"The desire for a critical framework capable of both political acumen and esthetic incisiveness is at the heart of Cineaste's project." Introducing the Fall 2009 issue, the editors note that "Rahul Hamid's evaluation of the career of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 'A Filmmaker at the Barricades'... pinpoints how the concerns of a serious director of fiction films can at times converge with topical preoccupations that, to use the old cliché, seem 'torn from today's headlines.' Hamid's article chronicles how Makhmalbaf's 'growing sophistication as a filmmaker' reflects an evolving political sophistication. While Makhmalbaf's early films exemplify his youthful, largely uncritical enthusiasm for Khomeini's Islamic Revolution, his mature films replace facile postrevolutionary verities with a more reflective, critical stance that is especially daring for interrogating the status of women within theocratic Iran. It is therefore far from surprising that Makhmalbaf has emerged in recent months as the primary spokesman for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the former Prime Minister (and the official 'loser' in the recent Iranian presidential race), the man who has managed to unify various factions that, like Makhmalbaf, are disillusioned with the autocratic nature of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. As is the case with many directors outside the rarefied confines of Hollywood, art and politics are indivisible."
A couple of related notes before moving on. First, do see Laura Secor's most recent "Comment" for the New Yorker; second, Makhmalbaf's daughter, Hana, has a new film, Green Days, "a docudrama with footage from the recent Iranian unrest," as Nick Vivarelli reports for Variety. It's one of four new titles added to the Venice Film Festival's official selection, the others being Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy - Ultimate Version, "a new 280-minute cut of Dante's compilation tribute to the B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s; and Peter Greenaway's 40-minute The Marriage, a high-tech rendition of The Wedding at Cana, painted in 1563 by Italian Renaissance master Paolo Veronese." The fourth: Angela Ismailos's Great Directors, a portrait of ten directors: Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Ken Loach, David Lynch, John Sayles and Agnès Varda.
Now then: "Film Studies hasn't had a particularly self-reflexive bent when it comes to examining its institutionalization," writes Michael Sicinski. "While there have been numerous accounts of the history and development of 'film theory' as a relatively autonomous set of ideas and precepts regarding 'Cinema,' the more concrete aspects of the discipline, including its own establishment within the academy, have received relatively scant attention. As a materialist corrective to this idealist tendency, Inventing Film Studies is an invaluable intervention." He points that "the strongest and most startling essay" is Mark Betz's on "Little Books," an overview of the pocket-sized and - this is important - portable guides to singular themes or filmmakers, books that saw their heyday in the late 60s and 70s. Cargo's Ekkehard Knörer notes that right at the bottom of Betz's page at King's College London, there's a link to a 24-page appendix to this essay.
More web exclusives and selections from the print edition: Adrian Martin on the "superb Australian documentary" Forbidden Lie$; Patrick Friel on the Criterion collection Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé; Karen Backstein on Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel; David Sterritt on Chris Marker's A Grin Without a Cat; James L Neibaur on the Flicker Alley five-disc box set Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer; and Colin Fleming on Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton.
There are two interviews, "Seeing Double in the Electric Mist: An Interview with Bertrand Tavernier," by Chris Mosey, and "When Andy Bichlbaum Said Yes: How a Video Programmer Became an Activist and Filmmaker," by Dan Lybarger.
Festival reports: Tony Pipolo on the Istanbul International Film Festival, Cynthia Lucia on the Jeonju International Film Festival and Jared Rapfogel on the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
Image: Mohsen Makhmalbaf.