by Victor Serge, translated from the French and with an introduction by Richard Greeman
Singular and solitary, the novelist Victor Serge (1890–1947) appears as an orphan of history, a chance survivor improbably clinging to the coffin of the Bolshevik Revolution. The main characters of Unforgiving Years, Serge’s final novel, written in Mexico, the place of his own final exile, are his fictional brothers—disillusioned Soviet …
Bruce Conner’s enormously influential follow-up to A Movie, Cosmic Ray (1962) was the original underground blockbuster—a frantic found-footage-plus-gyrating-naked-woman montage set to Ray Charles’s ecstatic What’d I Say. Establishing Conner as the poet of sexual frenzy, the film anticipated the MTV aesthetic and, since it was first shown as a multi-screen projection piece installation at San Francisco’s Batman Gallery, also anticipated the cinema installations that are now commonplace if not ubiquitous. Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) are exemplary instances of Cosmic Ray’s descendants.
Kaili Blues is both the most elusive and the most memorable new film that I’ve seen in quite some time—“elusive” and “memorable” being central to Bi Gan’s ambitions. As much as it is about anything, Kaili Blues is about a place.
Perhaps for Freud, Coney Island was America—a realm where fantasy was made material and the pleasure principle ruled. So it is with the bountiful exhibition “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” at the Brooklyn Museum through March 13.
The Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw is an esoteric populist who doesn’t only make art but, since he began exhibiting found “thrift store paintings” in 1991, has created his own tradition, an American vernacular surrealism that might be termed “crackpot gothic.”
Like many post-9/11 films, The Walk is, in part, experiential, partaking in the simulated “new real-ness” which with cinema, as an institution, has responded to the loss of authenticity brought about by relentless digitalization. Petit’s actual walk was approximately three times as long as the filmed sequence but the difference is that, through the magic of digital cinema, Zemeckis is able to place the audience with Petit, on “an island floating in mid-air on the edge of the void.”
In their way, The Wolfpack and The Tribe represent the classic Lumière/Méliès dichotomy—do motion pictures reflect or construct reality? The opposition has existed since the medium was invented. But here there is a twist. The Wolfpack is a documentary that delights the viewer with proliferating fictions. The Tribe, more brutal, is an invented story founded on a discomfiting bedrock of documentary truth.
A pundit’s delight, this three-week series of footnotes to the grand spectacle of an American presidential election opens with the quintessential Kennedy-era film, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), continues through the key movie of the 1976 campaign (All the Presidents Men), and ends with the 2002 Bush family documentary Horns and Halos.