Film Comment Selects

Ten Skies, 2004

While James Benning’s 13 Lakes captures the materiality, self-equilibration, and memory of water, the film’s equally rigorous and abstractly hypnotic companion piece, Ten Skies illustrates the mutability, ephermerality, and transience of nature. Shot in Val Verde, California, the film consists of ten minute, stationary shots of ten isolated skyscapes set against the ambient sounds of… read more »

13 Lakes, 2004

Composed of a series of episodic, stationary long takes, each recording an uninterrupted, ten minute shot length and punctuated by an extended, interstitial black screen, James Benning’s structuralist film, 13 Lakes is a rigorous and demanding, yet hypnotic and transfixing meditation on diurnal rhythms, climatic changes, and the implications of (irreversible) man-made transformation. The opening… read more »

The Tiger’s Tail, 2006

The fable of catching a tiger by the tail only to be bitten back serves as a wry allegory for the modern day booming economy of Ireland, dubbed the Celtic tiger, in John Boorman’s The Tiger’s Tail. A contemporary retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Boorman establishes the profound social disparity created… read more »

Exterminating Angels, 2006

It’s tough to find something redeeming about Jean-Claude Brisseau’s Exterminating Angels, a conflated, borderline pornographic, and execrable projection of the female psyche as seen through the murky gaze of a successful, middle-aged filmmaker, François (Frédéric van den Driessche) whose encounter with an actress recounting her sexual fantasy during an interview triggers his own personal and… read more »

Colossal Youth, 2006

On a derelict building illuminated by the crepuscular glow of a night sky, assorted pieces of furniture and household goods are intermittently discarded from upper level windows, crashing into the razed ruins below. A woman emerges from the shadows, brandishes a small kitchen knife, and recounts her fragmented tale before disappearing, once again, into the… read more »

Persecution, 2009

The themes explored in Patrice Chéreau’s probing, tightly constructed Persecution are prefigured in the film’s disorienting (and quintessentially Chéreau) opening sequence. Scanning from one anonymous commuter to another, a panhandler makes her way through a crowded train before someone makes inopportune eye contact, and she responds by slapping her face. The episode intrigues a bystander,… read more »

Welcome to Destination China, 2003

Creating another slice-of-life pseudo-documentary chronicle of marginalized people living in impoverished slums along the banks of the Suzhou River (and in the process, deconstructs the romantic vision of Ye Lou’s ephemeral Suzhou River), Welcome to Destination China loosely centers on a madam called Jennifer and the desperate people whose meager livelihood rests on her disreputable… read more »

Shanghai Panic, 2001

Based on a banned novel by underground writer Mian Mian entitled Welcome to Panic, Andrew Cheng’s socially relevant, but technically uneven digital video pseudo-documentary follows a close-knit group of rootless, young adults (apparently played by Mian Mian and her circle of friends) in the urban jungle of Shanghai as a male friend – perhaps struggling… read more »

Accident, 2009

Part caper film and part psychological thriller, Soi Cheang’s Accident is an early highlight in this year’s Film Comment Selects program. Opening to the gruesome image of a fatal car accident scene, the film immediately recalibrates the viewer’s expectation over the notion of accident in another seemingly random traffic-related episode as an impatient driver, blocked… read more »

The World’s Greatest Sinner, 1962

Iconic character actor and inimitable personality Timothy Carey’s eccentrically flawed, indescribably lowbrow, and madly egocentric, yet indelible satire, The World’s Greatest Sinner, is a commendable exposition on opportunism, moral bankruptcy, and idolatry as a bored insurance salesman, Clarence Hilliard, re-invents himself as a youth attuned, hip-gyrating pop star in order to gain public exposure and… read more »

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