The Headless Woman (Lucretia Martel) – To paraphrase Vadim Rizov, there probably isn’t a more intensely realized display of masterful filmmaking to be seen this year. I could barely watch it.
RR (James Benning) – Mostly informed by the cognitive dissonance of one moment reading one of the many tomes on this film issued by the Benning fanclub extolling its singularity, and the next moment watching any number of amateur footage indiscernible from this film on YouTube. I’m a philistine.
Under the Tree (Garin Nugroho) – a letdown from Opera Jawa, this one is too mired in dramatic exposition to let the musical sequences soar.
Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone) – Maybe The Wire ruined this for me. I found this to be too much of a disjunctive thumbnail sketch of a deeply entrenched social problem to be truly satisfactory or illuminating.
Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt) – Directed with enough obliqueness for left-minded critics to overload with sociopolitical significance.
Che (Steven Soderbergh) – Airless exercise in revolution as performance art (namely Benicio del Toro’s Oscar)
Plastic City (Yu Lik Wai) – Apparently the version I saw at TIFF will not be the final so the jury is out. A weird, weird film.
I’ve been playing catch-up with myself after an extremely busy September and October, which lead to a noticeable absence in blog posts. But some of you may have noticed last week the video essays on the films of Oliver Stone for the Moving Image Source, produced by me and Matt Zoller Seitz. This was the most ambitious video project that Matt or I have yet attempted, and we’re very proud of the results.
To break it down and make the project manageable, Matt and I split duties taking the lead on each video:
The videos were prompted in anticipation of W, which was released this past weekend (though was no match for the latest live action video game and the little doggie movie that won’t die). Disappointing box office was likely due largely to uniformly mixed reviews, though most of these reviews, as can be gleaned over at trusty GreenCine Daily, are rather predictable and superficial takes on what I consider to be Stone’s most interesting and engaging film in years. I issued my own review of W as an epilogue to the Stone video series on the Moving Image Source. Though it was buried by the site editors at the bottom of the Alexander entry, I humbly offer that it’s one of the most thoughtful things you can read about the film (I don’t usually make such presumptions about my work but this time, in the wake of what else can be read about the film, I feel pretty comfortable with my assertion). I will also highlight four other reviews, two pro and two con, that I think are the best takes on the film:
Nicolas Rapold, The L Magazine
James Rocchi, Cinematical
Nick Schager, Slant
Dana Stevens, Slate
Lastly, a pretty good interview with Stone by Scott Foundas for the L.A. Weekly
TULPAN director Sergei Dvortsevoy at the 46th New York Film Festival, October 9, 2008, answering questions from Scott Foundas and audience. Visit filmlinc.com for more from the New York Film Festival.
A CHRISTMAS TALE director Arnaud Desplechin at the 46th New York Film Festival, October 11, 2008, answering questions from Kent Jones and audience. Visit filmlinc.com for more from the New York Film Festival.
TOKYO SONATA director Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the 46th New York Film Festival, October 9, 2008, answering questions from Kent Jones and audience. Visit filmlinc.com for more from the New York Film Festival.
Special thanks to Preston Miller, director of Jones, for his fastidious commentary and contributions to these video essays. Expect one more in the coming days, edited by Preston and featuring an exclusive interview with Soumitra Chatterjee, star of the film.
Introduction to the film:
Scene analysis – “The Memory Game:”
screened August 4, 2008 on DVD in Weehawken NJ
This mid-career effort from India’s most celebrated filmmaker shows his craft firing on all cylinders, from the deft dialogue and orchestration of a talented ensemble through several subplots to his lithe camera and shifting, multifaceted perspectives on class and sex. Four young urban businessmen take a jaunt to the countryside to act like frat boys one last time before adulthood inevitably sucks the life out of them; with grace and subtlety Ray is able to celebrate their rebellious drive to individual expression against stifling social norms, while simultaneously pointing out their selfishness and abusiveness towards less privileged countrymen. Events unfold with a symphonic complexity, each character an instrument: Ray mainstay Soumitra Chatterjee’s jazzy restraint as a self-absorbed playboy, Rabi Ghosh’s ebullient comic relief, and Sharmila Tagore’s fragile yet hypnotic sensuality as Chatterjee’s romantic counterpart are only half of the ineffable performances on display. But the greatest performance of all is Ray’s camera, relentless in its perpetual explorations of space and reconfigurations of people within any given scene, dissecting and re-animating a society that is essentially frozen in its stratified customs. By the end, the only profound change experienced by any of the characters is the kindling of a private love between two people and connection beyond one self. Their fragile naissance is juxtaposed by an act of lust followed by violence between one couple, and an embarrassingly failed seduction between another. Such variety in expressing the vertiginous distance between people seeking love exemplifies Ray’s mastery as both dramatist and cineaste.
Want to go deeper?
Mike Leigh and Sally Hawkins discuss Happy-Go-Lucky
WENDY AND LUCY director Kelly Reichardt and actress Michelle Williams at the 46th New York Film Festival, September 26, 2008, answering questions from Richard Pena and audience.
24 CITY director Jia Zhang-ke at the 46th New York Film Festival, September 26, 2008, answering questions from Kent Jones and audience. Visit filmlinc.com for more from the New York Film Festival.