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Author: Steve Erickson

G.I. Joke: Jean Luc Godard’s “Les Carabiniers”

When R. Lee Ermey, who played the drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), passed away recently, he received many obituaries praising his charismatic performance as a specimen of toxic machismo whose bullying leads to one character bringing the film’s first half to a close by blowing his brains out. Not so fast, suggested writer and veteran Anthony Swofford, whose New York Times op-ed blamed Ermey and the film itself for seducing his generation into signing up for military service. François Truffaut allegedly said, “there’s no such thing as an anti-war film.” His far more politically radical French New Wave...

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Eternal Optimism: Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Infinite Football”

In Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu’s documentary Infinite Football (2018), he passes the ball to his subject Laurentiu Ginghina. While Porumboiu appears onscreen for most of his film, he generally comes across as a passive observer and shows great generosity to Ginghina. Ginghina, gets to talk far more than he does. In fact, Ginghina is not shy about expressing his ideas, which began with an injury that happened to him as a student playing football (what Americans call soccer) and almost left him unable to walk. He wanted to reinvent the game in order to make it safer. He didn’t succeed. Infinite Football shows...

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A Documentary Reality: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub’s “The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach”

No moment in the oeuvre of the late Danièle Huillet and her life and filmmaking partner Jean-Marie Straub matches the sense of ecstatic triumph of one scene in their 1968 The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, which opens in a new restoration at New York’s Quad Cinema March 2nd. Shot from a slightly tilted angle, it depicts Johann Sebastian Bach (Gustav Leonhardt) playing a clavier — a precursor to the harpsichord — in front of a torch with one hand while conducting an off-screen orchestra and turning his sheet music’s pages with the other. The scene takes place at night,...

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MoMI First Look: Tinselwood by Marie Voignier

Marie Voignier is a French director whose documentaries, International Tourism (2014), and Tinselwood (2017), reflect the situation of being a middle-class French person (her day job is teaching at a college in Lyon) and the baggage of inherited European colonialism. International Tourism registers her trip to North Korea.  While its images deliberately explore the locations covered in other nonfiction films where Westerners travel to the country and follow the official guidance of government minders, Voignier wiped the original soundtrack and re-recorded it upon returning to France. Tinselwood is a slightly more conventional doc set in Cameroon, but it reflects on the negative influence France (and Germany, China...

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Dario Argento: A Dip Into The Inferno

Part of growing up means accepting that artists are imperfect people and that worthwhile art may contain troubling attitudes and politics with which one doesn’t completely agree. Contemporary culture seems to be moving in the exact opposite direction, demanding a kind of perfection from films and filmmakers that, knowing human nature, the people making these demands can’t possibly all live up to. In this climate, it interests me that Italian director Dario Argento retains a large American cult audience. When the New York theater, the Metrograph, premiered the uncut version of his film Suspiria (1977) last July, it kept adding screenings, and...

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