Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Week in Review

After a dearth of films to start the year, the past week has had too many films to see them all. I've caught three of ACMI's Land and Freedom season which continues next week, as well as some advance screenings (Half Nelson is due for release April 19, and The Notorious Bettie Page comes out on March 8).

I'm nearing the end of my viewing of all of
Almodóvar's catalogue (16 films) but suspect I will want to re-view each of them for an article I'm planning on Almodóvar. All these films have taken their toll and I've not written a review for a while. Hopefully I'll get one up this week, most likely for The Fountain.

FILMS:
  • Little Children (Todd Field, 2006)
  • Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
  • The Notorious Bettie Page (Mary Harron, 2005)
  • Encounter Point (Ronit Avni & Julia Bacha, 2006)
  • Devils on the Doorstep (Guizi Lai Le, Wen Jiang, 2000)
  • I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba, Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1964)

VIDEO:
  • Live Flesh (Carne Trémula, Pedro Almodóvar, 1997)

DVD:
  • The Short Films of David Lynch (David Lynch)

BOOKS I'M READING:
  • A Spanish Labyrinth: The Films of Pedro Almodovóvar (Mark Allinson, 2001)

7 comments:

Matthew said...

How was I Am Cuba? I didn't get a chance to see it.

Paul Martin said...

Matthew, I was happy to overlook things like the propaganda aspect and some devices that were a little dated by today's standards or repetitive (such as the skewed angles, particularly looking upwards at various characters).

Historically, I think it's an important piece of art that we're lucky has been unlocked from the archives, so to speak. The cinematography is just sublime - really richly textured with great attention to lighting.

I've read other comments by people who found the episodic nature a little disjointed, though I didn't have a problem with that. It sort of predicts the ensemble-type films of today and I found the different elements worked well together.

If you saw the documentary last week about the film, you'd have seen the two most significant and amazing tracking shots. One is at the start and one is at the end. Awesome is a word that is often abused, but these two sequences were the most awesome tracking shots I have ever seen. PT Anderson reportedly paid homage to one of them in Boogie Nights. They reminded me of some of Scorsese's work, who said in the documentary that if he'd seen this as a young film-maker, he'd have made very different films in his career.

For what it's worth (and I don't think you subscribe to a star rating system), it's the first five-star film I've seen this year.

Delon Melville said...

Missed those films at ACMI, just did not have the time.

Have seen Little Children, expected more as the directors last effort was better. The subplot was unnecessary. Too long. Not sure of the narration either.

Did PT Anderson use similar shots in, ahh forgot, the Adam Sandler film. Which was extreme widescreen ratio, forgot what it is...

dm

Marina said...

Looking forward to your thoughts on "The Fountain" and "Half Nelson" actually.

I seem to be on my own with "The Fountain". None of my friends enjoyed it while I saw it three times and can't wait to add it to my DVD collection...

Paul Martin said...

Delon, I also preferred In The Bedroom. Little Children tackled similarly weighty and dark issues but couched it as a twisted urban fairy-tale with Babe-like narration. What could have been seen as silly contrivances were all acceptable in this light. I think it was reasonably successful at what it set out to achieve, but a little disappointing, particularly the end.

PT Anderson's film was Punch-Drunk Love, but I didn't notice the angles (I loved the film - saw it twice, which is rare for me).

Marina, The Fountain is my favourite commercially released film so far this year. I want to see it again, if time permits, as I think this film requires at least two viewings (I came out eager to see it again and again). I found it sublime, maybe even transcendent. I liked the lack of explanation and the "space to dream" as David Lynch might call it.

I'm sure Aronofsky believes in that too; his Pi certainly recalls Lynch's work, particularly Eraserhead. I made interpretations from my viewing of The Fountain that I now believe not to be true (I thought the weird scenes by the tree were happening on an astral level, rather than as a 2600 astronaut), but that didn't alter the appreciation. I think the film lends itself to interpretation in multiple and equally valid ways.

I'm with you on The Fountain, Marina, and I'd like to get the DVD too. It also reminds me a little of Tarkovsky's (or even Soderberg's) Solaris. I loved the lighting and style which created an amazing ambience in tandem with the subdued use of music.

Half Nelson for me recalls Old Joy and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (one of the five producers was involved in the latter). I found it a bit hard going, and didn't 'get' the director's intention until after the film (mind you, I was exhausted at the time and struggled to stay awake at times, which is not the fault of the film).

There was a Q&A with one of the producers (Paul someone.. can't remember his surname). From his talk, we learnt that the major theme was almost identical to the political theme of Old Joy - the lament at the loss of idealism in America, as conservitism proliferates.

The film appears to be a circular narrative pivoting around one girl - her idealistic history teacher going downhill on drugs, and her jailed brother's drug dealer boss who supplies the drugs - is just a frame for another theme that totally eluded me during my viewing. I think it was laudable that the director would not spell out his intentions, though I wish either I could have made that connection myself or that the intention may have been a little more obvious.

Nonetheless, now that I know, I feel inclined to see it again with a different perspective. It's not a film for the masses, to be sure, but well worth seeing for the discerning and thoughtful. Films like this struggle to get a distribution, or even to get made.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul with Half Nelson "Films like this struggle to get a distribution, or even to get made"
To my mind it's a shame the latter did not apply in this case.

To be honest outside of the ensemble young African american cast for me this was a total bore. I fail to see why critics rave over Ryan Goslings performance as a crackhead high school teacher. History Boys which I have only seen shorts of I could understand.

There's an old story if a deal looks too good it must be so. Palace had a deal for a ticket to "Half Nelson" a cosmetics giveaway plus a free ticket to the opening night (May 3) for "The Science of Sleep" which looks interesting. 2 movies and a giveway. Having sat through "Half Nelson" I can see what the catch was. Drab and a drag.

Paul Martin said...

Anonymous, I can understand that perception of Half Nelson. I didn't overly enjoy it but found it worthwhile. I liked the subtle theme of lamenting the loss of liberalism.

I have seen Science of Sleep and found it disappointing after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don't think Gondry's writing is as good as Charlie Kaufman's; they work better as a team.