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Love and Anarchy

Fantazzini quotes Brecht when he tells his hostages that it's "more of a crime to found a bank than rob one," but cries when his father berates him on the phone, calling him an idiot and not an anarchist. That's as emotional as the movie gets, although, goosed by a manic Balkan brass score, it's still sufficiently taut to work as a hostage procedural.

As the San Francisco filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky, an artist who can require decades to complete a 20-minute movie, will be making his first New York public appearances in a dozen years, it seems appropriate to beat the drum a week early.

Dorsky's films, shown silent at 18 frames per second, are straightforward presentations of images gathered in the course of his daily life. A somewhat anachronistic figure who shoots on obsolete 16mm reversal stock with a spring-wound Bolex and supports himself as a professional editor, he is not only a superbly intuitive montage-artist but a great photographer. The gorgeous images in Triste (1976-94), which is showing at both the Whitney and Walter Reade, are framed by amber emulsion patterns and ultimately become intimations of decay and disintegration.

Caricaturing caricatures: Midler and Lane in the slumming biopic Isn't She Great
photo: Takashi Seida
Caricaturing caricatures: Midler and Lane in the slumming biopic Isn't She Great

Details

Isn't She Great
Directed by Andrew Bergman
Written by Paul Rudnick, from an article by Michael Korda
A Universal Pictures release

Outlaw!
Written and directed by Enzo Monteleone, from the autobiography by Horst Fantazzini
At Film Forum
Through February 15

Films by Nathaniel Dorsky
At the Whitney Museum February 12
At the Walter Reade February 13

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Triste is a flow of rhyming shapes—occasionally jolting the viewer with a close-up of a cigarette butt or garishly orange rotisserie chicken. Variations, made in part from Triste's outtakes, focuses most consistently on the quality of light—as it defines a face, dapples a surface, slices (and is sliced by) a field of grass, or is liquefied by water. The mood is one of subdued ecstasy. The film suggests a universal photosynthesis in which humans are surrounded by and permeated with radiance.

For me, the most extraordinary of Dorsky's films is Alaya (which, like Variations, is showing only at the Walter Reade). Here, Dorsky restricts his subject to sand—close-ups of dunes shifting in the wind, intricately cascading desert patterns, Brownian motion in greenish shadows. Throughout, the filmmaker plays with scale. In some shots, the grains of sand are magnified to the size of jewellike pebbles; in others, the film grain is identical with the sand. This is a movie with a cast of billions—a meditation on the infinite that oscillates amazingly between plenitude and emptiness.

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