Tuesday After Christmas
Tuesday, After Christmas is the latest in the ongoing Romanian film revolution that has given us gems like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. This work by Radu Muntean is similar to those other Romanian masterpieces in style but not in effect. Like with the aforementioned films the camera tends to linger on people's faces and there are some long takes, sometimes painfully long. The issue of course is whether the take is being done right if its length is warranted.
Why it took me so long to watch the films of Mike Leigh is really unexplainable. Embarrassingly, the first film of his I saw was Happy Go Lucky during the 2008 season and my interest was captured by a filmmaking style unfamiliar to me at that point. After that I went on to borrow Vera Drake from a friend and also add some titles to my Netflix queue including Naked, Secrets and Lies and All or Nothing. I had found one of my favorite directors of the last twenty years of whom I had just gotten to know for the last two. One film after the next, the intelligent and humorous scripts, impeccable performances and intuitive direction all had me locked in from beginning to end.
The financial meltdown of 2008 is still fresh in my mind as I was surprised at how quickly everything could just collapse. In September alone Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the federal government, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and AIG was bailed out with $85 billion. In the first week of October the U.S Senate approved a $700 billion bailout of banks with toxic investments and the stock market had it's worst week since the Great Depression. I'll never forget this period because it got me interested in investing and led me to create a personal retirement account filled with various mutual funds which I bought then and are doing fairly well now. However after watching Inside Job I am forced to realize our problems are far from over.
Let me say that Poetry is not nearly as slow as that picture might indicate. At the festival last year they screened Mother by Joon-Ho Bong, one of my favorite filmmakers right now, and anyone who watches Poetry will probably think of Mother at some point during or after the film.
Imagine watching Return of the Jedi without any prior knowledge of Star Wars. In fact, pretend you’ve never even heard of Star Wars—that you think Jedi is a standalone film. You walk in late, missing the opening scrollby that explains everything from the first two movies, a few minutes pass, then BAM, some asshole in a helmet is flying around sand-dunes shooting laser beams at people. There’s a big half-finished lego ball in the sky and thousands of midgets running around a forest wearing tiny bear costumes. Towards the end, the dude with breathing problems takes off his asthma mask to reveal a hideous burnt fish face. As the credits roll you think to yourself “What the fuck did I just watch?”. And in spite of all that, you would still have a more firm understanding of Jedi than I had of Apichatpong Weerasethankul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a film somehow more confounding than the pronunciation of its director’s name. The one thing Jedi has on its side? Narrative.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center provides this brief synopsis of Boonmee “Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year for this gently comic and wholly transporting tale of death and rebirth, set in Thailand’s rural northeast. Uncle Boonmee, a farmer suffering from kidney failure, is tended to by loved ones and visited by the ghosts of his wife and son…”.
The first five minutes were cut off due to memory card issues...sorry!
Every great story has an origin—Batman, Spider-man, Jesus Christ, and yes, even Facebook. The Social Networking giant’s beginnings are the subject of David Fincher’s latest cinematic foray, aptly titled The Social Network. While the invention of an online platform sounds like pretty dry pickings in the world of cinema, we are talking about the mind behind Seven (or Se7en—or “Seh Seven En”) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; this man could make drying paint entertaining. The film is told through an interweaving of court cases and the events they focus on, creating a Rashomon-effect, leaving it to the viewers to decide who’s to blame. It pits big thinkers against small, idea against action, and asks viewers to dig deep for conclusions. There is no denouement, no great moment of climax—the movie is a slow meditation on the repercussions of actions taken by a young entrepreneur. That it feels like everything but—helped along by a cast of hilarious assholes and a dramatic clip—is a testament to Fincher’s genius.
My experiences last year with New York Film Festival left a bitter taste in my mouth. From the soup-sipping inanity of Police, Adjective to the brutally emotionless genital mutilation of Antichrist, last year’s offerings smacked of a smug pretension matched only by Graduate English class lectures and the occasional MoMA exhibition. It was then with heavy heart that I walked into Benjamin Heisenberg’s The Robber, the first of my NYFF 2010 screenings. Heisenberg’s thriller, based on Martin Prinz’ novel of the same name, acts as a post-prison biopic for famed criminal Johann Rettenberger, also known as Austria’s very own “Pump-gun Ronnie”. Yet unlike Morgan Freeman’s character in The Shawshank Redemption, who provides hope despite pitiful failings, Rettenberger’s story is one of existential tragedy— he’s doomed from the start by his own hand. Though it’s no Shawshank, the film still packs a compelling narrative—instills its criminal’s acts of violence with a sense of purpose, placing blame more on feelings of “placelessness” than madness.
The lineup for the NYFF has been announced and it does seem very familiar. It is mainly Clint Eastwood's latest plus the best offerings from Cannes which is pretty much the usual slate for this festival. I am looking forward to seeing the following titles.
The Social Network - David Fincher's take on the creation of Facebook and college years of Mark Zuckerberg and co. has already been compared to the likes of Network and Rashomon in style. A lot of people questioned Fincher's decision to work on such a project but it is evident the man has the talent to take on any project and turn it into a gem. He already made an excellent three hour drama out of a short story of F. Scott Fitzgerald so at this point he really shouldn't have anything else to prove. I also want to see the performance from the next Spider Man, Andrew Garfield.