Monday, February 29, 2016

Knight of Cups (2015) A Film by Terrence Malick

"Like Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, Jonas Mekas's filmed expedition to a family gathering in his homeland, Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups operates like a diary film, right down to the use of chapter titles to organize the plethora of footage recorded in Los Angeles. Where Mekas soberly planted day markers into his impressionistic sprawl, Malick gives us tarot card-inspired slates like “Judgment” and “The Tower” to loosely contextualize the wanderings of a melancholy hedonist, Rick (Christian Bale), who's less a conventional character than a mute compass for Malick and DP Emmanuel Lubezki's exploratory camera. And while Mekas's project sprang from a desire, as an expat middle-aged New Yorker whose tender disposition always seemed at odds with his hectic city of residence, to reconnect with his familial heritage, the latest from American cinema's mild-mannered outsider also functions rather transparently as an act of self-therapy." Review continues at Slant.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Forsaken (2015) A Film by Jon Cassar

"It's 1872 in Wyoming, the same false refuge for Civil War veterans zeroed in on by Quentin Tarantino in The Hateful Eight, only here there's the immediate reassuring aura that decency can and will be restored. Keifer Sutherland plays John Henry Clayton, a cowboy who fits neatly into the archetype of the moral hero with a conscience sturdy enough to keep his fast gun at bay (even his name is impossibly patriotric-sounding). John Henry's riven with familiar postwar angst and deteriorating faith, but early shots of him riding stridently across mountainous territory to tasteful major-chord crescendos ensures us that he's good at heart. When he gets home for the first time in years, he reunites with his reverend father (Donald Sutherland), who's lost confidence in his soldiering son, as well as an old love (Demi Moore) who's now hitched to, you guessed it, a jealous scoundrel (Jonny Rees)." Full review at Slant.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Emigrants / The New Lands (1971 / 1972) Films by Jan Troell

"'We're the best of friends.' That's the endearment that a married couple, played by Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, whisper to one another in Jan Troell's The Emigrant. For anyone familiar with von Sydow and Ullmann's collaborations in the filmography of Ingmar Bergman, it's a deeply moving moment as much for its narrative context—Ullmann's character is suffering from seasickness aboard a ship to America as a storm beats against her cabin and fellow peasants wail outside the frame—as for its metatextual implications. The two actors sparred, trembled, and agonized together on screen so routinely under the gaze of the famously penetrating Swede that a comparatively blissful moment almost registers as a glitch, even as it doubles as a validation of the pair's fruitful working relationship. It's hard to imagine any fan emerging from the scene, sensitively prolonged by Troell in intimate close-ups, with dry eyes." Review of an excellent new Criterion Collection disc continues at Slant.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015) A Film by Peter Greenaway

"The history of artists working away from their homeland is rich with tales of creative flowerings: wide-eyed Paul Gauguin dispatching to Tahiti and expanding his palette, wacked-out Salvador DalĂ­ descending on Paris to find a melting pot of artistic cross-pollination, globetrotting Orson Welles sticking it to American financiers by creating some of his most daring work in new lands, and Andrei Tarkovsky transcending both his nostalgia for his motherland and a rapidly deteriorating body with a series of deeply personal art films. Somewhere adjacent to this history is the curious case of Sergei Eisenstein's sojourn in Mexico, which serves as the subject of Eisenstein in Guanajuato." Continued at Slant Magazine.