Friday, December 30, 2011

And a Happy New Year! At Least 100 Reasons to Be Happy

Jewish Week has my interview with Michel Hazanavicius up on the website. I very much liked The Artist, especially if you put it in the context of his first two features, the OSS 117 reboots. If those were odes to dumb humor that isn't very funny, The Artist is a warm, humane and sweet-tempered blend of comedy and melodrama that reminded me more of Leo McCarey than Hazanavicius's beloved Billy Wilder. (Although one could argue that the late Wilder films fit that description quite well.) I'm not saying it will make my ten-best list; in fact, I can almost guarantee it won't. But sometimes you see a film and it just has "Honorable Mention" status written all over it. The Artist feels like that to me, and that's an entirely -- no pun intended, for once -- honorable thing.

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So the year is almost over, I'm already steaming ahead through the films from next year's New York Jewish Film Festival (and a promising lot they are). But the members of the New York Independent Film Critics Circle (better known as "the Ira voters") are busily compiling their 100-best lists, which I will be tabulating on New Year's Day or thereabouts. My list has been pretty much complete for many weeks. So in honor of the impending change of calendar, here it is for your perusal and amusement. (Listing is alphabetical. If you count them and find more than 100 films, let me know.)

An Autumn Afternoon -- Yasujiro Ozu

Advise and Consent -- Otto Preminger

Affair to Remember, An -- Leo McCarey

Aguirre, the Wrath of God -- Werner Herzog

Anatomy of a Murder -- Otto Preminger

Andrei Rublev -- Andrei Tarkovsky

Ballet -- Frederick Wiseman

Bend of the River -- Anthony Mann

Big Heat, The -- Fritz Lang

Big Red One, The (restored version) -- Samuel Fuller

Bigger Than Life -- Nicholas Ray

Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, The -- Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Blue -- Kzrstyof Kieslowski

Caro Diario -- Nanni Moretti

Casablanca -- Michael Curtiz

Celine and Julie Go Boating -- Jacques Rivette

Chimes at Midnight -- Orson Welles

Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, The -- Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet

Cluny Brown -- Ernst Lubitsch

Contempt -- Jean-Luc Godard

Crime of M. Lange, The -- Jean Renoir

Day of Wrath -- Carl Dreyer

Detour -- Edgar G. Ulmer

Diary of a Country Priest -- Robert Bresson

Elena et les hommes -- Jean Renoir

Empress Yang Kwei Fei, The -- Kenji Mizoguchi

Floating Weeds -- Yasujiro Ozu

Flowers of St. Francis, The – Roberto Rossellini

Force of Evil – Abraham Polonsky

French Can-Can -- Jean Renoir

Great Dictator, The -- Charles Chaplin

Gun Crazy -- Joseph H. Lewis

Home from the Hill -- Vincente Minnelli

I Know Where I'm Going -- Michael Powell

Imitation of Life -- Douglas Sirk

It's a Wonderful Life -- Frank Capra

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles -- Chantal Akerman

Kings of the Road -- Wim Wenders

Kippur -- Amos Gitai

Kiss Me Deadly -- Robert Aldrich

Lancelot du Lac -- Robert Bresson

Le Samourai -- Jean-Pierre Melville

Leopard, The -- Luchino Visconti

Letter from an Unknown Woman -- Max Ophuls

Madame de . . . -- Max Ophuls

Magnificent Ambersons, The -- Orson Welles

Man Who Loved Women, The -- Blake Edwards

Man with a Movie Camera -- Dziga Vertov

Marnie -- Alfred Hitchcock

Mattei Affair, The -- Francesco Rosi

Memory of Justice, The -- Marcel Ophuls

Messiah, The – Roberto Rossellini

Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The -- Preston Sturges

Moses und Aron -- Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet

Mother and the Whore, The – Jean Eustache

My Darling Clementine -- John Ford

Naked Spur, The -- Anthony Mann

Near Death -- Frederick Wiseman

Night of the Hunter -- Charles Laughton

Numero Deux -- Jean-Luc Godard

Once Upon a Time In the West -- Sergio Leone

Ordet -- Carl Dreyer

Pandora's Box -- G.W. Pabst

Peeping Tom -- Michael Powell

Phantom of Liberty, The -- Luis Bunuel

Philadelphia Story, The -- George Cukor

Play Dirty -- Andre DeToth

Playtime -- Jacques Tati

Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The -- Billy Wilder

Providence -- Alain Resnais

Ride Lonesome -- Budd Boetticher

Ride the High Country – Sam Peckinpah

Rio Bravo -- Howard Hawks

Salvatore Giuiliano -- Francesco Rosi

Sans Soleil -- Chris Marker

Satantango – Bela Tarr

Scarface – Howard Hawks

Scarlet Empress, The -- Josef von Sternberg

Searchers, The -- John Ford

Senso -- Luchino Visconti

Shanghai Gesture, The -- Josef von Sternberg

Sherlock, Jr. -- Buster Keaton

Shoah -- Claude Lanzmann

Shock Corridor -- Samuel Fuller

Shop Around the Corner, The -- Ernst Lubitsch

Sunrise -- F.W. Murnau

The Lady Eve -- Preston Sturges

The Servant -- Joseph Losey

The Wedding March -- Erich von Stroheim

Travels with My Aunt -- George Cukor

Truck, The -- Marguerite Duras

True-Heart Susie -- D.W. Griffith

Utamaro and His Five Women -- Kenji Mizoguchi

Vertigo -- Alfred Hitchcock

Viaggio in Italia -- Roberto Rossellini

Viridiana -- Luis Bunuel

While the City Sleeps -- Fritz Lang

White Heat -- Raoul Walsh

Wild Bunch, The – Sam Peckinpah

Young Mr. Lincoln -- John Ford


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Slightly Bizarre Xmas Gift from Kino Lorber

So a very charming FedEx deliverywoman came to my door this morning -- late enough that I was comparatively speaking awake -- and handed me a large package from Kino Lorber, always an exciting prospect. I opened it and was amused to find four films by the French erotic horror maven Jean Rollin, a reissue of the 1979 documentary Swastika and, to my great delight, the DVD of JLG's Filme Socialisme. When the Godard played the NY Film Festival last year, I was, like most of my colleagues, sort of stumped by the "navaho subtitles," as he called them. My aural French isn't good enough to follow much of the untranslated dialogue and the passages in German (among other languages) left me completely bewildered. (My German vocabulary was acquired from WWII movies and Fassbinder films, so I can say useful things like "Don't shoot" and "Filthy little whore.")

Given the enormous controversy over Godard's attitude to Jews, I decided to tread lightly in writing about the film. But here comes the good part: the new DVD release has both Godard's original, all-but-useless subtitles and a complete English translation as well. I don't know it that will put an end to my ambivalence, but it can't hurt.

Of course, I won't get to the film until I've made a thorough study of the Rollins. Gotta keep your priorities straight.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Everything That Degrades Culture . . . .

Interesting, disturbing item in today's Independent of London about two Parisian art cinemas that are "on strike" for Christmas in protest against the overwhelming favoritism shown the large chain cinemas in that city. We're no longer looking at the refusal to let smaller houses book American blockbusters; one of these theaters was beat out for Kaurismaki's Le Havre. (Granted it's a French-language film -- and a very good one -- but it's Kaurismaki for crissake.) Although, as the story notes, Frédéric Mitterrand, the culture minister, once was the manager of one of the theaters in question, there isn't likely to be much help as long as Sarkozy, the vest-pocket edition of Blair and Bush, is PM.

Of course, what is needed is some variation on the Paramount consent decree, forcing the theater chains to break their cozy relationship with the distributors, but it appears to me that the relationship is more complex than it was in the US in the '30s and '40s where the chains were simply owned by the studios (an admirable piece of vertical integration if I ever saw one). It's almost unnecessary to add that the Paramount decree was whittled away in the years after it was issued until Ronald Reagan shitcanned it completely as a gesture of gratitude to the studios who had made his entire career possible. Somewhere in Hell, Jack Warner was smiling broadly, albeit briefly, that day.

It seems to this rather underinformed observer that the best approach to keeping your home-grown cinemas strong -- and I mean both producers and end-users -- is an arrangement like South Korea's, a quota system that requires a substantial percentage of the films shown theatrically to be Korean-made. South Korea has one of the most vital national cinemas in the world today, and it's not hard to see why.

However, that doesn't really address the concerns of the theater owners in the Independent article. I don't know exactly what they can do, but I don't expect them to get help from their old employee.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adding Another Dimension

It's tempting when watching Pina, Wim Wenders 3-D documentary and homage to Pina Bausch, to wonder what Wenders would have done with the format on some of his earlier excursions into non-fiction film. (The crags of Nick Ray's battered, weary face would probably translated rather well into 3-D for Lightning Over Water.) But you get what you get, and a dance film, which is what Pina is intermittently, should use space at least as satisfyingly as one on cave paintings. I say that as one who will almost certainly have Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams on his ten-best list when the Iras roll around (in late March, by the way).

And, in fact, the dance sequences in Pina are frequently among the most exhilarating moments in the film, as much for the flailing, atomic energy that drove Bausch's choreography and her core of longtime collaborators, as for anything Wenders does with the format. What he brings to the party is a series of candid, charming recollections by those dancers, all of whom speak of Bausch with real love, stuck in front of a blank, dark gray background that makes them pop out into "space" like animated figures. Taken in tandem with footage of Bausch working with her compnay, and the oddly fragmented contemporary dance footage -- Wenders seems as unwilling to give us a whole performance as Godard was in One P.M. -- the result is an inventive, quirky film that reflects its subject as much as its director. It's about two weeks since I saw Pina and to be absolutely honest, I still haven't made up my mind about it, but the fact that I've continued thinking on its merits suggests that it must be pretty good.

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One of the more pleasant resurrection acts in contemporary film criticism is the revival of Movie, the British film journal that was, for all intents and purposes, an English-language counterpart of Cahiers du Cinema, an outpost of committed auteurism in the sea of vaguely liberal-humanist dithering that was Anglophone film criticism in the '50s and early '60s. Ian Cameron, the founder, died a couple of years ago, and Robin Wood, who was one of its clearest thinkers and best writers, did likewise. But the University of Warwick has helped bring the magazine back to life as an open-source on-line publication. The latest issue of the new series is up on their website, devoted mostly to the American films of Fritz Lang, an eminently worthy topic for discussion. You can find it here. And well you should.


Friday, December 16, 2011

For Polanski, a Different Kind of Carnage

I reviewed Carnage, the new Roman Polanski film, when it opened the NY Film Festival back in September. Of course, since this blog was in limbo, you may not have known about or seen that review. But with the film finally receiving its theatrical premiere, just in time for the Oscar noms, I think it's worth including it here:

There is a tiny detail in Carnage, the new Roman Polanski film which opened this year’s New York Film Festival, something small but telling in the excellent production design by Dean Tavoularis. The film, which is almost a verbatim rendering of Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage, is a sardonic reflection on how well-intentioned and soi-disant sophisticated New Yorkers deal with the intrusion of violence on a small scale into their lives. As part of Tavoularis’s living room set, in which most of the action takes place, there is a piano with music stand, complete with assorted sheet music. On the corner of an open page of music one spies what appears to be blood spatter. As the film works through its brief 80-minute duration, we see that image again but closer and eventually it comes to resemble a cartoon splotch like something out of the kids’ cable channel Nickelodeon.

That gradual transformation is a perfect visual metaphor for the trajectory of Polanski’s film. At the outset, it seems to be a somewhat barbed satire on class relations in New York, with the upper-class Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) visiting the middle-class Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly), to put to rest a playground incident in which their son Zachary hit Ethan Longstreet with a stick, knocking out a couple of teeth, the sort of altercation between ten-year-olds that used to be settled between the kids.

Reza’s play takes the two couples through all the possible stages of negotiation, from obsequiousness through belligerence and back again, with the women pairing off against the men, the couples against one another and everyone else against Penelope (Foster), the lone holdout voice for some mushy version of enlightened progressivism. Reza ruthlessly caricatures every possible point of view from left to right until the verbiage becomes just so much point-scoring silliness. It’s a feast for four actors looking for a play that reads like the result of one improv game too many, and Winslet, Waltz and Reilly are clearly having a ball switching sides for every possible permutation.

But it is Foster who is the revelation here. Playing a demented version of her touchy-feely mom act, she gradually transmutes into a character out of a Tex Avery cartoon. You keep waiting for her head to explode, her eyes to bug out on stalks, her tongue to wrap itself around her necking while stars burst out of her nose and smoke gushes from her ears. She and Polanski manage to find the next nearest thing and the result is simply hilarious.

Therein lies the basic problem with the film, or at any rate, the play. It’s a live-action Warner Brothers Merry Melodie run amok. Polanski plays against the text’s overload by parsing the visual tracking deftly, shifting power vectors between the characters with a deadpan precision that makes the whole thing tick over like a finely honed machine. For a guy whose childhood was spent running from the Nazis, this is a cakewalk, and the threat of violence, never very serious, is given as much weight as it deserves, which is very little.

As a result, Carnage is minor Polanski, deliciously well crafted and very, very funny, but rather inconsequential, a showcase for some very clever acting turns, bracketed a smart pair of bookend scenes that take the film briefly outdoors without doing violence to its essential structure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

After a Long Hard Summer . . . .

Not dead yet, folks.

In fact, I'm adding a few new elements to my ever-expanding media empire. I'm now tweeting from @GRCommunicati13, and have become the artistic director (or whatever title you choose) of the Washington Heights Film Class. So if you want to hear me expound and expatiate in person, here's your chance. All joking aside, I think the class will be great fun for all and if you are in the NYC area, heartily recommend it. I can promise you that you will actually learn something and will see some very good films, and the price is absurdly reasonable, if you'll pardon the oxymoron.

I saw Wim Wenders's excursion into 3-D, Pina, last night, and will have more to say shortly. The film is utterly fascinating, although I haven't made up my mind on it just yet. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Playing Catch-Up (Must Have Been the All-Star Break)

It's turning out to be a splendid year for documentaries. I have several that I want to pull your coat to, most notably James Marshall's Project Nim, a splendid and, dare I say it, nimble return to the '70s for the director of Man on Wire; Errol Morris's Tabloid, a smart and funny film that makes me uneasy, much as his early work did; and a few films on which I have written at greater length in Jewish Week, Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, by Joseph Dorman, and two extraordinary works opening shortly at Film Forum that draws startling links between the history of European arts and letters and the Shoah, The Woman With Five Elephants and Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow. I've been a bit more casual -- if one can put it that way -- about recent fiction films. (Gee, I guess I missed Green Lantern, among others.) Of course, I'm just a slave to my beat, so I have seen Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish and Sarah's Key, both of which have some virtues to recommend them.

I'll return to the Marshall and Morris films in a day or so to discuss them both at greater length, but I also want to draw your attention briefly to an amusing film-on-film documentary. American Grindhouse, a giddy but not disrespectful film by Elijah Drenner, traces the history of the exploitation film from the 'state's rights' theater chains of the '30s and '40s to the drive-ins of the '50s and the midtown/downtown fleapits of my film-going adolescence. Drenner pays homage to some of the expected folks -- Larry Cohen, Joe Dante, Herschel Gordon Lewis all get their fair share of attention -- but also lets us hear from some nearly forgotten figures from Blaxploitation and skinflick heavens. The film, which played briefly in theaters in NYC, is now available on DVD from Kino/Lorber with a heaping helping of extras, including more interviews and outtakes, some of them apparently never screened before, and a bumper crop of trailers. I have to admit that I'm a sucker for documentaries about filmmaking and, although I don't think it is likely to turn up on my year-end ballot, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sitting in the Docs by the Bay

An interesting weekend for documentaries, with all three of the films I covered for Jewish Week falling into that slot. One, Crime After Crime, is exemplary and highly recommended. I chatted with the director and one of the central figure and you can read that here.

The other two, Between Two Worlds and Love Etc. are rather less thrilling, as you can read here.

I haven't had a chance to visit the new screens at Lincoln Center, but my inbox has filled rapidly with exciting goodies enjoying theatrical runs at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Given my usual gravitation towards the difficult, abstruse and downright perverse, I'm delighted to have yet another screen dedicated to independent film from around the globe. Where else could you have a theatrical run of Raul Ruiz's 257-minute Mysteries of Lisbon? I'm soooooo psyched!!!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two New Links

My review of the Dutch melodrama Bride Flight is up on the Jewish Week website here.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival kicks off at the Walter Reade on June 16. My review of one of the films in the Festival, This Is My Land . . . Hebron, is also up on the site. It's a mark of how unusual my remit is at the newspaper that these are the latest films to get the Robinson stare.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?

The fascination that American culture has with farming comes close to defying rational explanation. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against farmers, I support legislation to protect the family farm and so on. It’s just that the ideological enshrinement of the ideal of the yeoman farmer as the heart and soul of America, an idea that goes back virtually to the country’s foundation, has been a pleasant myth for literally centuries. That said, it makes for wonderful opportunities for filmmakers with a strong pictorial bent, and if the only result of the apotheosis of farm life were movies like last year’s splendid Sweetgrass, I wouldn’t complain.

The reason all this leaps to mind at the moment is the theatrical run at Anthology Film Archives of a film that reminds me of Sweetgrass, the Thai documentary/drama Agrarian Utopia. Director and cinematographer Uruphong Raksasad is a son of farmers, and he brings that nearly in-born love of the land to his film. Except, of course, that the life of a small farmer in Thailand is even more parlous than it is in the United States. At the film’s outset, his protagonist Prayad is basically living like a homeless person in one of Thailand’s cities; land is so dear and so hard to acquire that he and another family merge their poverty to get through a season of rice farming by sharing one meager plot. The neighbors, who aren’t much better off, are as helpful and friendly as one can imagine, but there is very little they can do. By the time the film has ended, Prayad and his family are once more dispossessed, returning to the city where they hear the competing claims of the major political parties with grim dismay.

Raksasad is showing us subsistence farming at a level so low-tech that it probably isn’t too different from what the first agrarian communities must have been like when human began to shift out of the hunter-gatherer mode. The key difference is that in a globalized economy and a world of banks and loans, small-holders like Prayad have little chance. As he says at the outset of the film, “I’ve borrowed too much and have no way out.” And when his latest venture ends in failure, his only options are working for an eccentric neighbor with some interestingly progressive ideas about sustainability (that utterly baffle Prayad) or the city.

Raksasad shows us all of this with an eye for pastoral beauty that does, in fact, remind me of Sweetgrass, and a quiet, almost uninflected style that flows like the weather over the land. Agrarian Utopia is beautiful to look at, a highly intelligent piece of filmmaking, but devastating to contemplate, a bleak picture of what will happen to the emerging nations in the immediate future.

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Elsewhere in the world, someone is laughing. And that’s a good thing, I think. At any rate, it gives stand-up comics something to do, and you know they’d make lousy farmers. Okay, that isn’t the usual choice of career path facing them, but for some people, the idea of doing stand-up comedy is in itself rather alien, as one learns from Just Like Us, a new documentary that played Tribeca last year and is finally receiving it’s theatrical release in NYC. Last year I wrote about the film:

[Joan] Rivers might not entirely recognize Ahmed Ahmed as one of her professional offspring. He’s an Egyptian-American comic and, now, a filmmaker whose first feature is a documentary Just Like Us, which chronicles a comedy tour of the Middle East he led about a year ago. He put together a multicultural roster of comedians, including both men and women from a bewildering array of ethnicities, for what would be the first comedy tour of the region and, in several of the countries included, a first-ever evening of stand-up comedy.

“Nobody has a concept of stand-up comedy in these countries,” he says early in the film. But all their cultures have humor in abundance.

And ground rules. Although surprisingly few topics prove to be out-of-bounds, especially in Beirut, where the rules are definitely not in play, for Dubai and Riyadh the performers are cautioned to “treat it like a Tonight Show setting.” That warning is observed for about fifteen minutes until Anglo-Iranian comic Omid Djalili responds to a shout of “Take it off” in Dubai with what appears to be ten solid minutes of jokes about male genitals.

The comics are for the most part quite good – Ahmed and Tommy Davidson make a particularly strong impressions – but they seem as committed to the idea of using comedy to breakdown stereotypes and barriers as to working these houses for big laughs. In the course of the film, we see the first woman comic to play Dubai and the first Saudi woman comic, who appears briefly in the Riyadh sequence. The film ends with Ahmed and several other Arab and Muslim comics working a club in New York, where a different but no less powerful set of stereotypes need to be challenged. “Comedy provides a dialogue for social change,” Ahmed says bluntly.

Just Like Us is a pleasant and decidedly well-intentioned film, although it tries to do rather too many things at once, giving us a comedy concert documentary, social commentary, some lovely autobiographical passages and some amusing touristy stuff, particularly in the Cairo sequence. It is unfortunate that, for obvious reasons, Ahmed couldn’t include a Jewish comic on this trip and entirely logical that Israel wasn’t on the itinerary, since there is no shortage of stand-up comedy there, but a second excursion rectifying those omissions would be a great subject for another film.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Another Assault on Documentary Filmmakers

You have got to hand it to the judges Dubya appointed. They really do the business or, more accurately, they do it for business. The latest example is really fascinating, with US Tax Court Judge Diane Kroupa striking a blow against the First Amendment by twisting the tax code to attack documentary filmmakers as hobbyists. You can find a quick-and-dirty summary of the case here. You can help filmmaker Lee Storey by purchasing a DVD of her film, Smile 'Til It Hurts at her website. And you can add your voice to battle at the International Documentary Association's website, where they have a page about their amicus brief in the case.

And if you are a documentary filmmaker, don't make movies about proto-fascist organizations like Moral Re-Armament, 'cause there are a lot more federal judges who were appointed by Bush, and I suspect they're looking for a reason to body-slam you.

Friday, June 03, 2011

That Godard Guy Is Back . . . .

Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme played last fall’s New York Film Festival, where it sparked the usual Godardian storm of controversy, this time centering on whether the film is anti-Semitic. I didn’t think so when I saw it then, but was – and remain – reluctant to speak to the issue more directly because, as my review, which is below, said, my French isn’t good enough to be sure, and Godard chose to deliberately obfuscate matters with deliberately inadequate subtitles. I haven’t had a second chance to see the film, but until I see it again I’ll stand by what I wrote in the fall. Of course, you should go to the IFC Center and see the film and make up your own mind.

Jean-Luc Godard’s newest work Film Socialisme is something of an extended homage to Manoel de Oliveira’s 2003 effort, A Talking Picture. Both are set on cruise liners working their way through the Old World’s great cities. Each features wildly multilingual casts discoursing to one another in their own languages regardless of who they are addressing, and both films are meditations on the wreckage of the 20th century. Of course, this last subject has been Godard’s focus, even compulsion, for many years, and at 80 he is no better disposed towards the modern world than he was at, say, 60.

He’s also none too fond of his audiences, if the evidence of Film Socialisme is to be believed. On the one hand, it is the most dazzlingly beautiful film Godard has made in a long time, perhaps in his entire career, a film that utilizes every conceivable cinematic and video palette with a profusion of super-saturated colors, inky blacks, solarizations and other visual tricks. On the other, the film is a dizzying 97 minutes of seemingly disconnected events, including a long entr’acte set in a gas station owned by a couple of local French politicians who opt out of their campaign to support that of their teenage daughter. It’s the kind of Godardian garage whose denizens include a burro and a cheerful-looking llama. (Leave it to Godard to find a llama that takes direction.)

But most dismaying to almost any audience, “Film Socialisme” is a film with almost no subtitles.

By design.


Godard has created his own set of subtitles for the film, using what he calls “Navajo subtitling,” cryptic, two- and three-word titles that pick out key words — and some not so key ones at times — rather than translating the dialogue. When added to a typically mysterious Godard scenario in which a character named Goldberg may or may not be a) Jewish, b) a Nazi hiding out, c) an international financier, d) a former Stalinist agent or e) all or none of the above; a missing cache of gold, possibly stolen by the Comintern at the end of the Spanish civil war; a profusion of historians-plotters-passengers, the result is a kind of mental mayhem. My French just isn’t good enough to decipher the Goldberg subplot on a single viewing, so the most I can say is that it is of a piece with Godard’s Jew-obsession, his anti-Zionism and his deep concern with various resistances to fascism and racism.

What one takes away from Film Socialisme even without a knowledge of French, Spanish, Afrikaans, German, Russian and Hebrew — to name some of the languages on the soundtrack — is the realization that Jean-Luc Godard is still deeply in love with the powers of cinema, with Sergei Eisenstein and Manoel de Oliveira and Chris Marker and John Ford, all of whom are quoted visually, and he is still mordantly funny as a critic of the conspicuous and dangerous over-consumption that has driven the world economy since World War II.

Is it a great film? It’s sumptuous to look at and great fun, if you don’t mind the feeling that you’ve just stepped into an empty elevator shaft. Is it anti-Semitic? I don’t know. All I can say is that without a lot more French or non-Navajo subtitles, I can’t be sure.

Maybe that’s the point.

The only thing I will add to the debate on JLG and the Jews is that, as A.O. Scott notes his review in today’s New York Times, Godard does have a character say that “the Jews invented Hollywood.” Given that he has never completely renounced his love of American film, I’ll take that as a compliment, however backhand

Tribeca 3: Pride in the City

Tribeca has always been a film festival that focused on diversity and inclusion, from its beginning in 2002.  This year has been no exceptio...