Filed under: film | Tags: John C. Reilly, Jonny Greenwood, Lynne Ramsay, tilda swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
If we were allowed to break movies up into segments, the first 30 minutes of We Need To Talk About Kevin would have been my favorite film of the year. It’s absolutely effortless filmmaking, bouncing from one memory to another, with an internal logic that connects directly with the viewer’s subconscious. The cinematography is stunning, vast swaths of color (most often red) are thrown across the screen, leaving it resembling a Jackson Pollock. Jonny Greenwood’s score is both unsettling and instrumental to the intoxicating effect this sequence possesses. Another sense subtly overwhelmed to the point of surrender.
It’s inevitable that a narrative begins to emerge, but it’s intriguing to think of the film Kevin could’ve been if it were to remain an immersive barrage of images. The film we do get is nothing to lament. With the sole caveat that as we surface from the dream state it offers viewers a way out. Kevin as he appears in the film is a construct of Eva’s mind and taken at face value his behavior can border on the cartoonish. Likewise, John C. Reilly’s Franklin seems almost impossibly aloof at times. It’s important to remind oneself that these caricatures are colored and distorted by Eva’s experience and even then it can be difficult to reconcile them with our own experiences.
But Lynne Ramsay has never made films that were easily digestible or openly inviting, and We Need to Talk About Kevin only reaffirms her rare cinematic gifts. Despite what some may term narrative missteps there is no denying her masterful mise-en-scene. Of course this review would be incomplete without mentioning another in a series of singular performances by Tilda Swinton, but in the end it comes back to Ramsay and the ease with which she relates her vision. Hers is a talent that shouldn’t have been allowed to sit on the shelf for so long, and we can only hope we won’t have to wait 9 years for her next film.
Filed under: film | Tags: 35 shots of rum, bluebeard, bright star, catherine breillat, chantal akerman, claire denis, erick zonca, jane campion, jeanne dielman, julia, kiyoshi kurosawa, l'intrus, roy andersson, the intruder, tilda swinton, tokyo sonata, you the living
Bright Star I was a bit let down with this, after having it hyped up so much. It’s still a good film, but it didn’t connect with me in the way I was expecting it too. I often have trouble with biopics and period pieces and while this isn’t as formulaic as the former usually are nor as stuffy as the latter, it still is a period biopic and it never really transcends that. One of the things I did enjoy is that the focus is on Abbie Cornish’s character and her perception of Keats rather than Keats himself, and it’s an incredibly sexy film considering that it’s rated PG. **1/2
Bluebeard I liked this a great deal. It’s a wonderful take on a fairy tale that seems to suit Catherine Breillat almost perfectly. Despite that it does feel like minor Breillat, but that’s a minor quibble. The third act works wonderfully well and the last shot is up there with A Serious Man for most memorable of the year. ***
L’Intrus This is a completely unique film. The narrative logic feels like something out of a David Lynch film, but it never feels surreal. It almost feels like a flood of memories. Despite the fact that everything is disconnected and hard to get a real grasp on, the film consistently holds one’s interest. I checked this out after seeing it on many best of decade lists and I can’t disagree that it belongs in that discussion. With another viewing or two it could enter that strata for me as well. ***1/2
Jeanne Dielman I understand and even admire what Akerman is trying to do here, but I have trouble following her. I don’t mind slow films (see above), but 3 and a half hours of process is asking a bit much. Especially when at least half that is composed of static shots of linoleum. I wanted to like it, I tried to like it, but it just didn’t hold my interest. **
35 Shots of Rum (rewatch) This one grew on me alot between viewings. On first look, it felt like a minor picture in Denis’s oeuvre, but a second look revealed alot of depth and enhanced the beauty I sensed on my previous look. I’ve seen three of the five films Denis directed during the aughts and unless the other two (Trouble Every Day and White Material) are awful, I would be hard pressed to think of a director who put out such consistently great films with such frequency during that period. Director of the decade? ***1/2
You, the Living About 15 minutes in I was in awe of this film, but after awhile it becomes quite tedious. Andersson’s humor is very unique and most of the time it hits, but there are several segments that just didn’t do it for me. One highlight later in the film is the woman in the bar recounting a dream in which she married a local rock star. The imagery bordered on Felliniesque. Indeed Fellini and Tati both seem to be influences on Andersson’s work, I look forward to checking out Songs from the Second Floor. **1/2
Tokyo Sonata (rewatch) As finely tuned as this film is, the places he goes with the narrative in the second half don’t really work for me. Every member of the family going through a significant life changing experience on the same day feels contrived, and maybe it’s supposed to be, but after the nuance of the first half I didn’t like the way he brought the film to a climax. The final scene, however, is the highlight. Gorgeous. **1/2
Julia Here is a case where an overwrought second half didn’t kill the film for me. It’s because the focus here isn’t on the script or the direction, but Tilda Swinton’s acting. It’s no exaggeration to call this the performance of the year, and while it requires some suspension of disbelief, Tilda for the most part does a good job of carrying you through the twists and turns of the plot. Her character’s development is much more nuanced and that is the real focus here. ***