Daily Archives: January 23, 2023

The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema

From the Chicago Reader (March 16, 2007), slightly corrected (in terms of title and running time).. — J.R.



If Daffy Duck ever became a film critic informed by Lacanian psychoanalysis, this three-part English entertainment (2006) by Sophie Fiennes would surely qualify as his Duck Amuck. Theorist Slavoj Zizek, inside beautifully constructed sets matching various films’ locations, lectures provocatively and dynamically about 43 screen classics, often sputtering like Daffy himself. Hitchcock and Lynch are favored, but among the many other filmmakers considered are Coppola, Lang, Powell, and Tarkovsky. Zizek is especially sharp about manifestations of the maternal superego in Psycho and The Birds, maverick fists in Dr. Strangelove and Fight Club, and voices in The Great Dictator and The Exorcist. 143 min. (JR)


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Voluptuous Defeat: Philippe Garrel and LES AMANTS RÉGULIERS

Commissioned by Sight and Sound, and written for their August 2006 issue. — J.R.

Considering how much admiration I have for the films of Philippe Garrel, it’s hard to avoid some feelings of guilt and consternation for not liking them more —  especially when I consider how much they mean to others whose tastes I admire. Why do I find myself preferring the work of his best-known disciple, Leos Carax?

This is a problem I’ve been wrestling with for a quarter of a century. For the past decade, I’ve been trying to theorize my disaffection by ascribing the passion of my younger friends for this melancholy star of the French underground to a generational taste I can’t share. In some respects, I even like the way they like Garrel’s films more than I like the films themselves. They generate a kind of awe that few other filmmakers inspire, and the fact that he’s a minority taste in no way disqualifies him from being a major talent.


These far-flung cinéphiles, all born around 1960, include Nicole Brenez, based in Paris; Alexander Horwath, based in Vienna; Kent Jones, based in New York; and Adrian Martin, based in Melbourne —- all of whom share similarly acute feelings for John Cassavetes, Abel Ferrara, Monte Hellman, and Maurice Pialat. Read more

Pynchon on the Beach

My review of Thomas Pynchon’s lamentable Inherent Vice, for Slate (August 3, 2009). Much less lamentable — actually quite good in spots — is Pynchon’s more recent Bleeding Edge, which I prefer to everything of his since Vineland. But even more lamentable, in my opinion, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice, which even after a second viewing strikes me on most counts as his worst film to date. (I’d been hoping for something more transformative, such as Norman Mailer’s superb film adaptation of his own worst novel, Tough Guys Don’t Dance.) Despite a few glancing virtues (e.g., Josh Brolin’s Nixonesque performance) and the (so far) unsubstantiated enthusiasm of many of my smarter colleagues, Anderson’s film strikes me as being just as cynical as its source and infused with the same sort of misplaced would-be nostalgia for the counterculture of the late 60s and early 70s, pitched to a generation that didn’t experience it, as Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. [Postscript, January 27, 2015: The first semiplausible defense of the film that I’ve read can be found here.]  [A second postscript, January 23, 2023: It’s too bad that it’s impossible for most of us now to know whether Pynchon has retired or if he has another book in the works.] Read more

The Cinema of Tomorrow (2007)

This is the first of my bimonthly columns written for Cahiers du Cinéma España, which ran in their first issue (May 2007). Not coincidentally, it was at the same Mar del Plata festival described below that the magazine’s director, Carlos F. Heredero, and its editor-in-chief, Carlos Reviergo, invited me to write this regular column. — J.R.

My seven trips to Argentina over the past eight years began when the Buenos Aires branch of FIPRESCI, the international film critics organization, brought me there to give some lectures in the fall of 2000. The couple who became my host and hostess, critics Quintín and Flavia de la Fuentes, invited me back half a year later after Quintín became director of the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film, a remarkable event sponsored by the city every April. Quintín held the job for four years, and it quickly became, to my knowledge, the only festival to be organized socially as well as intellectually around the principles of film criticism. The programming gave as much attention to older films (especially difficult-to-see classics imported from the Cinémathèque Française by Bernard Benoliel, such as Rossellini’s sublime India) as to new ones, and the books they published, starting with a translation of my own Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See, tended to be polemical interventions. Read more