by Ryland Walker Knight
- The Small Black Room [Powell & Pressburger, 1949] The snide thing to say would be to label this "the real Hurt Locker" but, of course, that doesn't really do either film justice. Both are about addiction, and pain, but one's an action film and the other's a love story, sort of, set in a war; one's frantic and the other's equable. The Archers' "return" to black and white doesn't yield the same unsettled vibe of, say, I Know Where I'm Going! but it's got all kinds of lurid expressionism (and plenty of self-loathing). Should probably watch it again.
- The Housemaid [Kim Ki-young, 1960] I've got nothing good to say about this. But Brian does. I did everything I could the rest of the day to get that convoluted, over-wrought, interminable headache out of my head. That is, I ate food and drank beer in the sun in the park (see above).
- Trypps 1-6 [Ben Russell, 2005-2009] 1 is nice and pretty but not much; 2 is similar, but prettier; 3 is the best, probably, with its searchlight-spotlight shining a way towards or maybe just on physical illumination through faces (ie, it's all affect sweating all over the screen); 4 is, as Russell says, a do-over for 1+2 with more puns than anything else, and you gotta love Pryor in any iteration; 5 flickers in a fun way, with framing a joke in and of itself as we only get a few letters of "Happy" (we're never fully happy? Dubai's never happy?); 6 is the most "ostentatious" of the shots from the feature, and really vibrant, a funny counterpoint to 3 in that there are no faces like the white and yellow faces of the earlier one since there are masks and costumes and it's a ritual, primarily, and a party second (that is, it's 3 inverted); we'll see what 7 is like later in 2010 apparently.
- Insiang [Lino Brocka, 1976] Rotten viewing experience only made the melodrama feel cheap despite the motifs at work (they felt leaden); not a day for a miserable "wringer" by any stretch. That is, its twists of the knife didn't show me anything, or convince me of much. The visual strategies were mostly predicated on bars and different forms of claustrophobia and I didn't need this movie to know that the world of poverty is a prison.
- Let Each One Go Where He May [Ben Russell, 2009] Quite an experience, no doubt, completed at least in part by having Russell present. He's an intelligent guy and he said a lot of words I like (like "phenomenology" and "particularity," say) that help get at what I dug so much about this film. I love how the structural conceit takes it out of strict ethnography, though the duration of the shots lends the image an undeniable documentary vibe. However, it's more about materialism, not humanism, and that's something I'm always for in cinema (in any art) as it gets you to acknowledge your separateness and your particularity in real time relation to those bodies onscreen. When they walk, you walk. Or so somebody might say. Also beautiful to see those trees topple together, and to have the sound drown out on the river at the close. (Finally, somewhat related: this really made it apparent how much I want to make movies, but not just "features" or even anything necessarily "long" so much as full of light, angles, real matter, and some jokes. I'm working on this aim in 2010 a lot more pointedly than in 2009. To that end, here's a reminder link to my vimeo page.)
- Agrarian Utopia [Uruphong Raksasad, 2009] Short version: very gorgeous, often poignant, but quite a maximal cinema for something so marginal and granular. More coming. See what I saw walking out above; too bad a cell phone can't capture the richness of an amber wash at sunset after rain.
- Hot Tub Time Machine [Steve Pink, 2010] Everything I expected it to be. Funny, too.
- Lost "Dr. Linus" [S6,E7, Marvin Van Peoples, 2010] A decent episode, with good acting, but not really much to it beyond Ben's confession and the Widmore surfacing. Didn't see much auteurist stamp, for the record/for what it's worth. More here.
- The Good Shepherd [Robert DeNiro, 2006] # A few scenes, here and there, while prepping my SFIAAFF post. Mostly I was surprised at how much I wanted some of Damon's glasses, but I also just like Matt Damon a lot so I don't know if that's fashion inspiration or just plain fandom.
- Enemy of the State [Tony Scott, 1998] # One of the ultimate "brah" casts, complete with awful hair and all kinds of meathead "joshing," this movie's probably best looked at as one hell of a time capsule. That odd late 1990s window when the internet wasn't quite as prevalent, cell phones were still pretty big, mobsters had VCRs, and Will Smith was still kinda skinny. There's also Gene Hackman, largely acting a goof, and a few nods to some "classics," but he's barely sweating. It's quite the paycheck movie. And Tony Scott's not doing too much beyond his 90s usual: canted angles, a few flares, some shoot out jitters.
- I am a fugitive from a chain gang [Mervyn LeRoy, 1932] Paul Muni had a face for forever, and the movie's full of it. But the movie's pretty rough when you're deadbeat tired and at a pity party for one. Still, some striking shots, including that long dolly across the inmates that ends on a fade away from the last man lashed before Muni. And Muni underwater, breathing through a reed, while the bull wades in front of him. To say nothing of the final fade during Muni's final response (to "How do you live?"), a whisper, "I steal..."