonello’s unwillingness to give voice to his or his characters’ ideas—is matched by the emptiness of its aesthetic. Bonello creates a chic and conventionally stylish drama, whirling with Steadicam shots in which constant motion takes the place of substantive action and with an unbroken realism that’s glossy with its own thoughtlessness. [...] There’s no practicality and no grandeur, either—no romanticism, no sublimity in the characters’ lives or, for that matter, in the filmmaking.
The reason I call it a “Bluebeard” picture is that any story about intimidating men that women have reason to be afraid of is a Bluebeard story, after the fairy tale of the same name where a woman marries a wealthy man only to find that he literally has six dead wives locked away in a secret chamber. In modern horror movies, most often the villain is a literal monster (an axe-wielding psychopathic maniac, a masked goon, etc.); but in classic films, the monster was often a woman’s husband or lover, shifting mercurially from dream lover to monster and back again as he went through his different masculine moods. The heroine’s dilemma in these films is to figure out who the man really is. She must decide if she is horrified with him because of her own irrational fears and emotional immaturity, or if he really is an abnormal monster, a killer, someone to flee from.
I love the wind. I love so many things about sound. I always say that cinema is sound and picture, flowing together in time. And you know, you want to get every element in a film as good as you can get, so this thing will hold together. To me, the director is supposed to guide what people see from beginning to end and what people hear from beginning to end, to fulfill the ideas. It has to pass through one person. When all the elements come together, you can get this thing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • The end title card for Jerry Lewis's The Ladies Man (1961).

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