Friday, July 25, 2014

Blu-ray Review: Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

Abbas Kiarostami's 1999 film The Wind Will Carry Us takes its title from a poem by the Iranian artist Forugh Farrokhzad, a controversial figure who preached progressive political and feminist doctrine through a variety of written, verbal, and visual mediums before dying in a car accident in 1967 at age 32. In Kiarostami's film, the poem is recited in what could be called its centerpiece scene—it's the only one set indoors—by our unnamed male protagonist as he attempts to seduce a young girl in a dimly lit grotto while she collects milk from the family cow. The encounter isn't quite as provocative as it might read, and indeed Farrokzhad's words convey much of the sequence's visceral and thematic weight. Preoccupied with notions of transience and temporality ("The moon is red and anxious...The clouds await the birth of rain...One second, and then nothing"), the passage is indicative of the film's larger considerations of death and the incremental accumulation of time, as well the formal and nominal characteristics marking it as a cumulative work for its creator, if not cinema itself at the turn of the millennium.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Film Review: Phillipe Garrel's Jealousy (2013)

This piece appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Little White Lies.  

Eternally situated between the intimate and the enraptured, the post-nouvelle stylings of director Phillipe Garrel revel in moments of swooning sentiment and afflicted amour fou. Essentially an ongoing reflection on a life shaped by romantic realisation and the prospectus of its resultant passions, the French filmmaker’s methodology has, for over a half-century now, proven a beneficial outlet for interests both artistic and anatomical. Jealousy, Garrel’s latest cinematic interlude, segues seamlessly into a career continuum defined by such sincere severity (and severe sincerity), yet lands gracefully in a state of welcome repose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Film Capsule: James Benning's 11 x 14 (1977)

11 x 14 (1977)
Directed by James Benning

This early feature-length triumph solidified a methodology which Benning, an observational cinema pioneer and one of the pillars of the American avant-garde, has spent much of his subsequent four decades refining. By way of an alternating succession of static and tracking shots, interiors and exteriors, the film subtly accumulates an unshakable historical gravitas, a visual index of unassuming heartland locales both comforting and vaguely menacing in their familiarity. The visual iconography of the Midwest—churches, billboards, railways, cemeteries—coupled with Benning’s immersive use of both diegetic and non-diegetic sound results in something of a post-war cultural tableau, its ideological spirit exemplified in a pair of scenes—one domestic, one industrial—soundtracked by Bob Dylan’s “Black Diamond Bay.” In its fascination with the durational and physical elements of the environment and their relation to societal stasis and spiritual serenity, Benning’s film has bred descendants as obvious as Denis Côté and as unlikely as Richard Linklater. (Friday, July 18, 9pm at Anthology Film Archives, part of their series of films by Benning and Richard Linklater, in conjunction with the documentary Double Play) [The L]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blu-ray Review: Michelangelo Antonioni's I Vinti (1953)

Michelangelo Antonioni's sophomore feature, I Vinti, is a film inextricably tied to its era—which isn't to say it's inseparable from its contextual components. Released in 1953, the film, a narrative depicting three unrelated stories of violence perpetrated by disaffected youths, parlayed a nascent anxiety concerning post-war adolescent rebellion into a cross-cultural cautionary tale with ripped-from-the-headlines relevancy. The finished product, compromised upon release by conservative producers and distributors who would force the director to re-edit a significant portion of the film, isn't in any form one of Antonioni's benchmark accomplishments. What it is, however, is a fascinating snapshot of a young filmmaker figuring out his political and aesthetic ideologies on screen, and an early example of contemporary omnibus storytelling which has since proven both profitable and popular.