Henry Baime: After more than a year of pandemic induced lockdowns changing the moviegoing experience for all of us, having F9 in cinemas and more Marvel-fare on the way makes it feel like this month will be something of a start of the return to those long lost days of overstuffed blockbusters and stale popcorn occupying most of my free nights. Normally I would say that’s my most anticipated development in the world of cinema this month but this month is even better because Steven Soderbergh, far and away my favorite living director, has a new film coming out. No Sudden Move sees him reteaming with some of his longtime collaborators including Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro (a partnership that I think should be regarded as one of the cinematic greats with del Toro’s astounding work in Che and Traffic) as well as picking up a few new notables for his stable like Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm, Julia Fox, and David Harbour. After a bit of time spent in his experimentation mode, using iPhones or improv in his last few features, the star studded escapade is a return to form, if there is such a thing for Soderbergh, in both its more standard filmmaking methods and heist centric plot. I was lucky enough to catch its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and had an absolutely glorious time. It’s the kind of work Soderbergh could probably turn out in his sleep these days but it’s also immensely entertaining and a reminder that he’s a filmmaker we tend to take for granted after so many years of generally very consistently good work.
Eugene Kang: Soderbergh films are always an event to many cinephiles, including myself. Even if I don’t end up enjoying his latest films, I certainly never regret watching them. I had a good time with his direct to streaming release Let Them All Talk that was filmed almost completely on a cruise ship. I have high hopes for No Sudden Move just from the trailer, which reminds me favorably of Out of Sight and your enthusiasm for it.
Many blockbuster films were victims of the pandemic, but the one film that I regret the most for its delay is David Lowery‘s The Green Knight. The trailer makes it seem like a highly figurative yet also intensely weird and stylish take on perhaps one of the strangest Arthurian legends. I have enjoyed all of David Lowery’s work, even Pete’s Dragon, which alienated a number of audiences with its quiet yet wondrous tone. Here, it seems that Lowery has gotten carte blanche both creativity and budget-wise, and I am ready to soak it all in. Also, I think Dev Patel is one of the most unlikely but also most compelling leads. He has a childlike openness that was apparent even from a movie as early as Slumdog Millionaire, but he also has a gravitas that holds the audience’s attention in movies like Lion and The Personal History of David Copperfield. I will be interested to see how his persona develops with Lowery directing him.
Henry: I’ve been consistently impressed by Patel’s work so he’s definitely the most exciting part of this for me. Though he’s led movies before, The Green Knight seems like the type of film that could push him to gain wider recognition and juicier roles if it’s well received, and Lowery has generally pulled very solid performances from his actors so it’s hardly a stretch to think that might happen. I’m not usually a big fan of these medieval sorts of movies but I think that sort of tone you described could certainly work in such a setting.
Rounding out the new releases we’re discussing this month is Nine Days. Edson Oda‘s feature directorial debut, which I saw earlier in the year, makes a sort of interesting pairing with last year’s Pixar release Soul. With an impressive cast including Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgard, and Tony Hale, it follows a man tasked with interviewing unborn souls and determining which of them should have the chance to be born. I find it quite interesting that this state before life where we all began has been examined more frequently recently in cinema, and this is certainly the more thought provoking of the recent entries into this emerging sub genre.
Eugene: It’s definitely the afterlife that tends to get explored more in cinema. Kore-eda‘s After Life comes to mind quite strongly when I saw this trailer because of the interview process that both of these films have in common. For After Life, it was about finding the most precious memory that a soul would want to live with for the rest of his or her life, whereas for this film it’s a much more obviously affirming process in that a soul must prepare for a life of intense sensation and inevitable pain mixed with pleasure, which is definitely an interesting angle and challenges ideas about karma and reincarnation that permeate many cultures. Edson Oda is a new director to me and to many people, but just a quick look at his short films and commercial work shows an assured hand, so I would definitely be willing to give it a try.
Looking to the releases on physical media, we are getting one of Tarkovsky‘s most elusive and challenging films in Mirror, which is being released by the Criterion Collection. Calling Mirror the most elusive and challenging work is no trivial statement for Tarkovsky, one of the most famous and highly regarded practitioners of “slow cinema”. In Mirror at least, I see some interesting similarities with Chantal Akerman‘s personal work such as News from Home in the use of archival or non-narrative footage to create a collage-like effect. Mirror is quite different from his other films, which tend to be more narrative-driven even if that narrative is hard to engage with sometimes, often from the sheer length of his films and the deliberateness of his compositions. I remember as a younger cinephile I found Tarkovsky baffling and opaque and it wasn’t until Nostalghia that things started to click for me, and I started revisiting his work with a new understanding and gusto. Mirror is one I have yet to revisit though, and it’s not one I’m aching to go back to, but this new release might convince me to give it another shot.
Henry: Mirror is one I only recently got around to at the beginning of this year when I finished up watching the Tarkovsky films I hadn’t seen yet, so I think it definitely helped a lot towards appreciating it having that sort of understanding of his style that came with putting it off towards the end of his filmography. Still, even with his lengthy movies being fairly daunting, I think Mirror might be his most opaque, essentially eschewing narrative so he could fully lean into the experimentation with color and time that pervade his works. Though it came out right in the middle of his career, it feels like the sort of thing that all his work was building up to and almost destined to remain more or less unexplained. I’m not sure I would revisit it soon either but I definitely think there’s a lot more to unlock through further viewings down the road.
Also this month in restorations, we’ve got La Piscine. Though I’ve been on something of an Alain Delon kick these last few months, watching his collaborations with Visconti, Antonioni, and Melville, among others, I haven’t managed to see this one yet. Still, the film might be the most pivotal in the Delon mythos as its filming coincided with the Markovic affair, an incident involving the death of Delon’s bodyguard Stevan Markovic (at Delon’s hands according to some) that eventually stretched into a sex scandal involving French president Georges Pompidou (who also may have ordered the murder). The film itself is described as a drama of sexual jealousy and possessiveness so I imagine it must’ve gained some fuel from the lives of the people involved in its production. Though I’m looking forward to finally watching the film, it’s truthfully the prospect of any commentary about the still unsolved murders that intrigues me the most.
Eugene: This would be one of several films that Delon and Jacques Deray would collaborate on. I have not seen any films by Deray yet, though I’ve seen a few Delon films. I have to be honest, I have mixed feelings about Delon, not for his acting ability or presence, which are considerable, but because of his racism, misogyny and homophobia. I don’t deny the impact that Delon has had on all of cinema and how many artists admire his work. For Delon, I can separate the artist from the art somewhat, and Le Samourai still remains one of my favorite movies ever. Also, I love the genre of rich people lounging about and getting up to no good. You get the best of both worlds in that you can see beautiful people in untold luxury while also be able to look down on them for the venal behavior that they get up to. Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash intrigues me too, and I feel Guadagnino brought this aesthetic to Call Me By Your Name as well, and that perhaps Deray’s films are one of the biggest influences on his own work.