The way Julie Delpy floats away from the camera only to turn toward the lens, radiantly filling the frame, has long felt to me like the quintessence of a certain moment in 1990s art cinema -- all milky white skin and sunshine, and then it gets dark.
Stewart Klawans: Karol still sees Dominique as a bride, turning to smile while the air itself veils her in white. (The image pops up magically, without narrative function.) We may even guess that he views her as the cinematographer, Edward Kłosinśki, sees Julie Delpy: as a flawless, pale, sunbeam-haired reflector of light. No wonder that Karol cannot make love to the Dominique who is only flesh and blood; no wonder that he is destroyed when she proves her corporeality with someone else.
Dan Kois notes in Slate: “This film is about humiliation,” Kieslowski says in an interview in the White disc’s extras
The cinetrix is keen to see The Elephant Boy get the Criterion treatment. There's one scene in particular I remember fondly from the Flaherty Seminar screening [each programmer must include one Flaherty work as part of his or her program] that will only be improved by a sharper image: that elephant stampede. If you've seen the film, I know you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Here's Michael Koresky: The Hungarian-born British cinema kingpin Alexander Korda’s film version of Kipling’s story, made for his studio, London Films, was such an odd, precarious hybrid—directing credit went to both American ethnographic documentarian Robert Flaherty and Korda’s brother Zoltán, maker of glossy adventures—that it needed a strong, likable center, and the effortlessly magnetic Shaik (renamed Sabu by Alexander Korda himself) supplied that and more in Elephant Boy.
Shifting now to the elephantine of the Grand Old Party persuasion, Mark Feeney takes exception to W.'s movie-watching style:
"Two weeks after we moved into the White House, Laura and I held our first movie night in the Family Theater. Situated on the ground floor of the White House, the theater features forty-six comfortable chairs and a ninety-three-square-foot projection screen. The Motion Picture Association of America, led for years by a fascinating Texan, Jack Valenti, generously made movies available to the first family. We never had to sit through coming attractions." -- George W. Bush, "Decision Points"
(Say what you will about the man as a president. Clearly, he's no movie fan. "Sit through coming attractions"? Sit through them? That's like a classical music lover complaining about having to listen to an orchestra tuning up or -- perhaps a better analogy for the former principal owner of the Texas Rangers -- a baseball fan complaining about having to watch batting practice.)
Errol Morris observed the 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination by investigating the Umbrella Man.
THE FUTURIST! pens a lovely paean to a somewhat maligned musical, Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You:
THE FUTURIST! loved this experiment by his favorite movie maker. Oh, it wasn’t perfect, not at all, but it achieved what THE FUTURIST! thinks Allen wanted to achieve … maybe with a few false steps along the way. He recalls that when he saw another film at his local mega-mega-plex, he sneaked back to the auditorium that was showing this film. He walked into the darkness and took a seat at the back and found he had crept in at one of the moments he loved the most … the romantic dance along the Seine between Woody and Goldie Hawn. It’s a bit much to call it a “dance”, but this sequence expresses most of what THE FUTURIST! feels those musicals stirred in him as a young lad … the magic mixture of song and dance and film. Goldie literally floats above and around Woody in a surreal moment only the movies can provide. Her lighter than air dance expresses her feelings about love and her character’s regret. It lifted THE FUTURIST!, too. Most movies don’t extend their hand to you and take you away on a care-free cloud like they once did years ago … and when they are over, you find yourself back where you started just like Fred and Ginger on that park bench … back to reality and left with the ghost of a smile.
TF! is entirely correct, although the cinetrix prefers the antic energy of the number in the clip above. Hooray hooray hoorah!
Finalmente, Danny Kasman leaves me mesmerized:
Joan Bennett's blonde hair, from Frank Borzage's Doctors' Wives (1931), slowed down 50%, sound eliminated; also featuring Warren Baxter; cinematography by Arthur Edeson.
That's crazy, right? Can't. stop. watching.
Godard, always quick with a quip:
"All people in the world, even I, I prefer a bad American movie to a better Norwegian movie. Why is that? It's something which I am trying to study but I have not been successful. I don't know, I have no answer."
From 1991, Jonathan Rosenbaum hails Spike Lee's Jungle Fever as a masterpiece -- with qualifications:
Most irritating of all, Lee has shamelessly echoed the symmetrical framing devices used inDo the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues to begin and end this movie — with matching crane shots to establish a neighborhood, and matching lines and behavior to establish the situation of the characters — which brings a false sense of unity and closure to a movie that actively resists both. It’s the equivalent of a veteran jazz musician summoning up an old riff to round off a daring chorus when he suddenly runs out of gas, and even though it performs the expedient function of winding things up, it can’t disguise the fact that a lot of plot strands are still hanging.
Why, then, do I regard Jungle Fever as a major step forward — not only for Spike Lee, but also for American movies in general? Because he may be creating a new kind of commercial American movie in the process of trying to cram everything in — a kind of “living newspaper” where front-page stories exist in proximity to one another without necessarily linking up, and where it’s left to the audience to make some of the vital connections (or not, as the case may be). Lee’s outsized ambitions and impatience, which lead to all the problems cited above, are straining the limits of conventional story telling and moviemaking — forcing Lee and his audience into fertile new areas, some of which may even lie beyond the conscious wishes of both.
In a variety of ways, Jungle Fever goes even further in suggesting an American mainstream equivalent to Godard’s work in the mid-60s — less intellectual, but equally attuned to a newspaperlike currency and immediacy. Significantly, both directors have drawn much of their material from news stories....
Both filmmakers splinter their narratives into disassociated parts, some more “finished” and fully articulated than others. Both switch stylistic gears at periodic intervals, specialize in intertextual references (the same white cops who killed Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing turn up here to terrorize Flipper and Angie), and typically stage their dramas in terms of political and cultural confrontations.
Even more to the point, both Godard and Lee create all sorts of occasions and excuses for multiplying their uses of on-screen and offscreen verbiage, usually in unorthodox and innovative ways. Godard often has characters reading aloud or quoting from texts, and Lee seems equally compulsive about playing song lyrics over or under dialogue. Both seek out diverse ways of presenting words visually.
Elsewhere on the opinionated auteur landscape, Steven Shaviro takes a first pass at Lars "Logorrhea" von Trier's Melancholia:
Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia (2011) moves from domestic melodrama to cosmic catastrophe. It works as what used to be called a “women’s picture,” giving the portrait of a female character’s clinical depression when confronted with the prospect of a bourgeois family lifestyle. But the film also envisions the extermination of all life on Earth; this serves as a kind of objective correlative to the protatonist’s depression. In contrast to other recent apocalyptic films, however,Melancholia refuses to present the audience with a grandiose and sublime spectacle of mass destruction. Its apocalypse is disconcertingly intimate. Melancholia offers a deflationary view both of ongoing life and of its extinction.
Film Fanatic revisits Rear Window:
[Danny] Peary rightfully refers to this Alfred Hitchcock thriller — adapted from a novelette by Cornell Woolrich — as an “undisputed masterpiece”, and spends the bulk of his review analyzing the film’s multiple enticing themes. He asserts, however, that while “much has been written about this film being about how we are all Peeping Toms… too much is made of [this] theme; that we are all snoopers is a given.” Instead, he argues that “what [Hitchcock is] most interested in is what we discover when we study people”, beginning with the fact that “people are into such dull, regimented lives that when they do anything that varies from their routines (as Burr does), neighbors will become suspicious and may suspect of them of doing something terrible.”
I am sure other film instructors have faced the same challenge as I do when teaching a required classic shown over and over again in the classroom: How do I present the material with freshness and enthusiasm? I remind myself that most of the students in the class have never seen Citizen Kane; for them it is a new experience. My attitude and approach to the film will have an effect on their initial perception, and it is important that they understand and accept its importance without letting personal tastes interfere. It is my job to model that behavior, even if I am not in the mood to see the film for the 101st time. Most often, my awareness of my responsibility to the students—and to the film—is enough to prevent me from dragging my feet....
Despite being 70 years old, many of the plot elements, themes, and critical observations of our social institutions were amazingly relevant to our time, specifically to the first week of November 2011.
I have to thank Herman Cain, one of the Republican candidates for the presidency, for inspiring this part of the discussion. The news coverage of the accusations of sexual harassment aimed against Cain by several women had just escalated, and it was easy for students to compare the real-life Cain’s predicament to that of the fictional Kane because of the similarity in names.
Wim Wenders revisits Until the End of the World, which I saw half asleep at a Saturday morning matinee.
The film that’s in distribution ever since 1991 is a far cry away from what was actually shot. The only film that represents that is my director’s cut, which is twice as long — which is five hours. The film has strange insights into the future. If you look at the people running around looking at their little monitors in front of them all the time, that’s what you see in the streets today everywhere — that sort of addiction to the computer image. You’ll find that in many young people today. It’s a real disease. And the main technology in the film — to make a blind person see, or to extract images from the brain of a person — that’s what scientists do. It’s the very same technology today, in 2011. I’ve had several scientific reports of the first images drawn out of a person’s brain, strictly represented by brainwaves. And they gave imagery that looked exactly like what we’d done in the film. So it’s funny how science fiction eventually becomes reality.
Style Rookie Tavi also investigates the "pale California Christmas vibe" of the Clowes comic and its film adaptation: "mint green and pale red (pastel pink, I guess) and the fact that this doesn't really fit into Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer weather. Just a cloudy, gray-flat sky in Oakland or L.A. in the winter, with out of place Christmas decorations everywhere." Also name-checked: The Bad Seed, Rose McGowan circa Jawbreaker, Mickey & Judy, Irma la Douce, and beauty school dropouts.
STAUNCH! The Seventh Art assembles screen grabs of the scarves of Grey Gardens [via Girish] The cinetrix does love the repurposed sweaters most of all.
It’s no accident that Ricci is the only actor who gives a good performance; part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that her part is a movie archetype, unencumbered by any need to suggest reality. Apart from the fact that she tap-dances, Layla is accorded no life or reality of her own, past or present, independent of her functions for Billy Brown. Gallo, recognizing this fact, includes a single scene, set in a dim bowling alley, in which he literally spotlights her tap dancing, apropos of nothing; the result has a certain glow and authenticity the rest of the movie lacks.
She has a Tennessee Williams quality to her acting. A very powerful poetic realistic quality. A softness with smarts with a sprinkling of the tragic. She infuses Greta with all of these qualities. Her face shows us everything – the past and the future. There’s a lot of photo stills used in HIGH ART – even in the tiniest of snapshots of Greta – you feel her inevitable tragic future.
I SAW THAT has a big problem with the premise of 50 First Dates. A huge excerpt because it's so hard to choose one favorite part:
Instead, in the final scene, we see Drew Barrymore wake up, like “HUH?” and then notice a VHS tape on her nightstand that says “Watch me” or whatever. The tape shows her her life story. “Woman Hit By Cow Suffers Terrible Brain Trauma” etc. Cut to DB crying while realizing that that’s HER, with the brain trauma! The video continues, showing her the things that are now important in her life, which of course she doesn’t yet know about. Here is your one true love, Adam Sandler! See, you are kissing him in the video, that’s how you know you love him. Oh wait, what’s this? Your WEDDING! Officiated by Rob Schneider being a complete ass! WHAT A SURPRISE! Cut to DB looking in wonderment at the wedding ring that is indeed on her finger. The video then shows Sandler being like “put a coat on because it’s very cold outside, and come up and have breakfast with me,” and DB goes to the window and looks out and goes “ooooh!” because it turns out she’s not in her home, in Hawaii, but rather on a fucking BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN IN ALASKA, which is something Adam Sandler wants to do for his job or something. And this is not terrifying but like a magical wonderland! She gets the gift of a Romantic love-falling-in every day AND the wonderful surprise of waking up in a completely different place than where she thought she would wake up! Every day! How fabulous!
And she goes up and a little girl runs up and is like “MOMMY!” and DB is like “HUH?” and instead of, I don’t know, vomiting with horror (also not pictured: her waking up every day of her pregnancy not understanding why she is 9 months pregnant suddenly, e.g.) she’s like “YAY I HAVE A FAMILY, EVERY WOMAN’S DREAM.” And that’s the end of the movie.
One thing I find amazing is that this VHS tape explaining her life to her is going to presumably get longer and longer and longer, the longer she lives, until in a sort of David Foster Wallacian nightmare she’s going to be spending 24 hours a day watching a 24 hour long tape of her entire life, and then the watching of the tape itself will be incorporated into the tape, so she’ll be watching a tape of herself watching a tape, and that’s the story of why she woke up and suddenly was 90 years old and that’s not scary at all.
And speaking of horrific parturition... Two takes on Twilight: Breaking Dawn or whatever it's called. The one with the sparkly guy, and the abs guys, and Ms. dead eyes. You know.
Vulture scolds the condescending fanboys about their haterade:
Your tastes may run more to Leia or Galadriel than any of the women inTwilight, but at least Kristen Stewart gets to interact with Anna Kendrick, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Sarah Clarke, Dakota Fanning, and Rachelle Lefevre — and yes, sometimes they talk about subjects other than boys.
In the Guardian, the audience at a mum's matinee in north London rolls its eyes at the birth scene histrionics:
At last! The famous birth scene. "Here we go!" I said to Kitty, who looked up from smashing carrot cake into her face and rubbing snot into the sofa. Maybe, I thought, we will all start convulsing and get into the local paper! But, alas, our dreams of being carted away from this terrible film in an ambulance were not to be. I'm sure the simple amount of blood sloshing about on the screen, all the screaming and the sounds of bones cracking brought back unhappy memories for most of the room; but it was really the grisly sight of Edward actually chewing through some part of his new wife to get the baby out like a sort of very home-made Caesarean that really had us in fits – of laughter. But there were no spontaneous collapses, seizures or local fame to be had. Boo.
"God, what 14-year-old is going to find him sexy after that?" said the woman next to me, while Annabel snoozed on the sofa next to her
Some other stuff also happened: mostly wolves standing about having a long conversation as if they were real people and a lot of shirtless men glaring at each other saying "Don't do this," to each other through gritted teeth. I can't be sure. Playing peek-a-boo with Kitty and taking her off for a nappy change was genuinely more interesting. Oh well. At the very least Breaking Dawn is undefeated in capturing intimately and flawlessly the staggering tedium of Stephanie Meyer's writing.
Finally, an artist born in Bosnia takes on Angelina Jolie's forthcoming rape camp romance:
She’s celebrity culture’s Mother Goddess – prolifically giving birth and adopting, making space in her family for all the world’s children. And now Angelina Jolie has taken her healing aspirations further with her directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey – in which the main character, a Muslim woman, falls in love with her Serbian rapist.
But in a very public row, the survivors of mass rape in the Bosnian war called for Jolie to be stripped of her title of UN Ambassador of Goodwill, saying that ‘a love story couldn’t have existed in a rape camp’.
I responded to the symbolism made visible in this drama with a performance art piece entitled Holy Jolie. The piece was also inspired by another news story which came out at the same time: a temple in Cambodia, where Lara Croft was shot, was renamed the ‘Angelina Jolie temple’ by its leading monks, in an attempt to save it from ruin.
The combined stories struck a chord for me as an artist born in Bosnia and sensitive to the often absurd power dynamics shaping the realities we live in. In Holy Jolie I combined images of Lara Croft and codes surrounding victimhood to create an impossible temple raised to the modern UN goddess.