Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blu-ray Review: Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together (1972)

The male protagonist of Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together works as a documentary filmmaker, a small but not insignificant detail. The character, Jean (Jean Yanne), is an admitted surrogate for the director, who based his second feature on a past, very personal period in his life. Though he worked in the mode of classical fiction filmmaking, Pialat possessed an unmistakably raw and immediate stylistic sensibility that, when coupled with his often uncomfortably intimate narratives, betrayed the urgency of firsthand, privileged accounts. His films, particularly his early efforts, are thus informed by the practicalities of nonfiction storytelling more so than they are beholden to its tenets. These are hyper-detailed, intuitively constructed chronicles, cinematic autopsies of very real events that just so happen to carry universal applicability. 

Film Capsule: Cy Endfield's Hell Drivers (1957)

Hell Drivers (1957)
Directed by Cy Endfield

Sequestered across the Atlantic in the wake of the “Red Hollywood” witch-hunt, the genre-inclined Endfield would make a number of films in his adopted UK homeland, under a variety of pseudonyms. This mid-career standout would ultimately bear his given name, and it’s an appropriately rowdy B-picture indicative of the director’s rebellious streak. Starring Stanley Baker as ex-con Tom Yately, who takes a job as a truck driver hauling loads of gravel across the European countryside, the film operates at once as social portrait, hardbody racing thriller, and complicated love triangle. When Tom gets wise to labor exploitation practices, he attempts to take down the entire testosterone-fueled infrastructure while rescuing the company’s prized secretary (Peggy Cummins) from the grip of masculinity, and Endfield mounts the ensuring mayhem with a flair and confidence which belie his professional expatriation. (August 15, 9:30pm; August 19, 1:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s "Red Hollywood and the Blacklist”) [The L]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Film Review: Abel Ferrara's Welcome to New York (2014)

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

Director Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York opens with a pre-credits interview which doubles as both an act of disclosure and discretion. In it, star Gérard Depardieu (as himself ), acknowledges a common discrepancy in the art of acting: namely, that while he portrays an unsympathetic character—or in this case, via an unsubtle dramatisation of France’s former financial ambassador Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a rather vile one—he doesn’t condone or endorse his subject’s actions.

Film Capsule: Leos Carax's Boy Meets Girl (1984)

Boy Meets Girl (1984)

Directed by Leos Carax

This debut feature by the most progressive of the post-nouvelle vague generation of French filmmakers took a lifetime of cinematic devotion and riffed lovingly on the tenets of melodrama and doomed love alike. It stars Carax’s career-long muse and surrogate Denis Lavant as a hopelessly conflicted young director who, after finding that his girlfriend has cheated on him, falls for the romanticized image of a friend’s ex-lover, a woman (played by Mireille Perrier) he’s never met but nonetheless sees as a conduit for emotional reconciliation. Carax stages their eventual convergence like star-crossed paramours, coming face-to-face if not by chance, then as a preordained occasion of pent-up passion and consequence. A narrative consistently pitting ennui against displays of unguarded emotion, and one likewise framed around an array of stylistic nods to forefathers such as Godard, Truffaut, and Resnais, can’t help but end like all great romances which came before—that is, in tragedy. (August 8-14, showtimes daily at Film Forum's Carax retro) [The L]