Cinema & Beyond
Latest Essays by Ela Bittencourt
My critical essays move fluidly between the moving image, visual arts and literature. Lyssaria now also features a regular roundup of essays that I’ve published beyond this site on these various art forms.
Review of Nuestra América, a group of Latin American artists at Galeria Luisa Strina, Artforum
Interrupted by the pandemic, this ambitious show borrows its title, “Nuestra América” (Our America), from an essay by nineteenth-century Cuban poet José Martí, who called for a uniquely South American culture, freed from a Western Eurocentric framework. The exhibition, commemorating Galeria Luisa Strina’s forty-fifth anniversary and featuring forty-one works by twenty-five artists, traces the recent history of a persistent tension in Latin American art, namely that between urgent sociopolitical critique and formal experimentation, especially in abstraction.
Review of Hong Sangsoo’s The Woman Who Ran, Sight & Sound Magazine
Genuineness, or lack of it, is quite a theme with the prolific Korean filmmaker, whose protagonists often reveal their true selves only when woefully drunk. In The Woman Who Ran, while her husband travels on business, Gam-hee is catching up with old female friends, for the first time in years. But how well do they know her? And does she know them?
Print only: The films of contemporary London by the artist, writer and director Ayo Akingbade, Sight & Sound Magazine
Just One Film: Geraldo Sarnia’s masterpiece, Sertânia–A Feverish Odyssey in the Brazilian Backlands, MUBI Notebook
Sertânia’s exquisiteness lies in the mastery with which Sarno and his co-editor, Renato Vallone, take up the idea of delirium to create a porous sense of time. Time is not only circular, but also its different, sometimes distant points play out as if happening all at once. Like a Faulknerian character, Antão lies dying amidst the shrubbery. But he is also immersed in the imagistic world of his childhood, feeding goats with his mother, or squatting in Canudos, the site of the infamous conflict, in the years 1896 – 1897, that ended with the massacre of civilian population by the Republican army.
Winds of Change at the São Paulo Biennial’s Introductory Show, Hyperallergic
It is eerie to see Oscar Niemeyer’s whitewashed monolith in Ibirapuera Park stand so empty. The building traditionally hosts the São Paulo Biennial, now postponed to September 2021, due to the pandemic. In the meantime, a number of smaller shows take place, starting with the exhibition, Vento (Wind). As curators Jacopo Crivelli Visconti and Paulo Miyada note, while they didn’t originally envision this deathly aura — the space is usually teeming with works and people — it’s proved fortuitous. It reminds visitors that Brazilian modernism’s claim to transparency, embodied in Brutalist architecture’s clean lines, obscured that movement’s entanglement with nationalist politics of its time, and the latter’s oppression of Black and Indigenous Brazilians. The exhibition’s underlying impulse is to evoke these obscured histories and reclaim what’s been repressed.
The Nostalgia of a Movie Theater’s Final Days: On Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Hyperallergic
For those familiar with the restraint of Tsai’s Stray Dogs (2013) or his latest, Days (2019), Goodbye, Dragon Inn may come as a surprise. It insouciantly proclaims itself void of plot, and yet it isn’t nearly as “slow” or humorless as that descriptor may suggest.
At New Directors/New Films, Stories About People Struggling to Heal, Hyperallergic
New Directors/New Films is one of New York’s most exciting film festivals. For nearly five decades, it has heralded new talents and trends, so it’s no surprise that a number of stellar films in the 49th edition evoke art’s power to heal.
To learn more about the International Film Festival Olhar de Cinema, which screened Sarno’s Sertânia, read the essays published directly on Lyssaria.
Archive-based films at the Olhar
Cinemas of Underdevelopment: Djibril Diop Mambéty