Sunday, February 4, 2018

plato's cave fifty two (being a film journal)

Safdie Brothers - Good Time - 2017
Second time seeing this. These directors are probably some of the hottest potatoes in town right now, the film surely has a great look (shot on 35mm by Sean Price Williams), and Robert Pattinson is quite riveting... it is hard to take ones eyes off him throughout the film. There are some novel moments but for the most part it seems to go with the flow of 2 recent trends (one of which is often times a good one) of paying homage to frenetic 70s cinema, and the trend (which is hard to tolerate) of paying homage to the culture of the 80s. The 80s thing is for the most part unbearable... Stranger Things is the best example of this current craze. It is obvious that the majority of tv and film viewers have no criticism of this, but the writer of this website does in fact. The problem with this 80s homage is most clearly present in the score of this film, which to this listeners ears sounds like a pastiche of Tangerine Dream. Hearing the music makes this viewer uncomfortable, but for reasons beyond its unlistenability, more the concept of it; it is not interesting, it is a synthesis of 80s sounds.... it takes but gives nothing back except cheap thrills. In addition to the conceptual problem of the music (and partly the image), the editing of the music is either lazy or done for a reason that just is lost on this viewer....  it is unrelenting in a non-intellectual manner, one just wants it to mellow the fuck out for one second so the image and performance can have some breath.... A great filmmaker knows when to hold back and when to "unleash", this technique is not present in this film. It would be interesting to have a copy of this film with no sound and actually edit in a TD soundtrack as a replacement, have it there at the right moments... and not there when the film needs to breath. I think of some music by King Crimson, they know when to hold back and when to let the devil in (The Devil's Triangle).

Aki Kaurismäki - Ariel - 1988
Driving a convertible around in the winter, only in a Kaurismaki film. Watched half of this mainly as a palate cleanser for previous. Need to watch the second half. Hell of a film.

Jean-Marc Vallée - Dallas Buyers Club - 2013
Second time seeing this. Not a fantastic film but good for the performances, mainly Mr. McConaughey.

Jeff Nichols - Midnight Special - 2016
Second time with this film. Initially went over my head somewhat, partly was too captivated by the performances and the look of the film I had trouble following the story. Still pretty much the same on second viewing. This guy has made a couple of good films.

Billy Wilder - The Apartment - 1960
Time to watch a serious classic. One of the films a young person watches to learn (and learn to appreciate) the language of cinema. Had been a long time since watching this, and had only seen on a television, it was great to see it projected on a somewhat large screen. The blacks and high contrast in this film are very inspiring to see, in the world of grey we live in. Wilder and cinematographer Joseph LaShelle had some serious balls to push the blacks.

Dan Trachtenberg - 10 Cloverfield Lane - 2016
Second time watching this. Enjoyable film. I liked the ending the most when Mary Elizabeth Winstead leaves the shelter to the craziness of the outside world. Shame the first film Cloverfield is not in line with this quality-wise.
John Landis - Trading Places - 1983 
Good general aesthetic in this film, gritty look (photography by Robert Paynter) and sleazy characters (Don Ameche & Ralph Bellamy), a bit of senseless nudity via Jamie Lee Curtis and some good classic business by Denholm Elliott.

Paul King - Paddington - 2014 
I had a Paddington Bear as a young boy. Very entertaining film. Sally Hawkins is great, as is Nicole Kidman as a sadist. Jim Broadbent with German accent, very nice!

Azazel Jacobs - The Lovers - 2017
My wife and I mainly watched to see more of  Tracy Letts. He is great in the film. Not something I would watch again, didn't hold up and story not engaging enough.

Josh Mond - James White - 2015
Second time watching. Didn't like it much the first time, but more so the second. The rawness and uncomfortability of it make it a good film experience. Christopher Abbott is quite good in the film. Nowhere near perfect but a decent film with many compelling moments for the viewer.

Jim Jarmusch - Paterson - 2016
Second time watching this, review previously here.

Damien Chazelle - Whiplash - 2014
Second time watching this. I would love if this film followed the musical world of Anthony Braxton rather than Wynton Marsalis. A main complaint.  To this viewer's ears the music has no place in the world that we live in. But the kid can drum like a motherfucker. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons do an outstanding job in this film, and the general visual darkness adds such moodiness and atmosphere that is very rewarding to a sensitive viewer (photography by Sharone Meir). I had forgotten that it was written and directed by Mr. La La Land, that film had some musical problems as well. Perhaps these films are trying to appeal to the masses that really don't have a feeling for music. If they pushed a little harder they would be pretty good films. Trying to think of Chazelle as some kind of genius really makes no sense to me, I wonder what the justifications are for that, here he made a decent film. I think the photography and editing add a lot to the general quality of the work. Without Simmons the film would not exist.

Safdie Brothers - Heaven Knows What - 2014
Again... very bad choice of music from these guys. Lack of sensitivity to what makes a film watchable and what gives a film impact. How is this film different from Jerry Schatzberg's Panic at Needle Park? An updated version with pastiche 1980s music perhaps and millennial editing and washed out photography that adds nothing but a watered down sensibility. Why the hell is it so washed out visually and who likes this sort of thing? Perhaps taking cues from popular art photography from 10 years ago?

Johnnie To - The Mission - 1999
First time seeing this. Great film, needed to cleanse the palate after Heaven film.... Can't wait to see other films by To, his work is superb. Very strange use of music here, a combo of almost kitsch with shoegaze bass lines, like Ride playing a wedding or something. Very interesting!


Kopie Kat said...

Kudos for letting me know I am not the only one worn by the 80's fixation.

It appears the informed youngins have found their thing in "meaningful" faux surrealism constructions build from computer effects and electric pulsating heart beats. Stepping back, it's apparent we've got a generation communicating how intelligent it is to itself via refined attention to nostalgic detail of the early millennial milieu.

Good cinema will always be hard to make. Older classics can still beat the pants off of all the current crazes. Especially amazing is when I get to watch younger audiences respond so well to older films. Amazing what can be done with light, shadow and no computer to help you. Who knew?

My hunch is the illusion great cinema is easier to create now because of new technology is the trap engulfing many new artists. The click hungry critics are no better. Eventually we'll get reverse trend in the works somewhere. Simplicity will be back because it currently is unfamiliar and eventually will become a shocking novelty. I'm just curious when it will arrive.

Also, thanks for reminding me about the Apartment. Never got to that one, but it's now nestling safely in my que.


the art of memory said...

in a way it is good that so many people can make films now but I do wonder about the quality when compared to someone like Wilder. Many young directors really know film history but they make shite. just is strange... I feel the films most appealing to me now for new things are just very subtle.
good points, thanks, and yeah fuck the 80s fixation. go back a decade or 2 or 3!