1. “Albert Maysles R.I.P.” The pioneering documentarian dies at 88.
“Albert Maysles, the award-winning documentarian who, with his brother, David, made intensely talked-about films, including Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, with their American version of cinéma vérité, died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan. He was 88. His death was confirmed by K. A. Dilday, a family friend. Mr. Maysles (pronounced MAY-zuls) departed from documentary conventions by not interviewing his films’ subjects. As he explained in an interview with The New York Times in 1994, ’Making a film isn’t finding the answer to a question; it’s trying to capture life as it is.’ That immediacy was a hallmark of the Maysles brothers’ films, beginning in the 1960s, when they made several well-regarded documentaries. But it was Gimme Shelter (1970), about the Rolling Stones’ 1969 American tour, that brought them widespread attention. It included a scene of a fan being stabbed to death at the group’s concert in Altamont, Calif., and the critical admiration for the film was at least partly countered by concerns that it was exploiting that violence.”
2. “Postscript: Albert Maysles, 1926-2015.” Richard Brody remembers the filmmaker.
“The Maysles brothers’ underlying obsession was, in effect, something that wasn’t there: the barrier between performance and life. They saw and captured the magic moment when the performer made electrifying, charismatic contact with the audience. For the Maysleses, the performer and the audience are as inseparable as the participants in a documentary and the documentarians. That’s why, in their easy-going, humanistic, and graceful way, the Maysleses were among the exemplary modernists of the era, including themselves in the onscreen action and making their presence felt, physically as well as ethically, as audaciously as any avant-gardist.”
3. “A pantheon of one’s own: 25 female film critics worth celebrating.” To mark International Women’s Day, Sight & Sound asked a selection of critics and curators each to nominate a vital female voice in film criticism, with an example of their writing. Below is Sophie Mayer on bell hooks.
“Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Kentucky in 1952, bell hooks took a lower case pen name, based on the names of her mother and grandmother, highlighting the principles of black history and community that came to underline her writing. Looking askance as a black woman who grew up under segregation led her to film criticism for magazines ranging from Essence to Z. The Saved By The bell hooks Tumblr, quoting from the writer’s 30 books, reminds us that hooks has always been at the forefront of feminism’s meeting with pop and visual cultures; likewise, her live-streamed conversations with American writer, professor, television host Melissa Harris-Perry and actress Laverne Cox went viral. Alongside her critique of liberal American cinema’s blindspots, most famously of Tarantino’s ’white cool’, hooks has developed a unique conversational critical practice highlighting and contextualising experimental and alternative black cinema. Revisiting her exchange with Julie Dash, two decades after Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust became the first fiction feature by an African-American woman to receive US distribution, it’s poignant to realise that their shared vision of black mythic memory is still struggling to make its way into the mainstream—but thrilling to listen in on their shared passion for that vision.”
4. “When Cinema Gives Up the Ghost.” For MUBI, Daniel Riccuito on life and death in Jean Epstein’s cinema.
“The close-ups are almost hostile in their shimmering quietude. So freestanding as to suggest that a sensual obsession with light may betray something else: an equal and opposite mania for syntax, formal perfection, death itself, academism. But then La glace à trois faces realizes impossible stillness in ways that defy critical reservations. As the titular looking glass swallows three versions of its lothario-host, returning each of his images to a different lover, he twinkles and vanishes. Dissolving into that inner arrangement of light and shadow to be recycled at some later time, coaxed by Jean Epstein into multi-dimensional Bunraku figures on celluloid. It’s easier to imagine the maestro’s hands bending the invisible beams of a Theremin-like device above the set than crouched behind the camera like a hidden beast, occasionally barking orders to someone wielding a Klieg light. Cause and effect are suddenly… well, if not irrelevant, then reborn as manifest visual logic—with the occasional flirtatious nod to normative storytelling.”
5. “Rohmer’s Guessing Gazes.” Or: why Rohmer’s films get only better with repeat viewings, like playing back the memory of a strange encounter, wondering how it might have gone differently.
“To embrace the films of Eric Rohmer is to embrace a sublime sense of not knowing what makes us tick. As critic Adrian Martin writes in his recent appraisal of Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale, ’We come to doubt everyone and everything we see, hear, and read on screen; and, most of all we doubt our own assumptions and perceptions as viewers.’ Why would someone seek out this kind of confusion for their viewing pleasure? Precisely because Rohmer is able to conjure a strange sense of pleasure from the uncertainty of relating to others, as well as ourselves.It’s the pleasure of witnessing situations that we know all too well (as reluctantly as we would admit to it), and yet have hardly been captured so vividly in the movies as in Rohmer’s hands. These are situations in which people seem poised to connect, to see each other and achieve a certain kind of intimacy and mutual knowing. And yet, something gets in the way.”
Video of the Day: Grimes, doing her thing, on the unreleased “REALiTi”:
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