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A fig leaf of fairness, complexity, and objectivity
Christmas Eve. What I WANT to say: for the film makers, as for the politicians the film is about, there's a fig leaf of fairness, complexity, and objectivity, but mostly this is just one more piss in the great pissing match. That's what I WANT to say, but as soon as I say it, I realize that I'm just taking a piss too. So how do we escape this righteousness, this trivializing of others?
Christmas Morning. Let's go see the film Capernaum again. Truly complex and truly fair. Both clear-eyed and open-hearted. And more political by being less political. Which takes us closer to the truth. Like the film Moonlight.
Madeline's Madeline (2018)
Cinematography of dissociation
A nomination for the cinematographer, the editor and perhaps Helena Howard. We seldom (maybe never) escape the inner life of Helena's character, Madeline, who suffers from bouts of severe dissociation. Beneath the dissociation, a half-dozen psychiatric disorders are suggested, some inflected by her mother. Watching Helena fade into and out of dissociation was genuinely therapeutic, for me. For a general audience? Judging from the response last night, I'd say: the relentlessly expressive cinematography and sound track interferes with a build-up of emotion or clarity of narration, for most folks. But creatives and especially actors will love the energy and forgive the chaos, mostly because of a spectacular ending: here's what it feels like to turn life into art. And perhaps begin to heal.
Think fields, not gardens
Every garden has its moments of beauty, but in general I would just as soon be walking on an isolated beach or through the woods, where I can experience infinite surprise, feel depth in every direction, and sense the presence of a master designer. Last night I saw a film that seemed to collect the best garden moments I've ever had (outside of Kyoto). It said to me: it's less about self-conscious "gardens" in the spring and more about verdant fields year-round. The film, "Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf," might inspire your eyes too. Piet works mostly in Europe, but maybe next week I can take an extra day in NYC to see his planting on the High Line.
Has a soul
Three Billboards has a soul. It's a study of anger and compassion. Two of the many insights: anger can seem real but is often just a pose, an empty shell, a hollow story. And there's a world of difference between everyday anger (which can be huge) and malignant anger (which can be evil). Even though the film is a bit clunky, you walk out of the theater feeling kinship with the people around you.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Replicants? Humans? Does the film itself have a soul?
Have you found a soul in the film itself, in the point of view from which it sees, hears, touches, feels? I've been trying. I want it to be there. I have a sense it might be there. I would like the pleasure of finding it, and this sometimes takes time. But so far, just inklings. Is the kinship with Tarkovsky's Stalker just an illusion? Tell me: where should I look? How should I look?
Like living next door to an elderly couple
A film for us from South Korea, nominated for a Palm d'Or at Cannes: My Love, Don't Cross That River. It's as if the camera lives next door to a couple that is very elderly and stops by to check on them from time to time, just to see how they are doing. At first they are both doing well. They play with each other like a pair of puppies. Gradually an illness takes hold of the man, and on each visit of the camera we see some loss. At the end, we sit a respectful distance from his wife, as she grieves her husband's death. This is in the style of "slow film," which means things happen at the speed of life, and all the "drama" is at the level of small everyday events which, in their slowness, unfold in a glorious way. A look. A touch. A cough. It's all the "drama" that the heart can bear. This film also has a unique position in the emerging style that blurs fiction and documentary.