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Despite the rise of “creative nonfiction” across documentary production and exhibition over the last decade—at a glance, the “sensory turn” associated with Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, the recent vogue for hybrid films, growing interest in (largely non-narrative) VR docs, the proliferation of documentary forms in the gallery, and the prominence of a number of adventuresome film festivals such as FIDMarseille, Cinéma du Réel, Doclisboa, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real—the narrative, character-driven documentary remains the most salable, at least in the North American market.
Reputations can be fickle things, but in the case of Manny Farber there is no reason to believe that posterity will ever see fit to revise his standing as one of the most original film critics that this nation has ever produced. Whether or not he deserves a similar ranking as a painter is a question that viewers can answer for themselves thanks to an exhibition of his paintings that opened last fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
With the release of Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s 2015 independent film Happy Hour—a five-hour arthouse drama about the lives and divorces of four thirty-something women that received festival awards and overwhelming critical praise—the unheralded Japanese director (with about half a dozen feature films already under his belt at that point) suddenly emerged as a significant new voice in international cinema. Premiering in Competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and adapted from a novel by Tomoka Shibasaki by Hamaguchi and Kiyoshi Kurosawa collaborator Sachiko Tanaka, his follow-up, Asako I & II, is a smaller yet no less perceptive work that is similarly preoccupied with mining existential ruminations on identity, survival, and personal growth, this time through the cinematic dissection of an idiosyncratic love triangle.
For those not in the mood for love this month, Manhattan’s Anthology Film Archives will be hosting their own twisted hearts celebration with their annual Valentine’s Day Massacre series—named after the notorious 1929 Chicago gangland murders (which Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond used three decades later as the catalyst for Some Like It Hot)—a program that elides the rosy-hued confections of the holiday for films that show the thorny side of love.
Lucky dipping is a feature of most film festivals but at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, whose program spans some 500 titles of all lengths and genres, it functions as a structuring principle.