Erika Balsom on the shifting landscape of women’s film criticism and the battles that remain ahead.
Roma, Roma, Roma
Claire Denis at her Most Tender
Julie Dash’s Televisual Legacy
Free Solo, Transit, Never Look Away
Festivals: Berlinale and Sundance
Reading Mira Nair
FQ’s new books editor Carla Marcantonio reflects upon her experience serving as Netflix’s official translator for Yalitza Aparicio, the Indigenous Mexican woman who plays the housekeeper in director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Marcantonio explores themes that emerged over the course of the film’s promotional campaign, ranging from the expected (the film’s social impact and depiction of a makeshift matriarchy) to those less discussed, such as the film’s significant political context and critique of patriarchy, masculinity, and violence. In closing, she offers a counter-argument to the interpretation that Cuarón denies Cleo her agency by limiting her spoken lines, arguing that Cuarón’s masterful use of cinematic language allows Cleo’s voice to come through loud and clear.
FQ Columnist Amelie Hastie offers a unique and personal meditation on cinema’s affective qualities, particularly the sentiment of love. She traces Cuarón’s exploration of cinema’s fundamental humanism back to Jean Renoir and continues through the Italian Neo-Realists, particularly Vittorio de Sica. She discusses Cuarón’s intellectual formation as a student of cinema, and finds a consistent emphasis on women’s experiences throughout his films. Introducing Cuarón’s description of Roma as an “inquiry” into the relation between “foreground” and “background,” she delves into scenes where character and social environment converge.
Paramount was so nervous about the on-location production of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1956) that dailies filmed in the South of France were flown first to London for processing at the Technicolor lab and then to Los Angeles. After executives had reviewed the footage, a cable was dispatched back to France: Hitchcock’s shallow-focus closeups were playing to the weaknesses, rather than the strengths, of the studio’s new and expensive wide-screen format, VistaVision. It fell to the local production manager, C. O. “Doc” Erickson, to mediate the request for wider shots and sharper focus, which would also allow the camera to take in more of what they were all there for: the sunlit French Riviera.
Film Quarterly can hopefully, with your help, contribute to the imperative to provoke, build, and revitalize the field of film and media studies beyond the acceptable and parochial, to push it to aim higher and think more creatively. Surely this is a time that demands not retreat, but the imagination to push forward and unsettle old assumptions. Where are the films and television and web series that can do that? FQ will keep looking, stay on the prowl, keep alert, and continue to bring reports and salutations, analyses and revelations, back to its readers.
Sergio de la Mora reviews Roma’s reception in Mexico and reflects upon the film’s intimate relationship with the nation’s political history. Situating Roma with the broader trend in Latin American cinema for films that explore servant-employer relations, he examines how Roma visualizes the ways in which Indigenous domestic and intimate labor has been historically racialized and gendered in Mexico. He discusses the controversy surrounding Cleo’s voice and agency in the film along with the aesthetic debates prompted by Cuarón’s decision to film in black and white.
Chris Cagle on Kanopy and the uneven nature of the streaming landscape today.
To accompany the two week revival playing at New York’s Quad Cinema (Wild Things: The Ferocious Films of Nelly Kaplan, April 12-25, 2019), Film Quarterly contributing editor Joan Dupont filmed a short interview with the Argentine emigré director Nelly Kaplan. Video recorded and edited by Manuel David.
Meheli Sen, Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, Monika Mehta, and Anupama Kapse on the Netflix Bollywood anthology film Lust Stories.