It's interesting to discover your moral thresholds. In an oft-referenced review of Gillo Pontecorvo's Kapò (1960), Jacques Rivette takes issue with a tracking shot that glides over the freshly deceased body of a character played by Emmanuelle Riva. Writes Rivette: "The man who decides, at that moment, to have a dolly in to tilt up at the body, while taking care to precisely note the hand raised in the angle of its final framing -- this man deserves nothing but the most profound contempt. … There are things that should not be addressed except in the throes of fear and trembling; death is one of them, without a doubt; and how, at the moment of filming something so mysterious, could one not feel like an imposter? It would be better in any case to ask oneself the question, and to include the interrogation, in some way, in what is being filmed; but doubt is surely that which Pontecorvo and his ilk lack most."
You're lucky to make one great movie. Michael Cimino has made two—three, if I'm feeling generous (or my testosterone level is spiking). That parenthetical plays into the received wisdom that this divisive auteur is a case study in virility (of varying sorts) run amok—appropriate, I suppose, to the '70s Hollywood Film Brat Boys Club to which he kinda-sorta belongs. But in making my way, chronologically, through the seven features and one short he directed, as well as the two films he cowrote, a much more complicated picture emerged: of a sensitive man sublimating his early instincts and, potentially, his natural desires, ultimately cloaking them in spectacle, egotism and self-mythologizing.
Think I’m at the point with Todd Haynes where he’s mostly ceased to surprise me. And by that I mean do much of anything unexpected. Of course there will be the slightly academic appropriations of Sirk and Fassbinder. But now there’s also a square respectability to his approach that I find deflating. I wish these recent women’s melodramas had more of the pranksterish qualities (in abstract) of his earlier work. Out of that attitude, strangely, came the genuine devastation of films like Poison,Safe and Velvet Goldmine. Carol, weirdly, comes off at times like Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story done straight (pun intended, girl). Haynes is just using porcelain figurines instead of plastic ones.
Mistress America (2015) (dir. Noah Baumbach) (84mins) (viewed 07/28/2015): As was the case with While We’re Young, Baumbach had me for ¾’s of the running time. Great comic rhythm, sharp dialogue, with performances by Gerwig, Kirke, et al to match. Then he goes for emotive summing-up with a side-slather of malaise and I don’t believe any of it. (I do, however, believe these gals would spend Thanksgiving at Veselka.) One-note hermetic narcissism is Baumbach’s thing. I’d like him to just keep tappin’ that gas.
Irrational Man (2015) (dir. Woody Allen) (96mins) (viewed 07/14/2015): Joaquin leads with his gut, Emma Stone the eyes. Parker Posey does her best from beneath what (seems?) a bad wig. Most Woody films post-Husbands and Wives have a sketchy feel (as in slight/superficial, not disreputable/shady—though, maybe the latter?) I’ve lost interest in reading the artist’s life into his work, and I’ve gotten used to (and am occasionally taken by) the Woody malaise. He’s his own man: Greatness eludes him, though rarely in the profound ways I get from e.g. F.F. Coppola. Preferred the Darius Khondji cinematography in Magic in the Moonlight; he works best in period. The same Ramsey Lewis Trio needle drop (which begins with the end of a round of applause) is reused throughout, so many scenes clap for themselves.