One moment of great despair in Frances Ha comes when Frances lands back in New York City and receives a too-late voice-mail message from her Paris friend, Abby: “This is so wild,” Abby says. “You remember Gerard, Nicolas’s brother? The one who looks like Jean-Pierre Léaud? Well, he’s divorced now, and he’s staying with us … Come to dinner tonight, he’ll be there, as well as a philosopher and painter couple who are really great … Oh, this is such good timing.” We watch Frances’s face, almost expressionless, as she listens to this message on the cab ride back from JFK, and we sense the dream of a life that resembles a Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard movie slipping further and further away.
Godard constantly borrowed and reenacted scenes from a pulpy America of the forties and fifties: Billy the Kid, “Singin’ in the Rain.” His youthful characters are literally in France but metaphysically pirouetting through American pop culture. Baumbach’s young people are literally pirouetting through the streets of New York City but soundtracked, costumed, and rendered black and white by the French New Wave. Lev (Adam Driver) wears a Belmondo fedora; Benji (Michael Zegen) tucks his cigarette behind his ear; Frances’s two greatest talents, at least at the beginning, are running romantically through the streets and making omelets. But does Lev know he’s in a black-and-white movie? When Frances does a tightrope-style walk along the Seine, is she intentionally aping Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim?Or is being an aspiring twentysomething artist in a major city necessarily about trying, unconsciously or not, to make your life look like your favorite movie? And then does growing up simply mean letting go of the movie you thought your life would be?
Oh my fuck…
The Februrary Criterion releases are incredible.
“You want a story? Fuck a story. No one wants stories nowadays. People want experiences. Music is the medium of the soul, no? Pop music is all surface and no substance, you say? Is that not the tale of our times? We play videogames ad nauseam, why? Not for the stories (even though some games like Grand Theft Auto are noted for their involved, multi-path, and open-ended narratives); we play for the experience. Here is a film that engages. Get in and go for the ride, little bitches, let it take you over.
The look? Neon, bitch. Neon, palm trees, beaches, booties, and strip clubs. Florida, motherfuckers. All caught by Benoit Debie, Gaspar Noe’s longtime cinematographer. (When Harmony first pitched the project he wanted it to be a Britney Spears-video-meets-a-Gaspar-Noe film, and that’s what he delivered.)
How did it all come together? Harmony. Harmony put it all in harmony. Twenty years after Kids,he has followed up his first zeitgeist film with a new portrait of the times. If Kids was neorealism,Spring Breakers is the neorealism of the Facebook age, chopped, screwed, and digitized. Where The Social Network was a movie about money, deals, greed, backstabbing, and the resulting court case—anything but the technology that defined the new way kids were socializing—Spring Breakers is the embodiment of such technological engagement. It is everything that we are today. You’re welcome.”
*Editor’s note: There’s a lot of bullshit in this piece, but also truth in equal parts. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Franco’s braggadocio in that last paragraph didn’t give me chills.
Le Cercle Rouge, or The Red Circle, refers to a saying of the Buddha that men who are destined to meet will eventually meet, no matter what. Melville made up this saying, but no matter; his characters operate according to theories of behavior, so that a government minister believes all men, without exception, are bad. And a crooked nightclub owner refuses to be a police informer because it is simply not in his nature to inform.
…Melville fought for the French Resistance during the war. Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times, in a review of uncanny and poetic perception, writes: “It may sound far-fetched, but I wonder if his obsessive return to the same themes didn’t have something to do with a desire to restore France’s own lost honor.” The heroes of his films may win or lose, may be crooks or cops, but they are not rats.
Happy Halloween from The Insatiables!
If you’re staying in doors tonight and binging on candy/booze, here are a few films to pass the time.
1.) I remember watching The Shining with my dad and thinking ‘That man next to me could potentially kill our entire family.’ Yeah. On my most recent viewing I was floored by how unsettling the entire thing is and Danny’s tricycle ride around The Overlook continues to be the stuff of nightmares.
2.) If you’re a fatalist like I am and have spent a night in a remote corner of anywhere, you’ll understand the terror that The Strangers builds its premise on. Because we’re meant to be safe the minute we lock our front doors, it’s a film that scratches and tugs deeply at our most base fear. The film is sparse, simple and direct horror.
3.) Nothing says Halloween like demonic possession. It’s a little heavy on the spiritual salvation, but The Conjuring works because of its seemingly innate knowledge of how we expect to be scared. Mirrors, closets, creepy dolls and basements are handled so expertly that these familiar tropes become terrifying one again when we realise just how aware the film is of what we expect. And satanist-baby-murderers are always a good shout.
4.) I love Profondo Rosso so much that it’s difficult for me to say anything but ‘Watch it! Go, now!’ It’s a gorgeous, creepy and wonderfully made film that reminds me why I love giallo. If you’ve been on the fence or aren’t interested in the genre, it might even make you a convert.
Beyond the Black Rainbow - Panos Cosmatos
*Editor’s note: So slick you can almost see your reflection in its surfaces… There’s no denying that Cosmatos’ film has some gorgeous set design and aesthetics but it’s also a film is frustratingly boring. The small tantalizing morsels that keep you watching ultimately lead to a whole heap of nothing. While I left the film frustrated at its plot and pacing, I was also angry at how much potential was wasted.
Club Sandwich - Fernando Eimbcke
Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón
Having been excited about Gravity since Natalie Portman and Robert Downey Jr. were attached, I was more than a little distressed that it wasn’t going to be the soul changing film I wanted it to be when I finally had to chance to watch it; only this time with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Yes, I sometimes hang completely irrational hopes on certain films and was aware the film is set in space, but Alfonso is one of my favorite directores and that is the beginning and end of most things.
While the film was definitely not the capital E experience I wanted, it was an engaging, fun and, in parts, absolutely dazzling film. The fact that Sandy’s Ryan Stone isn’t particularly interesting and is meant to carry the entire thing saddles the film with a fatal flaw. But Sandy pulls it off and does the most with what is otherwise a thinly developed character and George Clooney effortlessly charms the spacesuits off us.
While I wasn’t rooting for Ryan, the fact that it was oftentimes an anonymous suit flailing around in space made it easy to put myself in the middle of the space debris, caused me to shift around in parts and had me terrified at the thought of spinning in space with no control over anything. And it was all pretty fucking gorgeous.
While the score was sometimes obnoxious and have no idea/don’t care if the physics are on point, it’s a film that demands to be seen on as big a screen as possible and is infinitely more rewarding if you walk in and leave yourself open to being awed.
About Elly - Asghar Farhadi
By most rational standards, The Beyond can be a confounding experience. The plot has little to do with linear story properties or rational development, and the acting is highly stilted and often awkward. However, any Fulci fan knows that when the filmmaker has kicked into high gear, these are really attributes, not flaws. The lovely and endearing MacColl served as leading lady in three of his best zombie films; apart from being a first rate screamer, she’s a terrific protagonist and seems to be enjoying herself. The late Warbeck carved a niche for himself in British and Italian exploitation titles during the ’70s and ’80s, and his rugged leading man qualities are put to excellent use here as he turns from concerned family physician to pistol-packing defender against the undead. Their characters are more warm and engaging than they really have any right to be, which makes the poetic and thoroughly chilling ending all the more powerful. If anyone ever questions Fulci’s abilities as a filmmaker, kindly direct them to the last 90 seconds of this film. The special effects by splatter maestro Giannetto De Rosi are effectively repellent, with eyes popping from their sockets and faces blending into mush. The legendary, painfully slow tarantula attack sequence is both stomach churning and hilarious, with squeaking arachnids covering one poor victim and casually removing portions of his face with their… uh, teeth, apparently. All of Fulci’s most noteworthy collaborators attack this film full throttle, with the amazing Sergio Salvati pumping up the atmospheric lighting across the scope frame and Fabio Frizzi manipulating piano solos and electronics into a tremendous music score. Forget what mainstream critics like Roger Ebert had to say; this film is a heartfelt poem for horror fans and, most importantly, a gory good show.
There is one director I admire enormously, and that is Jean-Luc Godard. Apart from his latest film, Hail Mary, all his output is important to me. But the really successful directors, like Truffaut and Chabrol, I consider completely insignificant. They make good traditional films, based on novels that worked very well before they were filmed, but they can’t be compared with the formal inventiveness of Godard. Truffaut is famous as an avant-grade director, while he is the rear, rear guard! As for Eric Rohmer, he is the fellow who writes dialogues and then gets actors to speak them in front of the camera. Often the most successful film of a director is the least interesting: Truffaut’s The Last Metro was a piece of commercial rubbish in all its horror, yet it was a big hit.