Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Indiewire Feature: 'Doing bad for the greater good': Kevin Spacey, Beau Willimon and Co. Look Back at 'House of Cards' Season One

On February 1st, Netflix changed the television industry. After struggling for the better part of a year to regain the trust of subscribers after an unexpected price increase and alteration to its delivery model, the streaming and distribution service took a risk on a new original series with potentially inflammatory political content. The show is "House of Cards," an American adaptation of a novel by Michael Dobbs which was previously the source of a hit miniseries across the Atlantic for the BBC. Showrunner Beau Willimon brought this tale of greed, corruption and disloyalty to small screens across the United States with acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher by his side as co-producer and creative director, with Netflix signing on for two seasons without a pilot.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Film Review: Bertrand Bonello's House of Pleasures

I wrote this piece for Reverse Shot's 10th Anniversary 'Life of Film' Symposium, a celebration and selection of films we believe sum up the last ten years in cinema and might just point the way forward for the medium.

Days of Future Passed

Even a cursory glance at our post-millennial cinematic landscape should spark a mental catalogue of our most popular concerns—those of death, decay, and, in light of the medium’s escapist functionality, our total and utter apocalypse. Broadly speaking, these notions help drive, if not completely nurture, mainstream filmmaking. But the reverberations from these preoccupations can be felt across all strata of modern cinema. Budgets may have risen and our collective appetite for destruction may have nearly devoured itself whole, but we remain ever yearning and susceptible to the cinema’s grand displays of emotional terror and physical and psychological paralysis. Whether by choice or out of necessity, many of the world’s best filmmakers examine similar ills on a more intimate, less portentous scale than those in the typical Hollywood model. Bertrand Bonello’s 2011 masterpiece House of Pleasures was itself a minor-scale tremor sent echoing across the world film circuit, a vivid, audacious vision of the incremental degradation of the female spirit and a work, in its own way, as unsettling as anything our modern cataclysmic cinema has given us.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fandor Feature: Scenes - Post Mortem

Considering its wide functionality, cinema is perhaps the most well equipped medium to relate the intangible feeling of transience. The essentially absolute weight of the moving image, coupled with the dynamic possibilities of its employment, has resulted in countless articulations of yearning, elegiac ephemerality. From Terrence Malick’s symphonic waltzes to Andrei Tarkovsky’s grand confrontations with mortality to Aleksandr Sokurov’s grave evocations of apparitional communion to even Wong Kar-wai’s hallucinatory displays of emotional paralysis, there has been no lack of near-cosmic demonstrations of modern film’s ability to reflect transitory states of existence.

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 38 - Masaki Kobayashi Against the System [Criterion]

By the mid 1950s, the Shochiku Studio house style was well established. Built on the efforts of such icons as Yasujirō Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi, as well as lesser-known masters like Mikio Naruse and Keisuke Kinoshita, Shochiku trafficked in intimate, humane storytelling, with a distinct thematic tendency toward the familial and inspirational. During the occupation, these types of films weren't only encouraged, but required by the Allied powers, which strictly regulated all facets of Japanese media and entertainment. It's understandable, then, that in the years following World War II, filmmakers would feel prompted, if not obligated, to confront the atrocities of the war and the effects it had on Japan's economic, corporate, and cultural strata, which would hit punishing lows before admirably rebounding over the second half of the 20th century.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

DVD Review: Hong Sang-soo's In Another Country [Kino Lorber]

South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo's work is built on the concept of repetition. Yet within these constructs he's produced infinite variations on a very specific set of themes. Nearly all of his films feature a break (or breaks) in the narrative, after which either perspective pivots, characters undergo a change in interest or motivation, or the story itself begins a process of refraction wherein individual threads collapse into or are set into relief by each successive alternation. The episodic nature and modest aestheticism of his cinema has led many to reduce his output to a series of retreads and reassemblies of past successes, ignoring the fact that the main thematic concern of Hong's career has thus far hinged on this very preoccupation with personal inquisition, reminiscence, and reevaluation.

Record Review: Marnie Stern - The Chronicles of Marnia

History tells us that artists with an experimental lean tend to topple toward the middle over time, losing a once-unique edge in an effort to curb artistic stagnation or simply as a means of courting a wider listenership. At first blush, the career of Marnie Stern would seem to bear out this trajectory. The treble-voiced, finger-tapping, endearingly self-deprecating New York-based guitar hero has moved breathlessly across a trio of albums with nary a pause for traditional considerations such as melody or structure. That she’s gathered both in intermittent fits of inspiration over the years certainly speaks to her natural talent, yet both have, up to now, felt more like natural by-products of her process rather than premeditated goals. Which is more than fine: each of Stern’s records have provided more than their share of thrills and heart-stopping flourishes, and as a technician she may be the most naturally gifted guitar player of her generation. Nevertheless, she seemed to be exhausting her formula a bit on her 2011 self-titled album. The less defined, more freewheeling moments in her past work were easy to forgive for an artist still presumably finding her footing. But more recently these same feats of strength had begun to feel less like displays of unchecked passion and more like a crutch.