Friday, April 21, 2017
"Harping on the politics of a 1942 romantic comedy is a dubious game, especially when one considers that the context for Woman of the Year's American exceptionalism was the pall of Nazism. But the film plays particularly poorly in 2017, and not only because its central narrative thrust involves the question of how to handle refugees, the relevance or lack thereof of the traditional blue-collar American male, and the place of feminism within American life. The film's conservative agenda also shortchanges Tracy and Hepburn's chemistry. The former's earthy restraint and the latter's electric sensuality are best collided in the early stages of the plot before Sam and Tess's differing worldviews stir conflict (one alcohol-lubricated back and forth in which the lovers hesitantly flesh out their respective backstories features a sizzling arrangement of intimate close-ups). But the screenplay's emphasis on Sam and Tess's disparities quickly fosters an environment that runs counter to Tracy and Hepburn's finest asset when sharing the screen together: the sense that the actors, and not just the characters they're playing, can barely contain their affection for one another."
Full review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Woman of the Year continues here.
Monday, April 17, 2017
"With its 16mm black-and-white cinematography and lack of musical score, however, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki reaches further back into history for its primary cinematic touchstones, specifically to the grayscale neorealism of Ermanno Olmi and the Czech New Wave films, works which unhurriedly examined the plights of working-class everymen jostled around by forces of class and economics. It's noted often in the dialogue that Mäki's humble background is as a baker, and Elis repeatedly reminds him of the pitiful 'backwoods' to which he will return if he fails to live up to the hype. Alas, Kuosmanen places his sympathies squarely with the rube who's hopelessly out of place in a globalized market."
Review continues at Slant Magazine.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
"The first and most conspicuous sign of A Quiet Passion's historical specificity is the supreme headiness and eloquence of its dialogue, which comes at a rapid clip and with almost wall-to-wall frequency. More than a mere place of residence and relaxation, the Dickinson homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts—the actual preserved site of which was provided to Davies for the film's few exteriors—serves as an arena for around-the-clock banter on such matters as the nature and limits of Christian piety, the literature and art of the day, local gossip, and general discourses around the question of how to lead a dignified life. Recorded with such heightened clarity as to almost sound dubbed, these dense conversations have a distancing quality comparable to that of Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, but the linguistic information moves too swiftly to allow time for comedic upshot. Instead, the discussions generally begin as nourishing meetings of the mind, transform into indignant sparring sessions, and resolve as apologetic declarations of mutual respect—each a microcosmic demonstration of Davies's refined feel for human drama."
Full review continues at Slant Magazine.