image Screening Log: January 2016

 

Tower (Radwanski, 2012, 5.9)
The focal point of this narrative    a 34 year-old, under-achieving, white man who lives in his parents’ basement and aspires to designing video games    does not particularly promise an intriguing film, but Tower is more compelling than the promise suggests, exhibiting a unique understanding of emotions and relationships that are highlighted in the film’s aggressive visual style, almost entirely shot in tight close-ups. The open-ended finale is somewhat underwhelming.

Attenberg (Tsangari, 2010, 6.7)
Much as the director herself would argue otherwise on both counts, Attenberg is a distinctly Greek film and one that belongs to the formal and aesthetic unofficial family of New Greek Cinema. Her austere story of sexual repression and social regression is compelling, meticulously crafted, and performed with a superb understand of the place of performance in the director’s overarching vision. The central friendship between the two women has an endearing quality to it that comes from a precisely female voice.

Fear and Desire (Kubrick, 1953, 6.0)
Kubrick’s first feature is an anti-war message film; it exhibits the cold formal control that the director’s oeuvre later came to be associated with, but Fear and Desire‘s philosophical objections to war are delivered rather bluntly. It’s an observation, rather than an exploration, of the psychological toll of war, the conflict between duty and morality, and the claustrophobic sense of oppression for the soldiers. The absence of any dramatic tension means that the film really feels quite a bit longer than its 70 minute running time.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Lucas, 1977, 5.9)
George Lucas’s magnum opus is a superbly crafted, inventively designed epic that, unlike the more recent entries in the Star Wars saga, still does not look outdated, despite nearly four decades of advancement in film technology. On a personal level, however, I’ve never been able to connect to this phenomenon. Whether it is because I arrived at this series with the weight of many years of hype and expectation, or simply that the material isn’t in my wheelhouse, Lucas’s universe is never elevated above the silliness of the whole thing. I will remain forever mystified at how Star Wars has maintained such universal fandom for so long.

Joy (Russell, 2015, 7.0)
David O. Russell might be the only filmmaker who can bring tears of joy to my eyes about the triumph of capitalism. Joy is bursting at the seams with energy and verve; it’s as unhinged as it is controlled, but more importantly, it’s intimate filmmaking. Russell cares deeply for his characters and makes yet another film, after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, in which our connection with what is on the screen feels tactile. Much has been written about Jennifer Lawrence’s age, that she’s miscast for the part; that may be true, but she’s doing wonders in this role, selling the character’s dogged strength with the sheer force of her star charisma.

Wednesday, May 9 (Jalilvand, 2015, 7.6)
Jalilvand’s debut film begins with a premise that appears far-fetched    a man posts a newspaper ad for a specific amount of money he wants to donate ti one person for charity    but as the story develops, its twists and turns take the audience into the wretched reality of tough economic times for the Iranian lower-middle class. It takes a while for the film to find the right tone, but gradually finds the perfect balance between the personal pains of its protagonists and the social repercussions of their misfortune. This is a very impressive debut, featuring a towering performance from one of Iran’s most underrated actors, Amir Aghayi.

Nahid (Panahandeh, 2015, 7.4)
Sareh Bayat sneaked up on audiences in A Separation four years ago and in the short time since has become one of the most captivating and compelling actors working today. She carries Ida Panahandeh’s first film on her shoulders as a single mother who persistently fights a society that is patriarchal and archaic. Panahandeh won a “most promising future” prize at Cannes, where she debuted the film, and it’s easy to see why. Showing the dirty, grey side of Iran’s northern villages by the Caspian sea    in place of the more common, lush vistas Iranian cinema has been accustomed to    she convincingly conveys the sense of oppression felt by women in such small communities.

In a Lonely Place (Ray, 1950, 10.0) (lecture, in Farsi)
“I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

Behind the Screen (Chaplin, 1916, N/A)
One of Chaplin’s lesser efforts and rather thin, thematically. Yet, it’s a delight to see his take on the knots and bolts of filmmaking behind the screen, with his usual charm. Plus, the new restoration, made possible with the help of Michel Hazanavicius, looks gorgeous.

Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960, 7.5)
An absolutely thrilling experience. Powell turns the gaze around to make us confront our own worst tendencies as spectators, examining the fetishes and curiosities that turn us on to the screen. Gorgeously design and performed with fitting detachment by Karlheinz Böhm, Peeping Tom is a love letter to the medium that at once complicates our relationship with it.

Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944, 9.6)
One of the brightest lights of film noir, Double Indemnity is smart, twisted, luscious and impeccably performed by its trio of stars, particularly Barbara Stanwyck, whose smooth performance is one of the very best of her career. McMurray’s balance of charm and naivete is a perfect vehicle for a film that bursts at the seams with sexual energy and zippy dialogue.

It Follows (Mitchell, 2015, 8.9)
One of the best horror films of recent years. Mitchell shows superb control over every aspect of the film. Although the story is somewhat thin   and the allegory for STDs rather one-dimensional   the execution is perfectly pitched, particularly the film’s two intense set pieces on the beach and at the swimming pool.

F for Fake (Welles, 1973, 6.1)
Welles’s funny games with authenticity and value in art are engaging and energetic at first, indebted in no small part to the eccentric character and pizzazz of the protagonist, Elmyr, but the film’s jittery rhythm and truncated cutting begins to feel overwhelming long before the film is over. This is a worthy film, mostly for the novelty factor of how it fits within Welles’s long, eclectic career.

Son of Saul (Nemes, 2015, 4.2)
A miscalculation on nearly every account, Nemes’s first film is oddly stylized in a way that is detrimental to its own story, muddying crucial details in the narrative. The actions of the film’s protagonist   flatly performed by Geza Rohrig   are confusing and unjustifiable, and the film does nothing whatsoever to contextualize his mindset. Whatever emotional resonance Son of Saul has is the natural sympathy raised in the audience with the victims of the holocaust, not because the film is successful as a storytelling exercise.

Total: 14 films

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