Saturday, October 08, 2005

the president's last bang (im, 2005)

From South Korea, the assassination of Park Chung-hee is played out as a thriller-comedy that's neither thrilling nor funny. Nicely shot, but seems to have been made by people who forgot why they were making the picture shortly after they began shooting it, except for a half-hearted attempt to make a Costa-Gavras agitation piece by way of My Wife is a Gangster.

three times (hou, 2005)

Maybe what makes Hou such a tough nut for some people to crack is that everything he's doing with the cinema is right there on the surface: grooving on three kinds of nostalgia - for his own past, for a past he wasn't around for, and for a present that's slipping away (and seems to be filled with reminders of dissolution and regret). Practically all his major films have touched on one of these three nostalgias. Three Times is a luminescent primer.

sympathy for lady vengeance (park, 2005)

review forthcoming

tristram shandy: a cock and bull story (winterbottom, 2005)

review forthcoming

gabrielle (chéreau, 2005)

For his newest film, acclaimed opera/theater/movie-director Patrice Chéreau shoots in 'Scope and duct-tapes his lenses to the actors' pores - looking for knots in the musculature. There are a few. This movie is green like aged copper, and brown, and heavy with shadows. A few isolated bright spots - in the parlor, in the kitchen - serve to remind us that it sucks to spend time there, too, as you only seem to've moved from a dark cellar to a brightly lit morgue. Chéreau and his co-writers have fashioned out of a Joseph Conrad story a plot that the movies have long since made tiresome: the currents of ennui and hatred that run through the Perfect, Bourgeois Household. But there is sustenance to be had from its technical qualities, which are faultless, and Pascal Greggory, who continues to prove that he is one of the world's best and most versatile actors.

the sun (sokurov, 2005)

review forthcoming

professione: reporter (antonioni, 1975)

One of the best parts of this Antonioni film occurred after it was over: my walk around Lincoln Center, with its Milstein and Josie Robertson plazas, its various raised and street-level walkways, sky bridges, and rest areas, its inlaid reflecting pool, a fountain, bits of public art, stone steps that match the plaza's concrete tiles, and escalators. Some of the walls that overlook the plaza are marked by vertical ridges, some are smooth. From any given point in my walk I could see three or more of Lincoln Center's resident cultural institutions, such as the opera house, the library, the Julliard, or the Walter Reade Theater, where I saw Antonioni's well-regarded 1975 meta-thriller. Many of Antonioni's films have the power to re-energize my perceptions of space, especially when that space is as architecturally rich as Lincoln Center's open-air plazas and walkways. These spaces, this mega-space, is the site of thousands of personal interactions per day, and some of the areas are frequently commandeered as outdoor venues for musical and dramatic performances. I wouldn't exactly accuse Lincoln Center of imprisoning its patrons in the same way many architectural forms seem to oppress us on the sly, but many of the points around the plazas and walkways are used for one thing only, each, day in and day out. Places for walking are rarely used for milling about and vice verse; places for sitting and reading are kept clear of major traffic routes; the wide-openest, most blank areas have a curious way of keeping people around the perimeters, for the most part, as if in anticipation for its use as a performance space, or, perhaps, in honor of the memory of one.

The architecture in Profession: reporter is on display almost in an offhand manner - compare this to L'Avventura or L'Eclisse or Blow-Up, in which practically everything in each movie serves as an underpinning for the archways, yachts, columns, plazas, shops, mod apartments, and great big rocks. (Don't hold me to this. I'm still figuring the guy out and I know things are more complicated than that. Thanks.) By the time you get a fix on a single space in P:r, on a desert or a hotel or whatever, Antonioni (and Jack Nicholson, who is in 9 out of 10 shots) has already packed up and moved to the next one. Much of the film works to erase what's come before it, illustrating the notion that things disappear not just when you've turned your back on them, but because you've turned your back on them. The film doubles back at several points and finally ends on a technical and physical feat of doubling back - but each time it does so, the information has been shot through by what we've already seen in the film's present-moment layer. There's a flashback to Locke's home in the UK but it's as if it's not to be believed. The same goes for the flashback that resurrects the dead man, Robertson: his living character, his backstory, his talk with Locke, these things have a creepy, enervating quality of having been invalidated, hollowed out, of staying past their sell-by date. As the movie, as Locke, traipses across the globe, flip-book style, death follows him (literally) as the film itself seems to dissolve before our eyes. The final look-back is of a dead man in a room that no longer matters and a wife who won't identify him. All the characters of the film gather around Locke for a ritual annihilation.