From the desk of Film Quarterly editor B. Ruby Rich

Cinema, like everything, has its seasons. Spring is the hopeful moment of art-house breakthroughs and smart studio releases, summer the chill time of brainless blockbusters and lightweight “beach movies,” autumn the sacred season of film festivals (at least in North America) and smart talk over the airwaves and internet

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from Film Quarterly Fall 2016, Volume 70, Number 1 B. Ruby Rich The Risks of Being Female, Onscreen Ghostbusters, as directed by Paul Feig and co-written with Katie Dippold, stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as four buddies out to save the world, or at least New York City, from a […]

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Introductory film history classes used to teach students that Busby Berkeley films were popular during the Depression years because audiences yearned for an escape from the realities of their lives. And they laughed in those screenings, considered the films dated and silly, and the audiences that flocked to them dumb, irresponsible, superficial. Today, in a similarly critical economic period, audiences plunge headlong into modern fantasies about superheroes or other worlds.

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I remember when. Today, conversations that recall an era when there were only a handful of broadcast channels, no internet, and only a few repertory houses for relief do really sound like dad or grandpa reminiscing about World War II or Vietnam: a nod to a time that seems at once tedious and unimaginable.

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“People need a screen.” With those words, author/activist Naomi Klein galvanized the room at the CBC Glenn Gould Theatre, where a daylong documentary discussion was held in September in conjunction with the Toronto International Film Festival [see “Toronto Turns Forty” in this issue]../

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Documentary has been in the grip of a shape-shifting transformation, thanks to shifts in technologies, genre, journalism, and the status of evidence and veracity. Not since the 1980s—when the invention of camcorders, VHS tape, and VCR machines, alongside the debut of cable television, fueled the last great upheaval—has the field been so explosively inventive and destabilized

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In February 2015, Anita Hill came to the University of California, Santa Cruz, to deliver a lecture, “Speaking Truth to Power: Gender and Racial Equality, 1991-2015.” She also presented a seminar, “‘An Intersectional Problem’: Gender, Race, Class, Political Standing and the Sexual Assault of Black Women.”

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If timing is everything, then the cycle of a quarterly is a frustrating one, especially for a film journal. A quarter of a year: it’s close enough to film premieres and television rollouts for the writing to be inspired, yet once into production, it’s still months away from delivery to the world.

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FQ Editor B. Ruby Rich provides an introduction to the Winter 2014 issue

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Summertime is usually an interregnum for Film Quarterly and many of its readers: a time between university terms and, with the singular exceptions of Locarno and Karlovy Vary, between film festivals as well: after Cannes, before Toronto/Telluride/Venice/New York. As this issue went to press, however, production was repeatedly interrupted by a need to attend to the news.

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At times it can seem that cinema, at least its American variant, inhabits a prolonged adolescence in which images of sex are at once omnipresent and puerile, in a “can’t look too close but can’t look away” manner. But why? Why should sex be any harder to credit in movies than murder?

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In this issue of Film Quarterly, we pay attention, as always, to film festivals—this time, with a range of voices reporting on the Rotterdam, Berlin, True/False, and Middle East Now festivals.

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Assuming the editorship of Film Quarterly at a time when nearly every element of the medium of cinema is up for reinvention is no small burden. For those of us who love cinema and live by its precepts, happily, there’s as much reason to feel exalted as daunted by the transformations underway within and outside its domain…

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I take this opportunity to offer thanks to departing guest editor David Sterritt for his many contributions to Volume 66 and his generous words on my behalf…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase film culture and its mercurial meaning at a time when the art of the moving image is going through what may be its most profoundly transformational stage ever…

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The successor editors pay fond tribute to Film Quarterly founding editor Chick Callenbach.

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Rob White discusses bureaucracy in A Separation (Asghar Farhadi), The Descendants (Alexander Payne), and This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi).

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Though it has nine main segments, one for each year recorded, The Black Power Mixtape can be described as a kind of three-act tragedy. The first phase is one of radical eloquence and increasingly bold, militant organization.

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Voices are heard in Film Socialisme but often the speaker is not seen; conversations are decontextualized to the point of absurdity. The line between epigrammatic and nonsensical is impossible to draw.

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Lee Chang-dong’s glorious new film is a major step forward for an already accomplished Korean director. Whereas his previous films are dominated by harrowing psychic and linguistic breakdowns, Poetry involves emotional restraint and a profoundly moving emphasis on eloquence.

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“Come back and we’ll be young men together again,” says Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to old Saito (Ken Watanabe), who has been trapped in a godforsaken fantasy underworld, at the end of Inception

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Aurora, the outstanding new film by the director of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, begins as the lead character, Viorel, wakes up before dawn in an apartment in Bucharest, Romania. Played brilliantly by Cristi Puiu himself, Viorel has a quiet intensity that is immediately troubling.

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At one point in Wild Grass, the protagonist Georges is typing at his desk late at night. As Mark Snow’s wistful music plays, the camera commences a slow tour of the room, encompassing a picture, a lamp, bookshelves, and an African mask on the shadowy wall. When it reaches the heavily draped window, though, we realize that time has been compressed; suddenly it is morning outside

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The Ghost Writer concludes like Chinatown: a traffic accident, curious passersby, a mood of fatalism. Private detective Jake Gittes intends to do good in Roman Polanski’s 1974 thriller– “I want the big boys that are making the payoffs”–but it all goes wrong.

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The Pedro Costa retrospective (September 25-October 4) at London’s Tate Modern was admirably curated. In addition to eight films by this brilliant Portuguese director, other works were screened to provide context, background, or food for thought

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Eric Rohmer’s films are undervalued. Certain objections recur in the sparse English-language commentary: repetitive, socially conservative, cerebral, uneventful, religiously inclined, reliant on the arcane twists and turns of well-heeled conversation, visually unimaginative.

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In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films, compulsive violence and fiendish visitations beset Tokyo. Ghosts stalk empty streets and derelict buildings. Even in Bright Future, which mostly avoids the supernatural, an executed young murderer comes back from the dead to witness the touching relationship between his father and the disturbed former flatmate whose life has unraveled since the sentence was carried out.

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On August 7, 1974, above the morning commuters, Philippe Petit stepped out on a high wire extended between the World Trade Center twin towers. The exploit brought the French acrobat huge celebrity, token rebukes, and a new life: he became Artist-in-Residence at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine in New York.

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Film Quarterly is committed to blending fluency with intellectual ambition. Therefore we publish carefully wrought pieces of an intermediate length, shorter than academic articles but longer than typical magazine coverage, aiming to appeal to specialists and nonspecialists alike.

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In the fall of 1958, fifty years ago, the inaugural issue of Film Quarterly was published, and it is fascinating to revisit those first years, when the European New Wave cinemas generated a scintillating critical energy in a pioneer magazine.

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Founding editor Ernest Callenbach looks back on the first 50 years of Film Quarterly.

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Film Quarterly covers a selection of recent films (including re-releases) in greater detail than is possible in many other publications. The balance of reasonable timeliness and in-depth analysis reflects our policy of combining the best qualities of journalism and academic writing.

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In this issue of Film Quarterly, four unusually lengthy works now available on DVD, which have a combined running time of forty hours, are reviewed. They range from poetic documentary to crime epic, but each is a work of the utmost distinction

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In addition to regular commentary on narrative cinema and documentary, Film Quarterly has a useful role to play from time to time by publishing accessible writing about avant-garde film and video. Although there are rare exceptions (such as Matthew Barney’s films), this work is mostly not screened theatrically, which is one reason for it slipping through the net of magazine coverage.

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Change is best undertaken with a plainly stated purpose in sight. The new formats that are visible in this issue are meant to enhance Film Quarterly’s appeal to people who think seriously about movies, whether they do so inside or outside the academy.

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Writing in the Spring issue, Jonathan Rosenbaum referred to a process whereby film culture, after a 1960s consensus, “splintered into academia and journalism, which often lamentably functioned as mutually indifferent or sometimes even mutually hostile institutions”

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