Jonathan Demme’s death has moved the film world. Jonathan Demme was a founding member of a cinematic generation. He started out with Roger Corman, then left Hollywood to go back East and hung his shingle in New York city at the exact moment when the independent film movement began. Never an intellectual or theorist of his own work, he could be scorned as cinema-lite, yet the eulogies piling up reveal how universally beloved he was. FQ has always paid attention to Demme. Here are two articles from the FQ archives to mark his passing.
Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans are true pioneers and godfathers of American Independent Cinema. The New York Times’ critic Janet Maslin called their film Hollywood Shuffle “exuberant satire,” and accurately noted its “reality-minded humor.” That’s a remarkable achievement considering that the film is remembered not only for its breakthrough critique of the entertainment industry’s stereotyping of African Americans, but also for its free-wheeling sketch comedy structure that feels fresh and original while also bringing to mind The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, 1947), the films of Preston Sturges, and the early work of Woody Allen. The film was made in twelve days over the course of two years for $100,000, much of it put on credit cards. It grossed $5 million in its initial release and was honored at the 1987 Deauville Festival and again in 1988 at the Spirit Awards. It is as funny a work as it is serious, and as serious as it is funny.
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
FQ Editor-in-Chief B. Ruby Rich’s quarterly roundup of the issue: Fall 2016, Volume 70, Number 1. The issue pays homage to Chantal Akerman with a special dossier co-edited with Ivone Margulies. Rich also weighs in on being female onscreen and online, and the origins of Girlpower. She charts a course for readers through this special issue that also includes the first English translations of some of Akerman’s work, Laura Mulvey on the Jeanne Dielman universe, an in-depth feature article on Mati Diop’s documentary MILLE SOLEILS, columns by Paul Julian Smith and Amelie Hastie, festival coverage, and more.
Laura Horak’s first monograph, Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908–1934, is refreshing and invigorating. In a moment when pop culture is ablaze with stories of the “novelty” of transgender and gender nonconforming people, FQ Associate editor Regina Longo was delighted to sink into a thoroughly researched book on this subject that was ten years in the making. Read the column and then download the free chapter of the book offered here for FQ readers.
To judge by the critical enthusiasm with which the second season of Amazon Prime’s Transparent (2014–) series has been embraced, Jill Soloway not only has a big trans-affirmative hit on her hands but has succeeded in stimulating a lively conversation about queerness, trans politics, and television representation within the broader society.
FQ Editor-in-Chief B. Ruby Rich’s roundup of the Summer 2016 issue: Volume 69, Number 4. Rich recalls the early years of university-level film history courses, assesses the barrage of industry news that lands on her desk daily, and pays homage to Richard Dyer, who was honored by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies at their annual conference. Dyer’s first published monograph, GAYS AND FILM (1977), came into the world in a vacuum. There was simply no such field. Today, it is difficult to comprehend the force of imagination and courage required to launch such a career at such a time. Forty years ago, a grand ballroom would not have filled with people and applause for a gay scholar; today, it was unremarkable that one did.
Columnist Amelie Hastie reflects on the fairy tale that inspired the film, and the actress who embodied the role of Maleficent. As the narrator tells us, the worlds are united “not by a hero or a villain” as was predicted, but by “one who was both hero and villain.” Such complex and intertwined dualities define this film, just as they also define the film’s genre. In his study of the fantastic, Tzvetan Todorov claims one of its elements as the “duration of uncertainty.” As he writes, “In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know . . ., there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either [s]he is the victim of the illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination . . . or else the event has indeed taken place.” He reiterates later: “Either total faith or total incredulity would lead us beyond the fantastic: it is hesitation which sustains its life.”
Filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter weighs in on shifting terrains in the industry. The so-called “crisis” in Europe and North America is a euphemism, peddled by those who have lost nothing in the past few years, to soften the unacceptable shock of the new social-economic order. Among other victims, the culture of the artisanal gesture—authentic, free, and as old as our civilization—has been damaged as never before. Miraculously, in the world of wine, there is a group uniting rich and poor, Left and Right (though mostly Left and middle class) that has resisted with astonishing success. For years, I’ve wondered if my filmmaking colleagues would follow their lead. So I feel deeply relieved and excited to see that a growing number of my fellow filmmakers, consciously and unconsciously, are starting to follow the winemakers’ resistance to a cynical, corrupt, and wholly outdated system of production, distribution, and marketing with their own refusal of cinema’s systems of regulation and self-censorship.
Escapism is the mode as well as the subject of Moonrise Kingdom. This is another Anderson movie with a seemingly cheery ending in which, on closer scrutiny, there is not all that much to look forward to.