Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy End (2017) A Film by Michael Haneke

"With Happy End, Michael Haneke takes circuitous routes to arrive at rather simplistic observations—namely, that modern technology is a plague and that the rich are soul-sick and insulated from real-world troubles. He’s concocted a plot just busy enough to distract from these worn cynicisms and a set of characters too enigmatic to dismiss as mere chess pieces off the bat, but by the end, Happy End reveals itself as something vacuous and cold, a bizarrely seductive pseudo-thriller lacking a thoroughly worked-out payoff."

Review continues at Slant.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Voice of the Moon (1990) A Film by Federico Fellini

"Somewhere deep in the foggy Italian countryside, in an abandoned barn in the middle of the night, Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel' booms over a sound system for the dancing pleasure of a mob of leather-clad Gen X-ers. On the evidence of The Voice of the Moon, this was an aging Federico Fellini's vision of a world under the spell of globalized pop music and youth culture, where the new and the hip is a pervasive bug filling every crevice left by the old and the archaic. When this endearingly absurdist illusion manifests itself around the three-quarter mark of the film, however, it's a sense of euphoria, not cynicism, that prevails."

Full review of Fellini's swan song, now out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, continues at Slant.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Kevin Jerome Everson: Cinema and the Practice of Everyday Life

"Rooted so firmly in African-American settings that any appearance of a white person comes as a surprise (in itself a substantial political act), Everson’s films obsessively fixate on the everyday, offering immersive depictions of people working, passing time in their neighborhoods, running errands, going to the doctor, fixing their cars, and enjoying brief respites of leisure. These slivers of quotidian activity stand on their own as “complete” cinematic subjects, not mere fragments of larger narrative scaffolding, and the plainly descriptive titles of Everson’s films speak to his unwavering conviction in the seemingly undramatic minutes and seconds that mainstream cinema—or, for that matter, even a wide swatch of documentary and avant-garde cinema—routinely passes over as unworthy of prolonged attention."

The Harvard Film Archive is hosting a formidable retrospective of the films of Kevin Jerome Everson this winter. I spent my September and October consuming and researching the man's work and contributed the entirety of the program notes for the series, which can be found here. Everson's a highly unique figure. I don't think there's anyone quite like him on the contemporary scene. He makes films that almost necessitate accompanying texts to make sense of, and I hope what I've done here suffices.