Critics' Week — aka la Semaine de la critique, the Cannes Film Festival's emerging-filmmakers sidebar responsible for providing early international exposure to filmmakers as diverse as Guillermo del Toro, Miranda July, Wong Kar-Wai and Kevin Smith — is coming off a banner year. In 2010 it hosted the international premiere of killer-tire exploitation sensation Rubber, and with Danish Afghanistan war documentary Armadillo gave a nonfiction film a competitive slot for the first time — and watched it walk away with the grand prize.
As Critics' Week heads into its 50th installment, LACMA salutes the sidebar with a two-weekend, six-film series emblematic of its diversity.
Which is another way of saying that there's little tying these six films together aside from the fact that they all debuted at Critics' Week.
While LACMA had initially set aside the afternoon of March 19 for a rare screening of Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas' legendary, 260-minute Marxist docu-opus, The Hour of the Furnaces, that screening was canceled last week when the only available print of the film turned out to be so faded that the subtitles were nearly unreadable. The replacement, Gaspar Noe's explosive 1998 debut I Stand Alone, joins Jacques Audiard's debut Regarde les hommes tomber in representing Critics' Week's fertile early-'90s lineups.
The remainder of the series is drawn from the program's first decade: Pitfall, the 1962 debut of Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara, who went on to direct The Woman in the Dunes; Barbet Schroeder's improvised, Pink Floyd–scored More (1968); Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's defiantly minimalist Bach biography The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, from the same year; and Paul Morrissey's Trash, starring Joe Dallesandro and Holly Woodlawn and “presented” by Andy Warhol.
Unavailable domestically on DVD, the Audiard film surely will be of interest to fans of his recent, Oscar-nominated A Prophet; it's an effective slow-burning chase flick establishing the filmmaker's careerlong interest in depicting criminal life as a web of intimate relationships between men.
While many of these films are available for home viewing, resist the urge to watch the Straub-Huillet film on Netflix Instant and hold out for Saturday night's screening. Alternating between single-take musical performances (starring harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt as Bach) and static shots of sheet music set to Bach's wife's (Christiane Lang) obstinately passionless account of the mundane details of the composer's final 30 years, Chronicle splits the difference between staged concert documentary and object-lesson critique of the pumped-up emotionality of Hollywood's artist biopics. A structural ping-pong match that casts Werner Herzog's notion of “the accountant's truth” in a new light, it demands a big screen and a live audience.
ON THE EDGE: CLASSICS FROM LA SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | March 18, 19 & 25| Bing Theater at LACMA | lacma.org