J. Hoberman’s books include Film After Film (Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?) and An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War.


Orphan of History

Victor Serge, Mexico, 1944

Unforgiving Years

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 …


The Terrorists Go Shopping

A still from Bertrand Bonello's Nocturama, 2016

A shabby-chic cadre of photogenic young Parisians coordinate a series of terrorist attacks, blowing up or setting fire to buildings and monuments throughout the city, then take refuge after nightfall in an empty department store. Nocturama, the French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello’s daring and controversial follow-up to his 2014 Yves Saint Laurent biopic, is at once timely and timeless. It sets the aftermath of two centuries of French history to a hypnotic, trancelike beat.

The Snake in the Schoolhouse

Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha, Colin Farrell as Corporal McBurney, Elle Fanning as Alicia, and others in Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled, 2017

Don Siegel’s 1971 The Beguiled, starring Clint Eastwood, is a masterpiece of misogyny. Sofia Coppola has remade it, and where Siegel’s Beguiled was an expression of male hysteria, Coppola’s version is a dark comedy of manners. In Siegel’s movie the women are vivid types; in Coppola’s they are humanized.

The End of an Artist

Bogusław Linda as Władysław Strzemiński  in Andrzej Wajda's Afterimage, 2016

Few filmmakers meant as much to his country as Andrzej Wajda did to Poland. Both a world-famous director and a national conscience, Wajda—who died last October at age ninety—was a singular artist. It is appropriate then that his final film, hauntingly titled Afterimage, would be a drama concerning the last years of another Polish artist, the abstract painter Władysław Strzemiński.

A Real American Horror Story

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris and Allison Williams as Rose in Jordan Peele's Get Out, 2017

Jordan Peele’s semi-parodic horror film Get Out is the latest instance of the remarkable and remarkably varied African-American cinema of the past few years. The film articulates the fear that the Obama presidency was smoke and mirrors, a sham and an illusion. While Peele had likely not anticipated our current situation, it would seem that his film has materialized at the very moment that curtain rose and the real America was revealed.

Gerhard Richter’s Lost Cartoons

Shortly after the Berlin Wall went up and the painter defected, or as he would say “relocated,” from Dresden to the West, Richter drew a series of images featuring a single protagonist going through an abstract landscape. Recently discovered in a 1962 notebook, these have been published by his archives in a facsimile edition titled Comic Strip—a sparely beautiful book-object that, like Krazy Kat or Little Orphan Annie, has a central character or rather an expressive motif.

Mexico: The Cauldron of Modernism

José Clemente Orozco: The Epic of American Civilization (detail), 1932–34; click to enlarge

“Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950,” now showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, presents a Mexican response to European art that, at least up until World War II, was equal to and in some regards stronger than that of North America. To a degree, the show is the story of the three star muralists, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who along with the posthumously canonized Frida Kahlo, defined the new Mexican art. But their work is situated among scores of lesser-known artists who were also responding to the decade-long Mexican revolution that broke out in 1910.