Fernando’s review published on Letterboxd:
Barry Jenkins might be one of the nicest guys around and his heart is in the right place and full of compassion. That's always welcome.
Pity the problems I found with MOONLIGHT are intensified here x 10. So his heart is divine. His eyes, not so much.
From the get-go, his impressionistic close-ups and POVs look more an excercise in preciosity than illuminating or thrilling moviemaking.
Both Tish and Fonny look like Barbie Dolls in slow-mo. I appreciate his idea of telling the "black experience" from the perspective of a literate citizen of the world. We all are equals, and he wants their characters the treatment "the otherness" receive in the arthouse films he so much love. Meaning, especifically, non-black people.
On paper, it's a bold idea. They wear exquisite clothes, and the manners are impeccable and the overall "taste" is undeniable. And we all know he finds inspiration in Claire Denis and Asian Masters Hou Hsiao-Hsien and, especially, his beloved Wong Kar-wai.
The problem is that this "vision" appears, in reality, as bonheaded globalism. Decontextualizing their characters from the environment so much, that the very segregation and injustice that constitute the conflict of the film remains on the background because this overstylised approach seem distracting at best and gloating at worst. In that regard, he's the anti-Spike Lee.**
One thing is the intention of putting these characters out of the usual ghetto tropes. Another, entirely, is treat them with the same alienating "glow" that people here who love this film can't tolerate about Don Shirley's depiction in GREEN BOOK.
Make up your minds, folks.
I was not aware of the families' background beforehand, for I haven't read Baldwin's novel. So I can only see their Harlem origins for what Jenkins depicts here. And I'm really sorry I can't avoid thinking this "visual cleansing" is a symptom of superficiality, if not polite boredom.
Much worse, the painstakingly care he takes in building up grating slow motion shots and scorching costumes seem more reminiscent of the pages of Vogue than the streets of the Harlem I KNOW.
And I didn't spare a word about the conflict yet, nor the astonishing amateurish acting -overacting- of their two main protagonists (how did that happen, Barry?) so there you go...
I wishes Barry the best. Meaning he keeps in touch more with Kiarostami's or Dardennes's austherity and "realism" to balance his cinematic influences out. Or taking better cues out of Wong or Denis, for their films are much more than beautiful, manicured postcards.
So far, I find his filmmaking "voice" heading perilously towards affectation instead of affecting. And, at least, in MOONLIGHT he found moments of poetry in motion. Here, there's only the poetry. The words of Baldwin.
As a motion picture, this is as stiff as I meant it to describe in this review. What a pity.
**(Lee does not have such patience for subtetly on "black trope" topics, but his subjective POV used in his sequences are way better than Barry Jenkins' often impressionistic ones, for they come off as pompous) ** Excerpt from my review of BLAKkKLANSMAN, jusxtaposing how same techniques can be approached very differently.
PS: As if "the Oscars" weren't enough, this film could consolate itself by winning the Spirits Awards it's been nominated for over the highly accomplished, non-bullshiter PSTD drama LEAVE NO TRACE by the far superior director Debra Granik. Hereby declaring 2018 THE WORST SEASON AWARD THAT EVER HAPPENED IN MY 45 YEARS MEMORY!!