Saturday, December 17, 2005

because it's impossible to think of nothing

Getting back to film, here's what I've seen since that last screening log-type post - most of these were seen before the all-too-brief vacation. Beware, these are just ramblings on random viewings.

Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski, 2005) ***½
I was looking forward to mentioning how no one's drawn any comparisons between Bujalski and Hong Sang-soo yet, but it seems someone's already beaten me to it. Baaab's review pretty much says it all actually (except I sensed a Warholian attempt at portraiture of the performers, but the takes probably weren't long enough). Anyway, this is easily the best new American film I've seen this year, and one that I look forward to coming back to.

A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) **½
The Forty Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005) **

Hi, Mom! (Brian De Palma, 1970) ***½
Probably the funniest, and the strangest De Palma film I've seen, but that's more because of the film's elliptical movement from episode to delirious epidose, culminating in the still very disturbing sequence with the 'Be Black, Baby' session. Signature De Palma obsessions are already evident, and the seed for 1976's Travis Bickle has been planted. Still formulating concrete thoughts on this one, but I know I loved it.

Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) ****
Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi, 1967) ***
Both films hold hierarchical suppression in some kind of vitriolic stare that is aesthetically represented by the incredibly fluid long takes - relentlessly so in Harakiri. The camera movements in Harakiri are, unsurprisingly, more obviously varied, more 'piercing', and the fragmented flashbacks and shifting spectatorship makes it the headier of the two films by far. And that Takemitsu score is killer, as usual. Samurai Rebellion too is pretty much awesome - perhaps almost 'dangerously' so, in the sense that the filmmaker's method (here, the rectangular framing, the graceful camerawork, etc.) threatens to drown the compelling subject and performances (Toshiro Mifune is tremendous), but thankfully that never happens.

Samuel Beckett's Film (Alan Schneider, 1965) ***
The Insects' Christmas (Wladysaw Starewicz, 1913) **
The Cameraman's Revenge (Wladysaw Starewicz, 1912) ***

Salaam Namaste (Siddharth Anand, 2005)
No Entry (Anees Bazmee, 2005)
Garam Masala (David Dhawan, 2005)
Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya (David Dhawan, 2005)
Four really, really, REALLY stupid Bollywood comedies that basically function by having its characters lie to each other non-stop throughout the films and getting themselves into all sorts of troubles as a consequence. The films have their moments - No Entry, especially - and the funny bits from each film put together may make one hell of a hoot. As they stand though, they just prove that John Abraham can't dance (or act, for that matter).

The Aviator's Wife (Eric Rohmer, 1981) ****
I think this is one of the two or three best Rohmer films I've seen. It is simply a joy from start to end, even when we find the film's central couple in the nastiest of arguments. Rohmer's mastery at layered storytelling and mise-en-scene is in glorious display in the film's core-sequence when François follows the aviator and his mysterious companion around Paris, and the moment he meets the lovely Lucie, another story magically materialises and occupies the same frame as the existing stories that we have been following (the boyfriend and the aviator/the aviator and his lady friend). The boyfriend and Lucie converse for they have entered what is now a recognisably *Rohmer* film. Then there is the girlfriend, cold and intense and fragile and impenetrable. (I'm glad she was given her moment in the last reel.) The film is the first in the 'Comedies and Proverbs' series and the proverb for the film is "it's impossible to think of nothing". That is the essential curse of the Rohmer character. Well, that and to think out loud.


Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Glad you liked Hi, Mom!, one of my favorite De Palmas.

I really need to check out Bujalski now. Ever since Ray Carney raved for Funny, Ha Ha I've had him on my radar, but even though I Tivo'd that film from the Sundance Channel when visiting my parents many months ago, I never got around to watching anything of his. Now--you and baaab/Sky Hirschkron liken him to Hong Sang-soo? I'm there!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

I ordered the dvd-r available from the film's site,, without having seen Funny Ha Ha and with very little knowledge on Bujalski, and I'm relieved to say that it's been a major discovery. The Hong comparison (with reference to Appreciation) is just an approximation, though. There are key differences between the two - Hong's films feel slightly* more structured to give a sense of narrative, and his characters are further from the transcendent moment because they are more lost/lonely. But the internal chaos that comes with the represented age groups (the opposite sex, disoriented male psyche, fearful anticipation of The Next Big Step) overlap significantly between their films.

Having said ALL that, I'd urge you to go into it with as little knowledge of it as possible!

* Some may say 'significantly more', but this Bujalski film, while possessing a certain comic spontaneity, seems deceptively loose to me. There are invisible dramatic tensions at work, which only become semi-evident in the final few minutes.

5:43 AM  

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