All My Stars (25)

By: Joanne McNeil
June 23, 2016


One in a weekly series in which Joanne McNeil recommends books, films, exhibitions, and more. You can also subscribe to the All My Stars newsletter here.



More than a decade ago, I messaged a few dozen people on Friendster with Possession listed among their favorite films in their profiles. I had just watched the film. And I was startled by its emotion, force, and humor and had to talk about it with someone. I found myself wishing I could do that now with Cosmos after seeing it last night. I also found myself wishing I spoke French because the film is funny. Hysterically funny. And in the theater, I experienced a lag between reading the joke in subtitles and waiting for the peculiar acts and enunciations of the actors to punch the humor up.

I wrote a little about the filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski several newsletters back. Cosmos was his first film in fifteen years and unfortunately, as he passed away last year, it will be his last. The film deals with language in a way I’m still parsing. It’s a Witold Gombrowicz adaptation. There’s wordplay and absurdity and the dialogue is rhythmic. There is a Guy in Your MFA-type character writing preposterously purple sentences while (in his mind) in competition with Stendhal and Sartre. Much of it reminded me of the playful taunting and upside-down way of speaking in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or avant-guade cinema that admittedly I haven’t seen in a while like Buñuel. Sabine Azéma, playing one of the main characters, is Alain Resnais’ widow. And now I’m tempted to take the day off to watch his films and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s too.

The actor Jonathan Genet has an intense witchy look just like Isabelle Adjani, and while there is nothing like the Possession subway scene here, he is driven to the brink of madness in this performance. Zulawski discovered Genet in a “provincial theater, not even in Paris.” That interview with Mubi is great, by the way. There he talks about The Stranger as the best sci-fi story (Alien is second best) and explains: “A film is not a novel. A novel is not written to be a film. It wasn’t an act of betrayal. The only difference that matters to me than all these circumstances is that Gombrowicz didn’t like people. Even he hated them, except young guys at the port of Buenos Aires. Me, I don’t hate people at all. When you read Cosmos, you see how ugly and stupid are Mister and Madam Woytis, how heavy and uninteresting is Lena, how terrible is Witold’s roommate, always complaining about something. I can’t do that.”


Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about science fiction set in New York. More on this soon and thanks to everyone who has sent in suggestions. I forgot about The Fifth Element! Another one that came to my mind is Conceiving Ada by Lynn Hershman Leeson that I love because it is also — maybe? — the only feature film that captured mid-’90s New York’s New Media scene.



CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators