|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on May 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
MON ONCLE D'AMÉRIQUE ***1/2
IDEA: The lives of three French citizens are examined and used to illustrate theories of evolutionary psychology.
BLURB: Mon Oncle d’Amérique fits into a long lineage of films that adopt the human condition as their subject, locating sprawling philosophical, psychological, and existential currents in microcosmic personal stories. We get the sense watching it that these characters are totally incidental, that they might as well be anyone anywhere on this planet and it would make no difference. What makes Resnais’ film so unique in this pantheon, then, is that its characters are used as veritable case studies: under the analytical eye of real-life physician Henri Laborit, they are observed, tested, and evaluated with the same scientific rigor as lab rats, critters who make explicit appearances themselves. If this all seems a bit didactic – something it has no qualms about outright being – then Resnais’ exquisite formal techniques keep the whole thing fresh. His New Wave background in full evidence, the film is never content with being just one thing. Flitting between art and science, collage and essay, it is an adventurous and thought-provoking dive into the behavioral mechanics that consume us all. Perhaps most crucially, it is a plea for awareness among people whom too often don't understand their own actions. The answer to this occlusion, it shows us, is in the very medium we're watching.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on May 20, 2013 at 8:10 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on April 30, 2013 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
IDEA: Two boys come across a mysterious man living on an island in the middle of the Mississippi, and vow to help him escape - and reconnect him with his former lover.
BLURB: Mud is a mixture of dirt and water, solid and liquid, one belonging to the ground and the other forever flowing in variable patterns. It’s a fitting title for this earthy, elemental film, a coming-of-age story wrapped in the muggy air of the American South, a milieu where the only property more mucky than the pervasive sludge proves to be family. Nichols does a superior job at evoking a sense of place filled with textures and shades, and his script, a remarkably thorough, rich piece of character writing, is reminiscent of a novel in its detail. What the director does best of all, though, is putting us inside the mind of a child growing up among ramshackle relationships and fractured genealogies, giving us a heartbreaking sense of how those conditions help shape a brittle psychology. Tye Sheridan is simply beguiling as the boy, Ellis, while Matthew McConaughey, his complicated idol/surrogate, compliments him in a poignant relationship that becomes the heart and soul of the movie. Theirs is a constant push and pull between idealism and reality, trust and apprehension, comfort and fear, traits bound like mud in the depths of the mighty Mississippi.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on April 13, 2013 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
LES CARABINIERS ***1/2
IDEA: Two witless peasant boys are recruited into war, promised they will receive boundless luxuries upon their return.
BLURB: Les Carabiniers is an anti-war movie, and a hell of a good one at that, but it goes a step further to become an anti-war movie that criticizes the artificial bombast of other anti-war movies. Godard does this by depriving his audience of the usual adrenaline rush procured from most war films, giving us instead a picture entirely denied of glamour or heroics. Here war is sad and ignoble, characterized by flagrant stupidity, futility, and complete moral bankruptcy, a satirical vision of human indecency so absurd as to be frightening, and so frightening as to be utterly absurd. Pulling no punches, he brings under fire a culture of callous consumerism and hostility, skewering the people so pathetic they need guns in their hands to give them a sense of power they don’t have in their actual lives. The result is nothing less than the perfect indictment of those who glean authority from violence. Its impact is blunt, but sometimes thick heads need clobbering.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on April 5, 2013 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
MAMMA ROMA ****
Pier Paolo Pasolini
IDEA: A former prostitute moves the son she never knew from rural Italy to a middle-class apartment in Rome, hoping to better both of their lives.
BLURB: The tragedy of social stagnancy is elevated to scorching heights in Mamma Roma, Pasolini’s modern neorealist masterpiece. Anna Magnani is the titular Mamma, a carnal, overflowing embodiment of the city she represents and all its myriad vicissitudes. Hers is a character of incredible texture and spirit, possessing a firebrand magnetism that at once holds the film’s dynamic tonalities together and constantly rewrites their interplay. Shifting rapturously between seamy social realism and stylized grand opera, Pasolini bravely allows her and his other characters to be just as corrupt, unmanageable, and heedlessly destructive as the world that made them. Cerebral and subversive in subtle but remarkable ways, Mamma Roma looks at society’s ills not just as products of some higher authority’s misdeeds, but of the mishandled responsibilities of us all.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 31, 2013 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
Jim Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation, 1980
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 30, 2013 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
THE BAND WAGON ***
IDEA: A fading actor decides to make a comeback with a new musical show. Problems arise when a pompous, overambitious director signs on to head it, and the two main stars get off to a rocky start.
BLURB: The Band Wagon aims to entertain, and it does so admirably. If there doesn’t seem to be much more going on beneath the surface, that’s because there mostly isn’t; this is a musical that is fully content with being just that and little more, satisfied in its own capacity to provide stunning dance number after stunning dance number while making no false claims to profundity. So, yes, this has approximately the substance of a soufflé – a delicious one. And what’s wrong with that, the movie asks? Better to be a fun time than a Faustian mess. Taking after the titular play-within-the-film, the revue-like nature of The Band Wagon allows the audience to revel in the spectacular choreography and limber, mellifluous moves of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. From the vibrant energy of “A Shine on Your Shoes” to a heavenly dance duet in a moonlit park, from hilarious novelty “Triplets” to the prolonged, genuinely jaw-dropping “Girl Hunt” finale, it’s impossible to deny that, indeed, this is entertainment.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 15, 2013 at 11:05 PM||comments (0)|
IL POSTO ****
IDEA: A young man encounters the quirks and perils of working life when he applies for a job at a large corporation.
BLURB: Applying neorealist themes to a radically modern milieu, Il Posto depicts an Italy situated queasily between old and new, conservative and progressive, leaving its characters to wander in a kind of Kafkaesque limbo. Its rendering of a young man caught within the stifling concrete corridors of this world is astonishing in its canniness and breathtaking in its visual strategies. Olmi’s shot compositions are the stuff of dreams: playing immaculately with scale, depth, and geometry, his boxy, compartmentalized frames - often extreme wide shots - are stunning illustrations of an uneasy interplay between bodies and starkly enclosed spaces. These areas become all the more alienating when they’re underscored by the long gulps of deadening silence that overwhelm the soundtrack. Sandro Panseri, meanwhile, marvelously embodies the awkwardness and bewilderment of his fish-out-of-water experiences. With bug eyes, diminutive smile and pasty complexion, he is an endearing entry point to a world so mundane yet perplexing we realize, yes – it’s ours.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 8, 2013 at 8:45 PM||comments (0)|
I MARRIED A WITCH ***
IDEA: A witch seeking revenge on the man whose ancestors burned her 300 years ago disrupts his life, throwing his impending marriage and election campaign into chaos.
BLURB: A nimble and delightful film from the spry René Clair, chock full of clever gags and imaginative special effects. The story is romantic/screwball comedy taken to a different level, retrofitted with sublime supernatural elements that convert any traces of conventionality into inspired irreverence. We know not to take this world too seriously: autonomous puffs of smoke and talking liquor bottles set the standard for this whimsical universe, and it’s easy to get on board when those things are involved with the ravishing Veronica Lake and the wonderfully funny foil delivered courtesy of Fredric March. Throw in some light political satire for good measure, and you’ve got a winning little jewel of a comedy, one that’s as earnestly silly as it is genuinely bewitching.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 5, 2013 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
Jay Roach's Austin Powers in Goldmember, 2002