{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Short Notes on 2008 Disappointments and a Recommendation !

Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt). Very honest and one of the most serious films of 2008 but so cold that it could not even justify the use of medium. The stack of stark images does not bundle up into something that seems to strike an emotional chord here or there as if the director is scared of emotions. I am more disappointed here because it is otherwise a glorious attempt in a sober voice.

Milk (Gus Van Sant). In preparation to watch Milk, I saw Rob Epstein's excellent documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk and in the commentary track of the documentary the director says that they consciously did not name it The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, because they wanted to capture the struggle in times of Milk not his life per se. The motion picture Milk tries to capture both and thats where it fumbles because it is not necessary that the personal life of a person be as interesting and important as his political life.

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin). For me, Guy Maddin's films work when he mixes nostalgia not only with genuine sadness but with irony, surreal humor and perverse fantasies that are uniquely his. My Winnipeg works great in pieces but what spoils the whole experience is Guy Maddin's overemotional voice over, it pampers and plunders the images and their irony. You never know what to believe, Maddin or his images.

Alexandra (Aleksandr Sokurov). I am not too sure about this film but this is definitely Russian version of hate the war but support the troops, which is nothing wrong, but the grandmother character is overly patronizing and when we get the feeling that she is actually supposed to represent both mother Russia and director’s alter ego, the whole exercise, even if heartfelt, looks not only nationalistic but rather simplistic.

Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog). This is one attempt where from the very beginning director promises to explore the other side of the world "differently", there is supposed to be nothing usual here (Herzog himself says that he is not here to film penguins) but even if it is not arrogant its immodest promise and more length of the film is devoted to ridicule others than to show us things with new eyes. It is definitely a minor effort from Herzog. May be thats why it was nominated for Oscars.

Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant). Van Sant use of Christopher Doyle's excellent photography, Nino Rota's music and a cryptic narrative seems to cancel out each other in their stylistic excesses. It is one example where a bunch of good things does not result in anything better.

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan). Self proclaimed harbinger of chaos and menace, the anti-establishment Joker's big-budgeted explosions looks meticulously planned and staged. In a strictly back and white sensibility, Joker's irrational lunatic evil does not go hand in hand with the bigness of his sophisticated misadventures or vice versa. Its just too layered. On the other hand the two face metaphor is overly clean cut, The face, the coin, the film divided in two halfs. And thats the problem with this film. You just can not have it both ways. Also, the cut after Joker's fall was too abrupt.

Dear Zachary (Kurt Kuenne). This is a heartfelt personal documentary but highly manipulative so much that one starts feeling that the director does not trust his audience's emotional responses and so he packs them with enough arsenal to illicit a powerful but expected response.

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman). What you will think of a person who fantasizes of staging an artsy-fartsy funeral for himself. Thats exactly what I think of this film. Its self-indulgent in a very morbid way. But Samantha Morton's performance is quite good.

Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas). This is essentially the textbook of art house cliches. This film reminded me of Cartman's Christian Rock Album cover where he asks Token to point away from camera because this is how album covers are. Also, the director should go to confession for trying Dreyer so poorly.

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle). My biggest problem with this film is the end dance sequence. Its so shoddily choreographed, its worse than mediocre - a half-hearted sham, lip service to Bollywood.

Now the recommendation, Abdel Kechiche's The Secret Of The Grain is long and intense family drama that brings different ends of a family together when it engages in opening a couscous restaurant. And look out for marvelous Hafsia Herzi. Ebert compares her to Isaballe Huppert.


Anonymous said...

Wow! you see a whole lot of movies.
Some kind of movie critic are you or just plain aficionado.

I see a lot of movies but among the list mentioned have just watched SM and dark knight.

anurag said...

Just a film lover :)

The sleepy activist said...

I think the dance sequence was fun! The rest of SM stank, of crs. The childhood bits were fun too.

tiger said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.