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Showing posts from April, 2019

X Films - True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker

Thoughts on the book by Alex Cox
Roger Ebert, a one-time sports writer who looked as if he'd never picked up a bat or ball or run a marathon in his entire life, turned to movie criticism as a potential career opportunity and became one of the most influential American film reviewers of the late-twentieth century. Ebert's approach was to adopt the perspective of the potential consumer. He had enough of the history behind him to make his opinions more valid than the average Joe's, but he presented himself, absolutely, as the 'voice' of the mainstream moviegoer; he spoke to the people, but he spoke forthem as well.
If Ebert loved a movie he would rhapsodise about it the way a fanatic might. If he hated it, then his rage and disappointment would take the form of a condescending rant that framed the film as a joke and encouraged the audience to join him in mocking its perceived failures. He reduced the cinema to a tale of winners and losers, which cheapened the art, but i…

The Crimes of Grindelwald

Notes on the pressing politics of the film: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
Undoubtedly, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) is a flawed film. Flawed in the sense that even now, thinking about the conclusion several months after the initial viewing, I'm still reminded of the unanswered questions, the character inconsistencies and the bizarre narrative loose-ends that defined the overall experience. Some (but not all) of these issues will be cited towards the end of the text, but for now I wanted to focus exclusively on a facet of the film that was successful; specifically the film's pointed political subtext, which feels necessary, and perfectly tailored to its intended audience.
The film's predecessor, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), had been something of a revelation for me. Seeing the film for the first time early last year (and with no prior relationship or emotional investment with the "Harry Potter" mythology) …

Things We Lost in the Fire

Notre-Dame de Paris / A Song of Stone
Having just watched Pompeii (2014) - an absolute failure of a film that renders the destruction and devastation of the ancient Roman city as if it were a kind of grotesque spectacle there to provide entertainment through set-pieces of sensationalist shock and awe - I make my way to the internet and find myself accosted by the news that Notre-Dame cathedral is on fire.
The coincidence is too specific to bear. While the daily news is forever full of terrible stories about death and bloodshed, suffering and exploitation, one can't help but feel something of a loss at the news of this sad destruction (partial or otherwise) of a work of art that has somehow survived the centuries. A structure of stone and brick that stood resolute through the chaos of the French revolution, the carnage of two-World Wars, the destruction of various terror attacks and the hostilities of countless protests. As a piece of architecture it has dominated the Parisian skylin…

Crash

Thoughts on the book by J.G. Ballard
Going into "Crash" for the first time, I already had a distant familiarity with director David Cronenberg's 1996 film adaptation, which, even without the benefit of having read the book for myself, had always struck me as a truncated if still suitably provocative palimpsest of Ballard's text. Having now finished the book I'm perhaps better able to contrast and compare the experience of the two versions, with Cronenberg's film now appearing weaker, more inert and vastly more limited in its scope, imagery and psychology. This isn't to say that the Cronenberg film doesn't stand on its own merits, but rather, to do justice to the book, as an actual experience, the resulting film adaptation would have to be genuinely pornographic in order to fully capture how visceral, prescient and transformative the psychological study at the centre of Ballard's story actually is.
So much of the book's ability to confound, provo…

Agnès Varda

In Memoriam
I don't have the right words to pay tribute to Agnès Varda; that endlessly inspirational filmmaker who predicted the new wave of French cinema with her extraordinary debut feature, La Pointe Courte (1955). In that film, Varda took two professional actors - Philippe Noiret and Silvia Monfort - and placed their scripted melodrama against the backdrop of an actual fishing village; allowing the two strands of a story - one fiction, the other documentary - to contrast and collide. It was a film that advanced on the early concerns of the Italian neo-realists, allowing the actuality of the location and its inhabitants to become not just a counter-point to the conventional drama, but a genuine focus.
La Pointe Courte remains a quiet masterpiece; the debut of a film director who was coming to the cinema not out of devotion to the medium itself, but out of a deep and inquisitive interest in the world, and those that inhabit it.

The Gleaners and I [Agnès Varda, 2000]:

The making of L…