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Museum of the Moving Image: Gregory Barsamian’s “Feral Fount,” a moving sculpture whose pieces become an animation under stroboscopic lighting, is part of the permanent exhibition “Behind the Screen.” Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Why have a Museum of the Moving Image at all?” is the question that readily comes to mind before visiting the new, improved, expanded incarnation of this venerable institution in Astoria, Queens, which reopens its doors on Saturday after a $67 million face-lift that might even put Hollywood cosmeticians to shame.

Yes, the fact that the Marx Brothers’ antics and Rudolph Valentino’s gaze were committed to celluloid by Paramount Pictures in this building makes a certain claim on cinematic attention. And yes, the museum’s screenings have given it much cachet with cinéastes. And sure, the making and marketing of movies are enterprises that in their importance and engrossing details deserve the kind of full-scale treatment they get here. But that would make it a museum of cinema — a very different thing.

Why “moving image”? Why keep enlarging that subject the way the museum’s founding director, Rochelle Slovin, did in opening the institution in 1988, stirring television, video games, video artwork and digital imaging into the mix?

And with this latest expansion of the museum’s size to nearly 100,000 square feet, its doubling of classroom facilities to host 60,000 students a year, its new 68-seat screening room and 267-seat theater (which during the next six weeks of celebrations will present newly restored film classics and contemporary movies), the institution’s wide-angle view is even more fully embraced. The museum, housed in a building owned by the city, which supplied nearly $55 million of the renovation costs, also has large public ambitions for its vision.

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Edward Rothstein
New York Times

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Peering into the void: Fiennes inside Kiefer’s complex in 2008

Sophie Fiennes’ documentary on Anselm Kiefer, “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”, is released in UK cinemas this month after a showcase at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The director spent more than two years filming the artist at work in his complex at Barjac near Avignon in the south of France. Kiefer had invited Fiennes to document his final days at the immense studio-cum-installation, as he prepared to finally abandon the site before moving back to Paris. The title is borrowed from the Biblical story of Lilith, an interest of Kiefer’s, and refers to the fact that the site is now semi-derelict.

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Iain Millar
The Art newspaper


Albert C. Barnes decreed in his will that his $6 billion art collection would never be moved. After years of legal battles, it’s now scheduled to relocate in 2012. (IFC Films)

To whom does art belong — museums or the public they ostensibly serve? More interestingly: From whom should art be protected? “The Art of the Steal’’ is a fascinating, maddening documentary that addresses these issues with a mixture of clarity and agit-doc disingenuousness. The movie’s never less than entertaining, but you often feel like arguing with the screen, and not in a good way.

The subject is the Barnes Foundation, an educational art institution in the suburbs of Philadelphia that houses one of the greatest troves of paintings on the planet: 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses; Picassos and Monets and van Goghs, oh my. The Barnes holdings would be considered priceless if price weren’t very much the subtext of the current battle over where they belong. The paintings have been valued at over $6 billion. You’d better believe price matters.

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Ty Burr
Boston Globe

haskell
Molly Haskell

From a review of the book Frankly, My Dear, but Molly Haskell:

Confronting the legendary headstrong heroine Scarlett O’Hara, Haskell explores the power she exerts on the romantic and political imagination — first as a creation in Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling 1936 novel, then as a screen personification by the British actress Vivien Leigh in a Hollywood adaptation produced by the independent mogul David O. Selznick. From these multiple sources Haskell anato­mizes the iconographic Scarlett as a product of proto-feminist literature, a performer’s neuroses and the outsize ambitions of Holly­wood’s first golden age.

Almost like an apology beforehand, Haskell’s biographical sketches and psychological speculations set up an unlikely framework for critical interpretation. Admitting obstacles to her appreciation, she goes back to the battle lines that the initial wave of feminist pop criticism drew between political correctness and Hollywood art: “The feminist angle, and the movie’s profoundly mixed message, came home to me in 1972, when I took part in a panel — one of the first — on the roles of women in film. Gloria Steinem, editor of the newly launched Ms. magazine, brought up ‘Gone With the Wind,’ deploring the spectacle of Scarlett being squeezed into her corset to a 17-inch waist, that perfect illustration of female bondage, Southern style. I sprang to defend her as a fierce, courageous heroine, going her own way, a survivor and so on.” Giving candid testimony to the friction between doctrinaire feminism and emotionally complex movie watching defines Haskell’s critical perception. Several ­lapses — facile connections to Madonna, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, even Judd Apa­tow — are just mild hazards of criticism as engaged, topical journalism. Mostly, her confessions and investigations revive the new journalism’s practice of personal revelation and private response.

Rejecting accusations of frivolous escapism, Haskell sees the intricate ways that “Gone With the Wind” (the book-and-film phenomenon) derived from the legacy of Southern aristocracy and changed it through the post-suffrage image of female independence. She says her own enthrallment began with teenage reading in Richmond, Va.: “Scarlett embodies the secret masculinization of the outwardly feminine, the uninhibited will to act of every tomboy adolescent, here justified by the rule-bending crisis of war.” Haskell inter­twines her own history with Mitchell’s Georgia background, Leigh’s British origins and Selznick’s Jewish American determination. This personalized approach moves from superficial appreciation of the book and movie’s romanticism to a richer scrutiny of the film as “the example par excellence of this studio-confected world . . . the portrait of a never-never land whose harmony and grace depended on the smoothing out of much that was ugly and uncomfortable.”

Armond White
New York Times