The Act of Killing

COVID culture pt. IV: What to read, watch and jerk off to

More recommendations for week four of Coronavirus lockdown.

Remember when practically everyone you know got that unexpected at-home arts residency they never applied for and for which they received zero funding? Personal edification is fun and all, but so is staring at the piles of spring trash stinking in the sun.

Here are some ideas to fill those formless days for some, or to distract those people striving to keep the world running for the rest of us. 


…movies where everyone is so despicable, you remember you prefer your own company after all!

What’s key is finding a movie containing no hero, not even an anti-hero. Everyone must make you shiver with a sweaty contempt. I therefore propose to you Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, a movie so choc-a-bloc with amoral shitheads you’ll forget anyone has ever done you a good deed, ever. 

Alternatively, why not dive into The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary following two perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide while they relive their experiences in a series of staged film sequences? Not only is Oppenheimer’s film a startling porthole into a horrifying epoch largely lost to mainstream western history, but watching as these executioners revisit their past largely with glee rather than remorse is the sort of thing sure to give you a feeling of horror and nausea so profound you won’t leave your house for days.


All ye anglophones: Becket en français. Et vous les francophones: Becket in English. Who else has tragicomedy so firmly at their command? What better way to survive our new age than through the lense of tragicomedy? Turns out this preternaturally bilingual writer is incredibly funny in both languages, so read him in the language that’s hard for you, damnit! It’ll feel nice to exert your brain and steep it in absurdism at the same time. Comedic existential detective stories like Molloy are definitely the place to start.

Participatory art!

Does time feel increasingly like a meaningless and abstract idea, washing over you with its sulky early April light? The people at the Phi Centre feel you, and they’re inviting the public to submit minute-long artistic creations in any media to be disseminated on their website. It could be a nice quick exercise to inject some meaning into an afternoon, and perhaps as an artistic prompt for a larger project. 

Artistic dialogue!

The local arts residency Céline Bureau, while having postponed their next call for applications, is seeking “artists, writers and curators over the next few weeks to meet up, share ideas, knowledge, and work.” What shape this artistic dialogue may look like is as yet uncertain, and will certainly depend on the people who chose to participate, but if there’s something artistic you want to talk about with online peers, this is the place. Send a quick email to to participate.


After seemingly days evaporated trying to hunt down Andy Warhol’s Blue Movie (1969) anywhere in the depths of the internet and finding only the version dubbed in German (and this being a notoriously dialogue-dependant sexy film), I had almost given up entirely before stumbling across a different Blue Movie (1971) by Wim Verstappen, wherein “After five years in prison, an ex-con returns to a society where total sexual freedom is now the norm.” A vision of all our futures? Perhaps. But importantly, enter the Dutch Sex Wave, a series of four oddly commercially successful feature length porns made between 1969 and 1975. It’s a cultural moment we tend to be very familiar with in its American form, but it’s very diverting indeed to dive into the unique Scandinavian variant. ■

See previous recommendations for Coronavirus home-viewing/reading by Nora Rosenthal here.

For more coverage of the Montreal art scene, see our Arts section.

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