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Tsai Ming-Liang’s Rebels of the Neon God

Tsai Ming-liang has recently written that he is “tired of cinema”—specifically, of making “the kinds of films that expect the patronage of cinema audiences.”1 Whether he will retire from filmmaking altogether is still unclear (he was going to, apparently, but then made another film), but on the evidence of his first feature Rebels of the Neon God, he has been tired of cinema from the get-go, or at least the kind of cinema that attempts to excite us with strenuously subjective “storytelling.”

J.P. Sniadecki’s The Iron Ministry

The filmmakers of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab often cite as inspiration James Agee’s description of documentary work as “the effort to perceive simply the cruel radiance of what is.” Of course there’s nothing simple about it: at their best, the SEL films (Sweetgrass, Foreign Parts, People’s Park, Leviathan, Manakamana) remind us that reality, when fully perceived, is always too much—too much to see, too much to hear, too much to bear.

In Conversation

BASIM MAGDY with Xin Zhou

Egyptian artist Basim Magdy has had a productive exhibition history and has worked in text, drawing, and installation practices. More recently, his focus has turned to the moving image, and the result is a series of Super 8 and 16mm films (all available on his Vimeo channel) that have allowed him to expand from art exhibition contexts into film festivals. One of his recent films, The Dent (2014), currently on view at the New Museum Triennial, is a multi-layered collage of a fictional nowhere, mixing the documentary footage, field recordings, and written text that come out of his nomadic travels.

To All the Pomegranates We Lost Along the Way

On yet another miserably freezing Monday evening, I searched between the identical buildings of New York’s most iconic university, NYU, to find the department that was designated to observe, study, and understand my home region—the unsolvable knot of the world—the Middle East.

Bad City Nocturne: Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

In a desolate, industrial town known only as “Bad City,” a young man, Arash, is hijacking a chubby cat from a vacant lot. He passes a few strange, iconic characters who will reappear later in the film—a young boy begging for money, and a male cross-dresser—and significant locations, like a bridge over a dry ravine, full of dead bodies. A whimsical, eerie gypsy tango plays as Arash walks through deserted dirt roads with the cat in his arms.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2015

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