Wednesday, December 12, 2018

plato's cave seventy seven (being a film journal)

Ariel Vromen - The Iceman - 2013
Second time seeing this, I enjoy the Michael Shannon performance.

Ben Affleck - Gone Baby Gone - 2007
Have seen this a couple of times, mostly a pretty good film.

Terrence Malik - The Thin Red Line - 1998
My favorite Malik film, have seen this many times over the years. Purchased bluray and christened our new screening room with a viewing. Photography by John Toll and music by Hans Zimmer, Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question), Gabriel Fauré, Arsenije Jovanovic, Arvo Pärt, and Francesco Lupica. I hadn't thought of the very nice CD of Jovanovic's work which I plan to listen to this week.  Great soundtrack! I include an image of Elias Koteas as he just one hell of a great actor.

Andrey Zvyagintsev - Loveless - 2017
From the director of The Return from 2003. The film starts with some breathtaking winter photography by Mikhail Krichman, and a window shot not unlike Josef Sudek. The film is just beautiful to watch. The plot and characters were a bit grating on me, a couple of Russian yuppies neglect their kid and he runs away or is taken. So many melon farmers like this in the world I find I don't want to watch movies about them, but definitely worth watching as Zvyagintsev is a serious filmmaker.

Mike Judge - Office Space - 1999
Saw this was streamable and decided to give it a go as I was very tired and wanted something with a bit of humor. Stephen Root makes this film worth rewatching.

Ted Post - Hang 'Em High - 1968
Early Western with Clint Eastwood. I use to watch Westerns quite often but have not as much in the last few years, so going through some of the lesser known classics. This one is problematic but has some good moments, Eastwood is dirty sob as he is in so many films, a pleasure to watch.

Alfonso Cuarón - Roma - 2018
Watched this in the theater with Atmos sound. Have never seen a film with sound this overwhelmingly present in a theater, sound that washes all over you like a fog. The film transcends almost all contemporary films of the last 30 years and what they have to offer with the exception of Béla Tarr and a couple of Terrence Malik films.  Of course there are contemporary art house films but jeez louise many are like going to the dentist or too steeped in the Tarkovsky/Bresson/Ozu tradition to take seriously, this one transcends time and space throughout. I find many current arthouse films (one could use Loveless above as an example) have moments but you really need to make excuses for more than half of the film to talk about it with any kind of enthusiasm. Seeing Roma reminded me of my younger days seeing The Seven Samurai or Bergman Films or Andrei Rublev on the big screen for the first time. The shock of it, the pure pleasure. 100% and no fucking around. You get older and these shocks are less frequent.

For this viewer, there was a strong connection with the Structuralist filmmakers of the 60s and 70s like Michael Snow, Ernie Gehr, Malcolm Le Grice, Chris Welsby etc, and also with filmmakers deeply moved by these films whom moved into a more narrative space like Chantal Akerman. The artifice of the film itself is overwhelmingly a character in Roma, the movement of the camera and the relationship of architecture and people to the lens and therefore to the screen and how the viewer perceives the screen. One can say artifice as film is magic and not reality. Gehr had once said there was a desire for the Structuralists to remove the person, like how landscape painters had, yet the person does creep into many of their films like Snow's <-->Back and Forth. These filmmakers really played with sound in interesting ways as well which is what made me first think of them. An example in Roma is in the ending credits where the camera looks up towards the sky.  A few airplanes fly overhead (a big theme in this film). The sound is mostly field-recording based with some flute sounds here and there.  The first few planes go over and they give no sound, and then the last one goes past and we finally hear the familiar roar. Such a delicate touch, these delicacies occurs over and over in the film. Long takes with people floating by the lens. Early in we have a series of camera pans on the second floor of his childhood house followed by a cut where the camera is suddenly on the first floor and the pan continues with no effort or shock. Deeply poetic. Oftentimes the camera is a potential observer, an absent one or a loving one. Is the camera merely observing or possibly it is Cuarón looking back to his memories with some form of observation we all dream we could have. This dream/memory state gives Cuarón something rare in the history of cinema and this film such a force.

Along with First Reformed, this is the best film of the year. Roma maybe the best of the decade.

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