Era Extraña: Lewis Klahr on Sixty Six

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Originally published in Cinema Scope 66

“I’ve been listening to all the dissension/ I’ve been listening to all the pain/ And I feel that no matter what I do for you/ It’s going to come back again”—Leonard Cohen, “Minute Prologue”

An anthology film in 12 chapters, Lewis Klahr’s animated mosaic Sixty Six is both greater than the sum of its parts and grander than the scope of its one-dimensional decoupage. Any attempt to describe the film leads to a maze of contradictions. Largely a work of stop-motion collage (a term the filmmaker favours to distinguish his practice from traditional animation), it is at once Klahr’s latest feature and a compendium compiled from years of short-form experimentation. Beginning in 2013 as the attempted reimagining of an unreleased 16mm film, the project soon expanded to encompass a multitude of digital miniatures ranging from three to 20-plus minutes in length. Combining outré visual sources—comic books, newsprint ads, pulp literature, and all manner of Pop-Art ephemera—with classical music cues and allusions to Greek mythology, this composite feature is the strangest of hybrids: a personal work of universal provenance. Continue reading

Interview: Claude Lanzmann

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Originally published by The Hollywood Reporter, May 5, 2016

At 90 years old, director Claude Lanzmann made his first trip to the Academy Awards this past February on behalf of the Oscar-nominated documentary short film, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, Adam Benzine’s moving tribute to the nonfiction filmmaking titan and his most celebrated work, the landmark nine-hour Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985). Featuring new interviews with Lanzmann and a selection of critics and fellow directors, as well as unreleased footage from the making of Shoah, Benzine’s film is both an inside look at how a work of such historic and cinematic magnitude came to be and a loving portrait of an artist whose integrity and sense of humanity remains undiminished. Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah premieres on HBO on Monday, May 2, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

The following are excerpts from an interview conducted on Feb. 27, the eve of the 88th Academy Awards that Lanzmann attended. Continue reading

In Conversation: Shambhavi Kaul with Jordan Cronk

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Originally published in The Brooklyn Rail, May 2016

The work of the India-born, Durham-based filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul has a unique relationship with not only the world of contemporary experimental cinema, but also the lineage from which it draws both its inspiration and, quite often, its materials. Slyly spurning the strained, self-serious demeanor of much of the avant-garde, Kaul’s playful and inquisitive films unite histories of personal, cultural, and cinematic intrigue while maintaining an integrity borne of a deep engagement with the natural world. At the inaugural edition of the Big Ears film festival—to the revered experimental music celebration of the same name, which this year took place from March 31 – April 2 in Knoxville, Tennessee—Kaul premiered Modes of Faltering, a new six-channel installation, along with the five-film program, “Planet,” featuring a selection of spoken reflections capped with a reading of a manuscript adapted from a variety of in-flight magazines. Continue reading

Cannes Interview: Albert Serra

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Originally published by Film Comment, May 22, 2016

Known for his provocative reimaginings of Don Quixote, Casanova, and the Three Kings, Catalonian director Albert Serra has, over the course of 10 years and four features, established himself as an artist of singular talent and irascible temperament. With The Death of Louis XIV, Serra again looks to the past for inspiration, but the results are, surprisingly, more reverent than rebellious. Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud as France’s longest-reigning King during his final days as he slowly succumbs to the effects of cardiac arrhythmia and gangrene, the film observes in a patient, crestfallen manner how one of history’s most famous rulers and a selection of his closest confidants approach an inevitable fate with dignity and reserve. Restricting the drama to the confines of the King’s bedchamber and sparing in his use of extraneous formal gestures, Serra has crafted a ravishing, darkly witty evocation of 18th-century aristocracy and a neoclassical period piece as reminiscent of the historical films of Visconti and Rossellini as the modernist literary adaptations of Rohmer and Oliveira.

Serra sat down with FILM COMMENT at Cannes shortly after The Death of Louis XIV premiered as an Out of Competition selection to talk about his unique on-set process, his film’s more restrained tone, and working with one of French cinema’s most beloved actors. Continue reading

Cannes Interview: Bruno Dumont

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Originally published by Film Comment, May 16, 2016

French filmmaker Bruno Dumont’s follow-up to his acclaimed four-part 2014 television film Li’l Quinquin, is a work of madcap inspiration—the second in a fresh comedically minded phase of the notoriously austere director’s career. Starring a roll call of seasoned actors—Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Jean-Luc Vincent—alongside a Dumontian clutch of amateurs, Slack Bay pits the upper-class Van Peteghems, vacationing for the summer on the coast of Northern France, against the working-class Bruforts, a lowly clan of fishermen. The Bruforts’ strange traditions and macabre rituals peg them as prime suspects in an ongoing series of unsolved disappearances. Investigating the crimes are a pair of detectives, Machin (Didier Desprès) and Malfoy (Cyril Rigaux), a Laurel and Hardy–type duo as prone to pratfalls as they are to misreading clues. Together these characters descend upon the Channel Coast for a carnivalesque romp inspired as much by the comedy stylings of cinema’s earliest stars as by detective yarns and the grotesquerie of early-20th-century expressionist painting.

Dumont sat for an interview soon after Slack Bay premiered in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Continue reading