Is it really true that American cinema has largely been made irrelevant by television’s serial dramas and serious-minded comedies? Or does the argument—which is sometimes difficult to counter—simply feed more fuel to the “film is dead” proponents? For the first time, Reverse Shot is going to look—partly—to the small screen. What, then, is television? How is it distinct from cinema? Read more.
As Stray Dogs is potentially Tsai’s final statement, why not start at the end of the movie? If you’re bothered by “spoilers” you probably shouldn’t read any further. I should say that I don’t believe that knowledge of the final scene will in any way reduce its plangency. No one entrusted with the distribution of Stray Dogs seems to think so either, because the film’s final image features on its poster. And Tsai, who has said of Stray Dogs that “the structure of the whole film has no beginning and no end,” would seem to care the least of all.
There’s so much pain—the kind of emotional agony that comes from feeling helpless in the face of depressingly ordinary injustice—in Love Is Strange that it’s miraculous how hopeful the film ultimately feels. Part of this is Voudouris’s crisp, sun-dappled palette; and part of it is the lovely, ever-deepening intergenerational relationship that ultimately blooms between Ben and the troubled young Joey. But mostly it’s because of the spirit of generosity that Sachs injects into what otherwise could have been a lonesomely bitter film about aging.
By the film’s final frame you might wonder whether what you’ve witnessed was an afternoon in progress, the memory of a day, or an image of something that never happened at all. It’s a paradox of a quantum order: in Zürcher’s pleasingly brief film—running a scant 72 minutes—the smallest of gestures carries the most import; everything and nothing seems in the right place; and the expected rubs elbows often and fondly with the unexpected.
Jealousy’s 77 whittled-down minutes play less like a single, continuous narrative than a series of isolated incidents, each enclosed by its own set of borders and calibrated to its own private sense of time. A little girl lies curled up in bed listening to her parents break into a major, definitive fight. Her dad—a tousled, angular Parisian played by the director’s son and frequent leading man, Louis Garrel—races his new girlfriend up the stairs to her flat until the two of them collapse in a breathless heap.
Let it be said that it does take some cojones to make a movie out of what might be McCarthy’s most stylistically abstruse (and yet thematically obvious) novel: published in 1973, before its author was a Harold Bloom-ratified national treasure, Child of God is so variegated in its narration that the prose sometimes appears to be flying apart before the reader’s eyes.
Where This Is Not a Film played as an overt act of defiance, putting the filmmaker and his legal troubles front and center, Closed Curtain moves into more ambiguous and oblique territory. Both a companion piece to This Is Not a Film and a cinematic break from it, Closed Curtain at first seems to mark a return to “fiction” filmmaking for Panahi—to whatever extent categories like “fiction” and “nonfiction” even apply to his cinematic practice—and so it also invites a certain recalibration.
Caesar has more swagger in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which has partly to do with his status as the unquestioned leader—the benevolently unilateral dictator, in fact—of the realm, and also the sensibility of new director Matt Reeves, a talented and overbearing filmmaker with an Alfonso-Cuarón-ish fondness for extended single-take set pieces (i.e. the backseat-camera car crash in Let Me In) and a reverence for generic conventions that’s occasionally indistinguishable from slavishness.
We’re not following the gradual formation of a lost soul but of an emotionally healthy, intellectually curious, and, perhaps most refreshing of all, somewhat average all-American kid who is the product of divorced parents yet isn’t defined by that; whose single mom twice subjects him to the emotional tumult of alcoholic stepfathers, yet isn’t traumatized by that; who is the younger brother of a more outspoken, overachieving sister yet isn’t particularly bothered by that; who even by film’s end has yet to find his true creative or professional calling yet isn’t distressed by that.
Most of the filmmaking decisions—like the use of two cameras during shooting, allowing the actors to behave organically and spontaneously without having to worry about hitting their marks or being fed lines of dialogue off-camera—are geared primarily toward showcasing the two distinct personalities at the movie’s core. An early scene in an airport consists mainly of Nelson reading a series of prospective restaurant menus from a guidebook—basically a variation on the age-old joke of someone being so interesting that you could listen to them read the phonebook.
Sadly, the box office charts these days are dominated by the ponderous look-at-me slow-motion of Zack Snyder; the spatially incoherent, epileptic editing of Joss Whedon; and the sloppily canted framings and needless digital lens flares of J. J. Abrams. Compared to these three, Michael Bay is practically John Ford. There’s not a section of action or combat in The Avengers that seems considered enough to be worth remembering, but there are more than a handful of such sequences that linger after the credits roll in Bong’s new film, Snowpiercer.
"I was challenging myself with the idea of not just depicting a certain fictional reality, but trying to depict its different levels, in a more subconscious, dreamlike way. At the same time, I didn’t want to simply have dream sequences, but to give the whole film a different quality. These ideas interested me before I started making feature films, but I had somehow moved into something much more realist [in television]. And now I think I’m going to push that side of myself even more in my next film."
Though several of his films skirt around and pick up themes and situations from the Russian author’s most venerated work, Norte is Diaz’s first full-throated stab at Crime and Punishment. His Raskolnikov is Fabian (Sid Lucero), a brilliant drop-out law student introduced in the film’s rangy first scene spouting off his own personal philosophy, one that twists the ethical ambivalence of the postmodern moment towards an essentialist view that demands the negation of those things he deems “wrong.”
Story-wise, little happens over the course of Exhibition’s run time (though the sex does improve considerably). Unbound to a conception of time as mere forward progression, Hogg luxuriates in the endless sensations one can experience at any given moment. Though it is not narrative-driven, Exhibition is not a strictly aesthetic exercise either.
For all their accomplishments, the current crop of AIDS films seems to position us in a somewhat related manner: as mournful and vigilant witnesses, grateful to absorb the experiences of those who fought and survived without quite being able to access what said experiences felt like in the moment-to-moment flux of daily life . . . If Chris Mason Johnson’s Test feels like something of a minor-key revelation, it is in part because it attempts to locate the rhythms of commonplace existence at a time when each instant was imbued with almost existential uncertainty.
The same logic gap that has plagued most of these films (that their characters never put their cameras down even at the most agonized, dangerous of moments) is here far too wide to skip across. What’s worse is that this is not The Sacrament’s most glaring problem. Once we discover the crux of the film—what the central threat of Eden Parish is—it’s revealed that West has traded his refreshing classicism for the tastelessness and slapdash technique that defines our contemporary horror moment.