Last Movies

Stanley Schtinter


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Tenement Press
5 November 2023
ISBN: 9781739385118
230 pages

From the publisher

With a Foreword / Programme Notes
from Erika Balsom;
an ‘Intermission’ from Bill Drummond,
& an afterword by Nicole Brenez ...


All films are haunted, both by the immortal light of the sooner-or-later dead that they curate, and by the filaments of meaning they extrude into unscripted human lives. Last Movies is an unexpectedly revealing catalogue of final interchanges between imminent ghosts and counterpart electric spectres on the screen’s far side. Profound and riveting, Schtinter’s graveyard perspective offers up a rich and startlingly novel view of cinema, angled through cemetery gates before the closing credits. A remarkable accomplishment.

Alan Moore

Very strange, and deeply thought-provoking.

Laura Mulvey

Here is the endgame of endgames. A commendably perverse demonstration of how it is possible for something to be assimilated, by way of rumour and manipulated history, without being experienced.

Iain SinclairSight and Sound


A durational artwork, moving-image experience, and parallel publication, Schtinter’s Last Movies—the tenth “Yellowjacket” from Tenement Press—remaps the century of cinema according to the final films as watched by a selection of its icons ...

What is a society that values nothing more than survival?

Giorgio Agamben

The cinema can kill, just like anything else.

Louis Malle

A furnace of facts in our age of entirety;
a compendium of endings from the artist ...

Stanley Schtinter’s debut collection, Last Movies, is an extensive and exhaustive research project. A holy book of celluloid spiritualism and old canards that—questioning and reconfiguring common knowledge—recasts the historic column inches of cinema’s mythological hearsay into a thousand-yard stare of a book. An excoriation of the twentieth century (and our dance into the twenty-first), Last Movies antagonises the possibility of survival in an age of extremity and extinction, only to underline the degree of accident involved in a culture’s relationship with posterity.

Here, we’ve a book in which Manhattan Melodrama, directed by W.S. van Dyke and George Cukor, is seen by American gangster John Dillinger, only for him to be gunned down by federal agents upon leaving the cinema. In which George Cukor watched The Graduate, and dies thereafter. In which Bette Davis—given her break by Cukor—watches herself in Waterloo Bridge (the 1940 remake Cukor had been meant to direct), before travelling to France and failing to make it back to Hollywood. In which Rainer Werner Fassbinder watches Bette Davis in Michael Curtiz’s 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, and suffers the stroke that kills him. In which John F. Kennedy watches From Russia with Love at a private ‘casa-blanca’ screening prior to the presidential motorcade reaching Dealey Plaza; in which Burt Topper’s War is Hell exists only in a fifteen-minute cut, considering this is as much as Lee Harvey Oswald would have seen at the Texas Theatre in the wake of JFK’s killing. 

Like Hermione Lee “at the movies,” and redolent of the works of Kenneth Anger, Schtinter’s Last Movies is enamoured by the ludicrousness of a swan song that lingers on in a world still trying to sing. Rather than a book dedicated to the effects of cinema on society, this is a collection of writings predicated by a dedication to cinema. Last Movies is a love letter to those that’ve lived (and died) amidst the patina and glow of cinema’s counterpoint to life (as lived) via a haphazard index of twenty-eight of its notable audience members.

This edition also includes programme notes (from a marathon screening), ‘Towards the Last Movies’ by Erika Balsom, an afterword / last word(s) from Nicole Brenez, & an intermission from Bill Drummond.

In Last Movies, artist-curator Stanley Schtinter turns the idea, that film captures the dead and turns them into ghosts, on its head. Rather than focus on deceased people onscreen, he finds out (or, occasionally, makes an informed guess at) what was the last film that various important twentieth-century political and cultural figures had watched, bringing together a potted history of the medium itself.

Juliet JacquesArtReview

A scintillating labyrinth of synchronicities, where Schtinter’s meticulous research and encyclopaedic knowledge are as impressive as his intriguing speculations. Essential reading for film buffs, conspiracy theorists and high-end pub quizzers everywhere.

John Smith

The more details Schtinter’s Last Movies uncovers the more mysterious his project becomes. What are we meant to understand from learning that Franz Kafka’s last movie was The Kid (1921) by Charlie Chaplin? Or that Chaplin started casting it just one week after the death of his son Norman? Or that Norman’s tombstone read only ‘The Little Mouse’? Or that, after Chaplin himself died in 1977 (his last movie was Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon), his coffin was dug up from a Lausanne cemetery by two refugees and held to ransom? Perhaps it’s the freedom to speculate, the unanswerability of those questions, that is its own reward. Boldface names, lurid details, strange connection. Schtinter, always eager to deflate pomposity, likens his project to an “occult version of OK! magazine.” I myself can’t help wondering: what if we were to watch every movie as if it were our last?

Sukhdev SandhuProspect

Last Movies brings together its selections by the force of an external event, one which bears not on the films themselves but on little-known details of their exhibition histories, and then orders them not according to any curatorial vision but by date of disappearance. It abandons all those calcified criteria most frequently used to organise cinema programmes: period, nation, genre, director, star, theme. Nothing internal to these films motivates their inclusion, their “quality” least of all. Although Schtinter can choose a death to research, the title to be shown is dictated by history. This is all to say that Last Movies embraces chance, an avant-garde strategy its orchestrator has been known to marshal in previous undertakings.

And so it should be for a programme about death. The tenacity of the “life review” flashback as a trope in fiction films could be attributed to the fact that people who have had near-death experiences claim to have encountered the phenomenon. It is more likely that this convention endures because it satisfies a reassuring fantasy: that life will ultimately attain coherence. The fantasy of that “last movie” is undone by the reality of Schtinter’s Last Movies. They are often random and in large part unchosen; they throw significance into crisis and demand acquiescence to externality. They are, in other words, like death itself.

Erika Balsom