Art of the Real
April 10-26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
Last year’s inaugural edition of Art of the Real set a high bar for the annual series. With a conceptual imperative similar to that of the established likes of True/False and FIDMarseilles, the Film Society of Lincoln Center series instantly staked a claim alongside its contemporaries with a wide-ranging program of progressive work of both past and present vintage, rooted in the ideals of nonfiction but with only nominal regard for its narratives tenets and formal techniques. Co-programmed by Dennis Lim and Rachel Rakes, this year’s follow-up is equally liberal in its conception of nonfiction cinematic parlance, with an even larger investment in its contemporary iterations.
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness
Directed by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell
Opens December 5 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
It would be wonderful to report that Ben Rivers and Ben Russell’s A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness achieves a new kind of synthesis of documentary, narrative and the avant-garde; unfortunately, like many films which attempt such alchemy, it’s neither fish nor fowl and winds up being rather unsatisfying. It peaks in its opening scene, a lengthy pan around a Scandinavian lake at night, rendered in a painterly palette of blue and black tones. This is the pagan spirit of nature and wilderness that Norwegian black metal often sets out to evoke. Alas, the rest of A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness never recaptures it.