A month behind the annual spectacle of critics and awards groups racing to be first across the finish line with their year-end tallies—in some cases even before the films selected have been seen—we occupy the opposite extreme, finally coming in like Bing Crosby’s horse long after anyone has any further desire to look back at 2013 with a second nudge to read some favorite articles from the year.
Much deserved praise went Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh’s way for their state-of-the-cinema reports, the former’s impassioned, almost spiritual sense of history under threat of being forgotten dovetailing nicely with the latter’s tombstone-humor assessment of money men taking over the temple. But the clearest view is often afforded at the margins. For all their self-serving resignation to the new paradigm, Paul Schrader’s interviews to rehabilitate The Canyons (after Stephen Rodrick’s already legendary set report, well worth a read itself) offered the year’s most provocative sense of where movies are now, for good and ill. (Film Comment, Indiewire, Now Toronto, and Filmmaker.)
Other favorite interviews include Soderbergh, again, laying out his case even better in conversation (“But an alarming thing I learned during Contagion is that the people who pay to make the movies and the audiences who see them are actually very much in sync. I remember during previews how upset the audience was by the Jude Law character. The fact that he created a sort of mixed reaction was viewed as a flaw in the filmmaking…. And I thought, Wow, so ambiguity is not on the table anymore. They were angry.”); Athina Rachel Tsangari exploding several neatly partitioned definitions of what a feminist or a nationalist cinema can be (“Take David Lynch, for example. He’s experiencing life fully, and reflecting it in cinema fully. And I respond to that because I see a revolutionary anarchy in it. Breaking rules and being personal, combining formalism with emotion—this is something I’m trying to negotiate.”); Juan Luis Buñuel on his father (“No. I don’t think [he liked making films]. What he enjoyed was when it was easy. When he was in the studio, he liked that. And when he had his friends around him, [Michel] Piccoli and Fernando Rey and others like that, and then they would be laughing constantly.”); and John Hyams on movie violence (“Is their issue with violence or is their issue with seeing violence look like something upsetting? They want their violence to look clean and not upsetting.”).
Two autobiographical pieces—Howard Hampton on being raised by a struggling former stuntman and Tom Sleigh on the childhood lessons learned in a Jim Crow-era drive-in—are compelling portraits of growing up at movie’s fringes. While a third confirms that ghosts and science have haunted Apichatpong Weerasethakul all his life.