Archive for August, 2012

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My July and August ’12 in Film

August 1, 2012

Yes, this is a month overdue. July saw my unabashed foray into the Step Up series. Likewise into Europa Corp.—Luc Besson’s ever-growing French factory of decent genre pics—triggered by my enthusiasm for Lockout. The best this month was Besson’s own Nikita, followed by one of many in its mold: Colombiana, by the Tony Scott-aping Olivier Megaton; and another after a gap—The Transporter, adding fuel to my recent fascination with Jason Statham’s output. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and District B13 rounded Europa off (for now) as less successful entries. More importantly, I discovered a new director to fall in love with—Dimitri Kirsanoff, making two of the finest films I’ve ever seen. Little else has survived, at least with subtitles. I delved a bit into Japan this month also, making an effort to meet new directors with good results (particularly with Yamanaka), and similarly stuck to silent and early sound movies (not listed: Margaret Day, Female, Hot Saturday, Toni). I was lucky enough to see Oliveira’s 4.5 hour Doomed Love from a surprisingly good print shown at the Cinematheque. This is the kind of rigid affair I’ve drifted away from admiring so much the last year or so, but I still had a really good time with it. Finally, I saw the last Tony Scott movie, it turns out (as I write this following his death), I’ll ever see for the first time: Beverly Hills Cop II, highly enjoyable. A round 60 in total.

  1. Ménilmontant (1926, Kirsanoff)
  2. Rapt (1934, Kirsanoff)
  3. Oasis (2002, Lee)
  4. Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935, Yamanaka)
  5. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972, Fulci)
  6. Sexy Beast (2000, Glazer)
  7. Magic Mike (2012, Soderbergh)
  8. Cutter’s Way (1981, Passer)
  9. Murder By Contract (1958, Lerner)
  10. Step Up Revolution (2012, Speer)
  11. Cutting it Short (1981, Menzel)
  12. Passing Fancy (1933, Ozu)
  13. Mother (1952, Naruse)
  14. Antoine et Antoinette (1947, Becker)
  15. A Long Goodbye (1971, Muratova)
  16. Doomed Love (1979, Oliveira)
  17. Mr. Thank You (1936, Shimizu)
  18. Step Up 3 (2010, Chu)
  19. Secret Agent (1936, Hitchcock)
  20. Nikita (1990, Besson)
    *

Sexy Beast is the kind of film that would frustrate plot-minded plebs, and contrastly alienate some for its over-directed TV commercial and fashionable late-century machismo aesthetics. A small, small part of me could roll with the latter, but truthfully I ate this up. A more striking and funny The Limey, with silent cinema embellishments and post-Petulia/Resnais/Roeg suture strategies. Ben fucking Kingsley.

Murder By Contract was friggin’ cool. Proto-Jarmusch. Atypical Third Man-like score. A Nietzsche Superman ultimately flawed. Dem close-ups!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sheer, unrelenting noise. But the best of that kind. So much fun. There’s something to the flashbacks which makes me think a really great Feuillade-like serial could be packed into this sort of breathless spectacle.

Step Up Revolution is the best and smoothest in terms of clear storytelling since the first, which was totally vanilla compared to this, in line with the third’s unrealist spectacle, smart use of (and frequent attention to) 3D/depth built into the choreography to boot, a considered rather than opportunistic Occupy parable (*cough* Batman) with a nice/naive outcome (aww). Beautifully shot. Occasionally too cutty.

Spider-Man 3 is soo goood. Sure, it has some of the clumsiest, coincidence-laden plotting in any movie (which I’d forgive), and a dramatically confounding turn of events in the middle (Harry suddenly remembering and forcing MJ to break up with Pete because he has to attack his heart or whatever–extremely rushed and unconvincing, can’t forgive), but Raimi’s no less the action genius, and the emo passages are a blast.

Enough is like Cape Fear/Martha/De Palma/Verhoeven/Brecht but ultimately it’s utterly unsubtle and risible post-classical girl-power nonsense that attains an admirable force by the end. That climax set is cool. Hilarious movie. JLo plays it straight.

La Region Centrale is unwatchable. Interesting in theory. One of many experimental films that exposes my terrible lack of imagination.

Alice et Martin is probably Techine’s weakest that I’ve seen. Still novelistic and nuanced, but its structure is less intriguing; indeed it seems as if he was done with jumping about timelines until he does, just once. It’s alright.

Worst:

  • La Région Centrale (1971, Snow)
  • Twixt (2011, Coppola)

Best rewatches:

  • North By Northwest (1959, Hitchcock)
  • Beau Travail (1999, Denis) 35mm!
  • The Intruder (2004, Denis) 35mm!
  • The Spider-Man trilogy (2002/2004/2007, Sam Raimi)

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August, naturally, is the month of MIFF. I’ve taken out all festival viewings to avoid being repetitive…that is, whenever it is I list them in their own post. But I suppose this is what led to my watching a whopping, surely personal-record-breaking 91 movies in a single month. You’d think spending all day in movie theatres would compel you to shun images after returning home each night, but on the contrary it seems cinema only tightened its grip on me: I tended to forgo precious sleep just to watch more. Before you reject my filmic opinions forever, yes, a direct-to-video thing made number 1 in the ranking, but no, I am not trolling.  It is a perfect action movie: it’s lean, dexterously shifting between action/non-action rhythms, impeccably crafted in the shot-by-shot storyboarding sense with a wise use of the camera’s distance to bodies, and of course the fight choreography is cool as hell. Meanwhile, the polar opposites of these traits were executed flawlessly in all their flawed glory on a much bigger budget by Christopher Nolan in his third Batman, the cine-laureate of blind and deaf people everywhere. Wow, that was offensive to actual blind and deaf people. Moving on. There wasn’t much trending this month, for the festival. Some Joe Dante, and a couple Tony Scotts upon hearing of his shocking death. I miss him sorely.

  1. Ninja (2009, Florentine)
  2. The Man from the Diners’ Club (1963, Tashlin)
  3. Casualties of War (1989, De Palma)
  4. Lonesome (1928, Fejös)
  5. A Running Jump (2012, Leigh)
  6. Sleepless Night (2011, Jardin)
  7. Taking Off (1971, Forman)
  8. Damsels in Distress (2011, Stillman)
  9. The Legend of Suram Fortress (1986, Parajanov/Abashidze)
  10. Day of the Outlaw (1959, De Toth)
  11. A Woman of Paris (1923, Chaplin)
  12. The Parson’s Widow (1920, Dreyer)
  13. Wolfsburg (2003, Petzold)
  14. The Hole (2009, Dante)
  15. Yearning (1964, Naruse)
  16. Level Five (1997, Marker)
  17. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby /
    Step Brothers (2006/2008, McKay)
  18. Mouth to Mouth (1978, Duigan)
  19. The Road (2001, Omirbayev)
  20. Cosmopolis (2012, Cronenberg)
    *

True Heart Susie. Pretty good. Potent held close-ups of hearts being tested. Some superfluous titlecards.

The Raid was pretty damn good. Beautiful control. Strong spatial sense. Often deadeningly long/violent action sequences, but never lacking in creative choreography.

Finally built up the courage to watch Casualties of War. De Palma’s the fucking man, to be sure. Having Fox dreamember it all was a wise idea as it defines the operatic sublimity of the horror on display, and it’s utilised more critically in the coda as a macroscopic “bad dream”, the events of which we choose to forget. De Palma naturally had to remind us again with Redacted. Also, his most meaningful use of split-diopter effects?

Yearning‘s framing is impeccable; you couldn’t fault it. The narrative is just as impeccable. But the last shot and the cut to “The End” is almost mind-blowingly cruel. It’s difficult to really read her there. It almost becomes a “I fucking deserved this, really” and I’ve an image of her after this movie utterly bitter and numb.

Duplicity is mostly frustrating in its clever narrative actualisation and play on its title, but by the end it felt complete and rather satisfying. Robert Elswit.

Damsels in Distress was adorable. I don’t recall Stillman being this…comedic? Like, Thor and his inability to comprehend colours for skipping the first grade. Absurd. And very funny. Ryan Metcalf is really something, a totally cartoon performance; it looked like he was animated by Brad Bird himself. Strangely, Aubrey Plaza overdid it; more proof that her schtick is only truly great on late shows when she has no lines. The close-ups seemed to be fashioned after old Hollywood whereby the face is luminous and the background is soft and out of focus. Gerwig’s close-up at the Complainer meeting is gorgeous. I’m not totally sure what happens at the end. I know they start dancing but where does the narrative disappear to? I have to watch these scenes again!

*
Lynne Ramsay’s Olympics short, Swimmer. Utterly rapturous b+w cinematography nodding to Riefenstahl’s immortalisation of man’s physique, with a Davies-like compendium of aural references and nods to old England. It is beautiful and baffling.
*
I admire the way Bernie allows us to intuit certain details before they are addressed by the faux-documentary inquisition. The most significant being the use of past-tense in the interviews, as well as Linklater’s allowing us to perceive Bernie’s flamboyant gestures by way of Black’s very fine performance. It reveals itself to be quite interesting morally, with the doting townsfolk at once humanist and lawfully speaking, biased. The film itself is also humanist in regards to Bernie, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.
*
I’m not sure that Four Flies on Grey Velvet makes even a bit of sense, and it’s ludicrously comical even for Argento, but there’s too much brash camerawork and editing to dismiss it.
*
Tony’s Pelham is still fucking great. Auteuristically speaking his most complete; at the risk of checklisting: the male/male “romance” at its centre, the control room governing the fates of actual lives, flawed working class types stepping up to the plate for the greater good (the greeater gooood), an angel of death or extreme situation forcing sinners to face their moral consequences with the possibility of redemption, a self-sacrifice, surveillance and the media, a minor racial element… Missing a resurrection, however. Scary that the climax again takes place on a bridge. Totally gorgeous coloured lighting and the train velocity motif with images and text playfully whizzing all around. The opening image is minimised down to a little box like the light at the end of a tunnel, expanding as we approach it.
*
Compelled to mention:
  • The Raid (2011, Evans)
  • Swimmer (2012, Ramsay)
  • The Hitch-Hiker (1953, Lupino)
  • Bernie (2011, Linklater)
  • Drowning by Numbers (1988, Greenaway)
  • Dans Paris (2006, Honoré)
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971, Argento)
  • Case Départ (2011, Steketee)

Best rewatches:

  • The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009, Scott)
  • Total Recall (1990, Verhoeven)
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990, Dante)
  • Man on Fire (2004, Scott)
    *

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