As we write the Cannes film festival has just ended and triumphantly claimed itself a “return to cinema!”. 2021, which is turning out to be a lot more like 2020 than we were expecting, is certainly banging out some excellent films, but the uncertainty remains about where we will see these films – online or in a cinema – and when, depending on where one is in the world.
Senses of Cinema is committed to covering new films and recent festivals, but we also see this as an opportune moment to mine the delightful and craggy depths of cinema of the recent past and from long ago. This issue features an array of essays on specific films: David Grundy on Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama, Linda Ehrlich on Hirokazu Kore-eda’s La Vérité, David King on Mark La Rosa’s Boundless, and Cam Scott on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite. More broadly, Kasia Van Schaik examines ecological grief and anxiety in cinema, focusing on Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and Todd Haynes’ Safe, and filmmaker Rob Nilsson considers epic and ambitious cinema on a low budget.
The French Collectif Jeune Cinéma celebrates 50 years of existence this year and we feature a conversation between one of the co-founders, Raphaël Bassan, filmmaker and current administrator Théo Deliyannis, and filmmaker and member Viviane Vagh, around its formation and how it has managed to survive for so long, and still remain fresh.
This issue also features a dossier co-edited with independent producer Chris Luscri on Australian autofiction, a tradition within Australian independent filmmaking that came into its own during the ‘70s, particularly among the Sydney Women’s Film Group. The rise of personal filmmaking at this time was part of a broader political movement that resisted patriarchal and colonial discourses. Filmmakers like Margot Nash, Jeni Thornley, Gillian Leahy, all featured in the dossier’s roundtable discussion, made bold, experimental films that centred on the self and that prioritised voices, subjectivities and experiences omitted by mainstream cinema. This dossier has several aims: To celebrate key works of Australian personal filmmaking, both contemporary and historical (In This Life’s Body, Breathing Under Water, My Life without Steve, Words and Silk, Fear of the Dark, My Blessings, The Silences, Silence’s Crescendo, The Plastic House and The Shells Exploding Gently). To explore the unique circumstances in which personal filmmaking flourished in the ‘70s. To highlight present-day filmmakers working in this space (Saidin Salkic, James Vaughan, Ben Hackworth, Allison Chhorn). And to consider future directions of personal filmmaking in Australia, which suggest the tradition is alive and well.
Maja Korbecka interviews young Chinese filmmaker Han Shuai about her film Summer Blur, which premiered at the Berlinale, Andrew Northrop interviews American filmmaker Bill Morrison about his new film The Village Detective, and we feature an in-depth interview by Wheeler Winston Dixon with the late Monte Hellman.
In the Great Directors series Dan Golding offers a provocative perspective on one of the most maligned filmmakers of all time: George Lucas. Golding brings a fresh look at the life and work of the creator of the Star Wars universe, arguing that his visual and aural sci-fi landscapes have challenged our notion of what cinema and spectacle are. In our second Great Directors, Jeremy Carr meticulously delves into the career of German director Leni Riefenstahl, a highly controversial figure in film history.
We have two takes on the Oberhausen film festival – a focus on the Solidarity program by Steffanie Ling and a general overview by Shekhar Deshpande, a consideration of Korean films at this year’s Jeonju film festival by festival regular Marc Raymond, and finally a report from the momentous Cannes film festival, held just this month, by Daniel Fairfax.
Our book reviews cover Laleen Jayamann’s Poetic Cinema and the Spirit of the Gift in the Films of Pabst, Parajanov, Kubrick, and Ruiz, John Barrios’s West Side Story Redux: West Side Story: The Jets, the Sharks, and the Making of a Classic and Lalitha Gopalan’s Transforming Mediascape: Cinemas Dark and Slow in Digital India.
Enjoy the issue!