Monday, April 26, 2010

L'Enfant

#57 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

You’re about halfway through L’Enfant when you realize whom exactly the title refers to. Sonia (Déborah François) has just had a baby boy, and when the movie opens, she’s seeking the child’s father. He’s not at his apartment, which is occupied by a surly couple who slam the door in her face (a gesture that will be repeated throughout the film, although eventually she’s the one doing the slamming). When she finds him he’s on the street, wandering between cars stalled at a stop light, begging for change. Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is a scruffy young man, who could be anywhere from mid-twenties to early thirties. The indeterminacy of his age is telling; while his thick features suggest a manliness, his mop of hair, puppy-dog eyes, and perpetually mischievous grin suggest perpetual boyhood. Though Sonia is clearly his junior, she manages to mix a girlish playfulness (she’s constantly goofing around with Bruno, amidst shrieks of laughter) with a motherly concern for her new charge. Bruno, on the other hand, as soon as he’s left alone with the baby, tries to sell his own son.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tropical Malady

#55 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

We’ve heard that love’s a bitch, and a battlefield, but in the 2004 Thai film Tropical Malady, writer/director Apichatpong Weerasethakul tells us it’s a tiger too. Or at least that’s one interpretation. Actually, at times it can be hard to know exactly what Apichatpong is after. As with the filmmaker’s later Syndromes and a Century (reviewed in a previous incarnation of this series), Tropical Malady divides neatly into two halves, but the way the halves relate to each other is different. In Syndromes, the different parts of the film are symmetrical, like parallel lines – they relate similar events in radically different surroundings. Malady on the other hand connects its first half and second half with a joint and then lets them spin in entirely different directions, until the thread connecting them seems stretched awful thin. The two halves are perpendicular rather than parallel – maybe they’re better considered as two separate films, but here they are presented together, their interconnections left for us to tease out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Twin Peaks at 20


Update March 2016: From 2014 to 2016, this post contained a larger directory to ALL of my Twin Peaks work. But I have now moved all of those links to a new page, "The Complete Twin Peaks Directory", and returned this post to its original 2010 form, as a simple lineup of my first episode. If you had this bookmarked as a Twin Peaks directory, please change your bookmark to the above link.

Spurred on by Radiator Heaven's declaration of "Twin Peaks week" (the series premiered twenty years ago yesterday) I'm taking a momentary break from my break, to re-present my 2008 episode-by-episode analysis of the groundbreaking TV show. It covered all of season one, the first half of season two (through the conclusion of the murder mystery), and the final episode. I also wrote about the disturbing and powerful prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, and put out a few other, random posts on the series as well. Without further ado, then, I present a centralized nexus for all my "Twin Peaks" pieces:


The picture came from Jeremy Richey's always eye-catching blog, Moon in the Gutter. Check out his post on the show.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon


If there's one form that's been thriving recently, it's the animated film. In the live-action realm, other genres have proved popular without really tapping it into the traditional sources of America's cinematic strength (imagination, storytelling, fantasy). Non-animated movies often seem to have lost touch with the power that  old Hollywood exuded. Contemporary screenwriting focuses more often on themes and ideas than stories and feelings, technique has adopted the fragmented point of view, and while naturalism has been avoided a surface "realism" is all the rage - blockbusters are darker and grittier than they were in the past (though, ironically, excessive CGI has rendered their textures less real than ever). Live-action films have achieved a "flatness" - a focus on surfaces and text - while animated films thrive in a world of created depth, in which computer animation is finally un-shackled from its obligation to dutifully mimic reality and allowed to range free. Most of the great animated films of the epoch have been Pixar movies, but How to Train Your Dragon may be Dream Works' strongest contribution to the pantheon yet.