Late June, 2022
I carried an incomplete draft of this newsletter with me into a busy spring. The coronavirus forced me to take stock of everything in the pantry and refrigerator. And as I assessed if I have enough canned goods for the week, or enough spice to extend my sense of taste for a few more days, I remembered this draft, which has been unfairly neglected…
To Joy (Ingmar Bergman, 1950): Humility jolts the artist out of his narcissism, but mediocrity is a separate condition for which there is no simple cure. Bergman makes a distinction between the mediocre artist and the pathetic one. The latter gives up, and the former—though wretched at times—moves ahead, accepting at once the impossibility of being first chair and the infinite pleasures of playing in the orchestra.
City of Women (Federico Fellini, 1980): In what I think is his best film, Fellini sincerely ponders whether there’s a place for an old-fashioned boobs-and-butt man like himself in second-wave feminism. Marcello Mastroianni plays a traveler named Snàporaz, who happens upon a feminist convention taking place in the woods. Fellini’s use of concurrent action produces a surprisingly perceptive image of a feminist coalition where political action (self-defense classes, lectures, performances) appears in the foreground, and scenes of intimacy (the surreptitious, sticky stuff that holds the group together, like smoking weed in the backseat of a car) mostly takes place in the background.
Though Snàporaz insists that he loves women, his outdated methods of seduction are ineffectual. To his shock, the feminists declare him to be unattractive and repulsive. Fellini’s urge to take apart men’s primitive desire for the sexual conquest of women sends him back into his own filmography. The final shot of Fellini’s Casanova (1976), of Donald Sutherland’s titular adventurer twirling about with a mechanical sex doll, inverts the circular tracking shot of 8 1/2 (1963), which places Mastroianni’s Guido at the center of a harem comprised of wives and mistresses. Continuing this movement, City of Women places Snàporaz alone at the top of a downward spiral—a literal slide, spinning towards a lonely pit.
Picasso in Vallauris (Peter Nestler, 2021): Any visual artwork about or inspired by Picasso faces the awful possibility of making the viewer witness to a failed attempt at drawing out an inner Picasso. This endeavor is typically doomed to result in something ugly and kitsch. Nestler’s film resists the temptation to stylistically mirror Picasso, and therefor its modesty yields a miraculous straightforwardness.
For MUBI Notebook, I reviewed Coodie & Chiike’s Jeen-Yuhs, the Netflix documentary about Ye.
Also at MUBI, I wrote about the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s retrospective of Kinuyo Tanaka’s directorial works. If any of these films make their way to a cinema near you, please do try to attend.
I spoke with Harry Dodge and Silas Howard about their debut feature, By Hook or By Crook, which played at Metrograph in New York on June 17 as part of Melissa Anderson’s series Muff Dives: The Dyke Bar in Cinema.
I reviewed Julie Ha and Eugene Yi’s Free Chol Soo Lee for Film Comment.
I starred in and coproduced Isiah Medina’s new feature, Night is Limpid. The film premiered at the Jeonju International Film Festival in May. At the Quantity Cinema website you can find the synopsis, trailer, and poster (which I designed). And Isiah and I will be in town for Isiah Medina: Films 2010-2020, which starts July 29-30 and continues through August.
My film Pears will be screening at the e-flux screening room in NYC on July 1, 7pm, for the first part of Tulapop Saenjaroen: A (Digressive) Focus Program. This is a three-day program that “features two screenings and a reading, presenting recent films by Tulapop Saenjaroen in dialogue with text, audio, and moving-image works by Kelley Dong, Anahita Jamali Rad, RUTMEAT, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Evan Calder Williams, Jia Zhangke, and Zheng Yuan, programmed by Steff Hui Ci Ling.”
I’m planning out the remainder of the year’s projects, so feel free to email me at email@example.com. Quantity Cinema-related inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Women, Federico Fellini, 1980.