The best new films I saw post-LFF, across October and November… if you want to know the rest of what I saw, (the fine, the so-so, and the actively bad) you can find it all here.
First Man (Chazelle)
This film drove an absolute bulldozer through my tear ducts. Damien Chazelle is a master of orchestration – this film, being centered on a man with a strong lack of affect in his external behavior, relies strongly on the cumulative power of image and sound to achieve its emotional peaks. The rhythms, repetitions and modulations of this film are incredible; it’s like music, but never sinks too far into the abstract, always ties itself to clear narrative and intelligible, human stakes. It’s Hollywood film-making in the classic tradition, and it’s a tragedy that it spluttered at the box office.
The first two acts of Shoplifters are really very good indeed, reminiscent of both Spielberg and Ozu (even if not quite in their league) – Kore-eda reaching for the humanistic heights of his earlier Still Walking (2008).
Sadly, what started off as a complex, provocative piece ends up being nakedly, clumsily sentimental. If the third act had been at all subtle or complex this would have been really quite something – instead, it devolves straight into mawkishness, and the final shot is a particular low. A pity, but if you can look past that, the earlier sequences capture some of the old magic.
In terms of rescued footage, generally speaking I enjoyed this more than (for example) The Other Side of the Wind. In part that’s for selfish reasons – I went out to Singapore for a few days in 1995, and had a crush on someone out there, so Shirkers brought back some happy memories. But I have love for Shirkers mainly because it speaks so eloquently to the desire to make movies; to grow and nourish a dream, and capture it in a bottle. Melancholy, bittersweet, and alive.
Special “previous release” shout out to:
Revenge (Fargeat), new to VOD (Shudder)
Not much to it, conceptually, and certainly not original; but for the most part effectively done, and with a good amount of polish. You know a film is working when you clap your palms together in satisfaction when someone dies. You really are aching for her to get that final kill in.
One major issue: at one point she seals a big hole in her belly with a hot sheet of metal. The hole then simply vanishes (?) to be replaced with the logo that was on the metal – but the wording isn’t mirrored. I know it’s a nitpick, but it genuinely took me out of the film. Also: everyone loses about three times as much blood as is realistically inside a human body. But never mind – maybe it all adds to the dreamlike sensibility, which has after all been a mainstay of desert movies since Roeg’s Walkabout if not before.
As a side point – I’m glad that this deconstructing, interrogating film about male violence against a women was directed by a woman. You can see the difference, and it’s getting harder to watch this kind of thing done by guys.
Disappointment of the month:
Some video games are fun to watch other people play. Some are not. Overlord captures the feeling of the later category.