A couple of quick takes

Item 1: Les Amants Reguliers opens in New York City.
Unfortunately, for reasons known only to the arts section editors, the New York Times doesn't review it today. I assume the problem is space, since the film was originally reviewed at last year's NY Film Festival and they could always re-run that review. (I just checked and Manohla Dargis has it as a "critic's pick," and rightly so.)

Regardless, hustle your butt down to the Cinema Village and see it. Well worth the three hours running time.

Item 2: Lynne Sachs at Anthology Film Archives.
What follows is what I wrote about this weekend's program for Jewish Week; it's not on the website, so I reproduce it here for those of you not wise enough to subscribe.


The documentary can trace its history back to the very beginning of cinema and in its more than a century of existence has taken many forms. In the past 25 years there has been a very fruitful intersection between documentary and the diary film favored by many experimental filmmakers. Although Ross McElwee is probably the best-known practitioner of this hybrid, he’s far from the only director working this field. Lynne Sachs, whose recent works are on display at Anthology Film Archives January 26-28, is one of the most capable of these filmmakers, although even less of a household name than McElwee.

Sachs’s name may be familiar to Jewish Week readers. The DVD containing her “A Biography of Lilith” was reviewed here a couple of years ago and her most recent film, “States of UnBelonging” was one of the most overlooked films of 2006. That film, a powerful rumination on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the final film in the Anthology series.

Ravital Ohayon was a promising young filmmaker and mother of two, living in a kibbutz on the border of the West Bank. One night a single terrorist came into her home and, while her husband listened in horror on the other end of the phone, shot all three. That incident is the jumping-off point for “States of UnBelonging,” an unconventional meditation on terror, family, Israel’s security barrier and the Middle East. Structured as a dialogue between Sachs (in Brooklyn) and Nir Zats, an Israeli filmmaker and former student of hers, this haunting hour-long film traces the aftermath of Ohayon’s death, the reactions of her husband, brother and mother, and the developments in Israeli politics in the three years since.

“It’s a film about being caught in the vortex of war,” Sachs said last fall. “It’s my fourth film about the connection between war and the creative process. I didn’t intend to make four of these but it happens.” Unfortunately, war happens, so the subject keeps coming back. But creation happens too and, as Sachs notes, “States” is also about “what is it to be a mother and an artist and a teacher.” The result is surprisingly beautiful, like the embattled countryside it depicts.

Not surprisingly, the title of the Anthology series, “I Am Not a War Photographer,” addresses Sachs’s ambivalence quite directly. The other films in the series take us to contemporary Vietnam and revisit the anti-war movement and offer a grim look at the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Perhaps the most interesting work in the program is a series of short studies for Sachs’s next major project, retelling the story of her Hungarian cousin, Sandor Lenard, who survived the Second World War, served as an anthropologist with the US Army’s Graves Registry unit and finally fled to the jungles of Brazil.

War, creativity, beauty — it’s a depressingly frequent concatenation, but Sachs makes it sing without glorifying death, and that is what makes her films so compelling.

“I Am Not a War Photographer: Films of Lynne Sachs” will be presented at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue at 2nd St.) Friday, January 26 – Sunday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. Sachs will present all three nights to introduce and discuss the films. For information, phone 212-505-5181 or go to www.anthologyfilmarchives.org .

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