GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (Chris Marker, 1977)

A massive journalistic essay on the post-colonial failures of Leftist radicalism and revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, Le fond de l’air est rouge (literally, The Base of the Air Is Red), by Chris Marker, a Leftist, marshals a wide range of archival materials, including newsreel excerpts and interviews. The titles of its two parts, […]


“Order reigns but does not govern.”      Perhaps inadvertently, but nonetheless a virtual companion-piece to Chris Marker’s Grin Without a Cat (1977), future suicide Guy Debord’s In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni is a documentary on the state of things in France, socioeconomically, culturally, politically. Debord provides caustic commentary throughout a series of stills and […]

HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-89; 1998)

“The image/ will come/ in time.”      Nothing could be further from a PBS documentary about the history of the movies than Jean-Luc Godard’s eight-hour Histoire(s) du cinéma. It is, after all, a work by Jean-Luc Godard. It is playful, penetrating, Brechtian.      It’s a collage—a trebled, quadrupled kaleidoscope—of sounds, voices, and images drawn from film, literature, […]

LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini, 1959)

It seems hard to recall, even harder to digest, that Italy’s Federico Fellini was once nearly as highly regarded as Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami is today. For me, Fellini’s importance lies foremost in his early contribution to the scripts for such irreplaceable Roberto Rossellini films as Rome, Open City (1945), Paisà (1946) and, above all, Rossellini’s […]