Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Loneliest Planet: A Division Larger Than Mountains

The Loneliest Planet
Directed by: Julia Loktev
Written By: Julia Loktev, from a short story by Tom Bissell
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, and Bidzina Gujabidze
Director of Photography: Intr Briones, Editor: Michael Taylor, Production Designer: Rabiah Troncelliti

         The moment that changes everything for the two characters in The Loneliest Planet is so brief that you better make sure you keep your eyes on the screen and better not sneeze. I almost missed it writing something in my notes. It would be easy to subscribe this film as one of those subtle works that requires copious amounts of attention for a relatively satisfactory payoff.  However, the challenge is more than fulfilling, and the payoff quite devastating. Julia Loktev’s second narrative film is a unique examination of communication between couples and the boundaries that can hold us back.

            Shot in the gorgeous landscapes of the Georgian mountains, Loktev never sets up exactly what type of story we will be watching. We begin by seeing the young Nica (Hani Furstenberg) jumping nude up and down on a wooden plank that crashes against our eardrums. Is she captive? No, she’s just waiting for her boyfriend Alex, played by Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal, to bring in the hot water so she can finish her shower. The two are backpacking in the area, strangers in a strange land. In early scenes, we see them interact with local culture through gestures and movements. These two are experienced in the world, not just tourists trying to go the insider route.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Notes on Looper: On Dangerous Time


Because I am about a month late to the party, and because this blog needs some original content instead of just links to other work, here are some notes I wrote up about Rian Johnson’s Looper, a film I liked quite a lot:

-There’s an early moment in the car in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks at his sleek red car. He takes his thumb and rubs out a smudge. It’s a classic moment seen in a number of movies, but I couldn’t help but see this as Johnson’s approach to making movies. His films are slick and no detail is left to chance. They are tightly wound in both their narrative structures. His films aren’t puzzles in that they suggest “whodunits,” but that they are built from details into nifty little, closed-world circuits. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Video Essay - What Makes QT Cool?

Cool might be the defining word of Quentin Tarantino's career, and certainly his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction, but what makes Tarantino's characters so cool? In a video essay made by Matt Zoller Seitz and myself, we explore how Pulp Fiction creates and deconstructs its own cool. Huge thanks to Kevin B. Lee and Max Winter for all their help on this, Dave Bunting Jr. for the terrific narration, and especially Matt for all his wonderful guidance and help on the project, which went through so many iterations I can't even count. Watch the labor of love here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

NYFF: Assayas's Summer of Marx and Moon Landing Theories

While NYFF is over, I've got a couple pieces left to file, including this one on Olivier Assayas's Something in the Air, which was my favorite of the festival. I look at the film as a spiritual sequel to Carlos, his 5.5 hour epic from 2010. The piece is pretty good, but I actually had a couple more notes I should have included after chatting with Adam Kempenaar from Filmspotting the other night. Here's what I wrote to him: 

"[Assayas] kind of was this remedy for the French New Wave in a lot of ways that decided to foreground emotion in every frame. I think those dolly shots rising up into the air are totally subjective in a lot of ways ("Don't watch me leave" and the camera totally does), and so the fire during that sequence in the middle is like the emotions are so angry and so furious that instead of appearing via people screaming at each other, they conjure themselves visually as physical elements such as fire. And I love that element to this film."

So you can read that piece here.

UPDATE: Here's my final piece from NYFF, a consideration of Room 237, in which I try and parse through some of the criticisms remarked by two legendary critics, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Girish Shambu. Their pieces are better (and are linked in there), so read those, as well as mine here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

NYFF: Like Someone In A Panic Attack

While the above frame might suggest something creepy, there is nothing plot wise unsettling in the latest from Abbas Kiarostami, a Tokyo-set drama entitled Like Someone In Love. Since I've praised Certified Copy to the high heavens, I didn't like this as much, but found my visceral reaction to it (shaking, convulsing) to be one of the most unique reactions I've had in a movie all year.

Anyways, it's one of four movies discussed in this week's Cinephiliacs, along with Michael Haneke's Amour, Leos Carax's Holy Motors, and Olivier Assayas's Something in the Air. And I'm glad to take David Ehrlich from the Criterion Corner along for the ride to discuss them. Listen to that here.

Additionally, I wrote a piece for Criticwire discussing further thoughts on the Kiarostami film as well as Downpour, one of the Masterworks films and an early landmark piece of Iranian cinema from a director named Bahram Beyza’i. Beyza'i is one of those directors who everyone in Tehran knows really well, mainly for his theater work, but now I can't wait to see more of his films. Anyways, read that piece here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

NYFF: The Future of The Film Maudit

Over at the Film Society blog, I wrote about the new director's cut of Heaven's Gate, which will be out on Criterion Blu-Ray this November. I also used the opportunity to discuss how the new landscape of cinephilia has changed how we view the "film maudit," the cursed film so to say. Read it here.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

NYFF: Cinephiliacs Slices A Piece of "Life of Pi"

On the latest episode of The Cinephiliacs, Jaime Christley comes on board to discuss a tigers, alligators, and minotaurs, as we dive into more from the New York Film Festival. This episode includes discussions on Life of Pi, Room 237, Tabu, Night Across the Street, Leviathan, and Caesar Must Die. You can listen to that here

NYFF: KidCritiz Writings

The above pictured Victoria Guerra ("wtifu...") was more than enough to keep my attention during Lines of Wellington, the semi-spiritual sequel to Mysteries of Lisbon that would have been the next film by Raul Ruiz before his passing last year. Over at the Film Society blog, I write about Wellington and Ruiz's final film, Night Across the Street, as well as the filmmaker's legacy. Check that out here.

Over at Criticwire, I explore three films that use digital imagery in unique ways, including Passion, Holy Motors, and You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet! Check that out here.

Both these posts are in conjunction with Indiewire's KidCriticz Academy (more on that here).

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

NYFF: Alain Renais's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!

Over at The Playlist, I review my favorite film of the New York Film Festival so far, Alain Resnais's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet! It's quite a delightful film, so I suggest checking it out, as well as reading my case for its extravagance. One correction—I suggest at one point that this was to be his final film, and found some reports back and forth discussing the matter, though now it seems that there will indeed be at least one more feature. I regret the error.