Thursday, 6 March 2008

My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar Wai. 2007)

The people who say this is a bad film seem to be forgetting that last year there was a film released called 'The Sex Lives of Potato Men' (which I've not seen, so I couldn't possibly comment, ahem). This isn't a bad film at all; despite the fact that Kar Wai's long collaborative relationship with the wholly incredible Christopher Doyle (I forgive you, Christopher for your unpleasant and unwarranted comments about Sofia Coppola, you're a talented if somewhat boozy chap) seems to have come to an end, his visuals are as arresting and lovely as ever; the camera's gentle but incessant movement lulls the spectator into a dream-like state whilst mirroring the restless minds of the protagonists. Ultimately though, I felt that this film was really undone by the monotonous and almost unfeeling drone of Norah Jones's voice. The camera certainly loves her big brown eyes but I never felt that her troubles were of the sort that would send a girl off on a year long road trip in search of the secrets of life and love. In fact, it struck me that Chan Marshall, after seeing her on screen for a mere five minutes, would have done a far superior job . Maybe it's just because of the fact that her life seems to have been a slow-motion car crash caught on record, but she just seemed to have that whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking kind of world weariness that the central character really required. The most interesting moments in the film actually centre on the more peripheral characters (Rachel Weisz, I thought, was particularly good) rather than Jones's Lizzie. Because of Jones's lackadaisical (1 point to me for actually getting this word in somewhere) performance, the whole relationship with Jude Law's Jeremy (who doesn't seem to be able to decide whether he is from the Home Counties or Manchester) lacks credibility as well...what a shame!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach. 2007)

There have been some really fantabulous films released already this year but I think this has to be, for me, the cream of the crop so far. I would imagine that Baumbach's special brand of black and alien humour is not for everyone but it doesn't have the self-conscious clever-cleverness that seems to plague some American Indies. The themes of discontent and dysfunctional families are certainly not new (an obvious contemporary comparison being Wes Anderson, but one could go on), but Baumbach manages somehow to instill a sense of Bergmanesque solemnity into his films regardless of his warped and somewhat laughable characters - you're able to laugh because the situation is clearly not 'fixable' and it ends as quietly, neurotically and messily as it started. Yet, there is also a deep sense of underlying trauma, which the characters themselves have to laugh at in order to consolidate the tenuous hold they have on normality - a hold that continually threatens to disintegrate. I've never seen Nicole Kidman play such a loon before - a part which she pulls off extraordinarily well. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as always, I thought was marvelous and I didn't even mind Jack Black too much.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic. 2004)

This is a current favourite of mine. By turns Beguiling, sinister and implausibly beautiful, the world of this film hovers somewhere between a dark fairytale and an allegory of the pubescent rite of passage. It's a romantic paean to childhood and, of course, innocence. Yet, its Gothic overtones also suggest the cruelty of the passage into the adult world and, perhaps, say something about the modern female condition. It's a puzzle; I've seen it three or four times now and find new things each time.

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson. 2008)

This is being touted as the Citizen Kane of our era. I don't disagree; it's certainly epic in its scope and length and D D-L gives a really magnificent, brutal performance (he deserved that Oscar the other night - well done that Daniel). I think it might be a film that can only be understood fully after multiple viewings. It's obviously about many things: oil, religion, greed, alienation (one could go on). However, the most interesting aspect of the film, to me, was the way in which the characters performed their identities to one another. No one can tell the difference between faking it and being real in this film- your identity is what you sell yourself as. Pretty existential and Johnny Greenwood's pulsating score is fab!

Grey Gardens (Maysles Brothers. 1975)

I don't think this film is exploitative (although many critics seem to think it is - apparently the cameraman has his nose up Young Edie's arse at some point...I think it was just an unfortunate angle and he happened to be behind her on the staircase, ho hum). I do think it's desperately sad and also very funny at times. Amongst the decaying grandeur, I think there's a serious point being made about the fluidity of human identity and the nature of love / dependency. It's quite Chekovian actually...these characters say they are going to leave and everything is going to change, but you know they never will and everything will stay the same. Apparently, it's being re-made as a feature film starring Drew Barrymore, which should be interesting and I'll defintiely go and see it.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

My Article on Sofia

I haven't written anything for ages; although I have been making frequent trips to the cine, I've been very busy with other things. Such as this:

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Paranoid Park. Gus Van Sant 2007.

Van Sant’s latest addition to his canon of films dealing with youth in crisis may well be the apogee of his career. Many elements of the director’s previous work, such as the adoption of a non-professional cast and the deliberate discrepancy between sound and visual tracks, are maintained here, but these rudiments converge to awesome effect in ‘Paranoid Park’. Undoubtedly, Christopher Doyle’s signature cinematographic style contributes a significant formal element to the film by complimenting the director’s abiding fascination with the beautiful awkwardness and poignant transience of youth; long tracking shots are interspersed with slow-motion Super 8 footage of skateboarders that put the adolescent body through a cinematic ceremony revealing a quasi-balletic quality that reminds us that these are bodies fundamentally in transition. However, it is the director’s uncanny ability to visually map the teenage rituals invoked to deal with or mask immense pain that remains in the viewer’s mind long after viewing the film and confirms him as one of the genuine auteurs of American cinema. A scene of breakdown, rendered poetically through the use of an expressionistic soundtrack and tight close-up, is a particularly memorable moment. If this isn’t teen art, then I don’t know what is.