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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of November 17

“Camille Paglia is not the only one to observe that the great movie stars – of any era – are those with androgynous characteristics. The same could be said for literary characters (people always seem to forget the cross-dressing incident with Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre), for art, for architecture. Not so much yin-yang, but a fluid back-and-forth, an effortless integration, a beckoning that can be very destabilizing. Part of star power is that destabilizing effect. Kristen Stewart is the best example we have today of an actress working in that hard-to-quantify-or-even-talk-about realm. When we talk about charisma, I’d just point to Personal Shopper, one of the best films of 2017, where the majority of the film features Kristen Stewart answering and responding to texts … seriously, that’s most of the movie … and you cannot look away.” Sheila O’Malley lays out her convincing case for Kristen Stewart as the modern inheritor of Brando’s mantle.

“Emerging at the very moment that women’s filmmaking was getting under way, Deitch made Desert Hearts a milestone, the only film to use that energy to fuel a genuine lesbian cinema. Before her, lesbians could seemingly choose only between being French (Diane Kurys’s Entre nous) or a vampire (Tony Scott’s The Hunger). Instead, Deitch set out to make a big, grand, red-blooded American film. Her women would drive through the desert and gamble in the casino, strike out for a dude ranch and file for divorce. And Deitch envisioned a romance, a sexy one that most lesbians wouldn’t even have dared to dream back then. And not just one with a room of our own, but a hotel room, preferably with a naked woman in it, and nobody to interfere.” B. Ruby Rich salutes Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts as a film both inextricably of its time—a product of the feminized ‘70s and a harbinger of the independent scene to come—and able to effortlessly entertain and beguile audiences a generation later.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of November 10

“Every genuine act of innovation starts with a bit of destruction. However, it’s not the medium that Lynch blows up, but the rules and conventions associated with it. He has done this many times throughout his career: with the aesthetics of analogue film and low definition cameras, with serialized narratives, and compact (even ultra-short) durations. For Lynch, exploring the possibilities of a given medium often means turning it upside down in order to shake off the expectations attached to it, to unfold it like a glove into which he places his own, particular world, to extract from this medium what seems impossible, even utterly inconceivable.” Cristina Álvarez López explores David Lynch’s radical reinvention of the sequence-shot in his contribution to Lumière and Company, Premonition Following an Evil Deed.

The two latest entries in Reverse Shot’s symposium on time feature two very different instances of the camera delicately approaching a seated man. Imogen Sara Smith highlights Anton Walbrook’s monologue in the refugee office as a distillation of all the gaps and flashbacks that make time the implacable villain in the Archers’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. (“Theo can return to England, but never to the days when his wife was alive. Film, however, can rewind or replay, slow down or speed up time at will, as Colonel Blimp does with its flashbacks, its way of skipping over years as a stone skips over a pond. The challenge then is to make cinematic time feel like real time, to capture the irreversibility of age and loss, the way the past is at once inescapable and unrecoverable.”) While Nadine Zylberberg finds the key to Sofia Coppola’s whole project in Somewhere’s suspended zoom on a face encased in plaster. (“Johnny and the lifeless substance that envelops him come together, he is at once dead and undead. In Coppola’s world of existential boredom, there may as well be no difference between the two.”)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of October 20

The New York Times Magazine offers a pair of profiles that emerge more complementary than you might expect. Alexander Chee finds Park Chan-wook committed to his modest domesticity, as fond of photographs and cats as Chris Marker, and proud of his self-taught sense of filmmaking. (“When you say you go to a film school in America or France, you would probably go to a lecture where they teach you about German Expressionism and show you what these German Expressionist films are…. But in Korea there was no systematic education I could be exposed to. It was sporadic, haphazard. And maybe that’s why my films have ended up in this strange form, where it feels like it’s a mishmash of everything.”) While the mercurial Amy Adams, as profiled by Manohla Dargis, is steelier than her doe-eyed image suggests, if invariably polite, just as protective as the South Korean master of her personal life, and just as notably autodidact—about her feminist sensibilities. (“When a writer friend pitched Adams to a studio for another project, the limits of Spielberg’s largess became conspicuous. The studio’s response, as Adams described it to me, was:  ‘Oh, the homely girl from Catch Me if You Can.’ That’s preposterous and offensive, and typical of the industry’s sexism. Adams, however, didn’t frame it that way: ‘I can’t blame anything other than I did not do my best at that point. I don’t think I inspired confidence.’”)

Another intriguing pair as Geoffrey O’Brien does double duty for Criterion on Welles’s Othello (“You may begin to wonder how much we even need the words. Here and elsewhere, Othello communicates as the most eloquent of silent films. It could be thought of, to borrow a phrase from Duke Ellington, as a “tone parallel” to the play, with Shakespeare’s language forming only one strand of a mix in which music (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino developed his score in close collaboration with Welles), sound effects, visual design, and human faces each count for at least as much.”) and Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (“Yet the more intimately present this reality becomes, the more ephemeral and ghostly the people in it seem. The past never stops being the past; the images freeze and recede into a frame, beyond our reach. That effect of doubleness is compounded by Kubrick’s recurrent visual trope of slow zooms moving back from the action to reveal the indifferent landscape within which it is taking place. Those reverse zooms signal an incursion from the future, a telescope traveling through time as much as through space.”)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of April 28

The new issue of cléo is organized around the theme of “soft,” realized by such diverse analyses as Mallory Andrews on the ingenious costuming choices of 9 to 5’s Ann Roth (“Each woman leaves the office early to commiserate at a local bar. Judy and Doralee have covered their outfits in matching cream jackets, and the lapels on Doralee match those of Violet’s blazer. Any earlier animosity has been pushed aside, the cream colours acting as a uniform for a three-woman army.”) and Veronica Fitzpatrick’s admiring take on Ex Machina’s ambiguity towards machines, women, and rape (“Much of Ex Machina’s criticism has hinged on whether it’s a feminist revenge parable or an objectifying robot fantasy, but both readings threaten to flatten the complexity that we, like Caleb, are asked to feel without explaining.”). Elsewhere, Jaime Chu highlights the dizzying tactility in Jane Campion’s filmography (“In her films, Campion reminds us of what hands do: they clasp, they rub, they catch, they soothe, they kill, they possess, they hurt, they hold, they remember.”); Justine Smith praises the tensions between repression and erotic arousal in nunsploitation (“Somehow, the fusion of pain and pleasure made “sinful” desires feel more acceptable—the punishment was built into the act itself.”); and Sophie Meyer cuts through metaphor to assess the films that break the phallocentric norm by celebrating soft cock (“While early reviews drew attention to the unprecedented sex acts of the opening minutes, it is in the closing minutes that the film enters truly new territory, of a tenderness that is also explicitly erotic and embodied….”)

“The film’s history is a drama in itself, part thriller, part tragedy. It involves an American Army base, the late-night pilfering of film canisters, a screening that left Mike Nichols in tears and a fatal review. The long final act ends in redemption at the hands of Martin Scorsese (among others) and includes the film’s long-delayed television premiere, on HBO2 on Monday, April 24. This is the story according to the 89-year-old Mr. Ophuls, anyway, and he tells it—by phone recently from his home in Southern France—very convincingly, with frequent bouts of wheezing laughter.” With Marcel Ophuls’s Memory of Justice receiving a long overdue rediscovery, Mike Hale recounts the film’s troubled production and disastrous reception.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, October 7

“To watch these movies in succession is to be immersed in a world where small pleasures are counted dearly and petty slights sting hard—where the habits, routines, and daily indignities and frustrations that shape a life are emphasized rather than downplayed or ignored.” Max Nelson makes the case for the perpetually overlooked Jacques Becker—moreover, for his comedies, whose jarring tones and harsh, unsparing look at the volatility of domestic life are discomfiting enough to explain some of reasons Becker still hasn’t received his due.

“In [Akerman’s] rooms you find both solitude and passion, you find people—people in thought, people sitting, people eating, smoking, people speaking and not speaking, people moving, people struck down by emotion, loving and not loving, breaking, breaking each other. Not only fears, but feelings too, can be the stuff lining a prison’s walls. Feet, arms knocking in tenderness and gluttony, two women consume each other in a stark bed, ending Je tu il elle in brief respite from the loneliness of existence. Chantal leaves and Claire sleeps, alone in her bed, and when the film ends she’ll wake to find the loving visitor gone. Bed—another treacherous stage, for in bed there’s not only love-making, like some films will have us believe. Bed is also where we wake up in the middle of the night, helplessly stranded, to discover a uniquely dark small world.” Alena Lodkina composes a lovely ode to the humanity, narcissism, and danger of the unrivalled intimacy of Chantal Akerman’s films. Via David Hudson.

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