Daily Archives: August 12, 2021

Film history that is open to the present [Chicago Reader blog post, 2006]

Film history that is open to the present

Posted By on 11.14.06 at 04:07 PM



Last month Alexander Horwath, director of the Austrian Film Museum, sent me a press release about an ambitious and audacious retrospective he’s presenting throughout November entitled “Notre Musique,” devoted to “forty major works of fictional and documentary cinema made between 2000 and 2006.” “Film museums are often — and justifiably — viewed as places where an awareness of the historic foundations of contemporary cinema can evolve,” he begins. “Yet a reverse perspective is equally important — an approach to film history that is open to the present.” His selection, he adds, “is not so much influenced by the best-known or `most-discussed’ films of recent years but rather by the unbroken capacity of cinema to bear witness to life on this planet [his emphasis] — not just in the sense of documentation but also as an illumination of circumstances that habor a potential for change.” What he’s put together, in short, is a group of films that are supposed to bear witness, politically and responsibly, to the present moment — a daring gesture if one considers Jacques Rivette’s plausible statement in a Cahiers du Cinéma roundtable over 40 years ago, that it’s virtually impossible for a critic to know the long-term value of a film when it first appears. As

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Rotterdam #2 [Chicago Reader blog post, 2007]

A post on the Chicago Reader‘s blog, Bleader. — J.R.


Film Rotterdam #2: Another venue, another timetable

Posted By on 01.29.07 at 06:11 PM


It’s hard at many festivals apart from the biggest ones to determine whether a film is really “new” or not: “new” in relation to where? I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of Jia Zhangke’s Still Life in Venice last year and then resee it in Toronto a week or so later. It’s playing in Rotterdam now, and perhaps it will reach Chicago a year from now, or maybe a little sooner. In the busy cafe-bar of the Lantaren/Venster, the oldest of the festival’s three multiscreen multiplexes (where virtually the entire festival was taking place the first year I attended, 1984), between two programs, I buy a Chinese DVD of this film, priced around $10 in Euros from a clerk who assures me that this version has English subtitles, even though they aren’t mentioned on the box — something I may not be able to confirm until I’m back in Chicago next month. But then, just before a Chinese indy film called Weed starts a few minutes later, I find I’m sitting a row away from Chinese film expert and sometime Reader reviewer Shelly Kraicer, who assures me that (1) this version is subtitled, and (2) it can be bought on the streets of Beijing for about $1.10 — or 80 cents if it’s from a pirated source. Read more

A brief dispatch from Rotterdam [Chicago Reader blog post, 2007]

A post on the Chicago Reader‘s blog, Bleader. — J.R.

A brief dispatch from Rotterdam

Posted By on 01.28.07 at 04:32 PM


I’m posting this from a public, stand-up facility at the Rotterdam film festival, which means I have to keep this brief. I’ve seen only one feature so far that I’ve cared for very much — a documentary called Murch by Edie and David Ichioka, about film editor Walter Murch (whom I once had the pleasure of working with on a re-edited version of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil). The film offers a fascinating glimpse of some of the tricks of Murch’s trade, presented with wit and lucidity. Edie Ichioka is a former assistant of Murch’s, and she and her husband clearly knew the right sort of questions to get him started.

Bringing Darkness to Light (2006).01


Otherwise, I’ve been mainly seeing things that I don’t last all the way through. (Walking out of films is something of a luxury for me, since for obvious professional reasons I can’t do this when I’m reviewing in Chicago.) The main exceptions have been a couple of interesting experimental shorts, both of which find novel ways of combining animation with live action — called, respectively, Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light and Regarding the Pain of Susan Sontag (Notes on Camp) — and Summer Palace, a sort of dirge about a female college student in Beijing before, during, and after the Tiananmen Square events, by Lou Ye, the director of Suzhou River, which I stayed to the end of mainly because of jetlag and inertia. This

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