Spontaneously started in 2018 without a predetermined rhythm, our book notes have gradually grown in length and popularity. Therefore, we’ve decided to make them a permanent, quarterly feature of the website to keep the overview more systematic and compact. If you want to signal a recent or forthcoming film publication for the next roundup, please contact Ruben Demasure.
Our first edition of 2020 opens with a wave of worthwhile books coming from France. What better way to start these days than with a new book on the relationship between cinema and a body part now connoted as dirty, dangerous, contagious, being obsessively washed or kept in gloves, and refrained from touching others or your own face. L’Oeil détourné: Mains et imaginaire tactile au cinéma considers the hand and all its gestures in the cinema as extensions of the eye and the look (through editing or other filmic means). These reconfigurations are the aesthetic, political, and historical questions of the book. Watching our hand, looking away from it, touching to see, are gestures that cinema reinvents, tactile imaginaries. This way, Emmanuelle André – a film professor who also writes for Trafic and who’s work is marked by the motif of the eye – also composes an oblique history of cinema, from Hollywood classicism to early films or extremely contemporary examples, including documentary essays and experimental films. In 2015, Sabzian's Gerard-Jan Claes, Olivia Rochette and Elias Grootaers composed a film programme dealing with the expressive and performative nature of hands in cinema and imagery. Published on March 20, the book is available to purchase on the website of publishing house, De L’Incidence Éditeur.
On January 17, the same publisher released a vital new book by the eminent film historian and programmer Nicole Brenez, Manifestations: Écrits politiques sur le cinéma et autres arts filmiques. In six chapters (here called ‘fronts’, e.g. ‘Front du plaisir’ or ‘Front de l'Histoire’), Brenez proposes a total reconfiguration of the history of cinema: “a veritable history of cinema, this is to say, a history not determined by industrial criteria,” that puts at the forefront the poets, formal inventors, radicals, revolutionaries and autonomes, such as Jocelyne Saab, René Vautier, Straub & Huillet, Philippe Garrel, Pedro Costa, René Vautier, Marcel Hanoun or Masao Adachi. The publication only costs 9 euros for almost 500 pages. You can read an interview with Brenez on the book in Libération, and order it at the publisher’s website.
Meanwhile, Nicole Brenez's Introduction to Lettrist Cinema (Sternberg Press, 2014) is now also finally available in French as of February 4, after it had already been translated into Spanish last year. You can order the new translation for only 5 euros on the website of publisher Light Cone Éditions. It’s part of an apparent resurgence of interest in Lettrist cinema, including last year’s Treatise on Venom & Eternity – an annotated translation of the homonymous film script/treatment together with interviews and contextual essays by Adrian Martin, among others – and, promised as the first volume of an upcoming series, the bilingual (FR/EN) Isidore Isou that accompanied an exhibition at the Garage Cosmos gallery in Brussels which ended in January. The books can be purchased on the website of their publishers, Annex Press and La Lettre Volée, respectively. Another translation, this time from French to English, that also includes a part on Lettrism, is Radical Cinema by the artist Christian Lebrat. His collection of essays analyses the work of major film artists, including Lettrist Maurice Lemaître, but also Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Dulac, Hollis Frampton, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Jonas Mekas, Paul Sharits, and Michael Snow, among others. Originally published in 2008, the translated edition has now been expanded to include previously unpublished texts. You can see the full table of contents on Amazon and find out where to order the book via the website of publisher Eyewash Books.
On January 30, two new books were published by Editions de l’Oeil. Also featuring an introduction by Nicole Brenez, Cinémas en communs by Robert Bonamy is a compilation of texts exploring the notion of “communs” (commonality), instigated by the contemporary cinemas of Nicolas Klotz & Elisabeth Perceval, the group Boris Barnet, Pierre Creton and Tariq Teguia, among others. You can find the full table of contents and order the book on the website of the publisher.
The second book – Pratiques d’une utopie, Utopies de la pratique – is about the Ateliers Varan, an association of filmmakers based in Paris, whose primary work is running workshops in documentary filmmaking both in France and across the world. In 1978, the French filmmaker Jean Rouch set up a documentary workshop in the newly independant Mozambique to train the country’s future filmmakers, enabling them to film reality from the inside and show their own realities. Following that experience, the Ateliers Varan were founded in 1980 and have trained generations of documentary filmmakers in places ranging from Vietnam to Kenya, Serbia, Georgia and Afghanistan. Varan is not a school in the classic and academic sense: the working methods strongly encourage the principle of teaching through practice. Among the current members who organize the workshops in France and all over the world in order to pass on their experiences and their film practices to the trainee filmmakers are Jean-Louis Comolli, Alice Diop and Marie-Claude Treilhou. Pratiques d’une utopie, Utopies de la pratique looks back at the experiences of the Ateliers Varan of the past 40 years and how their pedagogical principles have evolved. You can order the book on the website of the publisher.
Stressing similar concerns of teaching and learning film through practice, a manifesto has been published on March 5. Signed by 70 film teachers and researchers of 25 universities and schools in France, the manifesto defends a film education at the university that combines film analysis and practice, thinking and making cinema. The university programs that include filmmaking and practical components in their pedagogical projects now find themselves threatened by a new culture or set of rules in recruting and evaluation. They stress that the gesture (‘geste’) of creation demands an analytical capacity while studying and teaching films without practical knowledge leads to misinterpretation or instrumentalisation. There’s an urgency to recognize and protect these academic spaces of education, research, high-quality discussion, exchange, interaction, thinking, action, creation and experiment. The manifesto is included in the book Cinéma à l’université: Le regard et le geste, edited by two filmmakers-professors, Serge Le Péron (Serge Daney: Le cinéma et le monde, 2012) and the Belgian Frédéric Sojcher. After the manifesto, the publication follows up with a reflection on film education divided over nine chapters. You can read an excerpt and order the book on the website of the Belgian publishing house, Les Impressions Nouvelles.
In our last book note, we made notice of Anouk De Clercq's Where is Cinema?, a series of conversations with the adventurers behind independant cinema initiatives. European rather than global in scope but published around the same time, Cinema Makers: Le nouveau souffle des cinémas indépendants / The renewal of indie cinemas is a bilingual (FR/EN) publication that similarly explores about 20 independant cinemas, consisting of 22 encounters in 13 different countries to be precise. The two books only address one overlapping initiative, Wolf Kino in Berlin. Having visited over 100 independant cinemas in Europe – assembled in their Tour des Cinémas project and previous book Rêver les cinémas, demain (Ateliers Henry Dougier, 2015) – to inspire the creation of their own ephemeral cinema La Forêt Électrique in 2018 in Toulouse, authors Agnès Salson and Mikael Arnal witnessed the emergence and existence of a veritable movement that profoundly rethinks how to create a space for cinema and make it sustainable. Cinema Makers is a cartography of the most emblematic of these spaces. You can find the full list of cinemas, read the first pages and order the book on the website of the publisher, Le Blog Documentaire.
On a related note, London-based film programmer and writer, Herb Shellenberger, initiated a newsletter about repertory and archival cinema programming happening around the world. It’s a mix of news, opinions and interviews with programmers, archivists, restorationists, and others invested in curating and exhibiting cinema both historical and contemporary in surprising and exciting ways. Shellenberger describes it as “a highly subjective guide to repertory cinema programming (...) based on what I observe as exciting, bold and original among the field. I’m aiming to mainly highlight screenings and series which go beyond the established canon.” The newsletter was inspired by a feeling that it’s often difficult to find out about what’s happening beyond some institutions located in major cities which shout the loudest. You can subscribe to the free newsletter here, and catch up with the archive since the first publication of January 14.
In the spirit of the previous two projects and very timely in this corona period of various (communal) streaming initiatives, comes Anxious Cinephilia: Pleasure and Peril at the Movies. In her highly anticipated new book, Sarah Keller shows how the love of cinema has always been intertwined with anxiety, fear or worry over the content and impermanence of cinematic images. The advent of new screening practices and viewing habits in the twenty-first century has spurred a public debate over what it means to be a “cinephile.” Anxious Cinephilia places these competing visions in historical and theoretical perspective, reframing the history of cinephilia from the earliest days of film through the French New Wave and into the streaming era. Sarah Keller is a film professor at the University of of Massachusetts Boston who has published mainly on Maya Deren and Jean Epstein. She was a lecturer at CINEA's ‘From Photogénie to Cinephilia 2.0’ symposium in Antwerp, Belgium in 2012, and already published on the topic of cinephopia in the fifth issue of LOLA in 2014. You can order her new study on the website of Columbia University Press.
We’re straying from the focus on French publications, so let’s wind up this section with two new books published by Capricci. In January, Le Cinéma par la danse came out, a book on cinema and dance – in the broadest sense, not just in musicals. “Ça danse partout, n’importe où, en boîte de nuit avec Rita Hayworth ou au Far West avec Henry Fonda.” The author, Hervé Gauville, is a former dance and art critic for Libération whose essays have appeared in Trafic or in book-length format for Editions Yellow Now. On the publisher’s website, you can order the book, find the table of contents and download the chapter ‘Solo,’ which discusses the table dance in Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), Luc Moullet’s wacky dance to the hit “Popcorn” in his film Ma première brasse (1981), and the dance in the field in Bong Joon-ho's Mother (2009), among others.
Out since April 2 by the same publisher, Black light: Pour une autre histoire du cinéma expolores the notion of black cinema. A long essay gets into the films of black filmmakers (from Oscar Micheaux to Spike Lee), the ‘race films’ of the 20s and 30s, 70s Blaxploitation and avant-garde cinema, but also work of white filmmakers (e.g. Jean Rouch) that has proven to be a turning point. The book follows from the ‘Black Light’ retrospective at the last edition of the Locarno film festival. It includes a foreword by its curator, Greg de Cuir Jr., but also a section with 20 significant black films compiled by different contributors, such as Nicole Brenez, Christopher Small or Locarno’s artistic director Lili Hinstin. You can order the book on the website of Capricci.
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A second cluster of books are new collections of or on film criticism. The first publication is actually still one of 2019 that – despite its reviews by J. Hoberman in Film Comment, Jonathan Rosenbaum in Cineaste and Nick Pinkerton in Sight & Sound (only in the February 2020 issue) – received a “muted response in the cinephile world,” as Steve Macfarlane surprisingly observed. Indeed also skipped a couple of times in our previous book notes for whatever strange reason, On Cinema brings together for the first time in the English language a comprehensive selection of the film writings of Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha. This contextualized and annotated compendium includes his pieces on Chaplin, Welles, Ford, Pasolini, Bunuel and Rossellini, among others. Film critic Adrian Martin has called it “the book of 2019 that shook me (and my preconceptions) up more than any other. (...) What Rocha once made of Luchino Visconti, Godard, montage and mise en scene theory (...) will blow your mind.” You can order the book on the website of publisher I.B. Tauris.
Published on March 31, Mapping Movie Magazines: Digitization, Periodicals and Cinema History comprises 14 chapters on the history of movie magazines. It offers analyses of film magazines originating from the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Chile, South Africa, and more. This volume brings together for the first time a wide variety of historic research of popular magazines and film trade journals, making a case for these publications as a crucial but widely underused source for writing the history of films and cinema, not in the least because of the increased accessibility through digitization. The volume is edited by two cinema scholars from the University of Ghent, Belgium, Daniel Biltereyst and Lies Van de Vijver. The book follows from a 2015 conference on this topic organized in Ghent. You can find the table of contents and order the book on the website of publisher Palgrave-Macmillan.
Next up are new projects or collections by three of America’s finest film writers. Tag Gallagher has launched a new website where he very generously made available many articles, written essays, nearly all his video essays and two whole books, among which his superlative biography Adventures of Roberto Rossellini (1998, revised in 2018). The only work not provided for free here is his 2017 rewrite and re-illustration of his monumental book John Ford: Himself and his Movies (orginally published in 1986), which he is selling as an e-book for $5.99.
Nick Pinkerton, an admirer of Gallagher’s work on Rossellini for that matter, has started a Substack newsletter, titled ‘Employee Picks’, where he has posted a long mission statement that already counted as a great first offering. At the space, Pinkerton intends to post new material, material not previously published elsewhere or pieces from his offline back catalog; overall, material of the variety that he describes as “un-pitchable”. (At present, he has about a year’s worth of topics stored in the larder.) His intention is to write about individual films, filmmakers or performers that are not particularly well known and, in the case of those filmmakers who are well known, to concentrate on the works of theirs that are least seen or appreciated. He wants to use this space to practice a criticism of enthusiasms, unteathered from the bugbear of topicality, relevance, time, release dates or anniversaries, PR pushes and the “cultural conversation”. In short, “a place to talk about the other stuff: misshapen, misbegotten, coloring outside the lines, failing to “read the room.” (...) This will be an offloading outlet for Everything Else. (Which is really, I promise you, the Good Shit.) (...) Pssst! Want to see some ‘bad objects’?” You can subscribe here and consider a monthly donation as he will be alternating between free stuff and material available only to paying subscribers. Pinkerton has already posted a lecture, given at last year’s Summer Film School in Antwerp, on Jim Van Bebber's Deadbeat at Dawn (1988) and independent regional genre filmmaking, as well as some thoughts on the sad announcement that Film Comment (to which he’s a regular contributor) won’t publish its next issue in print and then go on “an indefinite hiatus“.
Forthcoming on May 1, the long-awaited collection, Letters from Hollywood: 1977-2017, brings together 34 essays by journalist and filmmaker Bill Krohn, many of them appearing in English for the first time. Adrian Martin’s recommendation on the back cover reads: “Living and working as a freelance writer outside of university teaching, Krohn has forged his own path and his own framework of understanding cinema. The book offers one of the very best examples I have ever encountered of a fertile space intermixing popular-journalistic and intellectual-critical modes of writing about and analyzing cinema.” Most of the pieces in the collection focus on a particular director or film. Bill Krohn has been the Los Angeles correspondent for the French magazine Cahiers du Cinéma for over forty years. He connects currents in French film criticism and theory with an unfolding account of American cinema past and present, offering penetrating insights into directors and their work. You can pre-order the book on the website of the publisher, SUNY Press.
Meanwhile, another filmmaker-critic, Éric Rohmer, has just been celebrated with an anthology of his texts that were published outside of Cahiers du Cinéma, mainly in the weekly Arts, but also in La Parisienne and Opéra. On the occasion of his 100th birthday (on March 21) and commemoration of the 10th year of his death in 2010, Le Sel du présent: Chroniques de cinéma gathers 200 texts of Rohmer that have appeared there between 1948 and 1959. After the collection of the early writings of François Truffaut by Gallimard (see our previous book note), this volume – a true gold mine – shows a more impure Rohmer before theoretical frameworks had taken full shape and when he was discovering new work, for example the films of Kenji Mizoguchi in Venice and Cannes. Instead of an easy chronological order, the editor – Noël Herpe, also Rohmer’s biographer – proposes a composition in four parts (‘Allons donc revoir les anciens’, ‘Nouveautés hollywoodiennes’, ‘Films de festivals’, and ‘Traversée de Paris’). On the website of publisher Capricci, you can order the book, download the complete table of contents listing all the pieces and discussed films, and an excerpt, including his critique of the list of the 12 best films of all time initiated by the Belgian cinémathèque in 1958.
Coincidentally, another book on Rohmer has just been published by his friend and closest collaborator Françoise Etchegaray on March 18. She was Rohmer’s all-round assistant and producer for 30 years. In their biography of Rohmer, Noël Herpe and Antoine de Baecque write: “Starting with Le rayon vert (1985), Françoise Etchegaray performed this essential function in the Rohmerian system.” Contes des mille et un Rohmer is not only a portrait of the notably secretive filmmaker, a kind of retrospective diary and a collection of anecdotes from the shoots and edits of the films, but also a cinema lesson on ways to work with actors, to produce or work with a crew of three. The book will be available to order on the website of the publisher Exils.
At the end of last year, another (more specialized) book includes a large part on Rohmer. Hartung Nouvelle Vague – De Resnais vers Rohmer explores the unexpected connections between the French-German abstract painter Hans Hartung (1904-1989) and cinema. In a constellation of films of the 60s and 70s, art historian Pauline Mari has found among Hartung's admirers Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard or Henri-Georges Clouzot, but foremost Eric Rohmer. The latter’s fascination for the painter developed in the 1950s and became explicit in Ma nuit chez Maud (1969) where a painting of Hartung serves as a significant element in the interior of Maud’s apartment. Mari also discusses a 1974 interview of Rohmer with Hartung of which only the unpublished introduction still exists and a portrait of Rohmer taken by Hartung. You can find the table of contents, download an excerpt and order the book on the website of publisher Les Presses du Réel.
On the first of April, a book appeared on Rohmer’s camera operator for Le signe du léon (1962) and Métamorphoses du paysage (1964), Pierre Lhomme. Lhomme, who’s career of course much more broadly traversed nearly fifty years of French cinema, has passed away in July last year (here’s Sabzian's obituary note). Based on many talks, testimonies and his personal archive, Les Lumières de Lhomme was set up together with Lhomme before his death and pays tribute to the man, his work and the craft of cinematography as he never published his memoirs or any collection of interviews. Before turning to direction himself, author Luc Béraud has been first assistant of Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jacques Rivette and Jean Eustache. It's on the latter’s set of La maman et la putain that Béraud and Lhomme have worked together and became friends. On his work with Jean Eustache, Béraud has written Au travail avec Eustache (making of) in 2017. Here, you can read a text by Béraud on the preparation of the new book, which will be available to order via the website of publisher Actes Sud.
Another Nouvelle Vague contemporary who wrote for Cahiers alongside Eric Rohmer and used the latter as an actor in a couple of his early films, has finished his memoirs. Most likely causing less of a international stir than the ones of Woody Allen, Mémoires d'une savonnette indocile is Luc Moullet’s recount of his life, from becoming a cinephile (at the age of 9), to his entry at Cahiers (at the age of 18), and his move to making films (43 shorts, features or in between). It’s a journey of 65 years of one of the most eccentric and cinephile French filmmakers. This book shows Moullet as a maverick, a self-made man, at the same time very naive and very cunning, an apraxic autistic author, taking advantage of his faults, making everyone laugh, a handyman , director, producer, screenwriter, actor, amateur legal advisor, small real estate pro, cyclophile, a crook and a pygmalion, a marathon runner or even a mage, as he once called the great filmmaker King Vidor. On May 7 (or June 8, depending on the source), you’ll be able to order the book on the website of publisher Capricci. There’s no cover available yet.
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A third group of publications are monographs by or on one filmmaker. First, two publications that have been published at the end of last year on the occasion of retrospectives at the Cinémathèque française and the Viennale, respectively. Shedding light on his method and engagement, Robert Kramer: Notes de la forteresse (Ecrits, 1967-1999) collects texts by Kramer most closely related to his own films (realised or not) that he has edited before, during or after the shoot or release. Robert Kramer wrote abundantly: fiction, screenplays, letters, essays, preparations, numerous intimate notebooks, informational flash cards with fragments etc. You can order the book on the website of the publisher Post-éditions. On Sabzian, you can read two texts (in Dutch) on Milestones (Robert Kramer & John Douglas, 1975) [1, 2].
The Viennale film festival has launched a new book series called TEXTUR. Each publication will focus on one contemporary filmmaker, make use of a wide range of contributions, and draw its contents from text and image. TEXTUR #1 is dedicated to the German filmmaker Angela Schanelec. It includes a poem, an interview with Schanelec, a short story by her, images illustrating her preparations and research, and contributions by her cinematographer, Viennale director Eva Sangorini, filmmaker Helena Wittman (Drift, 2017), as well as an impressive line-up of critcs, such as Roger Koza, Cristina Álvarez López, Mark Peranson, Patrick Holzapfel and Erika Balsom, among others. On MUBI Notebook, you can read the short contribution by filmmaker Dane Komljen (All the Cities of the North, 2016) on Schanelec’s Afternoon (2007). You can find more information on the monograph on the website of the Viennale.
In another (much more academic) publication series devoted to individual filmmakers – the ReFocus series run by Edinburgh University Press since 2015 – the latest volume is dedicated to the Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa. It's the first English-language scholarly monograph dedicated to Costa covering all his feature and short length films and video installation works to date. ReFocus: The Films of Pedro Costa examines the intricate dialogue between the films' aesthetics and modes of production, as well as the cultural, industrial and economic contexts from which Costa’s working practices emerged. Adrian Martin's blurb states that “Nuno Barradas Jorge’s important study takes us further, into a detailed account of the films’ production, exhibition and reception.” You can find the table of contents, download the introduction (under the ‘Resources’ tab), and order the work on the book series' website. Forthcoming in April, the next volume in the series focuses on the Iranian-German filmmaker Sohrab Shahid Saless (A Simple Event, 1973).
A new monograph on Lucrecia Martel is part of yet another series of short books on living filmmakers from around the world – University of Illinois Press’ ‘Contemporary Film Directors’ which has already brought us many fine publications, such as Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa & Jonathan Rosenbaum on Kiarostami, Justus Nieland on Lynch, Mary M. Wiles on Rivette, Nicole Brenez on Ferrara, Nora M. Alter on Chris Marker, and Chris Fujiwara on Jerry Lewis. Focusing on Martel’s poetics of the senses (her use of sound, touch, taste and smell), Gerd Gemünden offers a career-spanning and in-depth analysis of her oeuvre, situated within the context of Argentina's vibrant New Cinema of the last twenty years. The author aligns Martel’s filmmaking methods with the work of other international directors who criticize the high-velocity speeds of today's cinematic storytelling. He also explores how Martel’s radical political critique forces viewers to rethink entitlement, race, class, and exploitation of indigenous peoples within Argentine society and beyond. Critic B. Ruby Rich has called it “likely an instant classic”. You can read a review in Film International, check the table of contents on Amazon, and order the book on the publisher’s website.
On April 3, a study on another New Argentian filmmaker, Lisandro Alonso, has been published. In Lisandro Alonso, habiter la nature, rêver le cinéma, Adrien-Gabriel Bouché looks at the dialogue between existentialist reflection (inhabiting the world) and formal concerns (to dream the cinema) at work in Alonso’s cinema, and proposes to read his films as an invitation to reverie and original wonder at the image. The publication contains a foreword by Nicolas Azalbert, Cahiers critic and expert in Latin American cinema. You can find the table of contents and order the book on the website of publisher WARM.
One of the best known book series, not on an individual director but on one film, is the BFI Classics line. Almost 30 years since its inception and with nearly 200 films addressed, the celebrated series is launching a new look featuring specially-commissioned cover artwork. For the first collection of 2020 they release 20 books, including three new titles (Babette’s Feast, Touch of Evil and Rosemary’s Baby) and 17 updated editions with a new afterword or foreword by the original authors (e.g. Sansho the Bailiff or Meshes of the Afternoon). Forthcoming on May 28, the twenty new or updated titles are available to pre-order in the shop of the British Film Institute.
March saw the appearance of two new books on filmmakers dear to the project of Sabzian: Johan van der Keuken and Abbas Kiarostami. Both publications focus on the multidisciplinary aspect of their practice. Abbas Kiarostami: L’oeuvre ouverte is the first book to bring together the artist's manifold parcours – cinema, photography, video, installation, poetry, excursions into theatre and opera, ... – but also the contexts (historical and artistic, Iranian and international), his working methods, and his continual pedagogical activity. The authors – former editor-in-chief of Cahiers Jean-Michel Frodon and Iranian cinema expert Agnès Devictor – have structured the book by the different disciplines. You can leaf through the table of contents on Amazon, and order the book on the website of publisher Gallimard. On Sabzian, you can read Kiarostami’s manifesto (EN/NL) for the centenary of cinema and three texts on Close-Up (1990) [1, 2, 3].
Illuminating the tensions underlying its political potency, Johan van der Keuken: Documenter une présence au monde explores van der Keuken’s hybrid poetics – between image and text, art and technique, cinema and the other arts, the intimate and the political, anthropology and the avant-garde. The genesis of this project is a conference of the same name that took place two years ago (you can find the line-up and topics here). This collection includes texts by François Albéra (editor of Johan van der Keuken: Aventures d’un regard, 1998), Alain Bergala, Benoît Turquety and its editors Gilles Mouëllic, Antony Fiant and Caroline Zéau, among other contributors. Here, you can find the table of contents and read the introduction. The book will be available to order on the website of the Belgian publishing house, Editions Yellow Now. On Sabzian, you can read a text on Het witte kasteel (The White Castle, 1973) (EN/NL), a reaction to a review of Teun van der Keuken’s book Goed Volk (2017), and an interview (FR/NL) with van der Keuken by Serge Daney and Jean-Paul Fargier, among other notes and film files.
On January 27, a study of one of the contributors to the latter book, Benoît Turquety, has been translated into English by Ted Fendt. Originally published in French in 2009 by L’Age d’homme, Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub: “Objectivists” in Cinema traces the couple’s search for a radical objectivity back to certain underground currents of modernist art and theory in the writings of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno as well as in the “Objectivist” movement, a crucial group within American modernist poetry whose members included Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, and Charles Reznikoff, with connections to William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. Through a detailed analysis of the films of Straub and Huillet, the works they adapted, and Objectivist poems and essays, Benoît Turquety locates common practices and explores a singular aesthetic approach where a work of art is conceived as an object, the artist an anonymous artisan, and where the force of politics and formal research attempt to reconcile with one another. You can download the introduction and table of contents on the website of publisher Amsterdam University Press, where it is available in the ‘Film Culture in Transition’ series but for now only as a very expensive hardback edition.
Although the theatrical re-release of 22 of Jean-Daniel Pollet’s films and the retrospectives of his work at the Cinémathèque française and Cinémathèque de Toulouse had to be cancelled due to the corona virus, two new books on his life and oeuvre have been published on March 1 and February 11, respectively. In La vie retrouvée de Jean-Daniel Pollet, Jean-Paul Fargier, just mentioned above, has reconstructed a fictive autobiography by listening to intimates and collaborators who, over the course of seven or eight years, have shared moments, memories, fragments, certain words or gestures, photos or places. Fargier also builds on his personal recollections of his friend, ranging from their first encounter in 1969 up to their last meeting one month before Pollet’s death in 2004. Fargier finished Pollet’s final film, Jour après jour (2006), and made a tv portrait of him in 2016. You can order the book on the website of publisher Editions de l’Oeil.
The other book, Machine Pollet, is the collective result of a three-year project led by filmmakers, artists, philosophers and students from four French art schools. The beautifully designed and richly illustrated publication is composed of essays, stories, interviews, real and invented dialogues, log books and poetical and formal experiences with Pollet’s work. The book is accompanied by ten films made over the course of the project that can be watched here. You can leaf through parts of the book and order it on the website of publisher Editions MF. On France Culture you can re-listen to an episode of ‘Plan Large’ dedicated to both books on Pollet.
On his website, Andrew Castillo, film program assistant at Columbia University, has translated three letters from Jean-Daniel Pollet to his “grand frère,” François Truffaut, recently published in the March 2020 issue of Trafic. Along with the letters, he has translated a short foreword by the author of La vie retrouvée de Jean-Daniel Pollet, Jean-Paul Fargier. Another passion project on a French filmmaker was set up by the folks of film website Seventh Row. They’ve put together the first monograph on Céline Sciamma, her process, and her body of work. Portraits of Resistance: The Cinema of Céline Sciamma contains interviews with Sciamma, actresses Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, and Sciamma’s sound editor, as well as several essays on Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (2019) and separate chapters on her previous films. The publication, only available as e-book, can be purchased on their website since February. As they publish an e-book every three months, the next one, on the cinema of Kelly Reichardt, will be released on May 8.
Published last month, Traverses: Visconti draws up an itinerary without beginning or end through the work of Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti. Micro-readings and a montage of images freely trace Viscontian patterns across his major films (La Terra Trema, Death in Venice, White Nights, Conversation Piece, The Innocent, Ossessione, ...). Author Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues, film professor at Paris 8, is an expert on Visconti who’s already written two other books on him, next to excellent publications on movement and ‘flâneries’ in cinema, sculpture and film, westerns, and on... Jean-Daniel Pollet, Godard and Resnais. The publisher Maurice Darmon has posted three exceperts with clips on Facebook [1, 2, 3]. Jacques Aumont has called it a “très bon bouquin, qui répond exactement à son titre: on prend des chemins de traverse, sans s’interdire non plus de faire des détours, toujours inattendus et enrichissants.” You can order the book on the website of publishing house 202 Éditions.
At the end of January, the first volume of Jonas Mekas' magnum opus, I Seem to Live. The New York Diaries, 1950–2011 has been launched at Anthology Film Archives in New York. This first part covers the period from 1950-1969. Mekas' diariesare his key literary work, standing on an equal footing with his cinematic oeuvre. This 800 page volume thus picks up in the 1950s, where his 2017 memoir I Had Nowhere to Go (1944–1955) left off. It's the kind of book you can open on any page and start reading. In Interview Magazine, Connor Williams writes: “As this book shows in intimate detail, Mekas was already fervently documenting glimpses into his interior life long before he would put them on screen. Tiresome days searching for work. Museum visits. Walking sleeplessly, endlessly, through New York City’s gray early hours. There are updates, day by day, on the inception of projects such as Film Culture magazine and what would become Anthology Film Archives. (...) Given the scope of the material, one might certainly feel disoriented by the sheer magnitude of the thoughts, images, stories, correspondences. This collection is not just a survey of moments from a single life lived, but a work of dedicated portraiture of life itself.” You can order the book on the website of publisher Spector Books.
Not on a filmmaker, yet centered around one historical figure, Lumumba in the Arts engages with the iconography of independent Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Next to his representation in public space, theatre, photography, poetry, comics, music and painting, the publication includes a large part on cinema with five texts, written by, among others, filmmaker Raoul Peck and Matthias De Groof – a Belgian film scholar/filmmaker who edited this anthology and also interviewed painters Luc Tuymans and Marlene Dumas for it. Here, you can listen to a long radio interview with De Groof (in Dutch). Released last January, you can find the table of contents and order the book on the website of publisher Leuven University Press.
On March 17, Brian De Palma has published his debut novel Are Snakes Necessary? written together with his partner, Susan Lehman, a former editor for The New York Times. Inspired by John Edwards’ 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, it tells a female revenge story about a senator having an affair with a young staffer. First published in French as Les serpents sont-ils nécessaires? (Éditions Rivages, 2018), this crime novel bears plenty of De Palma hallmarks and movies are baked into it – the title refers to a book Henry Fonda is seen reading in The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941). You can open a sample chapter and order De Palma's first work of literary fiction on the website of publisher Hard Case Crime. On Sabzian, you can read two original texts (in Dutch) on De Palma’s Mission: Impossible and Blow Out.
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To conclude, two new film magazines have taken form. Mid-February, the Belgian website Photogénie has rolled out the first of their new bimonthly online issues, conceived as collections of texts curated by former participants in the Young Critics Workshop (YCW) at Film Fest Gent – an initiative started in 2014 that’s being led by Nick Pinkerton since the past four years. Photogénie #1, titled ‘The Eye of Time’, is dedicated to “long” films and has been curated by Maximilien Luc Proctor (YCW '15). Among other essays they’ve ordered, it includes texts by YCW alumni Anuj Malhotra, Michaël Van Remoortere and Irina Trocan. The latter, who’s currently curating the second issue on revolution and cinema, also edited an anthology on Romanian cinema that was published at the end of last year. Starting from the first Romanian film to count as cinematic art and getting to the present, Romanian Cinema Inside Out: Insights on Film Culture, Industry and Politics (1912-2019) is a collection of 16 English-language essays from leading Romanian film critics and academics trying to grasp Romanian film history/-ies. You can check the table of contents in the press kit (p. 91) and find more information on the website of Europalia Romania, the context in which the book was published.
The second new film journal, Non-Fiction, is scheduled to launch this Spring. A biannual print publication from Open City Documentary Festival, the magazine will provide a home for new writing on non-fiction. “The publication is created in response to a demand: the lack of (non-academic) outlets that engage seriously, or specifically, with non-fiction.” Each edition will include a variety of responses to a given theme, the first one being ‘POWER’ and containing twelve contributions, including texts by programmer Greg de Cuir Jr. and filmmaker Miko Revereza. On the website of the Open City Documentary Festival, you can read more about the aspirations and scope of the journal and see the contents of its inaugural issue, which will be available to purchase soon.
Due to the corona pandemic, a number of film magazines and journals are making some of their content available for free. Along with the other journals from University of California Press, all issues of Film Quarterly are available to read for free through June 2020. The same goes for the latest issue of Filmmaker Magazine, which includes an interview with Kelly Reichardt and Frank Beauvais on their latest films. Also through June 30, JSTOR, one of the best academic databases, has opened access to a large part of its enormous collection of e-books and journals without a login. For example, you can access the archive of back issues of Film Comment and Cinema Journal from the 1960s up to 2016.