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  • Bad Hair

    Bad Hair

    BAD HAIR centres around the relationship between a young boy, Junior, whose sexuality is just emerging, and his out of work mother, Marta, who seeks to stop its emergence. The film has a confronting lack of sentimentality; though there's a suggestion that the mother's motive is to save her child from later suffering, there's enough evidence towards contrary explanations such as a resentment towards the child because of his absent father, and a more virulent homophobia. Her anger and emotional…

  • Crash

    Crash

    "Always already a cultural sign, the body sets limits to the imaginary meanings that it occasions, but is never free of an imaginary construction. The fantasised body can never be understood in relation to the body as real; it can only be understood in relation to another culturally instituted fantasy, one which claims the place of the "literal" and the "real." The limits to the "real" are produced within the naturalised heterosexualisation of bodies in which physical facts serve as causes and desires reflect the inexorable effects of that physicality."

    -- Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, pg. 71.

  • Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

    Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

    Ended up very taken by this, to the point where it seems to me the strongest Tarantino film aside from PULP FICTION - JACKIE BROWN. At first it was a matter of sinking into the playful narration and pacing of the film. The annotations in the first scene are a little clumsy, but as it shifted into detailing 'a day in the life of...', with great sensitivity to how overlapping stories create an overall rhythm, it became much more appealing.…

  • Harold and Maude

    Harold and Maude

    Ideas flow into characters who evoke situations and actions, but there’s a spontaneity to the process which leads to an overflow, in which the idea takes precedent over the coherency of the fiction. There’s two tendencies in which we see this in action. First, the film moves towards whimsical exaggeration. Harold, whose maudlin depression evokes the capital M Mood of Youth growing up during Vietnam, stages suicides that deny explanation. Maude, whose harried optimism responds to the same sort of…

  • Goodbye First Love

    Goodbye First Love

    (Not an extremely spoiler-y review, but this may be a film where it's nicer to go in not so aware of it's overarching structure, which does come up a little below)

    At a certain point Camille says “I have to do everything twice to remember things.” In a way this describes the film itself, which depicts the breakdown of her first love and then retraces all the different aspects of it as they appear in her later life. It’s emotional…

  • The Spiral Staircase

    The Spiral Staircase

    Ended up quite impressed by this. Siodmak seems like one of the lesser-celebrated ‘expressive esoterica’ directors, and I don’t know many that really celebrate this film but I thought it had a strong personal style. There’s a lot of instabilities in the script, but Siodmak handles it well, and his direction ends up bringing something quite authentic out of his performers, and efficiently characterises via movement. Clearly, the physical constraints placed on two central characters have a lot to do…

  • All About Lily Chou-Chou

    All About Lily Chou-Chou

    ★★★

    I felt there was something striking in the film's moralistic dramaturgy - a sense of being overawed by wrongdoing. The first major incident in the film is to do with Hasumi shoplifting a CD, which activates a very elaborate system of punishment and education; he is scolded by the employees of the shop, kindly but firmly rebuked by his teacher, and finally beaten by his mother before a warm reconciliation. In miniature, we have a demonstration of the moral machinery…

  • My Darling Clementine

    My Darling Clementine

    ★★★★★

    In MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, Ford approaches the film's tiny, intimate material in the same poetic mode through which he renders its large, mythic movements - primarily a poeticism of space, atmosphere, faces where the random materials of reality reveal a deeper design and order. This is to say that Monument Valley has never looked quite so forbidding, clouds constantly churning and fog gathering, and we feel an awe in the connection of the largest, most uncontrollable phenomena with a relatively…

  • Pandora's Box

    Pandora's Box

    ★★★★½

    Pabst’s PANDORA’S BOX is a sketched, ephemeral tragedy. Though the film is a relatively lengthy 130 minutes, it’s split into eight shorter acts. Rather than the episodic construction of something like DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER where each section leads to the next with a sense of increasing urgency, Pabst’s film seems like a series of vignettes in which Lulu floats down through the social ranks like a falling feather. Each vignette is majorly set in a single location, in which…

  • A New Leaf

    A New Leaf

    ★★★★

    May's A NEW LEAF is clearly in conversation with 30s screwball comedies, but I also found it an interesting counterpoint to Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth." They share the premise of rich and rather ornamental socialites whose fortunes seem to be deteriorating striving towards marriage as the only possible remedy. They both approach the task with considerable ambivalence. A major point of difference is that Wharton's protagonist is a woman, Lily Bart, and May's is a man, Henry Graham. Where…

  • La Chienne

    La Chienne

    ★★★★

    I still find Renoir's early films very difficult - they feel a little nasty at times - but the elliptical stringing together of scenes is very interesting and suggestive here. I'm beginning to get the sense that it's a case of the form of the films, in their famous deep focus style but also their respect for performances and the beauty of the close-ups, offsetting the often compromising narrative business of the film. The question remains, I suppose, why does Renoir remain fascinated in bringing beauty out of the representation of people he often seems to hold in such a venomous contempt?

  • My Own Private Idaho

    My Own Private Idaho

    ★★★½

    A person's existence as a "character" in Van Sant doesn't seem to be a given - though they may exist physically they can be felt as an absence more than a presence. In ELEPHANT he inflects the concept in a very dark way. His camera winds it's way through school halls and the body it follows feels nearly incidental to the exploration of the space, and the school shooting feels nearly arbitrary - though the film builds incessantly towards something,…