Archive for the ‘Film Projections’ Category
At first glance, Argo seems like a decently entertaining movie tailor-made for Oscar: Ben Affleck, a high-profile, left-leaning director makes a movie with an all-star cast about a tumultuous period in U.S.-Iran relations (ring any bells?) about an amazing story that was only declassified during President Clinton’s administration. The brilliance of Argo, however, lies in its unpretentious self-assurance as a Hollywood movie about a fake Hollywood movie.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, The Master, cannot separate itself from the looming shadow of his previous film, his magnum opus, There Will Be Blood. Anderson seems to love “loose adaptations.” His films somehow avoid historical pastiche as he strikes the delicate balance between zeitgeist and psychology. Blood was “loosely based” on Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, while The Master is “loosely based,” no matter how much Anderson or anyone else involved in the film may deny it, the history of Scientology and its leader, L. Ron Hubbard. Most importantly, The Master was also “loosely” created from some early drafts of There Will Be Blood, which is what lends to the amazingly similar mood between the two films.
Back in June, we saw an intimate Brooklyn screening of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a powerful documentary about the Chinese artist and activist, and concluded that Ai could teach contemporary artists a few things. The movie has since played theaters nationally and enjoyed wide critical acclaim. After a recent screening of the film in Providence, FP’s Jordan Mainzer interviewed director Alison Klayman via phone to discuss the film and Ai’s profound influence.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry explores Ai as an artist who provokes the Chinese political machine. Like a good journalist, he’s a whistleblower who, through his art, investigates and questions those in society with economic, political, and social power. The tension behind Ai seems to consist of whether his status as a whistleblower is more shaped by his perception of the artist’s role in society or by the political environment in which he exists.
With six films and five Oscar nominations under his belt, PT Anderson‘s excellence is undeniable. His interest in unbalanced individuals has led him to tell some of the finest and most engaging stories in recent film. His newest–The Master— is an exploration of self and sanity as told through an unlikely friendship in a time of peace. Under layers of cordiality, substances and hypnosis, a darkness grows in the two men until one can no longer endure. The subtle and barebones script is dictated by Jonny Greenwood’s score, which takes on a soothsaying role as the characters fall into confusion, contradiction and repetition.
The music of The Master is tranquil yet distressing, illuminating the questions that exist at the heart of the film. Chamber strings slip in and out of focus like a detuned radio, juxtaposing traditional fare with the much more experimental and shrill. Alongside are warm, disorienting clarinets, each just a half-step apart at all times that rarely reach resolution. Always with a minimalist edge, Greenwood’s score exposes the noises inside a disheveled, war addled brain.
This year the New York Film Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. The NYFF50 launches tonight with the world premiere of Ang Lee’s fantasy Life of Pi and closes on Sunday, October 14th with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘ drama Flight. As always, the annual autumn event at Lincoln Center offers the serious-minded film-goer an opportunity to view a wide-ranging lineup of the best in international, independent, and, sometimes, Hollywood cinema.
Mike Birbiglia can tell a mean story. He has built an impressive comedic career based on his mostly autobiographical vignettes of growth, duty, fear and love, shared in an engaging yet conversational tone. Most of all, his pieces and performances have a concept that run throughout, as opposed to the typical ad hoc musings of which most stand up comedians are guilty. His marquee piece is Sleepwalk With Me, the story of how his REM behavior disorder came to a sharp point (literally) as it mixed with his increasing anxiety over his relationships and career. First performed as an off-Broadway “one-man show” in 2008, Sleepwalk With Me has been reproduced as a comedy album, a memoir, and most recently, a feature film produced by This American Life’s Ira Glass. Talk about getting mileage out of an idea.
It helps that Sleepwalk With Me is a fantastic narrative, no matter the form. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a comedian/bartender/slacker is essentially forced to take the reins of his life, something he worked to avoid. This isn’t a typical slacker flick, however. As you have likely inferred, this slacker suffers from a severe sleepwalking disorder in which he acts out his most vivid, strange and, at times, destructive dreams.
See Also: Franklin’s Best American Films of the Year (So Far)
2011 Film Festival Premiere/2012 Stateside Theatrical Release
A Burning Hot Summer, directed by Philippe Garrel
Philippe Garrels’ third consecutive collaboration with his movie star son (and onscreen surrogate), Louis Garrel, following their award-winning Regular Lovers (2005) and the vastly underrated Frontier of Dawn (2008). All three of these films feature articulate (and very French) discussions about art and radical politics and share a preoccupation with the possibility of love, the trauma of failed relationships, and the specter of suicide. This time around, Louis Garrel plays an uninspired painter, living in Rome with his beautiful actress wife (Monica Bellucci). When another couple (Jerome Robart & Celine Sallette) come to live with them for the summer, Garrel discovers his wife’s infidelity and realizes that their marriage cannot be saved. Although it begins on a hysterical note (the protagonist drives his convertible BMW head-on into a tree), the drama quickly settles into something more characteristically muted and listless. That’s because Philippe Garrel is not interested in feverish melodrama, but, rather, the internalized crises that arise out of the mundane, the stagnation of relationships, and periods of artistic non-productivity. Another chapter in a deeply personal filmography, built around conflicts of male pathological need, this latest will be best remembered for three shots of extended length — Bellucci dancing with a guy friend at a wrap party; Sallette sleepwalking at night by a pool; and a totally naked Bellucci, posed like Manet’s Olympia on a bed, beckoning her doomed husband.
The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Terence Davies
In Davies’ first fiction feature, since his adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (2000), a wife (Rachel Weisz) leaves her much older husband (Simon Russell Beale), a wealthy judge, for a dashing RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston), and then attempts suicide in a miserable boarding house. Davies intelligently refashions Terence Rattigan’s play (lesser material than his celebrated The Browning Version) into a memory piece, striking a balance between the operatic and the restrained. Weisz and Hiddleston certainly make fetching lovers, but it’s Beale, as the passionless husband, pathologically attached to his mother, who steals the film and gives one of the year’s best performances. Together with his production designer James Merifield, costume designer Ruth Myers, and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, Davies conjures an atmosphere rich in postwar period detail with an astonishing range of visual texture. This is cinematography as oil painting and a reminder of what can only be done with 35mm film stock and what will be lost forever, once the transition to digital is completed. Two of the year’s most rapturous moments: the spiraling, overhead shot of Weisz and Hiddleston’s naked bodies, entwined in erotic ecstasy; the long tracking shot of Londoners, taking refuge in the Underground, during the Blitz, as one man sings a traditional folk ballad.