Timbuktu (2014)

Here is a film I can’t shake. On the surface, Timbuktu plays like a textbook foreign film: the style is largely invisible, there are failed moments where Western techniques are copied and forced (like the musical climax as the cow G.P.S. heads for the fisherman’s nets), and the film communicates clearly until its final notes which make (of course) an open ending. Much like A Separation (2011) or The Lives of Others (2006), it’s the perfect entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. At the same time it, like many of the best films from other shores, powerfully tells a story that comes from worlds away. Continue reading

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St. Vincent (2014)

Imagine Gran Torino (2008) with Bill Murry in for Clint Eastwood and NYC in for Detroit.

Need I say more? Continue reading

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Bronson (2008)

But violence does not consist so much in injuring and annihilating persons as in interrupting their continuity, making them play roles in which they no longer recognize themselves…

Emmanual Levinas, Preface to Totality and Infinity (trans. Alphonso Lingis, Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1969).

For the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, the foundation of violence is the reduction of the Other to the Self. In other words, violence turns another person into what you make of them; it is the exercise of power to subjugate another’s freedom to your wishes. And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen violence so eloquently portrayed as the final scene of Bronson.

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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

These desires come out in the sort of private moments that movies hesitate to show but that are the essential province of art.

-Richard Brody, “The Accurate Erotics of Fifty Shades of Grey” 

Fifty Shades of Grey is, for everything else it represents, a film. As a film, I was surprised to find it compelling and coherent; certainly the plot isn’t too intricate but the characters are—indeed they are far from the one-dimensional physiques one would expect of erotic fare. Further, while attractive, our leads are no porn-stars. Against it’s critics, Fifty Shades of Grey is not a pornography, a visualization of fantasy. It is, instead, a film about two people exploring their fantasies. This makes a world of difference. Continue reading

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Samson & Delilah (2009)

There’s something about the Australian landscape that just feels right. A warm-hued blend of mystery, danger, and possibility, the “bush” is at the heart of myriad Australian films. As Samson & Delilah begins, the desert serves as an eerily picturesque backdrop for a broken-down town. It is natural, yet the natural is boring, the familiar repetitious, and the everyday suffocating—even debilitating. Our first protagonist, Samson, is an aimless teen who meanders the streets in a wheelchair, alone. To cope, he inhales fumes, keeping a can of gasoline or paint by his bed roll. Delilah, conversely, is a caregiver to her aging Nana, who needs medication and, unlike Samson, can’t move without a wheelchair. Nana, however, is a remarkable painter of traditional geometric forms, her income just enough for food and fire but little else. Continue reading

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Force Majeure (2014)

Hear: electric toothbrushes drone—cleaning teeth—barely enough to drown out underpinning fears.

See: loose clothing, bare skin—despite the frigid clime basic needs are met.

Taste: the fluoride paste, eager to be spit.

 

Brushing teeth is a motif in Force Majeure and it is easy to see why. First, the industrial hum evokes a subjective torment cemented in the cinema psyche by the horror genre. Second, the familiarity and comfort of the scene bring to light insulating technologies: heat, light, warm clothes, water. Needing nothing, the family nevertheless appears hollowed in a sense, isolated from one another as well as their surroundings. Third, each character sees his or herself reflected as both one and as a group. Identity is the main concern of this film, particularly the challenge of self-identification in the face of chaos (“force majeure”) and a pastiche of family scripts (patriarchy, feminism, etc.).

More on each of these considerations.

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The Purge (or) How to Throttle “The Noise” Until It Hurts You Pt. I

Today I had to make lunch. Call me whatever you like, but making lunch for me is usually a stressful endeavor. Right in the thick of things, often when I’m busiest, I have to carve out time to not only eat lunch (which could be a nice break) but invent a lunch, which bears far too much resemblance to what I do in the rest of my life (despite my hope that my other efforts are longer-lasting). Sometimes, I plan ahead, but this kind of planning is also required (of course) right when I don’t want to plan any more. So, I generally rely on pre-made components: microwaveable soup, lunchmeat and bread, etc.

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Poesy: A Poem

 

I stare at fog in the valley.

The air is crisp without

but I’m all haze within. Continue reading

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Three-in-one: Marriage, Community, and Pain

triquetra for blog

My wife and I celebrated our one year anniversary about a week ago. I started brainstorming ways we could commemorate a month before, mostly in the form of trips. Like Walter Mitty I had an itch for adventure, I think I always have, and it felt like time to visit a historic city or chase thrills at an amusement park. Then again, I would have been just as happy to find some peace in nature on a backpacking trip, similar to the way we chose to celebrate our honeymoon. But my wife had a very different idea: she wanted to commemorate our anniversary symbolically. How could I say no to that? Continue reading

The Plague (Camus, 1947)

BlackPlague

I can say I know the world inside out, as you may see–that each of us has the plague within him; no one, no one on earth, is free from it…What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest–health, integrity, purity (if you like)–is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter…it’s a wearying business, being plague-stricken. But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. ~Tarrou, Part IV.VI

Albert Camus’ The Plague is an indictment, a curse against the natural world and its overwhelming, incomprehensible malice. The setting is a “happy town,” an Algerian port city, that unexpectedly befalls the ancient plague, bringing hundreds daily into its black embrace. Their ferryman, and the protagonist, is Dr. Rieux, the guardian of futile remedies and uncertain prognoses. Indeed, no one is able to come to grips with what is going on, certainly there is “plague” but no one can find cure or treatment or explanation of how it began or when it will end. The people are, quite naturally, helpless. Continue reading

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