Friday, October 28, 2016
Director/writer: Xavier Gens
Photography: Laurent Bares
Music: Jean-Pierre Taieb
Editor: Carlo Rizzo
Cast: Karina Testa, Aurelien Wiik, David Saracino, Chems Dahmani, Jean-Pierre Jorris, Patrick Ligardes, Samuel Le Bihan, Maud Forget, Joel Lefrancois, Estelle Lefebure, Amelie Daure, Adel Bencherif
It's easy to call Frontière(s) torture-porn, because the label fits in so many critical ways. It came out of the general horror revitalization going on in the 2000s (and/or eating of itself, ouroboros style, with reboots and remakes of classics). More specifically, it comes of a French strain that is particularly ferocious: Martyrs, Inside, High Tension, and many others I'm still too scared to look at. Frontière(s) puts that most fundamental element of torture-porn front and center, which is the large private facility dedicated to such horrors. They are usually warehouses (as in the Saw franchise) but they may also be hostels, as we find here, or abandoned buildings in failing cities, or nightclub spaces after hours. Anything that's big and relatively private will do. So first things first, fair warning on that point. This movie is ultraviolent, albeit only in overwhelming bursts.
Frontière(s) pays respects to some surprisingly resonant sources, such as Psycho, Taxi Driver, and no doubt others I did not recognize, but the movie it most clearly seems intended to model is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It opens in a similar way, grounding itself in a specific moment of historical time, suggesting that what we see is what comes of large-scale psychic dislocations. In Texas Chain Saw, it is Watergate, and news stories about grotesque '70s murders. In Frontière(s), the news reports are about an election in France in which an extremist rightwing group has come to power. The public response has been widespread rioting with brutal police crackdowns. But that's not even the very first images and scene in the picture, which are video of an ultrasound that is hard to make out, and a woman in voiceover—Yasmine (Karina Testa), we find out later—ruminating on her decision to end her pregnancy.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Friday, October 21, 2016
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Writers: Vitaliano Brancati, Roberto Rossellini, Colette, Antonio Pietrangeli
Photography: Enzo Serafin
Music: Renzo Rossellini, Giacomo Rondinella
Editor: Jolanda Benvenuti
Cast: Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders, Maria Mauban, Anna Proclemer, Paul Muller, Anthony La Penna, Natalia Ray, Jackie Frost
Director and cowriter Roberto Rossellini's third and last picture with his wife, Ingrid Bergman, shortly before their marriage ended, almost seems like an imaginary movie now, something that someone wrote about in a novel. That's probably more because of its relative obscurity. A beast with no natural home, a neorealist piece with Hollywood stars, an art film and a woman's picture all at once, it was released to terrible reviews and short runs, variously butchered in attempts to make it more commercial, and quickly sank like a stone. Besides all the confusing markers—an Italian movie shot in English, with stars but whose careers were on the slide—it's also about the end of a marriage, which makes it a complete and total bummer. Audiences at the time were baffled, which tells you something about different times.
For all that, the influence of Journey to Italy has grown over the years. Now safely installed in the top 100 of the big list at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, it could almost be reverse-engineered from close viewings of Abbas Kiarostami's amazing Certified Copy, from 2010, or Richard Linklater's series of "Before" movies with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It's about a relationship going bad, and incidentally about how travel can complicate that. One reason it flopped, and still languishes in all but critical obscurity, is likely exactly this downbeat trajectory. If it still seems a little alien now on that score, that's more for its general air of reticence. Among other things, Journey to Italy is also a story of the clash between repressed Northern Europeans and lusty life-affirming Southern Europeans. In the scope of film history, it can also serve as a milestone finish to Italian neorealism, Rossellini's career bread and butter, which was arguably no longer operative by 1954. It's also a swooning look at the layers of history with which we live. There is some sense here that the events could have happened hundreds and thousands of years ago, or that they could still happen now and in the future, and very little about the story would have to be changed. The threat of Mount Vesuvius is the only constant.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Sunday, October 16, 2016
In case it's not at the library.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writers: Jim Jarmusch, Marion Bessay
Photography: Yorick Le Saux
Music: Jozef van Wissem, Sqürl
Editor: Affonso Goncalves
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Slimane Dazi, Jeffrey Wright
The only thing you can call Only Lovers Left Alive is a vampire movie, which means it comes with the usual clutch of confusing vampire rules about sunlight, wooden stakes, invitations across thresholds, garlic, reflections in mirrors, and all that. As a project of director and cowriter Jim Jarmusch, however, Only Lovers Left Alive is nearly as much a movie about hipsters, his more typical theme, reimagining them as a secret society of long-lived rationalists who love music and science and poetry to distraction, even as they can't put much time or confidence in actual people. They are the usual bunch of misplaced record store clerks in a Jarmusch picture. Their tastes are refined, precise, even admirably noble, but their pouty arrogance is off-putting. It's the usual problem with hipsters.
I'm probably not making this movie sound very good, but I actually think it's exactly that: very, very good. You have to skip by the various conceits—for one, the main characters are named Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, the alternative Meryl Streep). A friend of theirs with many names (John Hurt) is the actual author of most of Shakespeare's plays. These indulgences mostly work with the given air of romantic hedonism, but in spite of themselves, and just barely. What's best to me here is the touching faith in Enlightenment values, the romantic passion these vampires have for science, clarity, and beauty, which is the result of centuries of perspective. They refer to plants and animals by their Latin genus and species names. They share latest news of scientific research. They can't believe the stupidity of the masses. Only Lovers Left Alive has a wonderful sense for how it would feel to be marginalized and intelligent for centuries, with an incidental appetite for blood that's guaranteed to keep you out of the lamestream.
Sunday, October 09, 2016
"interlocutor" count = 0 / 37 pages
In case it's not at the library. (Library of America)