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Notebook's 14th Writers Poll: Fantasy Double Features of 2021

In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2021 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.
Notebook
Our annual tradition of Fantasy Double Features asks the year's Notebook contributors to pair something new with something old, with the only requirement being the films have to have been freshly seen this year.
Part diary of memorable viewing during 2021, part creative prompt to think about how cinema's present speaks to its past (and vice versa), the 14th edition of our end of year poll weaves between theater-going and home-viewing so seamlessly as to suggest that early pandemic impediments from last year are now quite normal. Yet clearly that hasn't stopped us from watching, being delighted by, and thinking about movies, and the wonderful combinations below are testaments to the dynamic, idiosyncratic, and interactive vitality of moviegoing wherever and however its being practiced.
CONTRIBUTORS
Jett Allen | Paul Attard | Jennifer Lynde Barker | Susana Bessa | Michael M. Bilandic | Ela Bittencourt | Johannes Black | Joshua Bogatin | Alex Broadwell | Celluloid Liberation Front | Lillian Crawford | Adrian Curry | Doug Dibbern | Flavia Dima | Kayleigh Donaldson | Kelley Dong | Hazem Fahmy | The Ferroni Brigade | Soham Gadre | Aster Gilbert | Sean Gilman | Leonardo Goi | Caroline Golum | Emerson Goo | Luke Goodsell | Duncan Gray | Glenn Heath Jr. | Patrick Holzapfel | David Hudson | Aaron E. Hunt | Jonah Jeng | Daniel Kasman | Ariel Kling | Shiv Kotecha | Amos Levin | Manuela Lazić & Alessandro Luchetti | Maximilien Luc Proctor | Steffanie Ling | Saffron Maeve | Łukasz Mańkowski | Ruairí McCann | Ryan Meehan | Luise Mörke | Marc Nemcik | Wilfred Okiche | Yoana Pavlova | Matheus Pestana | Savina PetkovaAndréa Picard | Emma Piper-Burket | Patrick Preziosi | Michaela Popescu | Ben Prideaux | Dana Reinoos | Kat Sachs | Hamed Sarrafi | Pedro Emilio Segura Bernal | James Slaymaker | Christopher Small | Nadine Smith | Srikanth Srinivasan | Elissa Suh | Elisha Tawe | Matt Turner | Caitlin Quinlan | Conor Williams | Madeleine Wall | Jason Wood

NEW: Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, UK) + OLD: Blow-up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
"A cinematic image of nostalgia is a double exposure, or superimposition of two images--of home and abroad, past and present, dream and everyday life. The moment we try to force it into a single image, it breaks the frame or burns the surface."
—Svetlana Boym
Have you ever felt haunted by a past era, specifically the spirit of the Sixties? Last Night in Soho explores this question of dangerous nostalgia as we witness a fashion student (Thomasin McKenzie) of today who is literally being haunted by a 1960s woman (Anya Taylor-Joy). What seems at first to be a glamorous fantasy quickly becomes a nightmare as the reality of how exploitative the London music and fashion scene could be is resurrected in present time. The more intertwined these two women become, the more internal and temporal reality starts to fracture through dizzying mirror images. I couldn't think of a more perfect pairing than Blow-up, which follows a truly gross 60s photographer as he casually treats his models and subjects with detached cruelty. This film is also fixated on dangerous nostalgia as the main character becomes obsessed with a recent event that he captured on film but doesn't fully understand.
NEW: Six Seventy-Two Variations, Variation 1 (Tomonari Nishikawa, United States) + OLD: Chinese Series (Stan Brakhage, 2003)
Two works which are the end products from scratching directly upon celluloid. One work via fingernail, the other one a knife; the malleability of the film strip is exposed, exhibited as the most fragile and mysterious of artistic mediums.
NEW: Train Again (Peter Tscherkassky, Austria) + OLD: Fuji (Robert Breer, 1974)
Forward momentum (that one pesky, ever-continuous variable that governs all of life) of both the train(s) and the movement of images themselves.
NEW: Fabian: Going to the Dogs (Dominik Graf, Germany) + OLD: La prima notte di quiete (Valerio Zurlini, 1972)
Two poets going to the dogs. Tom Schilling and Alain Delon are suffering souls adrift in a world of hedonism, brutality, lost innocence, and political unrest. In the end there is only Goethe (translated by Longfellow): “O’er all the hilltops/Is quiet now/In all the treetops/Hearest thou/Hardly a breath;/The birds are asleep in the trees:/Wait, soon like these/Thou too shalt rest.”
NEW: Password to the ***** (Adel Szegedi, Hungary) + OLD: Scene with Beans (Ottó Foky, 1976)
Transformation is the heart of animation, and of life. The quotidian as viewed from outer space: spoon-prams and night-coffee, beans and dreams.
NEW: The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway/France)  + OLD: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)
No two greater films ignite female tales of self-discovery and identity such as these. They touch, gently but steadily, into the politics of women shaking themselves inside their bodies, framed by big cities. In Trier’s odyssey, 30-year-old Julie is standing on the precipice of multiple identities. Even though she seems to be in a steady relationship with an older man, she’s still not quite sure who she may be. Confronting herself and going at it alone is too petrifying a thought. In Mazurky’s gaze, Erica is forced into a state of aloneness she wasn’t about to wish for herself when her husband’s infidelity ends their marriage. Settling into middle-age, she returns to her body, and finds all this vacant space. How to re-inhabit it? What does it mean to be a woman? What is the role and what is the woman? And does one exist without the other? Using Maeve’s words in Pat Murphy’s hypnotic manifesto as my own, “You take on a woman’s role to get out of your childhood. And then you have to find a way of getting out of that. Transcending that role.” As the films speak to each other, the double bill overcomes this threshold Pat Murphy pinpoints. On the cusp of the fear of being only with herself, Julia finds freedom. Coming back to the small apartment she does not share with anyone else feels like a sigh of relief. Much like Erica, after all she goes through. They stay in the city, with its streets and avenues to move to and from, and they find the courage they were lacking before to combat that sometimes literal overflowing wind that pushes one in the opposite direction. Holding a gigantic and heavy canvas down the street, Erica is finally herself. The uphill slog only makes that jump, from role into self, that much more significant. As her therapist says to her at one point, “It’s okay to feel anything…It’s okay to feel.” These women are after meaning and they find it in their inner undressing. My 2021 was a happy personification of this.
NEW: What Do We See When We Look At The Sky? (Alexandre Koberidze, Georgia/Germany) + OLD: Love at First Sight (Rezo Esadze, 1975)
NEW: A Night of Knowing Nothing (Payal Kapadia, India/France) + OLD: Campus Rising (Yousuf Saeed, 2017)
Michael M. Bilandic
NEW: The Death of David Cronenberg (David Cronenberg, Canada) + OLD: Einstein's Brain (Kevin Hull, 1994)
In the first one, the aging body horror maestro confronts, and embraces, a hyper-realistic silicone cast of his own corpse. In the second, an obsessive Japanese professor from Osaka travels to the U.S. to track down the brain of Albert Einstein, which he ultimately comes face-to-face with and even gets to fondle. Both films fixate on the post-mortem bodies of beloved geniuses. Cronenberg’s biggest influence, William Burroughs, makes a surprise appearance in Einstein’s Brain, tying the two works together in unexpected ways. While the morbidly realistic deceased flesh is unnerving, the fact that Cronenberg released his 56-second film as an NFT might be the most gruesome detail of all!
NEW: Titane (Julia Ducournau, France) + OLD: Christine (John Carpenter, 1983)
My year had an unusually large dosage of horror and sci-fi, and though I've in no way managed to wrap my head around Titane, and perhaps even agree that some of its provocations fall short of being revelatory, I do marvel at its open-ended unwieldiness. I think there's a lot to be gained from watching Ducournau and Carpenter together, or, for that matter, a whole slate of motherhood horror, from female (or perhaps post-gender?) perspective.
NEW: Titane (Julia Ducournau, France) + OLD: Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
NEW: Titane (Julia Ducournau, France) + OLD: The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
NEW: Titane (Julia Ducournau, France) + OLD: Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)
NEW: Cow (Andrea Arnold, UK) + OLD: Urban Deer (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
I grew up in the South West Peninsula of England, but since the first lockdown have lived in London. Green fields were replaced by leafy suburbia, dairy cows for deer and foxes. Two films I saw this year ostensibly reminded me of this difference in place: Andrea Arnold’s documentary about the working lives of dairy cattle, Cow, and Jonathan Glazer’s Canon TV spot, Urban Deer. Arnold’s anti-pastoral study of farming, welly-deep in mud and liquid manure, presents the realities of the British countryside, where the brutal violence of raising livestock is routine. One cow, Luna, a Holstein-Friesian, receives the focus of the documentary—we witness her growth from calf to mother to meat. Urban Deer shows a different living world, many miles of urban country away: the nocturnal activities of deer near Epping Forrest, Essex, trotting cautiously between bus-shelters and the windows of sleeping houses. Unlike David Attenborough’s mass output or Springwatch, even, what is documented goes without voiceover or explanation; like Robert Bresson’s donkey or Béla Tarr’s herd of cows, they simply exist. But whilst Arnold and Glazer evoked different parts of the UK for me, they also shared a fundamental similarity: these are films whose extraordinary proximity to their subject, and whose all-seeing eye, reflects how far they penetrate the realm of nature, how far the documentary genre oversteps.
NEW: Zeros and Ones (Abel Ferrara, United States/Italy) + OLD: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971) 
Two perpetual flights through an endless landscape. Two pursuits from an all pervasive, unstoppable, and unconquerable enemy. Mario Van Peebles and Abel Ferrara both depict the oppressive darkness and physical power of the American security apparatus ( the LAPD in Sweetback and the U.S. Military in Zeros and Ones) in two confounding visions from hell each made for scraps. Sweetback has the power to amuse and delight its audience, Zeros and Ones offers no such pleasure. Perhaps that’s why Van Peebles opens his movie with a dedication to “all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man” while Ferrera starts his film with a fourth-wall breaking kickstarter-esque plea to potential financiers. Sweetback, a surprise success, believes in the triumph of community and the human spirit; Zeros and Ones, barely released or noticed in the U.S., believes mainly in an individualized, schizophrenic,  apocalypse where the pursuit of money and power reign above all.
NEW: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania) + OLD: Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
Two stories of horny teachers castigated by a constraining moral order and slaughtered by the persnickety do gooders of the world. Alexander Payne and Radu Jude baroque our sanctimonious obsession with preparing children’s minds to make a better world while our own decrepit order looks more moribund and grotesque by the day. Election and Bad Luck Banging are also both films that are constantly trying to push past their own psychological centers, exploring characters and contexts that most filmmakers would leave on the periphery. Payne ends his movie with his disgraced educator pathetically and cathartically throwing a milkshake at his conniving Hillary Clinton-wannabe of a former student before fleeing sheepishly. Jude gives us the ultimate—and ultimately unbelievable—catharsis of watching a grotesque chorus sneering parents get throat-fucked by a giant dildo wielded. If we believe Walter Benjamin’s dictum that every act of civilization is also an act of barbarism perhaps these barbaric reactions to a highly functioning civilized order might be the only appropriate answer to the pedagogical crises these films provoke.
NEW: France (Bruno Dumont, France) + OLD: Patty Hearst (Paul Schrader, 1988)
Altruism and the striving for social justice as an act of empathetic transcendence or just another means of begging for attention. Bruno Dumont and Paul Schrader take an interest in the politics of the rich and famous without intention to skewer or praise, but to poke and test the spiritual void within.
NEW: Malignant (James Wan, USA) + OLD: The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933)
Two films that navigate the spectral/material boundary with remarkable dynamism. In Malignant’s 4th murder scene, Gabriel, to this point a seemingly supernatural and ghostlike presence, is confronted at the scene of the crime by a detective. A chase ensues, which reveals the brutal killer to be an equally balletic and clumsy physical being, not a non-lacking Other–in the end not really an Other at all, but an interior excess given form through a traumatic kernel, sharing a mind with his host Madison. Ultimately Madison is able to meet Gabriel on his own phantasmatic ground and negate his hold on her, though a final, apparently telekinetically popping light bulb signifies that the constitutive split (both in Madison and in the physical/spectral border) still lingers and cannot be papered over entirely. In addition to a violent and immensely pleasurable antagonism toward police, The Invisible Man’s Dr. Jack Griffin shares with Gabriel this messy collision of the im/material. While Griffin successfully transcends at least the visibly physical (as Gabriel apparently does in fact eschew the physical plane en route to his targets), it’s his effect on and entanglement with his material environment that prove his downfall. In his only moment of respite in the film, a farmer notices the sound of his snoring and the form of his breathing body pressing on the hay around him, and a cop tracks him down by his footprints in the snow and shoots him. As close as his experiments may have come to rendering him a true phantom, he could not avoid the trace. And just at the moment of death, Griffin returns to physical form– one last stop through the material before a final tarry with whatever is beyond. (For more bandage-wrapped split subjects causing trouble, see Titane.)
NEW: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania)
OLD: Sesso Nero (Joe D'Amato, 1980)
Pornography as social commentary. While in Joe D'Amato anti-colonial porn it was the white man impotence that was exposed, in Radu Jude's satire it is the reactionary and violent bigotry of (Romanian) society that is chastised. As Herbert Marcuse had argued in "Eros & Civilization," political and sexual emancipation are indivisible.
NEW: The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, UK) + OLD: Herzog Blaubarts Berg (Michael Powell, 1963)
There's a shot in The Souvenir Part II in which Julie enters a studio building and sees a young filmmaker called Jim. He's sitting in a director's chair, smoking, cast in silhouette, with a painted backdrop of a castle behind him. It's not unlike the establishing shot of Michael Powell's adaptation of Béla Bartók's opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle, filmed for German television in 1963.  Hogg makes many references to Powell's films, not least the self-reflexive filmmaking of Peeping Tom or the operatic style of The Tales of Hoffmann. But Bluebeard's Castle is vital to The Souvenir—using excerpts from the opera in the first film, dressing Anthony in a military coat, the fear Julie has like Judith of opening doors to reveal the secrets they hide. Powell's film has recently been restored by the BFI so this would make an ideal double (or triple) feature.
NEW: Annette (Leos Carax, France) + OLD: One from the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1981)
Both of these films were underrated upon release, perhaps due to a lack of willingness to engage with their very particular operatic nature. Both films are incredibly vibrant, cinematographically complex masterpieces that push the limits of the musical genre to challenge contemporary controversies. Perhaps these things are too heated in the moment to appreciated upon release, but both are worth revisiting side-by-side.
NEW: The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, US) + OLD: Señorita (Isabel Sandoval, 2011)
Isabel Sandoval is fast becoming one of the most exciting directors to watch, helped in part due to her keen cineliteracy. For her 2011 film Señorita it seems that some of her influences for the thriller genre, in which someone with a mysterious past hopes to hide but ends up in trouble,  are similar to those of Paul Schrader. His latest film, The Card Counter, develops his themes of loneliness and struggling to offer help in a helpless world in a quietly thrilling manner similarly master by Sandoval. An intense double bill, but a rewarding one.
NEW: Passing (Rebecca Hall, US) + OLD: Sapphire (Basil Dearden, 1959)
The subject of passing and hiding identities for personal safety is one which remains prevalent in the modern day. Rebecca Hall's beautiful adaptation of Nella Larsen's novel is remarkable in its contemporary relevance, as was Basil Dearden's Sapphire in 1959. There's a radical contrast in the focus of the films—the former builds towards tragedy, while the later uses it as its starting point. A frightening reminder of how far we still have to go.
NEW: Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan) + OLD: Radio On (Christopher Petit, 1979)
I’m not much of a car guy—I couldn’t recognize a Porsche if it ran over my foot—but both my favorite new and old movies that I saw this year are two of the most car-centric films you’ll see outside of a certain auto-obsessed franchise. Fast and furious these films are not, however, though there is a brief car chase in one of them. In both Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car and Christopher Petit’s Radio On—both of which played in this year’s New York Film Festival, the latter in a beautiful restoration from the BFI and Fun City Editions—a lonely, inexpressive man embarks on a road trip after a death in the family. In Drive My Car a theater director heads from Tokyo to Hiroshima where a similarly wounded soul becomes his chauffeur while he workshops a multi-lingual production of Uncle Vanya; in Radio On a DJ drives from London to Bristol running into Sting, a squaddie and a couple of German girls along the way. Coincidentally, both drivers listen to cassette tapes made by their respective lost loved ones, but while Hamaguchi’s film is driven by Chekhov, Petit’s runs on British Post Punk bangers. Equally coincidentally, both films are named for a song lyric from a song that does not appear on the film’s soundtrack (Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” and The Beatles’ “Drive My Car”). And, in case you car guys were wondering, Petit’s DJ drives a two-tone Rover P4 while Hamaguchi’s hero drives a red Saab 900 Turbo.
NEW: First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, US) + OLD: Pictures from a Revolution (Alfred Guzzetti, Susan Meiselas, & Richard P. Rogers, 1991)
These films resonated with me because they reminded me how a director can make us feel empathy, ironically, by de-emphasizing the dramatic techniques that traditionally stimulate the audience’s emotions. That is, by downplaying the typical elements of genre or narrative, a filmmaker can sometimes enable us to observe the film’s subjects more attentively and thus to feel for them more acutely. In First Cow, Reichardt focuses on the most minute details of survival in the Old West: two poor men conspire to steal the milk from the only milk cow in the Oregon Territory. It’s hard to imagine a story premise more basic than this. But this emphasis on the most picayune and pathetic aspects of moneymaking brings to the fore the fundamentally economic humiliations of the human condition. Reichardt’s lighthearted humor at her characters’ degradation reminded me of Ozu at his best. In Pictures from a Revolution, the photographer Susan Meiselas returns to Nicaragua a decade after the Sandinista revolution. The premise of the film is simple: she’d published a book of photographs about the war and now she carries that book along with her as she tracks down the subjects of those pictures. We see the images of the person from the past as she interviews them in the present about what was happening in that moment and what has happened to them over the intervening years. Not surprisingly, the dream of political liberation has inevitably transformed itself into a dull dissatisfaction for both her subjects and for her. Unlike more famous photographers of war and political trauma like James Nachtwey or Sebastião Salgado, Meiselas eschews romanticized images of suffering. In her pictures and in this film, she’s much more interested in the personal connections that the photographs can engender precisely because they cannot explain anything on their own. Casual conversation is more affecting than a powerful image. As with Reichardt, Meiselas reminded me that sometimes the simplest premise can be the most fruitful.
NEW: What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Alexandre Koberidze, Georgia) + OLD: The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992)
Cinema as a transformative, wistful gaze that turns reality into a tale, a fable, a dream-like cocoon; mundane gestures and objects that turn into rituals, into artifacts, into poetry. Cinema can still save the world, albeit if only just little parts of it—the ones that are within us.
NEW: Covid Messages (John Smith, UK) + OLD: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
Abandon all hope, ye who enter the new twenties. Alas, if (puppet-)politicians might have still had some naive, nationalistic ideas and aspirations one century ago, enough to warrant an awakening, nowadays, they revel in their ignorance and lack of consequence. Narrative cinema on politics still made sense back then; now, the only effective means to extract sense is to smash beyond chronology and narrative.
NEW: Ahed's Knee (Nadav Lapid, France) + OLD: Wedding in Galilee (Michel Khleifi, 1987)
Two perspectives on Israel and Palestine: that of the (guilt-ridden) oppressor and the oppressed, caught in between (post-)modernity and tradition, both nestled in the rural area, where tensions at time flare stronger and much deeper than in the controlled austerity of urban landscape. (Possible third companion-film: Susan Sontag's 1974 Promised Lands).
NEW: Outside Noise (Ted Fendt, Germany) + OLD: Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990) / Hotel New York (Jackie Raynal, 1984)
Oh, American indies about flaneurs—the ones that just can't help but talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and bury the aimlessness of their lives beneath six feet of blabber. Never, ever change.
NEW: Limbo (Ben Sharrock, UK) + OLD: Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)
Bill Forsyth's beloved story of a quirky small town and the magic of community feels like the older, more optimistic uncle to Ben Sharrock's story of the refugee crisis set in a similarly isolated town (they even have lone phone boxes where a lot of the action happens.) If Local Hero was enthusiastic about Scotland's reputation to the outside world, Limbo sees far less to celebrate about our tendencies towards nationalistic exceptionalism. Seldom has the typically picturesque scenery of the Western Isles seemed as purgatorial as it does in Limbo.
NEW: Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan) + OLD: The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Both overwritten, both suggest the frantic urgency of someone who appears to be solving a Rubik's Cube but is in fact just shuffling the layers again and again with no actual change. Mankiewicz and Murakami (whose eponymous short story Hamaguchi has adapted) depend on the metaphor of the story—how life is like a story, a screenplay, a bad movie—to explain away a dead woman's motives by making her a motif. Mank's exotic Contessa who sleeps around and rambles about fairytale endings, Hamaguchi's screenwriter who sleeps around and conjures erotic mysteries off the top of her head. They are one because they are equally flat. She is barely a character, not even an idea. What we do know about her, only revealed by the conversations of spurned lovers and husbands, is that she loved sex.
Zola
NEW: Zola (Janicza Bravo, US) + OLD: Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019)
In a year of bizarre online discourse on the "necessity," or lack thereof, of sexuality in the movies, Janicza Bravo's spectacular sophomore feature was a breath of fresh air in every conceivable way; a sober view of sex work packaged with a complex buddy comedy and one of the most inventive uses of cinematic adaptation in years. It would have been so, so easy for cast and crew to just coax off of the inherent wildness of the story and it is such a triumph that they actually do everything the medium allows to make this an adaptation of a Twitter thread in every sense of the word. Lorene Scafaria's masterful Hustlers was also a beast of an adaptation, taking a turbulent and charged story that in lesser hands would've amounted to nothing more than a quirky serious of erotic hijinks, and delivering a biting portrait of post-recession America that is as heartwarming as it is devastating. These are two films that refuse to see sex workers as pawns or symbols, an unsurprisingly rare occurrence in mainstream American film, and I can't wait to see what both directors do next.
NEW: Benedetta (Paul Verhoeven, France) + OLD: Le dialogue des Carmélites (Raymond Léopold Bruckberger & Philippe Agostini, 1960)
NEW: Exterminate All the Brutes (Raoul Peck, US) + OLD: Die Totenschmecker (Ernst Ritter von Theumer, 1979)
NEW: Benediction (Terence Davies, UK) + OLD: It Couldn’t Happen Here (Jack Bond, 1987)
NEW: Ælektra (Asia Argento, Italy) + OLD: Skyscrapers and Brassieres (Russ Meyer, 1966)
NEW: Himala: Isang Dayalektika Ng Ating Panahon (Lav Diaz, Philippines) + OLD: 92,8 MHz – drömmar i söder (Jan Troell, 2000)
NEW: The Death of David Cronenberg (Caitlin & David Cronenberg, Canada) + OLD: Gerdi, zločesta vještica (Ljubomir Šimunić, 1973–76)
NEW: Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story (Ludvig Gür, US) + OLD: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (Jim Drake, 1987)
NEW: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (Robert Schwentke, US) + OLD: Snake Outta Compton (Hank Braxtan, 2018)
NEW: Castle Falls (Dolph Lundgren, US) + OLD: Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago - The Ultimate Director’s Cut (Sylvester Stallone, 1985/2021)In memoriam Ingrid Hammer
NEW: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun, US). + OLD: Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
The World’s Fair and Axxon N. A woman’s and a girl’s face in the digital era. The distortion, contortion, and manipulation of face in particular is what creates horror on the surface of these films, but deeper, it also considers the splintering of one’s entire identity into multiple forms and dimensions. Lines between what is a “role” and “play” and what is real are smudged and erased. An eerily recognizable but slightly shifted visage of the self in the computer, or on DV, slowly starts to leak out of the screen.
NEW: Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (Hideaki Anno, Japan) + OLD: Distant Voice, Still Lives (Terrence Davies, 1988)
These films brim with a nostalgia that is both achingly sad and naively hopeful. The kids are all grown up but they still don’t know where they belong or whether they’re happy. Musical interludes recall more innocent times, and act as a brief escape from the barreling train of reality coming to crash right on top of them.
NEW: Worlds (Isaac Goes, Canada/US) + OLD: The Age of Swordfish (Vittorio De Seta, 1955)
Two films united by time and tide. The sounds of water and their rhythms shaping the action as much as the filmmakers and the great director herself, the Moon. Worlds, as its title signals, moves laterally through dimensions, telescoping in and out of cityscapes, subatomic particles, bacterial growth, digital workflows, film sets, and photosynthesis. A cosmos inside of a droplet of water. People move casually through their lives as multiple worlds exist all around them, inside them, beyond them. A true multiverse of overlapping perceptions of space and time. The Age of Swordfish, one of a dozen small restored masterpieces from Vittorio De Seta, is an ethnographic magic lantern show, a Joycean manipulation of time and production techniques to produce the sensual affect of a single day in a single location. Bodies bound by the cyclical rhythms of the environment they inhabit. Civilization and nature are not discrete entities, but deeply interwoven. Two small masterpieces taken together reveal montage as the ultimate dimension of cinema. Both films burrowing into opposite directions: one expanding and one contracting. Anti-durational wake-up calls that the multiverse is not some cheap narrative framework or bloodless corporate buzzword. It’s dwelling in the unknowable; the mysterious ecstasy of existence.
NEW: The Beatles: Get Back (Peter Jackson, New Zealand/UK/US) + OLD: The Boston Strangler (Richard Fleischer, 1968)
Two entanglements with the mythopoetics of the 1960s. Two films out of time. Fleischer lurches into the future from his standpoint in ’68, synthesizing Warhol’s collapse of television and cinema into the neat textures of genre—smuggling in a near avant-garde approach to the procedural that transforms Columbo into the proto-Lynchian. A piercing gaze into the surveillance state that was already taking shape; multiple cameras signaling the libidinal forces that algorithms try to iron out, but only end up accelerating. Multiple screens, perspectives, all information for the bureaucratic procedures of investigation, ultimately leaving us adrift in the unknowable psycho-sexual energies that didn’t end the summer of love, but were always there, ancient, patiently moving into the future along with us. Jackson, over 50 years later, attempts to reach back into the past and desperately tries to recreate it, a Faustian bargain anchored in the present. The Beatles, who turned down Godard, would never have made a film like this, only in the age of archiveology and immersive duration could this exist. It’s annihilation of its own historical textures through A.I. noise reduction produces an unholy image, redeemed only by its sense of process. Mythic genius rendered through labor, which can only be perceived through time, injects a primordial humanity back into the bloodless plastic figurines of today’s Beatles. Desires, addictions, and the schizophrenic postmodern-pastiche of their behavior reveal a portrait as human as Fleischer’s, at the precise moment when Jackson tries to aesthetically anesthetize it. Perhaps a necessary tradeoff when bargaining with the great enemy of our time, the conglomerated ghost of Walt Disney. A counter mythology to a mythos not yet constructed and an unraveling of a mythology that just won’t seem to die. We’ve never really left the 1960s.
NEW: Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan (Alma Har'el, US) + OLD: The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950)
"There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twiceI don’t remember who I was or where I was boundAll I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gunand he was shot in the backSeems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down"
NEW: Drive My Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, Japan) + OLD: His Motorbike, Her Island (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1986)
My favorite old and new films of the year both revolve around traveling on Japanese roads. Probably I've been trapped inside my house for too long.
NEW: One Shot (James Nunn, UK) + OLD: Mirage (Tsui Siu-ming, 1987)
In 1987, lunatic stuntman/director Tsui Siu-ming went into the desert with a bunch of actors, old trucks, and explosives and literally set himself on fire for the sake of the cinema. In 2021, the best we can seemingly get is Scott Adkins taking on an army of terrorists without the benefit of editing.
NEW: Taste (Lê Bao, Vietnam) + OLD: Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
It only took a few minutes for Lê Bao’s Taste to catapult me out of Saigon and into the dark Lisbon alleys of Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela. For the best part of Lê’s feature debut, a highlight of this year’s Berlinale, action is confined in a bunker-like abode where strangers meet and hide. Like Costa’s film, Lê’s knows the spectral authority of darkness. Here too, shadows beautify what they obscure, and the result is a nocturnal reverie where motion slows into choreography, characters freeze in a prolonged wait, and there seems to be only a very blurred distinction between the dreaming and the dead.
NEW: The Cathedral (Ricky D’Ambrose, US) + OLD: MS Slavic 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz, 2019)
Watching Ricky D’Ambrose’s The Cathedral feels like unearthing a family’s black box, a private archive that brought to mind the archaeological work of Sofia Bohdanowicz’s MS Slavic 7. Two studies of absence, of empty rooms, and the memories we rescue from oblivion.
NEW: The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, US) + OLD: Blance (Walerian Borowczyk, 1971)
Two medieval period dramas, produced a half-century apart, concerning medieval ideals of chivalry and virtue—and their continuing relevance in the lives of women today. Ridley Scott's sweeping, Rashomon-esque account of the notorious rape trial that inspired France's last court-sanctioned duel divides its time between three competing points-of-view: the husband of a woman be-spoiled, her aggressor, and the aggrieved party herself. Walerian Borowczyk's child-like bride struggles to maintain her honor in a hostile court populated by scoundrels—while simultaneously exploring her own fascination with courtly romance. Both films deserve credit for imbuing their female leads with more agency than the era could typically afford—and for depicting the interiority of these women as they navigate the inherent doom of second-class status.
NEW: Cousins (Ainsley Gardiner & Briar Grace-Smith, New Zealand) + OLD: O Tamaiti (Sima Urale, 1996)
Amidst the raucous world and the burdensome glances of adults, a child’s fragile silence.
NEW: Annette (Leos Carax, France/Belgium/Germany/US) + OLD: AIDOL (Lawrence Lek, 2019)
Be careful what you wish upon artificial stars.
NEW: Titane (Julia Ducournau, France) + OLD: Opera (Dario Argento, 1987)
The Cronenberg option is right there—I did, in fact, see Crash for the first time in 2021, so it's eligible for the shock-the-Croisette car-sex double bill of the year. But in looking for analogs for Julia Ducournau's Titane, the inescapable comparison to David Cronenberg was always of use mainly for how little their respective mutations overlap. Titane is hedonistic filmmaking, a description that can't rightly apply to anything Cronenberg has made since at least the early 80s. (Twisted? Perverse? Certainly. But not hedonistic, because the emotional burdens of Dead Ringers or Crash or Naked Lunch or The Fly are almost too stark and tragic to bear). As cinema's most psychoanalytic gore-monger, his case studies tend to identify far more thoroughly with men than women. And his gaze is clinical, even austere. His metaphors have a sense of inevitable precision, whereas the value of Titane lies in its messiness—the way the symbol-heavy kitchen-sink twists play out with dark sensualism and a puckish (or punkish) urge to dump it all on your lap and let you make of it what you will. (It would be entirely possible to argue that what Titane has to say about family, transgression, and sexual identity is actually rather conservative—though anyone who wants it to be will likely turn it off by minute thirty). So instead, I'd like to see how Ducournau's film would mingle on a midnight movie marquee with cinema's second most psychoanalytic gore-monger: Dario Argento, another messy sensualist, and a storyteller who generally finds women to be savvier and more interesting than men. I choose Opera to go with Titane because both use a horror show to trace a peculiar arc from girlhood to womanhood. Argento's heroine is a nervous, frigid ingenue thrust into the role of a diva (and subsequently robbed of her only parent figure). Ducournau's is introduced as a child kicking the back of her parent's car seat, and within a few cuts her adult version is murdering people and screwing fetish objects in essentially the same spirit: she has antisocial instincts, and the film is compellingly ambivalent about taming them. To put it another way Argento's heroine struggles with "innocence," while Ducournau's struggles with "guilt." And in both cases, outside notions of "sin" or "purity" mature into a coexistence, or decide to mate: their destination is that it's possible to play with fire, get lost in the more dangerous parts of bodies and minds, and be left in the end with an essential part of humanity still intact. A sentiment, I imagine, that midnight moviegoers instinctively respond to.
NEW: No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh, US) + OLD: Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)
Betrayed crooks kill their way up a vast network of conspiracy—but does it count as a conspiracy if it's an entire economic system?
NEW: Annette (Leos Carax, France/US) + OLD: Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978)
Dark dreams of show-biz, where children pay for the egos of artist parents.
NEW: Benedetta (Paul Verhoeven, France) + OLD: Devi (Satyajit Ray, 1960)
Women getting defined by religious patriarchs before they're allowed to define themselves—a point made by two directors with very different notions of subtlety and taste.
NEW: One Shot (James Nunn, US) + OLD: Heroes Shed No Tears (John Woo, 1986)
Missions turned sideways. Killing machines forced to adapt and improvise off the books, surveying landscapes of death as the volatility of combat unfolds. Chaos and carnage, push and pull. One film cuts cinema to shreds in the infamous Golden Triangle, while the other dances with every violent possibility, clearing corners on an island that doesn't officially exist. John Woo's jungle war saga careens forward in a straight bloody line, cutting off the snake's head to make a difference, or die trying.  As with most of the prolific Hong Kong master's work, it's a wild west show of strafing bullets, epic squibs, and heroic sacrifice. "We'll just fight to the end." James Nunn's ferocious steadicam masterpiece moves in precise circles, the blustery ballet to Woo's tropical opera. Cold, frigid, and sudden. A knife piercing Adam's apple. Blistering and immediate depictions of pragmatic decision-making cloaked as a post 9/11 revenge fantasy. Scott Adkins, maybe the finest action hero of the last 20 years, delivers an unleashed performance of pure skill, speed, exhaustion and endurance, maneuvering around and through a CIA black site fending off Eastern European jihadis in a mirage of unbroken kill shots. It's a first person war we aren't supposed to see. So many bodies, and yet, "Nobody asks how many people you've saved."
NEW: The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, US) + OLD: Trouble in Mind (Alan Rudolph, 1985)
NEW: No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh, US) + OLD: Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959)
NEW: Das Rad (Friedl vom Gröller, Austria) + OLD: Eddy Merckx in the Vicinity of a Cup of Coffee (Jørgen Leth, 1973)
This year’s cycling tour around Italy, the so-called Giro d’Italia continued its incredible history which has been written by the greatest writers (Dino Buzzati), the most elegant men (Fausto Coppi), the moralists most capable of suffering (Gino Bartali), the most menacing pirates (Marco Pantani) and those that don’t blink regardless of the road that gets in their way (Eddy Merckx). It was stage 16 and the riders had to climb the Giau Pass. Due to heavy snowfall the stage was shortened and Italian television was not able to transmit live images from the climb. Thus, for an hour, I looked at images from the valley where the stage was about to end later. Shivering people dressed in the pink clothes characteristic of this race, a wet street, some marshals checking the fences, the fog. In-between, they broadcasted some touristic imagery of the region. As if to ridicule the riders suffering somewhere in the snow, those images displayed sunny mountain tops and people enjoying themselves in the lush alpine grass. But those of us who knew waited. We waited for someone to appear from the depths of the white mountain. Then, suddenly, they showed a few seconds of moving images from the race: The most surreal images I’ve seen all year. Surrounded by an ocean of snow, the Colombian Egan Bernal pedaled uphill while two men with running chainsaws ran next to him. Then, as if to censor the madness, they cut back to the finish area. There is a crazy fan culture with tifosi supporting riders in the most creative ways, but I had never seen anything like that. How did they even get those chainsaws up the mountain? After another twenty minutes the young Colombian who would later go on to win the race emerged first through the clouds and I suddenly understood the beauty that resides in imagining his journey as opposed to following his GPS data, heart rate and diet, as is standard practice in contemporary cycling. Sometimes it is best to only catch glimpses. The snow, the chainsaws, this fragile body struggling against the cold, his eyes directed uphill as if praying for the end of time. Even if they deceive me, it’s beautiful. It’s just movements, poetry, and looking at someone and these two films speak about this in relation to the movement of wheels.
NEW: The Disciple (Chaitanya Tamhane, India) + OLD: Original Cast Album: “Company” (D. A. Pennebaker, 1970)
And sometimes, we fail. Music may be math made audible, but it is also, strangely, the least definable art, drawing on unknowable powers within us to produce a shifting range of inexplicable effects. We can learn an instrument—in both cases here, the human voice, and by extension, the entire body of the singer—and we can train, work ourselves to the bone, but that will only get us halfway there. Sharad (Aditya Modak) dedicates his life to an ancient classical form that, within each performance, calls for an improvised and unrepeatable aria. He digs deep, looking to find the actual music to pull up out of himself, and years on, in the middle of a concert, he discovers—nothing. He stands. And walks away. In the darkest hours of early morning, at the tail end of an exhausting night, Elaine Stritch is called on to record the definitive version of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” a showstopper and a milestone in Stephen Sondheim’s lifelong project, the reinvention of the American musical. The succession of stumbling attempts—“Wrong!” Stritch screeches at herself listening to a playback—is the dramatic centerpiece of Pennebaker’s film. She leaves the studio, defeated. A suitable track is laid down the next day, and Stritch would go on to future triumphs. Sharad, though, has no choice but to settle.
NEW: To Pick a Flower (Shireen Seno, Philippines) + OLD: Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes, 1995)
In unique and regenerative ways, Seno and Fuentes turn ethnography against itself and into a resource for personal expression.
NEW: Wrath of Man (Guy Ritchie, US/UK) + OLD: Wake of Death (Philippe Martínez, 2003)
A match made in Stygian, revenge-movie hell, from the shared cadence of the titles; to the shorn-scalped protagonists played with formidable grimness by action stars just past their physical prime; to the portrait of an expansive criminal underworld that grows more nightmarish the deeper in we're drawn.
NEW: The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, UK/US) + OLD: Happy Hour (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, 2015)
The letter of patriarchal law fails to represent women's experience, as expressed most sharply in two harrowing courtroom scenes.
NEW: Zeros and Ones (Abel Ferrara, US) + OLD: We Were Strangers (John Huston, 1949)
Uneasy productions and uneven movies embodying in their risky, nervous, lurching awkwardness rare stories of rebels and repressions in unstable times.
 NEW: El Planeta (Amalia Ulman, Spain) + OLD: Beauty for Sale (Richard Boleslawski, 1933)
The comedy, melancholy, and delight of young women questing for happiness, romance, and luxury.
NEW: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Josh Greenbaum, US) + OLD: La spiaggia (Alberto Lattuada, 1954)
The comic and tragic conditions of holidaying, now and then. Everyone needs a vacation, but they are rarely what one expects!
NEW: The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, UK) + OLD: Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)
Fierce, creative young women fighting grief and circumstance in the 1980s. The characters embodied by Honor Swinton Byrne and Linda Manz would have a lot to say to one another.
NEW: Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US) + OLD: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
NEW: The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, Australia/New Zealand). + OLD: Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
We lost the great cultural theorist Lauren Berlant in 2021. They wrote about the genres between which we—that’s you, or me, or anybody—continue to flail; the conventions and feelings and uncertainties and injustices by which we are either dazzled or enraged. I didn’t know them personally, but I wonder what they would have to say about Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, in which neither genre nor gender have slack enough to flail or flop or waddle or even wail—at least not for very long. Everyone in Dog’s isolated Montanan orbit are lassoed by Phil Burbank’s (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) hostility and humorlessness, their behaviors and cravings noosed by the unmade rope we see the cowboy return to and quietly fuss over (not to mention the immaculate care with which he plaits it). Everyone, that is, except for Phil’s nephew Peter Gordon (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The femme teen scares and seduces his Uncle Phil with his sudden presence on the ranch, lurking about and strumming the ends of his tooth comb—click, click, click; it’s the sound the sportif alien in Predator (1987) makes when he’s ready to prey. I’d couple The Power of the Dog with Nicholas Ray’s extravagant 1954 psychodrama Johnny Guitar: Joan Crawford plays Vienna, a haughty saloonkeeper in an Arizona cattle town; Mercedes McCambridge is her hellbent rival Emma Small; and Sterling Hayden is Vienna’s ex-flame, a reformed gunslinger named Johnny Logan/Guitar. On its release, the always dissatisfied, all-flail film critic Bosley Crowther found the film’s portrayal of femininity “as sexless as the lions on the public library steps” but he was wrong. The feminine urge seethes in Ray’s film. As the town burns and the cowboys either leave or die, Johnny Guitar razors the masculinist stylings of the American Western so that getting your tail caught between your legs is simply not an option.
NEW: Old (M. Night Shyamalan, USA) + OLD: Ten Skies (James Benning, 2004)
For one peaceful hour, Ten Skies is led by the rhythm of clouds; drifting, swelling, dissipating. Then comes an intruder: factory steam jumps to the foreground of the seventh sky, spewing at such an alarming speed that the clouds behind it look static. It's when I saw this startling contrast, between the natural and the man-made, that Old unexpectedly sprang to mind. To me, it seems that in both films nature's temporality is at odds with human temporality. The two films make us acutely aware of the passage of time and of how we (as people, as viewers) perceive it. Some of the elements Shyamalan places front and centre, like violence, surveillance, and eco-anxiety, can also be found in Ten Skies — though Benning rarely lets them enter the frame. Instead, they are evoked only by the sounds of gunshots, howling dogs, and the ever-present noise of planes, choppers, military aircrafts and drones. In this double bill, nature is a serene and silent witness to the rush of human horrors.
NEW: The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, NZ/USA) + OLD: Gohatto (Nagisa Ōshima, 1999)
NEW: History of Ha (Lav Diaz, Philippines) + OLD: Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
NEW: Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasthakul, Colombia/Thailand) + OLD: Conte d'hiver (Éric Rohmer, 1992)
"Tout, comme toi, gémit ou chante comme moi;
Tout parle. Et maintenant, homme, sais-tu pourquoi
Tout parle ? Écoute bien. C’est que vents, ondes, flammes
Arbres, roseaux, rochers, tout vit ! Tout est plein d’âmes."
― Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations (1855)
NEW: The Afterlight (Charlie Shackleton, UK) + OLD: Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, West Germany, France)
Both The Afterlight and Wings of Desire offer a poetic approach to cinema. While Shackleton's patchwork of performances from actors who have since passed is a reflection on cinema's illusory gift of immortality, Wenders' classic celebrates life itself, as finite and difficult as it may be. Together, these films allow us to visit another realm, where time isn't so cruel and never quite takes everything away.
NEW: Configurations (James Edmonds, Germany) + OLD: Early Monthly Segments (Robert Beavers, 2002)
Two works which engage with rhythmic editing in wholly unique manners—Configurations working with the occasional sweeping camera movement to incite an image with energy, while Early Monthly Segments is endowed with otherworldly energy through a different kind of movement: Beavers’ signature synthesis of the editing dancing to the movement set within the frame. Rarely (perhaps never, it’s difficult to recall with confidence since I was so dazzled by the work) does his camera move in the conventional sense, though he often rotates the lens turret on the front of the Bolex before cutting—and thus we feel the camera and the edit working together to move us through the film. Beavers often uses himself and Gregory Markopoulos as models in the frame, but in Configurations Edmonds rarely depicts the human form and instead focuses on the spaces we move through (much as Markopoulos did in works of the late ‘60s, such as Bliss and Sorrows). Both are instances of presenting onscreen the spirit which moves within all of us.
NEW: Ste. Anne (Rhayne Vermette, Canada) + OLD: In the Stone House (Jerome Hiler, 2012)
A remote home as central locus in a microcosm constructed by the visual language surrounding it—personal thoughts manifested through the robust delicacy of 16mm film.
NEW: Srećan Put (Maximilien Luc Proctor, Germany) + OLD: L’homme Atlantique (Marguerite Duras, 1981)
Although I had finished Srećan Put a few months before seeing L’homme Atlantique, there is a striking similarity in the use of voice-over accompanied by a black screen. To speak into the void is to speak freely.
Demon Slayer Mugen Train
NEW: Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (Haruo Sotozaki, Japan) + OLD: Kagero-za (Suzuki Seijun, 1981)
A Taisho-era (1912-1926) double feature that weaves us in and out of "thin places." A thin place is a hybrid zone that can't be experienced or perceived without transcending your earthly senses, for example, where heaven and hell, or waking and dreaming life, overlap. In this space, perhaps intimate relations with a ghost unfurl, (Kagero-za, the second film in Suzuki's Taisho Trilogy) or a stroll through a dreaming teenage boy's spiritual core, a place so peaceful and warm it evaporates murderous intent (Mugen Train) In 2021, Mugen Train surpassed Spirited Away as the top grossing film in Japan after nearly two decades. It is a pretty straightforward shonen action-feature, while Kagero-za is an erotic puzzle with Suzuki's signature collapsing sets. The combination is as irrational and potentially discombobulating as the entire Taisho trilogy can present itself to be, but it seemed to me that the most discombobulating thing that both these movies touch upon is the backdrop of rapid industrialization/Westernization that characterized the Taisho period. People often quote Suzuki as saying that his movies "make no sense and no money," and while it's true that he did not rake it in for Nikkatsu, his films make a lot of sense to me since shonen honestly don't seem all that tangential from his early B-movies, like Fighting Elegy, Tattooed Life, and Tokyo Drifter.
NEW: Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US) + OLD: Foxes (Adrian Lyne, 1980)
Two episodic Valley fairy tales laced with moral conundrums and the kind of buzzy hormonal energy that comes with lax supervision. Both films maintain that being an adult in the ‘70s was easy so long as you weren’t one—we’re given 15-year-old entrepreneurial bigwigs and free-loving teen cliques; the girls act 25, the boys act 40 and 12 all at once. They want to be older without ever touching the future or younger without losing agency. Platonic and romantic love is muddied; everything’s embarrassing; oil embargoes don’t matter if you’re not old enough to drive. Where Lyne’s ending might (appropriately) dampen the decade’s spirit, Anderson lets you lap it up until the very last beat. I’m lucky enough to have seen both films at exactly the right time in my life.
NEW: Bo Burnham: Inside (Bo Burnham, US) + OLD: Shelf Life (Paul Bartel, 1993)
In which everybody is horny, hunkered down, and coping through performance.
NEW: Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/Columbia) + OLD: Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
"Monster, I give you my spirit, my flesh and my memories. Every drop of my blood sings our song, a song of happiness. There, do you hear it?", these words end Apichatpong's Tropical Malady, his first tale on shape-shifting reality. 17 years later we get to see Memoria, in which Tilda Swinton is given someone's memories. She gets to know about them through her body; she gets to see the spirit of other times. There's an uncanny frame there; maybe Tilda's Jessica, a microphone for sounds and memories in Memoria, is somewhat connected to the words appearing in Tropical Malady? I saw both of these films during the summer at New Horizons Film Festival in Wrocław, Poland. I started the festival with Memoria and the last screening was Tropical Malady, which I also introduced to the audience. When I left the theatre after watching the latter one, I could see the colors mingling right above the venue. It was a rainbow singing a song, a song of happiness.
NEW: IWOW: I Walk on Water (Khalik Allah, US) + OLD: Five Year Diary, Reel 80: Emily Died (May 14–September 26, 1994) (Anne Charlotte Robertson, 1994)
The unstable poetics of living day in, day out and chasing after ghosts and utopias. Two tearaways that snarl up an experimental form with the amorphous pulleys and levers of consciousness, pushing cinema as a medium of mediation between an individual with their kin and the world to the point of fructuous exhaust. Khalik Allah finds self-expression in setting himself on collision courses with other personages and their philosophies. Within a designedly bloated three-hour twenty-minute runtime, he reiterates everything he has made to this point, in a state of the union that entails absorbing himself in his own ego yet with the pressure points of criticism applied and a vital embrace of community. For Allah, one’s own truth can be found in a tangle of places and mental states. In other people, out in the streets, and in the depths of one’s own self. In the heady joys and woes of camaraderie and artistic pursuit and in entwining of spiritual and sexual release. Despair, more than ecstasy, riddles this Anne Charlotte Robertson film, which is a single segment in her 88 reel, 38-hour super 8 life project Five Year Diary (1981-1997). This reel was filmed following the sudden death of her three-old niece Emily. A loss which she laments through a complex soundscape. Stereophonic, countervailing lines of voiceover, recorded in the storm and stress of the moment and in hindsight, are let loose to color a picture of grief that is metaphorical, even fantastical, as much as it is direct and matter of fact. Through this commentary and the freewheeling but decisively edited images, the impact of this tragedy on her psyche is rendered not with the glib truisms but in accordance with the irreducible volatility of experience.
NEW: The Beatles: Get Back (Peter Jackson, UK) + OLD: Sweet Movie (Dus̆an Makavajev, 1974)
Two converging allegories: one of a world of fantasy production, another of a fantasy that produces the world. And then there's us, in 2021, somewhere in the middle, circulating product, ratifying the ongoing convalescence. I'll leave it to the readers to guess which of these I watched in the company of a curious and welcoming autonomist collective, and which I watched alone, in minute-sized chunks, sprayed like aerosol across the entertainment-surveillance array. The art-social agora is still out there, even if its own fantasy seems to be in retreat. 2022 is the year the city's defenders—the cinephiles, the communards—get organized.
NEW: Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/Columbia/France/Germany) + OLD: Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
2021: The year I wrote myself into an increasing ambivalence about Weerasethakul's latest film. Also the year that I became unashamedly smitten with the small part of Carax's work I got to see, some of it at a retrospective of his work at Berlin's Arsenal. Putting the two together is perhaps the greatest clash of moods I can imagine, the equivalent of dumping fiery hot sauce in a soothing bowl of miso soup. What unites the two (films, not foods) is that both have enabled me to reflect on CGI animations, their materiality (cf. Carax) as well as ethereality (cf. Weerasethakul). If my intuition is right, this might preoccupy me for a while—not the worst perspective for the coming year.
Naomi Osaka
NEW: Naomi Osaka (Garrett Bradley, US) + OLD: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Bruce Sinofsky & Joe Berlinger, 2004)
Non-fiction performances are a combination of the subjects’ charisma and what the filmmakers manufacture. The conundrum of celebrity documentaries is that they’re popular because audiences are interested in the subject, but famous people make inherently poor characters because they’ve been trained on how to manipulate and employ the camera for their own promotion.  Garrett Bradley made one of the best (and criminally underseen) movies of 2021 by embarking on a collaborative process with Naomi Osaka, who is beloved because of their vulnerability, and weaving through the public and private parts of their life to reap legitimate emotional honesty. Though their subjects differed vastly, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky had similar success, making one of the best documentaries of this century, when they filmed Metallica’s group therapy sessions during the making of St. Anger.
NEW: Night of the Kings (Philippe Lacôte, Ivory Coast/Senegal) + OLD: West Indies (Med Hondo, 1979)
Both films, more similar than they appear to be on first impressions, make creative use of a single space like a stage. La Maca prison for Night of the Kings and a purpose-built slave ship for Med Hondo are ground zero for the directors’ reflections on colonialism, corruptions of absolute power and the ways in which Black bodies are politicized. Both films celebrate the liberating power of filmmaking that is untethered to the three-act structure and welcome the non-linear embrace that is reflective of African oral storytelling traditions.
NEW: We're All Going to the World's Fair (Jane Schoenbrun, US) + OLD: Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 1969)
Two protagonists exploring and documenting the world—one through a TV lens, the other pointing a webcam at herself. The air is full of anticipation, something *historical* is supposed to happen for us to witness, yet viewers' expectations are deceived. The happening turns out to be our enthrallment with audiovisual media. Beyond the screen, something historical happens indeed, and we keep watching.
NEW: Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US/Canada) + OLD: Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (Bruno Barreto, 1976)
Jorge Amado, the author of the book that inspired Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, used to say that to write the comedy, he was inspired by a story he had heard long before: that of a widow who had remarried but kept dreaming of her dead husband and of a friend from her youth who kept "losing money and gaining women," so to speak. And what if Bruno Barreto's 1976 feature film had a sibling who matched his way with uncomfortable situations? Or perhaps it's the other way around. Here, Emma Seligman's feature film comes in. Both films circle between points that uniquely hold our attention, it's not just funny, it's tight, it has romance and sensuality—you can feel the amount of guilt they are trying to put on both protagonists. In one film, we have the uniqueness of the story and its humor from a particular view of society. And in the other, a claustrophobic experience accompanied by an enclosure of opinions. To be more clear, in one there is a dead man who is loved, while in the other the deceased is unseen. Our featured protagonists are both embarrassed and squeezed. Both films are exceptionally talented and create situations that build on the tripping of egos.
NEW: Women Do Cry (Mina Mileva & Vesela Kazakova, Bulgaria/France) + OLD: Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
Sometimes the very possibility of being understood as a woman hinges on what kind of female characters one encounters on screen. The screen itself can be and is best serving as a window, but it can also be a cage: women “captured,” “caught” in male gazes provide allure and comfort. Other times, women (these same women!) populate the screen in such a way that, rather than being framed, they are the ones framing it. Their high-pitched screams of revolt rattle that rectangular cage (as Maria Bakalova does in Women Do Cry) or their treacherous quietude (of Jeanne D.) expands the yellow-tiled kitchen until the prison collapses onto itself.
NEW: 107 Mothers (Peter Kerekes, Czechia/Slovakia/Ukraine) + OLD: Lullaby (Binka Zhelyazkova, 1982)
While Kerekes’s film offers an agonizing, yet fictionalized version of what happens to women and their babies after a prison birth, Zhelyzkova’s shattering documentary spends its 59 minutes in close attention to its imprisoned female subjects, mothers new and old, and to their stories. Stories which are told so readily and in such heartbreaking detail that the filmmaker’s lens never becomes imperceptible, but rather proposes a higher plane of awareness as a means for memory to be transferred from subject to viewer, purposefully mediated through the camera.
NEW: Ahed's Knee (Nadav Lapid, Israel/France)  + OLD: The Touch (Ingmar Bergman, 1971) with Elliot Gould & Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)
Are we yet done with toxic masculinity? Apparently not. With willful, even wanton self-reflexivity, Nadav Lapid cast Israeli choreographer Avshalom Pollak as his charismatic, egotistical, brutish alter ego, ever obsessed with the trials, tribulations and traumas of soldiers and the complex problem that is Israel. In Bergman’s first film in the English language, the legendary auteur cast swaggering American icon Elliot Gould as a dashing home-wrecker, a hot mess of a man haunted by the Holocaust. Certainly, one could pair Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island with The Touch, a film for which Hansen-Løve has professed much admiration, but somehow her film is too elegant and contained and would be a destabilizing fit for the overflowing, uncontainable miasma that emanates from this odd and exceedingly frontal Bergman. (Her sense of play steers clear of vulgarity with all three films adhering and playing up the strains of genderized roles—although I suspect Bergman Island might highlight some of the dislocated, even unintended humor in The Touch.) Both Ahed’s Knee and The Touch make equally assaultive and fascinatingly visceral moves, and refuse to deny the seething sentimentality and despairing romanticism that hover beneath the brusque and brash displays of man. More could be said by way of collapsing the contemporary and historical conditions and the professions of filmmaker and archeologist; a double bill is certain to churn up so much more. The historical trauma and adrenaline fueling destruction, which often times appear awkward in both films—perhaps because they cut so close to the cloth—are as excoriating as they are confessional and hold rich parallels. Bergman Island’s meta-confessional mode exposes secrets with a sort of breezy nonchalance that feels like victory—rather than the dripping desperation of defeat.
NEW: A Night of Knowing Nothing (Payal Kapadia, India/France ) + OLD: Duvidha (Mani Kaul, 1973)
Although it may not be the most creative or surprising pairing, it was fortuitous that Mani Kaul’s much loved and coveted—but somehow elusive to me—Duvidha became available to watch on the Criterion Channel a month after I saw Payal Kapadia’s haunting debut, A Night of Knowing Nothing in Cannes. Wraithlike stories of forbidden love with formal cuts that also jab at the heart, these two Indian films are bold displays of cinematic rupture and rapture, beholden and entwined to the portents emerging from resistance.
NEW: Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw, US) + OLD: Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947)
The allure of exoticism—the aspirational urges—the inevitable path to destruction. Bonus points if the Double Feature happens at an abandoned drive-in.NEW: All Light, Everywhere (Theo Anthony, US) + OLD: Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947)Dark Passage may not be one of the greats in the classic film noir canon, but it's weird and wonderful in its own way—disorienting POV shots of Bogart's prison escapee, Vincent Parry, creates a sense of paranoia and subjectivity that speaks to issues of authority and perspective raised in All Light, Everywhere.
What Do We See When We Look At the Sky?
NEW: What Do We See When We Look At the Sky? (Alexandre Koberidze, Georgia) + OLD: The House on Trubnaya (Boris Barnet, 1928)
Unsurprisingly, the most upfront similarity between Alexandre Koberidze’s sprawling What Do We See When We Look At the Sky? and Boris Barnet’s relatively compact predecessor The House on Trubnaya is also indisputably pleasurable, and entirely bereft of any stultifying academicism. In Koberidze’s film, amidst the eddying and generous digressions, the soccer viewing habits of the stray dogs of the Georgian city of Kutaisi are dryly narrated; in Barnet’s, following a frenzied pursuit of a runaway duck across the streetcar tracks of Moscow, a sudden freeze frame gives way to an intertitle, that reads, “but wait, we forgot to tell you how the duck ended up in Moscow,” and then the film proceeds to do just that. These two films—only superficially city symphonies—delineate the means of how one communicates with others via a bustling cityscape, and thus, even the local dogs and just-arrived waterfowl are integral to such interconnectivity. The straightforward title of Barnet’s film provides the necessary foundation for Koberidze’s comparatively existential question: what do we see when we look around the city?
NEW: Petite maman (Céline Sciamma, France) + OLD: Delphine and Carole (Callisto McNulty, 2019)
Petite maman is about “sisterhood among generations,” said Céline Sciamma. Delphine and Carole is about sisterhood of past generations, namely between legendary actress Delphine Seyrig and director Carole Roussopoulos. While the first film pierced my heart as I realized I can’t go back in time to help my mother or at least comfort her during rough times, the second film showed me the struggle of her generation and made me think how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.
NEW: Sweet Thing (Alexandre Rockwell, US) + OLD: Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)
In both films, the protagonists’ trajectories are catalyzed by a dead body. In Stand by Me, four 12-year-old boys set out to find the body of a man laid waste by a passing train. They hope to attract the attention of the press, to bring themselves out of the shadows of others and to be celebrated as heroes. In Sweet Thing, the gang of self-proclaimed “outlaws and renegades” are running in the other direction; fleeing the body of a man they think they may have killed with nothing to compel them to stick around. In both cases, the presence of the dead body anchors their childhood in a dangerous and adult world. Imagination, humor, playfulness and naivety are juxtaposed against violence, substance abuse, abandonment and poverty; the former working as an antidote to the latter. Despite this juxtaposition, the blossoming of an honest and caring responsibility between siblings and friends portrays a moving image of the adultness of childhood. As parents and guardians fail in their duties of care, childish optimism assumes the most mature response. To be a child becomes a strength.
NEW: Annette (Leos Carax, France) + OLD: Slumber Party Massacre II (Deborah Brock, 1987)
Psychotic artists—a stand-up comedian and a dead rockabilly musician—murder the more-talented women around them because they're creatively frustrated. The guitar-drill musical number and Henry McHenry's "bit" about tickling Ann to death are equally deranged performances: gurgling, desperate death rattles of bruised male egos.
NEW: The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, US/UK/Australia/New Zealand/Canada) + OLD: Stages: Three Days in Mexico - Britney Spears (Judy Hoffman, 2002)
"You just felt her loneliness and sadness, and it was hard to talk to her. I just wanted to leave her alone. I felt so sad… I just didn't want to be like the people I saw that she had to encounter all the time."
—Judy Hoffman, Vanity Fair
“Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog.”
—Psalm 22:20
NEW: Azor (Andreas Fontana, Switzerland/France/Argentina) + OLD: The Green Ray (Éric Rohmer, 1986)
Searching for something being missed in your life, something that had been affected and infected your existence. You are seeking for a truth, but the more you look the less you find and the result is unpredictable. In the world of Rohmer at least there is a kind of miracle and hope; however, for Fontana the end is total darkness. 
NEW: What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Alexandre Koberdize, Georgia/Germany) + OLD: Ornamental Hairpin (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1941).
Love stories in (and for) obscure times about letting chance happen.
NEW: Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/Colombia) + OLD: Unguided Tour (Letters from Venice) (Susan Sontag, 1983)
Foreign, melancholic gazes, catatonic perspectives that submerge into aesthetic experiences.
NEW: The Tsugua Diaries (Maureen Fazendeiro & Miguel Gomes, Portugal) + OLD: Alerta! (Mircea Săucan, 1967)
Safety measures, episodic narratives, work, repetition, ironic fiction, limited cast.
NEW: earthearthearth (Daïchi Saïto, Canada) + OLD: Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1947)
Psycho-landscapes. The French title for Walsh film, La vallée de la peur ("Valley of Fear"), could had work for Saïto's too.
NEW: France (Bruno Dumont, France)  + OLD: Europa '51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)
Dumont's portraiture of Seydoux's face is comparable with the magnetic impressive power of Falconetti by Dreyer, Vitti by Antonioni, and of course... Ingrid by Rossellini. (Inspired by an interview by Flavia Dima.)
NEW: The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, United States) + OLD: Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
In his seminal article “Notes on Film Noir,” published in a 1972 issue of Film Comment, Paul Schrader describes the central appeal of the American noir genre in the 1940s as laying in its powerful portrayal of the “disillusionment many soldiers, small businessmen and housewife/factory employees felt in returning to a peacetime economy.” In noir, Schrader continues, the sense of heroism and nobility which tends to infuse mainstream war films dissipates, as the soldier is removed from the battlefield and expected to integrate back into society—despite having witnessed first-hand the most heinous atrocities that humankind is capable of inflicting. The result, Schrader continues, is that the protagonist commits to a “narcissistic, defeatist code,” and directs their “viciousness” not to any external threat but “toward American society itself.” In The Card Counter, Schrader draws upon the vernacular of classic noir to explore the mental toll experienced by a former struggling to re-adjust to civilian life after committing grotesque, state-sanctioned horrors in Abu Ghraib. The severity of William Tell’s (Oscar Isaac) guilt is intensified by the widespread indifference expressed by the general population, who prefer to ignore the imperialist violence committed by its government overseas. Tell responds by withdrawing into himself, leading an isolated, ascetic life, in part as a form of self-inflicted punishment, but also as a way to disengage from a social sphere he feels nothing but disdain for. Schrader captures this sense of emotional disconnect on a formal level, capturing the action in washed-out, deliberately flat high-definition digital wide shots. Michael Haneke’s Caché similarly constructs an aesthetic of phenomenological disconnect to launch a blistering critique of the willful amnesia and collective blindness endemic to Western postcolonial societies. Like The Card Counter, Caché is a film about the War on Terror which connects the perpetuation of imperialist cruelties to the widespread apathy of a populace which prefers to deny their complicity and displace blame onto others. In both films, the wars that are occurring on another continent haunt every interaction like an oppressive weight, but they are not directly visible—glimpses only appear in flashbacks, fantasies, radio broadcasts, and newscasts. Like Tell, Caché’s George is eaten away by his guilt over a past wrongdoing, and this guilt manifests as an alienation from lived experience. However, whereas Georges’ guilt remains on the level of his subconscious, as he continuously denies responsibility for his crime and evades dealing with the consequences, Tell is cognizant of the enormity of his wrongdoing and actively seeks punishment. Both films deny their protagonist any kind of catharsis or redemption; Georges stubbornly refuses to admit his culpability, and so remains locked in a prison of his own anesthesia, while Tell perceives himself, and the United States as a whole, as being so fundamentally corrupt that absolution is impossible.
NEW: Orpheus (Vadim Kostrov, Russia) + OLD: In Vanda's Room (Pedro Costa, 2000)
A pairing of cathedral-like digital epics. What more can I say? Being with Pedro Costa here in Prague for a retrospective at Kino Ponrepo in October—where I finally saw In Vanda's Room after dreaming about it for years—and in parallel discovering the six films by Vadim Kostrov at a succession of festivals post-lockdown were major highlights, cinematic or otherwise, in a rather bleak and colorless year.
NEW: The Blunder of Love (Rocco di Mento, Italy/Germany) + OLD: La spiagga (Alberto Lattuada, 1954)
Two virtuosic Italian films about shared social manias, suffocating internal hierarchies, and buried traumas erupting from buried depths. "It is impossible to bond with somebody so unsentimental." But also those beautiful gestures, that joyous way of speaking, all of it—flicks of the wrist and cocks of the head that seem to contain the world. These two movies swept down from nowhere and held me away from the precipice at two extraordinarily uncertain junctures in the saga of 2021.
NEW: Thunder Rosa vs. Dr Britt Baker, DMD (Lights Out Unsanctioned Match) (All Elite Wrestling, 2021) + OLD:  Combat Toyoda vs. Megumi Kudo (No Ropes Exploding Ring Barbed Wire Match) (Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, 1996)
In televised American professional wrestling, women have been dunked in fluids, stripped bare and sexually assaulted, and generally humiliated, but very rarely have women been allowed to bleed. To bleed in wrestling is not to be a a victim, but to be in control. You choose your blood flow, and that wound is something you take and make upon yourself, through the practice of blading. The incision of small cuts with a hidden razor blade on one’s forehead during a wrestling match creates shallow wounds that heal quickly and can be obscured by hair. Blading is, in essence, a special effect. The drip of sweat from your head enhances the flow, which creates the illusion of significantly greater blood loss than generally occurs: this creates the so-called “crimson mask,” seen in AEW's no disqualification match between Thunder Rosa and Dr. Britt Baker, DMD (how fitting that a real life doctor would be an expert in the circulatory system), one of the only instances in primetime pro wrestling history in which women have been allowed to use weapons and bleed. Blood reminds you that these are real human beings who are paying a price for your entertainment, who suffer and anguish for your enjoyment, who perform labor. To let women bleed is to have a form of power and agency—quite literally, autonomy over one’s body—that we have so frequently not been allowed, in professional wrestling or the world at large.
NEW: The Year Before the War (Dāvis Sīmanis, Latvia) + OLD: The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau, 1924)
"Welcome to the Grand Twentieth, we wish you a pleasant stay."
NEW: Zola (Janicza Bravo, US) + OLD: In the Soup (Alexandre Rockwell, 1992)
The ride of a lifetime with a charismatic stranger, but new friends aren’t always what they seem.
NEW: AGHDRA (Arthur Jafa, US) + OLD: Black to Techno (Jenn Nkiru, 2019)
In a year where we have witnessed a spiked interest in Blackness and Black art, Jenn Nkiru’s and Arthur Jafa’s respective films offer stand-out and compelling explorations into the precarious nature of life for people of color in the West. They shine a light on the often surreal, occasionally humorous and deeply profound ways in which we cope with and or overcome these circumstances.
NEW: Old (M. Night Shyamalan, US) +OLD: Big Wednesday (John Milius, 1978)
"It’s really different here. Back home, being young was just something you’d do until you grew up. Here…it’s everything." One film about a group of strangers stranded on a beach that makes them old, and another about a few friends who discover they've grown too old for the beach.
NEW: The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, 2021) + OLD: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)
The feminine urge to start your life over again.
NEW: Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Colombia) + OLD: Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)
Arguably the grandest achievements by both Weerasethakul and Cassavetes, these spellbinding works each depict women (Tilda Swinton and Gena Rowlands, respectively) attempting to unravel an unsettling grief before it unravels them. In Memoria, Swinton’s Jessica must characterize the thunderous tenor of a mysterious sound, with the help of a figure who seemingly inhabits both the world of the living and a spiritual realm. As actress Myrtle Gordon in Opening Night, Rowlands is followed by the apparition of a fan struck down in a hit-and-run. Things fall apart onstage and off, as Gordon “loses the reality...of the reality.” Oceans apart in their settings, these films share a truly hypnotizing force: that of the disquieting yet deeply raucous interior turmoil displayed by their female leads.
NEW: C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills, US) + OLD: Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980)
Frank, funny, and ultimately touching, C’mon C’mon and Gloria follow frazzled guardians constantly on the move. In Mills’ movie, radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is tasked with watching over his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) while going from city to city on an assignment. In Cassavetes’ last independent feature, Rowlands plays the titular role, a gangster’s lady-friend who is suddenly moved to protect a kid left behind in the wake of a mob hit. These young boys exhaust their hapless stand-in parents, dragging them through the streets of Manhattan, eventually imparting a few lessons about intergenerational emotional communication.
NEW: Malcolm and Marie (Sam Levinson, US) + OLD: Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968)
I can’t, in good conscience, legitimately recommend Malcolm and Marie, written and directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. The film blatantly attempts to ape both the style and tone of Cassavetes' early work. (Its title is also suspiciously similar to his 1971 film Minnie and Moskowitz.) With this failure that looks like a perfume ad and sounds like a student film, Levinson succeeds only in wasting the considerable talents of his leads, Zendaya and John David Washington, who end up giving performances equivalent to children chomping on pretzel rods like mock cigars. Its ostensible source material, Cassavetes’ Faces, is meanwhile a masterpiece, if also a bit headache-inducing. Each frame of this intense drama, a claustrophobically independent feature—one of Hollywood’s first—is fraught with searing emotionality. Brutal and breathtaking, Faces was a revelation in its proximity to human emotion, a foundational blueprint for today’s independent films, for better or worse.
NEW: Dune (Denis Villeneuve, US) + OLD: Brasilia, Contradictions of a New City (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1968)
What signifies the future better than its buildings? The fortress city of Arrakeen in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune brings to mind Brutalism (though strictly speaking, isn’t) with its large cement structures, an unnatural bunker city fending off the nature it is stealing from. This was a city built to oppress, the large sloping cement walls keeping the heat, and other threats, out. Built on exploitation of natural resources, and the colonization of the Fremen, it sits uneasy, riddled with dark corridors and secret rooms, a perfect example of world-building. As I watched Dune, having taken the afternoon off work to see it in a less populated theatre, I was reminded of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Brasilia, Contradictions of a New City, an equally breathtaking portrait of a city looking towards the future. Designed in 1956 by Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, and Joaquim Cardozo, Brasilia was inspired by Modernism and Bauhaus, with massive highways and striking architecture. De Andrade’s camera captures each detail of these buildings, and each arch of Cathedral of Brasilia gets treated from every angle. But this city, as de Andrade’s film reveals, was a “fantasy island,” a playground for the rich, existing in stark contrast to the poverty of nearby regions. As magnificent as each structure is, there is always a cost for the people making them, and the people being displaced. Here we have two cities that present two options for a future, and two films that root them strongly in the present.
NEW: Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Questlove, US) + OLD: Jazz on a Summer's Day (Steern/Avakian, 1959)
An earthed discovery and a dusted down gem which brilliantly articulate the binding nature of culture and black creativity.

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