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  • Possession

    Possession 1981

    ★★★½ Watched 05 Dec, 2015

    "So crazy ya gotta see it!!!" is not usually my genre forte, so I was surprised how rigorous this study of a marital breakdown can feel. Yes, the actual physical embodiment of plot is insane, but it's the grace moments—the score chills, the camera cuts into a close-up—that create an intense emotional structure that makes the rest of what happen here feel part of a rigorous logic. I discuss this with MD Film Fest programmer Eric Allen Hatch on the latest podcast.

  • The Meetings of Anna

    The Meetings of Anna 1978

    ★★★½ Watched 10 Apr, 2016

    Chantal Akerman almost exclusively works on horizontal planes of space. Her compositions are known for their flat, minimalist staging, and she usually cuts with perpendicular angles to emphasize each shot's flatness. So one of the many surprising shots in Les Rendez-Vous d'Anna comes early. Anna leaves her hotel in Germany, and the camera tracks alongside her in a horizontal dolly. Suddenly, a flash of vertical motion interrupts the frame. It's a female maid, almost nonchalantly in the background, waving a…

  • Quick Change

    Quick Change 1990

    ★★★★ Watched 29 Feb, 2016

    Truly a "where has this movie been my entire life" moment watching this beautiful gem, which Eric Hynes and I discuss on the latest podcast. One thing I forgot to note: this film gives us basically zero exposition about the characters we're following and why until about 1/3 of the way through the movie. And even that first third basically throws us right in the situation and makes us into observers. Which is to say, the film has no interest in spoon feeding us anything, even if it's just a "dumb comedy."

    Randy Quaid screaming into the air is my spirit animal.

  • The Parallax View

    The Parallax View 1974

    ★★★★ Watched 21 Mar, 2016

    [Notes from a larger paper for students]

    A film like The Parallax View is an example of a studio-financed, independent production. Its executive producer, Gabriel Katzka, ran his own company and co-produced with all of the major studios during the 1970s (as well as co-producing a kung fu film with Hong Kong’s Shaw Bros). Pakula himself began as a producer at Columbia Pictures in the 1950s, but formed his own producing-directing team with Robert Mulligan to make films like To…

  • The Tamarind Seed

    The Tamarind Seed 1974

    ★★★½ Watched 15 Nov, 2015 1

    "Edwards’ best films (The Party, Breakfast At Tiffany’s) put loose performances within straightforward frames, which allows for unexpected surprises. With The Tamarind Seed, the director instead employs a series of zooms, cross-cutting, and tracking shots with strong Hitchcockian command, suggesting the power fabrications that truly control this romance. And yet, Andrews and Sharif playfully construct their intimacy with authenticity, in contrast to the constant exposition by the various heads of state, ratcheting the tension of whether this romance can resolve…

  • Gummo

    Gummo 1997

    ★★★½ Watched 23 Feb, 2016

    Discussed with David Wilson, co-founder of the cult known as the True/False Film Festival, on the latest podcast. As I explain, it's documentary issues naturally raise issues related to narrative cinema while its fictional elements raise issues related to documentary cinema. I am profoundly glad this film does not exist in The Age of Twitter™.

  • The Southerner

    The Southerner 1945

    ★★★½ Watched 01 Feb, 2016 1

    "More than any of his other films, Renoir relies on medium shots to give a sense of the reality of his actors’ faces as they contemplate the land before them, the dialogue perhaps a bit on-the-nose but always plainspoken by the people and for the people, thanks to a rewrite by William Faulkner. Ultimately, Renoir doesn’t create hope but perseverance. Influenced by the documentaries of Pare Lorentz and Robert Flaherty, The Southerner might display the power of nature to control the land, but the frankness of the American spirit can never be broken. The crop may blossom again."

    Covered here in my latest DVD column.

  • Mean Streets

    Mean Streets 1973

    ★★★½ Rewatched 16 Mar, 2016 5

    How does Martin Scorsese direct a scene? Beyond the soundtracks, the masculinity, the classic film references, the Catholicism, the violence, the misogyny, and all the what-not critics like to talk about when they don't talk about a movie, what does Scorsese do when he frames a shot?

    Charlie sits down after dancing with the stripper, and Michael sits down next to him. Scorsese has an obvious set up between the actors and the camera—they're both staring out toward the camera,…

  • Matinee

    Matinee 1993

    ★★★★★ Watched 22 Nov, 2015

    "Castle’s theatrical exploitation methods—most famously employed with The Tingler—blurred where cinema ended and reality began. Dante makes this explicitly political, with Woolsey both exploiting and revealing the terrors of the atomic age. By the time a bomb explodes on screen, Dante’s framing asks whether the cinema is meant to scare us in there or out here. That the film closes on a truly ominous image—a Vietnam-era helicopter flying along the shore—makes this often silly affair into a sharp attack on…

  • Jane B. for Agnes V.

    Jane B. for Agnes V. 1988

    ★★★★ Watched 19 Nov, 2015

    "Birkin calls for more authenticity, and Varda responds with more artifice. But what the director most allows is her actress to speak. Even when slow-dancing alongside a 20-sided hall of mirrors, Birkin slowly confesses to her dreams as Varda pushes the camera in, forming a single image. It’s a crucial moment in a film in which every bit of the documentary feels supremely crafted, but it’s all for showing the authentic romance at its center as two artists collaborate in harmony through their pushing and pulling."

    More here.

  • Kung-fu master!

    Kung-fu master! 1988

    ★★★½ Watched 19 Nov, 2015

    "By eliminating the charm and slowing the narrative, Varda frames this story as one of empathy. The film never over-accentuates the stakes of its drama, allowing for sequences that naturally increase both the emotional desire while leaving spectators in suspense as to what physical intimacy will develop. Instead of playing it for big laughs or big melodrama, Varda’s camera simply peers into the kind of lonely soul who would desire someone willing to spend time with her, even if only for the adolescent escape of video games."

    More here.

  • Red Capriccio

    Red Capriccio 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 28 Jan, 2016

    This is one of many films by Blake Williams we discuss on the latest podcast, but this one is easily my favorite of his work. Mainly, it uses an aspect of 3D I've never considered, and that first sequence with the police car is awe inspiring. I find the connections that follow perhaps a little muddled, or maybe not as interesting to watch for whatever reason, but if you can score a pair of Red/Blue 3D glasses, you really want to check this one out.