Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TranSylvania


Zingarina, a lost and hopeful French bohemian, travels to Transylvania to find something -- she thinks it's a former, deported boyfriend, it turns out to be much more. The journey she takes transforms her from a hungry malcontent to a satisfied nomad, and the road trip transforms our imagination as incrementally as it overwhelms our expectations with gypsy culture.


++++

Monday, January 12, 2009

Into the Wild



The movie adaptation of this story of a young man's trek into the wilderness & shaking-off-the-shackles-and-hypocrisy-of-society works not only because of the subtle and harmonious performances of actors, cinematographer and musicians (all of which are devastatingly beautiful), but also because the thematic questions manage to stay alive in our hearts throughout the story: isn't it better to live a life of purity? beauty? experience? Given our understanding of the ending and the presence of wise voices like Chris' sister and his final friend, I am amazed at how passionately I still wanted the social experiment to work.

+++++

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Smart People


It's hard to see through lackluster performances and missing chemistry between the romantic leads to a solid, understated structure with richly written characters and worlds; Ellen Page's performance is one of the truest, and if Thomas Haden's character didn't feel so I've-seen-you-do-this-before-at-least-three-times, it might ring true. The wold is nicely constructed, but the directing/editing-pacing is too rhythmic and conventional and the music (though it's a great soundtrack) invades almost every scene, insisting on a particular appropriate response from the viewer.

+++

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Prizewinner of Defiance, OH


For a film so celebrative of heartwarming uplift of a story, Prizewinner manages to maintain a sufficiently distant tone through narrative devices crafted in post-production, a great art design and a great tension between the clear-eyed sullenness of the adolescent narrator daughter and the clear-eyed forgiveness of the title character, played (as ever) unflinchingly frankly and honestly by Julianne Moore. The only difficulty in this story springs from it's divergence from the conventional Hollywood narrative structure -- no one kicks off the story with a goal or an aim of any kind; the result works (and doesn't) in a strange way, we (the audience) feels like the unrelenting (yet understated) tension between "Mother" and "Father" can only be survived - never overcome -- a difficult narrative burden to bear, but it does lock us into an empathetic solidarity with "Mother"'s position.

+++1/2

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Man Push Cart


The ambivalence, pacing, truth-from-the-margins and attentive beauty of this film devastated me. The performance and the script are subtle but the directing and the photography are inspired: beauty drenches this despondent story about the slippery rungs on the ladder of the American Dream; the shape and experience of the exilic Pakistani community and their dreams are always hinted at and insinuated - seemingly as impenetrable for my outsider sensibilities as they must be resonant for those who are the longing insiders.

+++++

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Easy Rider


Like the title, this road trip movie doesn't ask too much of it's viewer for the first half of the movie, the road unspools with minimal character development or plot interruption, and so, on some level, the Major Dramatic Question that kept me engaged was -- do I like this movie? I think I like this movie. Once the riders hit small town texas and a patriotic parade, the story turns and twists in ways I wasn't expecting, and loved all the more because of the unexpected and true way that they played out.

++++1/2