May 31, 2016

World apart

Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015). Circumspect in important ways and a film about acting that itself depends on great acting. About acting? To me, the centre of the film comes when Brie Larson’s Joy pretends her son is dead to fool her captor, and her son must then play dead, and carefully follow her instructions. In that moment, their world apart is more apart than at any other time, as the outside world opens up to them and us, and that’s the hinge of it all too: the first half of the story was easier for her to bear and the second half is easier for the boy, who seems so surprisingly wise and grave. 

May 27, 2016

The image of happiness

Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983). Watched again as the President of the United States visits Hiroshima. “I looked at those pictures, and it was as if the entire year of 1965 had just been covered with ashes.” 

May 20, 2016

Not quite rightness

Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007). Not quite rightness, done with such precision and control, such attention to detail. The business activity, the quiet, the envelopes full of cash, the doubling. 

May 14, 2016

It snowed

Uzak (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2002). Maybe it’s not as grandly-staged or as beautiful as more recent Ceylan – the chief location is the director’s Istanbul apartment – but, and this is a good thing, it’s probably funnier, in a Beckett-like way. There is a lot of talk about Tarkovsky but the gag (to use the word very loosely) is that the film is not really like that.    

May 13, 2016

The green light of the Empire Hotel sign

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958). “She had come back from the dead, and he felt it, and knew it, and probably was even bewildered.”  

May 7, 2016

A collector of invented stories

Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2000). For fans, this early experimental work, shot roughly on black and white video and blown up for release, has a raw appeal and there are some trace elements of later Weereasethakul masterpieces in it: that sudden, dream-like appearance of the supernatural in the everyday, which is barely even remarked upon as strange or unlikely. To us, the films feel like a version of Thai folklore; it’s hard to know how they seem at home, but one of the revealing and ingenious things about Mysterious Object at Noon is how Weerasethakul invents and develops his own folklore that could pass as “tradition” to us. Equally, though, the films are also open to tough social realities. 

May 1, 2016

Where is thy brother?

The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015). A different kind of horror movie, made with historical fidelity and Bergman or Dreyer-like seriousness – and a rare economy and a gradual increase of dread throughout. This small masterpiece may be the greatest religious film in years – relatively calm and steady where Von Trier’s more personal Antichrist was psychologically overwrought and fiercely anguished, but it is just as deep.