Sunday, January 31, 2010

Suture


This clever, meticulously-shot drama about identity, lost and regained (?) should have been a thriller and then it would have been amazing. As it is, many of the elements are a good film are here: an interesting story, solid performances, decadent sets, but for me, it was too: perpetually self-aware, posturingly stylish, and slow-without-the-suspense-it-needed-as-an-engine.


+++

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GINA, AN ACTRESS, AGE 29


This short feels as natural and unaffected as any short film I've seen -- the performances, the mise en scene, the direction -- they all work together to serve the simple, rewarding story. Gina, a new actress, finds herself in an ethically shady pay-the-bills gig, and then needs to find a way to retain her own sense of truth.

++++1/2

This Sundance short, by Paul Harrill, is available now at the Auteurs.

The Motel

Thirteen year old Earnest wants to leave the hourly-rate motel that his immigrant Chinese family owns; he wants to go the awards dinner for the honorable mention; he wants to make it with his teenage friend who waitresses at the nearby Chinese restaurant, but despite everything he wants, he really doesn't have much of an idea of who he is or what he should be doin', until a mysterious lothario named Sam arrives and complicates his world even more. The naturalistic style, the subtle dark humor and winning characters everywhere make this coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water story a delight to engage.

++++1/2


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days


This story is simple, quiet and direct, and because it manages to retain such a dignity and continuity it's impact is devestating. The production values are so inobtrusive because such care has gone into developing the mise en scene, the performances and the choreography of the cinematography; together, all help achieve the remarkable restatement of: how profoundly unfair women's experiences have been and are -- and how the politics of our bodies orient us to the world.

++++1/2

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The International


The spectacular climactic shootout comes slightly too early in this film, and the dramatic tensions, though well constructed, never quite match the gory splendour of the midpoint of the film. I'm disappointed that critics and audiences generally panned this smart, complex thriller and hope that it's not indicative that indeed, the viewing public has been so "dumbed down" by this genre that they cannot accept this meatier fare; conversely, Twyker occasionally flashes a bit too much bling, exceeding even Bond's flair for fantastic, with a particular jones for contemporary architecture (a fetish I took pleasure in, but I'm still not sure it served the story).


+++1/2

Friday, January 15, 2010

Four Eyed Monsters



I came to this movie in the same kind of intertextual swirl that most of its audience did and I had my reservations about solipsism and narcissism beforehand. Ultimately the pace and the honesty mingled with the artifice and the pretense worked in exactly right proportions for me to care -- all the way until the ending -- which -- I am less enthusiastic about...

+++1/2

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Raise the Red Lantern


This stunning chronicle of one year in the life of a new Chinese concubine manages to work partly because of the meticulous artistry in the grand costume-drama tradition, but also because of the (subtle, almost invisible) point of view that is cultivated. We stay so close to our protagonist that each mistake and horror and hope seems ours during the second half of the film.

+++++

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Conversation

Harry Caul tries to live a life below the surveillance technologies (since surveillance is his job) and below the threshold of moral evaluation (he does his job well; he's not responsible for any outcome other than quality) -- when he recognizes that his work may indeed contribute to a great evil, his attempts to undo what he has done become increasingly difficult. This film puts a near-perfect story structure in the service of masterful camera work, startling audio recording and editing and fantastically contained performances.

+++++

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Adventureland


When James realizes that his champagne education gave him some significant misperceptions, landing him in a carnie job at a local amusement park instead of on a summer-long European tour, he tries to make sense of his identity and direction through an emerging relationship with the bad girl in the next game booth. The film managed evenly matched script, mise en scene, cinematography, music and performances, opening by hitting every genre expectation on the note, but morphing into a much more subtle soft-peddled fruition.

++++