As the year 2021 crept along, it became increasingly schizophrenic. Emerging from pandemic lockdowns was euphoric—until news of the redubbed Delta variant began to dash hope and cause doubt or panic. Still, theaters announced their reopenings and cinephiles flocked, some nervously, some exuberantly. The Pacific Film Archive, profiled in this issue, set September 1 as its indoor reopening date.
Writing from Paris at the moment, a stone’s throw from the Archives Nationales, I can’t help but reflect on national character and the differences that span
Over the first months of the pandemic, the internet filled with streaming playlists, Zoom masterpieces, and classic revivals. The litany of canceled or virtual film festivals had become the new normal, with everything from SXSW to Cannes to Telluride called off or moved entirely online, and then evolving into hybrids or customized drive-ins.
This editorial was written on the Fourth of July, that annual orgy of barbecues and tin-hat patriotism made worse this year by the unprecedented arrival in US cities of bomb-grade fireworks—explosives that shook the ground, sending dogs cowering and possibly softening up the urban population for a battlefield future. This appears, however, in the FQ issue emerging just prior to the 2020 US presidential election, an event destined to change the future of this country and the world and, yes, the film and TV world, in ways that are equally unpredictable, confusing, and terrifying.
Bruce Lee counseled: “Be water, my friend,” alternately translated as “Be like water.” The protests that engulfed Hong Kong in early summer drew inspiration from the great martial-arts star, as reported by columnist Nicolas Atkin. He detailed how Lee’s famous saying “has become a clarion call among the young protesters” and “inspired a new form of guerilla tactics … with protesters moving in unexpected waves, rolling from one spot to another.” At the same time, as Atkin reminded readers, Jackie Chan has become persona non grata among these same young people for his pro-Beijing politics, which have tarnished his reputation.
Interviews with Barry Jenkins, and Maren Ade
Girl Power on Screen in Girlhood, The Fits, Arrival, Into the Forest, and Certain Women
Queen Sugar in Column Debut
Cuban Retrospective at DocLisboa
RIP Juan Gabriel
Interview with Julie Dash
Latin American Cinema in Circulation
The Battle of Algiers at 50
Spike Lee’s Satire in a Time of Sorrow
Race, Gender, and Genre in Spec Ops: The Line
The Horror of Facebook Live
B Ruby Rich and João Luiz Vieira survey recent trends in contemporary Brazilian cinema.
There was a dustup last fall over an op-ed by Martin Scorsese in the New York Times and his earlier interview with Empire magazine.1 Controversy erupted after he compared the movie franchises based on Marvel comic books to theme parks, saying they weren’t cinema, that he’d never go watch them, that they are ruining cinema. Hardly surprising! With the exception of his own delightful Hugo (2011) and his tireless World Cinema Project rescues of global film history, Scorsese is known for his own brand: a cinematic realism of hard streets, hard men, and hard mob battlegrounds, always set in specific pasts (New York, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Boston) and always etching the DNA of masculinity onto the screen with unfailingly precise craftsmanship.
News flash: recently, my faith in the power of film was restored. Paradoxically, this lift of spirits was occasioned by witnessing film’s power in cultures where it cannot be taken for granted, where threats and constraints make access fraught or impossible, where public assembly is more difficult yet ever more desirable than back home in the United States. As much as I love the joys and ease of streaming, the surprise of online discoveries, and the thrill of privilege when a DVD or Blu-ray lands unbidden in the mailbox, I am still a sucker for the theatrical experience and the transformative power of people assembling, all together in a hall, to share a screen.