It’s a brave new world out there and The FAR brings you daring reports from the front lines of online festivals, the return to theaters, activism, mentorship, dubbing technology and NFTs!
Thanks to Miller and The Psychic Johnny Smith for taking the plunge and contributing this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles below from the past week for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
After a long hiatus, Film Comment returns with an essay by Molly Haskell about theater-going, movies, and memories:
But we’ve been writing obituaries for movie theaters almost as long as we’ve been mourning the death of cinema… and of cinephiles. The latter two are alive and well, and yes, we miss the physicality of theaters and audiences, but perhaps we should think of this not as a zero-sum loss but as a transmogrification, a metamorphosis: the where and how not as important as the what, the thing itself, an explosive new expansion of our ways of watching that in its amplitude seems to match the staggering number of films that have become available—international films, esoteric films, rediscovered masterpieces and curios, not to mention the great TV series that have come to represent the craft and ingenuity of storytelling no longer offered by Hollywood. (And that manage to touch off communal conversations in ways that movies once did.) The ’60s and ’70s, that glory period of moviegoing and appreciation, seems downright parochial by comparison. Hardly any mainstream women directors or Black filmmakers, and international cinema restricted mostly to Europeans.
Vikram Murthi checks out the online offerings at this year’s True/False film festival for RogerEbert.com:
The Grocer’s Son, the Mayor, the Village and the World follows […] French documentary organization Ardèche Images’ ambitious plan to establish Tënk, a streaming service specializing in arthouse documentaries. Based in the village of Lussas, home of the non-fiction film festival Les Etats Généraux du Film documentaire, Ardèche founder Jean-Marie Barbe uses his family’s old grocery store as a base of operations, putting his team to work to gather investors, as well as advertise the service and shore up the technology. The formation of Tënk also coincides with the construction of a new building that will house facilities for all aspects of documentary production, a project that intrigues and puzzles the citizens of Lussas. The film also follows the village’s local farming community, Lussas’ other primary source of revenue, and their daily operations in the fields as they struggle to maintain production. Despite their radically different professions, director Claire Simon positions the farmers and the documentarians as mirrors of each other. They’re both trying to keep up with technological advances and changing tastes while staying true to their respective operations.
Speaking of documentaries, Kim A. Snyder writes about her newly released documentary Us Kids and how circumstance put her in position to make films facing difficult subjects:
I, like my Newtown survivor friends, have become an accidental activist. I knew little more about the issue of gun violence than any average citizen when I found myself, by happenstance, in Newtown only weeks after their tragedy. I was there to interview Father Bob Weiss, who had just buried eight of his child parishioners. I later directed a short film, Lessons From a School Shooting: Notes From Dunblane, about Father Bob and the poignant friendship he forged across the Atlantic with another priest – Father Basil O’Sullivan from Dunblane, Scotland – who’d experienced a similarly awful situation after an elementary school shooting in 1996. (The Dunblane massacre resulted in radical reform of gun laws in the U.K.) It was not the issue of gun reform that initially compelled me to make Newtown, it was rather the emotional terrain of trauma. I was inspired by films like Ordinary People and Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, which both focus on families coping with PTSD and the aftermath of unthinkable loss.
At Mubi, Dana Reinoos examines the similarities between Barbara Stanwyck and mentee Yaphett Kotto:
As the enigmatic stranger in a bleach-stained shirt and purple corduroys [in Larry Cohen’s Bone], Kotto uses a Stanwyck staple combination of stone-like facial expression and quick, cutting wit to peel away Bill and Bernadette’s middle-class morals and reveal the rot underneath. In the final, surreal scene, Bill, Bernadette and Bone all converge in the sand dunes, Bill begging for his life and Bernadette telling Bone that she never needed him after all. A quick shot of the actual pain in Bone’s eyes—a particularly Stanwyck-ian use of a poignant crack in a stony facade—then, by the next shot, he’s disappeared for good.
Alistair Rider reports for Input on a new technology that alters actors’ faces to match their foreign language dubs. You’ll believe Forrest Gump can speak Japanese!
[Company co-founder and director Scott] Mann anticipates some “natural nervousness” from audiences, especially subtitle lovers, whom he points out are a small portion of the overall filmgoing public. (Of course, there are those who use them out of necessity.) “There will be people who will refuse to watch our dubs and say subtitles are the purest form, but this helps share great international stories with those who may have never otherwise seen them,” Mann says. “We’ll soon reach the level where you won’t realize we’ve done it, and the debate will solve itself.”
And finally, eleven musicians tell Pitchfork what they think about NFTs, with reactions on all ends of the scale:
ANOHNI: “I think it’s shit. They won’t stop until they have sucked the life and value out of every remaining shred of organic life and every last gasp of analog craft or thought and crammed it into Elon Musk and Grimes’ patented space dildo, headed for Mars to reauthor the future of sentience in their own psychotic and ethically bankrupt likeness.”