Sunday, April 30, 2006

Belle de jour d. Luis Bunuel, 1967

Something about Bunuel; tonally, him and I are on different planets. (I'd like to chalk it up to the Surrealists: I feel the same way about Dali. However, I'm head over heels for Magritte. Alas.) Rife with condescension, Bunuel's films - Belle de jour in particular - feel like sarcastic exercises in negation; ad infinitum, Bunuel shows us how not to live, how not to act. Here, the victim of Bunuel's sarcasm is muddled: is this the upper crust we're looking at, or married couples? Perhaps sex is the object? Things are shown that are contradictions of terms: a bourgeois housewife plays hooker dress-up; daydreams are conflated with the quotidian. But what of it? The medium of film is already a strange enough play between reality and fantasy, to thematize it seems redundant. (Again, I feel quite the same way about Dali's dimensionalizing of space. When it comes down to it, Deleuze, Bergson, and Virilio have said it already, and with a good deal more eloquence.) Quite possibly, excepting maybe The Discreet Charm (which I'll be seeing again next weekend), Bunuel is just one of those filmmakers I don't connect with.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Brick d. Rian Johnson, 2006

The idea of a high school noir seems so obvious now: I can't imagine a setting more dramatic, convoluted, or nihilistic. The locale goes a long way in making the terse, noir dialogue buyable (take a powder = leave early; yeg = guy); these things are ridiculous caricatures, but without the setting, they'd just be ridiculous. Ditto the character names: Tugger, The Pin, Dode. The machinations fit right when placed in a culture where the supreme goal is the apathy and indifference of cool.

An argument could be made (although I won't flex too hard here - space, time, yadda yadda) that this is really - like She's All That or Fast Times at Ridgemont High - a pure high school picture. The characters - and, ergo, the audience too - identify each other in terms of consumption ("She knows where I eat lunch," et cetera.) Kids die, are lost to drugs, form cliques, and generally - figuratively - eat each other alive; the system consumes. Stripping the action down to its themes and emotions (e.g. instead of Em's murder, substitute in ostracizing by her classmates), the film follows the typical high school story arc: he loves her, she might love him, she leaves him, he chases her, et cetera. This isn't to downplay the film. The opposite actually: Johnson slaps life into one tired genre (the high school film), while putting a new spin on another (Noir). The results are ridiculously satisfying and, I'd imagine, would reward multiple viewings.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cuts Short Cuts

Looking at my statcounter, about 3 of you know that there's a section of this 'blog called "Short Cuts," wherein I house about 75% of my writing. Diminishing returns, no? With that in mind, I'm formally retiring "Short Cuts." Or maybe moving is the better word. "Short Cuts" is packing up and moving to the main page. Look at the post below. 2 quick paragraphs, no revisions, no proofreading. Quick, sweet, nasty. Hopefully, this will make the C&c. look just as active as it is. (I actually update, on average, once a day.)

So: in addition to the occasional long form review, all of the short, un-edited reviews will now be housed on this page as well. I'll keep "Short Cuts" up and running just so all those older reviews aren't lost, but don't hit it with the RSS anymore, 'k?

L'Enfant (The Child) d. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2005

Michael Sicinski writes about the Dardenne Bros' film prior to L'Enfant, The Son, mentioning that critical consensus - or at least the closest thing to one - of that film is that it is difficult to talk about in normal terms. The film resists - like Avant Garde cinema, says Sicinski - words, rationalization, and instead is too perfect for words. The last part of that is an obvious critical cop-out (talking about The Son in useful terms is difficult), but there's something to it. The same can be said of L'Enfant.

Thematically, the film is simple; the child here is - sure - the baby conceived by Bruno and Sonia, but also Bruno himself: ergo, we have a film "about" the growing pains of responsibility. Kinda' interesting. However, the tone is where the complexity - and near-greatness - of the film lies. The Dardenne's maintain a sense of mundanity while also keeping the film at an absolute zenith of tension. The space the film operates within - a sort of hyper quotidian -, not simply the storyline (although it's that too), kept this viewer's attention rapt; I completely lost sense of time watching this film - I still don't know, it may have been 80 minutes, it may have been 180 minutes.