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Summer of ’91 Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again

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Summer of ’91: Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again

Paramount Pictures

Summer of ’91: Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again

With Dead Again, Kenneth Branagh takes a shot at unseating Brian De Palma as the master of the Hitchockian homage, and one can’t help but appreciate the attempt. Especially when the result is as gleefully fetishistic as this 1991 film, which has the hots for numerous classics by the Master of Suspense, and fashioned in ways that allow cinephiles to visually pick out these drool-worthy influences. The ridiculous story, however, takes its cue from North by Northwest, whose equally incredulous plot served as the hook upon which its director hung his effective bag of tricks. Hitch once said, “Logic is dull,” and it’s a quote that writer Scott Frank takes to heart: Dead Again’s director-inspiring hook is a mystery about reincarnated lovers who may or may not be heading down the same murderous path as their predecessors.

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

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Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The power of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is the endurance of an Elvis Presley song (or two), the staying power of a children’s movie, and the sight and sound of a match being struck: romantically mellow, wackily comic, and deadly, darkly serious.

Lynch gets more and scarier mileage out of fire in Wild at Heart than he did out of Frank Booth’s lighter in Blue Velvet. In between the two came the game-changing Twin Peaks, which, soon after Wild at Heart, Lynch would round off with Fire Walk with Me. It’s easy to see the whole arc from Blue Velvet to Fire Walk with Me as part of a single centralizing vision, an identifiable phase of his artistic development—his “fire period,” if you like.

Review: James Naremore’s An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema

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Review: James Naremore’s An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema
Review: James Naremore’s An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema

If Daniel Herbert’s Videoland views the video store as a history without a future, then James Naremore’s new book, An Invention Without a Future, suggests that cinema, as it came to be defined by various cultural forces throughout the 1960s and ’70s, may be meeting a similar fate as well. At least, the title seems to suggest as much, though it’s actually taken from cinema pioneer Louis Lumière, who supposedly made such a statement regarding the cinema to his brother around the end of the 19th century. There’s no actual record of the remark; Jean-Luc Godard, among others, has attributed the statement to Lumière. Whether apocryphal or not, its ambivalence suits Naremore’s tongue-in-cheek title quite well, since the totality of An Invention Without a Future is anything but a coup de grâce for cinema. Quite the contrary, as Naremore’s collection of essays here, some written years ago, though amended in key places to address contemporary developments, is divided into three sections, but coheres to form an urgent, nearly comprehensive plea to take cinema seriously from a multitude of perspectives.

Review: Michael Witt’s Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema Historian

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Review: Michael Witt’s Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema Historian
Review: Michael Witt’s Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema Historian

While Daniel Morgan’s fantastic 2012 book Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema devotes a significant portion of its pages to Histoire(s) du Cinéma, Michael Witt’s Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema Historian offers a book-length study of this singular work, filled with color still frames and images, in what’s unquestionably the most comprehensive English-language examination of Godard’s endlessly complex work of video historiography.

Such comprehension doesn’t solely result from close readings, however, as Witt goes to extensive lengths to tease out the theoretical, historical, and even autobiographical details which enveloped Godard during the film’s construction. In taking his study to these lengths, Witt probes the ontology of Godard’s work, suggesting the film as a work of film history, above all else. That is, Witt seeks to legitimate Godard’s role as a cinema historian, even at the expense of elevating him as a “cinema poet,” as has often been the claim. Godard, himself, rejects the notion that Histoire(s) du Cinéma is an “audiovisual poem,” and has remained insistent that his work is more concerned with the intersection of poetry and history, rather than being exclusively a work of either. Witt carefully examines Godard’s claims in this regard, the film’s use of montage, and even Godard’s vehement hatred for television (he once referred to it as “absolute evil”) as a means to move past simply an identification of references within the film and toward a polyvalent illumination of Godard’s multifaceted intentions.

New York Film Festival 2013: Stranger by the Lake Review

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New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Stranger by the Lake</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Stranger by the Lake</em> Review

The opening overhead shot of a wooded car park adjoining a shimmering lake establishes the tightly circumscribed world of Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake. A marker for the passage of time in the film, this shot acquires more menace each time it’s repeated in Guiraudie’s hypnotically seductive thriller. The story follows Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), a good-looking and easygoing young man who drives to the lake each summer day to enjoy the hedonistic pleasures of swimming, sunbathing naked, and cruising. Guiraudie captures the seductive thrills of the age-old gay ritual, which seems to occur wherever there’s sun, sand, and secluded woodland. The men—many of them regulars from the nearby town—all play the same game: watching, following, and then getting off with each other in the bushes. We get glimpses of sundry couplings through the foliage and observe the typical cruising rituals of invitation and rejection; most of the sex scenes are simulated, but Guiraudie doesn’t shy away from a couple of close-ups of clearly the real deal. Stranger by the Lake never leaves the naturist playground in and around the lake, mirroring the almost single-minded focus of the men who go there, though we get some occasional hints of their lives outside this microcosm.