N1FR Issue 1

August 2010

Welcome to N1FR, the new online film supplement we plan to publish semi-regularly, although we’re not sure yet what semi-regularly means in this case. This edition features essays on contemporary films and filmmakers. In the future we hope to broaden coverage to include interviews, excerpts from new film books, pieces on films and filmmakers that aren’t as contemporary, and more coverage of independent and gallery-based filmmaking, two things we’d really like to find new names for. Writers interested in contributing can contact us at n1fr@nplusonemag.com. We’re grateful to the IFC for its support of this project.

—A. S. Hamrah

The current notion that 3D somehow radically changes, or will save, cinema—either by dragging it further toward some aesthetic destiny or just by bringing more asses into the theater—is the kind of apocalyptic idea that comes out of a crisis perception, as happened before during the crisis of the early 1950s, when Hollywood studios were desperate for some gimmick to lure viewers back to the box office; let’s call it Bwana Devil Syndrome. More…

What begins as an interesting documentary about how Banksy and other famous graffiti artists make their art soon turns into a semi-mockumentary that plays into people’s desire to believe the art world is too easily manipulated and therefore something they don’t have to pay attention to; that, in fact, they would be idiots to pay any attention to it at all. More…

Last February, I went to a screening of a film I love, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman. In Jeanne Dielman, a middle-class Belgian single mother and part-time prostitute (she stays at home for that, too) spends two-hundred minutes doing dull housework and then stabs one of her clients to death with scissors. It’s a long haul. More…

Good movies, or at least pleasurably bad movies, make the worthless ones even worse. They remind us that watching Kick-Ass was not inevitable, that there are other, better ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon, an afternoon that will not come again. Maybe you can get your money back but not your time, and so whatever worth Kick-Ass has is only as a memento mori. More…

The Headless Woman does fuse the schematic and the intricate. But once you’ve granted Martel her brilliantly established premise and her fastidious approach, both the crude social schema and the delicate filigree of private relationships come to seem like features of the observable, inevitable world rather than impositions by the director. More…

From the moment I wake up in the morning, I live in a world fraught with danger. Is this going to be the day that some disgruntled reader mails me a toxic substance? It happened once, in the 1980s—a gram of odorless dung in the kind of tiny plastic bindle dealers use for meth, with an unsigned letter reading “Have some dialectical materialism! The Kremlin dishes it out every day!” More…

Somehow, the sentence “I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the 1980s” sounds depressing. In truth, growing up there was excruciating. The economy in my town was centered on education. That is not a bad thing in itself, but it bred a smugness which rendered my childhood a minimalist dystopia in which pop culture had to be consumed surreptitiously. More…

America is a country of overgrown boys, stunted and warped, who, left to their own devices, are fit to do little more than play video games, stare at pornography, and crack jokes about genitals, flatulence, and defecation. The country’s womenfolk match men’s obnoxious behavior with a reflexive shrewishness. They are ever vexed by anxiety about their diminishing horizons and fading looks. More…

Pedro Costa’s films are meant to be letters. For Costa, letters act as metaphors, ways of addressing the possibilities of cinema. In a speech at the Tokyo Film School in 2004, he told his audience that making a good film is like writing a love letter in a bank: “Few people are going to see this love letter in a bank, and still fewer are going to write a love letter in a bank. . . . Your work is to continue trying to write love letters, and not checks.” More…

The surrealists André Breton and Paul Éluard used to enter movie theaters at random and stay only a little while, until the plot became clear to them and the films’ images were drained of their power. In the Cineplex you can do the same thing all in one building. I did that one day this summer. What I saw was not excerpts from ten different movies, but one movie made up of ten interchangeable parts—the imperial power of Hollywood, still alive and well, surviving postmodern fragmentation and resisting détournement. More…

Image: “Ticket Box Office, Brooklyn,” Kelly Blair, August 2010.