Taormina clearly one of the more exciting artists in contemporary American cinema to come along in some time. The spatiality of suburbia, the intrinsic seclusion, and the inevitable alienation it fosters are astutely rendered throughout this immersive, evocative work that ultimately captures how we as social beings require interaction and engagement. Imbued with a rich, albeit understated pathos, Happer's Comet was a film made during the height of Covid that doesn't feel specific only to that moment but one that reaches for something much more expansive and incisive about modern life. Through its observational lens, Taormina unveils the collective anxiety of modern American life, eliciting a lingering unease about contemporary culture, and the quiet rot inflicted on all of us as we attempt to find meaning or resolution from the emptiness of our consumer culture where material excess provides little reprieve from existential longing. Suburban American iconography - vast yards, large homes, etc - invokes a sense of opulence, one that is cold and empty when juxtaposed with the stillness and longing showcased by the subjects observed in this story. Gives off such a distinct atmosphere, and one that perhaps captures the malaise many of us are feeling in which there is little recourse due to a world rooted not in empathy but efficiency.
Mini Cassette Tapes maybe not as cool as microfilm but alas, Topology of Sirens is an astounding debut feature. A low-key mystery of existential relevancy, Topology of Sirens is an incredibly assured, downright transcendental experience in which a rich visual and auditory tableau is on full display. Temporality is eschewed, not just structurally, but through visual and auditory assemblages that evoke a sense of ethereality. Moments whether learned or experienced feel conjoined perhaps due more so than anything to this film's utterly entrancing sound design. Aesthetically, Los Angeles has never felt lusher to me in a film, the sun's omnipresence is textured and assertful in every exterior shot. The cinematography - the use of lighting, composition, etc - evinces the omnipresent beauty and power of the natural world. This personal journey is not merely point-a to point-b discovery but one that ultimately feels ontological. I'm struggling to put this into words - it has a great sense of affect and how it is a reciprocal force beyond what we materially understand.
Fair to say this isn't as titillating or structurally sturdy as its predecessor but I appreciate how this franchise is still world-building and adding layers. Effectively stylish, slick, and swift in its striking violence, The Witch Part 2. The Other One is a fun time and probably the closest thing to an R-rated X-men universe we'll get. What can I say, I'm a sucker for brooding ultra-violence and this one oozes cool as it expands the world of its predecessor in a way that is arguably convoluted but like I said I appreciated the layers it interjects into this transhumanist conception. It' also isn't afraid of melodrama and a general emotiveness that borders on silly but I just found it all to be pretty endearing. The fight choreography is just ok, I feel like the first one was far more concise in its camera movements and rooted in a physicality that this one sometimes struggles with due to incorporating more CGI but this one still brings the heat more so than not and despite its flaws, this is just fun! Also, I liked the fireworks now bring on the sequel!
An uncompromising vision of the barbarism intrinsic to living in this epoch, Inoue's Jidaigeki film takes aim at the valorization of the samurai and the absolute authoritative structures which they serve to deliver a subversive deconstruction of the shogunate ethos that ultimately aligns quite well within an anarchist philosophical framework. Power and strength are the only currency of value in a militaristic world built on conquest, and Inoue's Jidaigeki film is a wicked take on the Kagemusha tale that finds great utility in its examination of symbols, images, and illusions, detailing how in a strict-hierarchical social order power itself is absolute but vacuous - everything is malleable to abject authority. Pre-dating Matsumoto's Demons by a decade, Inoue's The Third Shadow has many differences but it shows the same penchant for unsavory brutalism and abject nihilism in its portrayal of this era. I have no idea if there is any connectivity between the two films, but it just feels like it may have been instructive or influential to Matsumoto, with both films capturing how militarism and barbarism are simply put antithetical to the sanctity of life. The journey of our main protagonist is one of dual deception, the allure of power from being a samurai pulls him from his fields, and his deceptions, whether out of necessity for survival or not, lead him closer and closer to power but ultimately ruin. A grand tragedy amongst a sea of unwavering and uncompromising subjugation and brutality
A sumptuous, beautifully conceived melodrama, Kwan's Red Rose White Rose is an ingenious formal construction that takes its novelistic source material to heart while managing to never feel restricted by it. Red Rose White Rose is a relatively straightforward melodrama dealing with desire and repression but the directorial vision on display here may be Kwan's finest achievement. Kwan finds great utility in the dualistic structure, employing two distinct aesthetics rooted in impressionism that aim to exude the underlying emotions on display. What transpires is a story of existential or spiritual concerns, and Kwan draws from abstract imagery and impressionistic lighting to convey the gravitas of this battle between internal impulse and external expectations, detailing the kaleidoscope of emotions that define us but also how they can often be in contention with not only our internal logic but social constructions related to expectations, duties, and obligations which are necessary to living in the communal nature of our world. Vividly expressing the intangible nature of love and how it often can conflict with various external norms or expectations, Red Rose White Rose ultimately doesn't seem to suggest it has the answers to such complexities. It shows how this man's obligation and duty to others drives him into unrequited love but does it condone this ultimately? I don't think so because what Kwan seems to suggest is living is not a zero-sum game, it's one merely of choices and conviction. Regret, pain, joy, love, and melancholy are inevitable so in one respect following one's desires solely is a bit naive when we ultimately should acknowledge the multitudinous forces on display in which every individual decision is influenced by external factors, whether they be social, economic, cultural or political. In a sense, Red Rose White Rose in its dualistic structure ultimately rejects binary classifications entirely. Would really love to see this get a 4k restoration, it is such a beautifully constructed film.
The Skyscraper, an ivory tower of modernity where capital reigns supreme. The grand facade of steel and glass overlooks the masses, a modern symbol of power that sculpts the world. Christoph Hochhäusler's The City Below is an exquisitely designed thriller, a film of impressive formal precision that rigorously crafts a haunting experience in which the everyday cityscapes of modern living become figurative objects for Hochhäusler's penetrating tale of power. The directorial vision here is precise and just frankly, masterful. Cold, sterile interiors exude a quiet sense of alienation and social detachment while the grandiose glass facades of the skyscrapers are omnipresent in the exterior photography, their reflective edifices manipulated by Hochhäusler in a way that visually expresses the stark hierarchy of capital vs. labor, in which the powerful literally and figuratively live amongst the clouds looking down on others. Perhaps one of the greatest films of the decade, The City Below beautifully invokes the Financial crisis of 2008 and the lasting and likely recurrence of such issues through its deconstruction of power. Power intrinsically relies on coercion. For those who wield power, like Roland, the executive banker who rests at the fulcrum of this story, this subjugation, and acceptance by others is expected, it's just like breathing for him. It's the allowance of such power within our social order, how we in the west look up to it and ascribe virtue to it that enables this coercion both within our borders and beyond. Transnational capitalism of course relies on similar subjugation of the global south, and in this film's exceptional denouement The City Below posits that rebellion from such recurring economic subjugation is inevitable. One of the defining films of its respective decade, The City Below is a stone-cold, meticulously designed socio-economic thriller that uses the erotic thriller framework of infidelity and desire to deliver a potent critique of transnational capitalism - this one deserves a far larger audience
Wonderfully captures how quotas and quantification brought by techno-capitalism have eroded more qualitative aspects of living in which human behavior cannot be so easily parsed, sculpted, and defined within clean parameters despite the authoritative impulse to do so. Love how desolate and cold this film portrays modernity, it exudes a consistent sense of melancholy through a simple character study framework that draws from social realist formal sensibilities to deliver an acute critique of our increasingly disparate reality. This is a character adrift and to characterize her as aimless would be a gross miscalculation. Zero Fucks Given really lays the groundwork - this character's embracement of the anarchy intrinsic to living, her impulsive behavior is informed by the external, a direct response to the strictures of her environment, one in which the spontaneity of life is dissuaded due to it going against the expectations of labor under a techno-capitalist social order in which the physical body itself is merely a tool for capital and commodification. While some of the more intricate character dynamics related to her family didn't quite work for me, Zero Fucks Given feels lived-in and authentic. It has a specificity to aviation hospitality industry but much of what it exhibits is of universal concern, elucidating how connectivity itself is a deeply primal necessity that has pervasively been reconfigured, becoming merely another transactional process that can be exploited.
Wish the film was more comfortable sticking with its more eccentric first half instead of divulging into a generic spy caper narrative in its back half that saps the vitality and distinctive modes of meta-comedy it was crafting. The dynamic between Pedro Pascal and Nicholas Cage is the heart of this film. The choice to tether it to a more traditional narrative plotting feels like a cop-out as if producers were concerned with an eccentric buddy comedy between these two wasn't enough to sustain the film. In conforming to this more by-the-numbers third act for the presumed sake of bombast, the film ultimately feels like it becomes something it was inevitably critiquing, and loses much of the personality and specificity of its focus that made the first half so enjoyable. Pedro Pascal the MVP of this one and I just wish much of the film had the courage to focus on the relationship between these two wildly eccentric characters instead of needing a plot device that "raises the stakes".
Hard not to admire something this beautifully constructed, every frame meticulously detailed to deliver a rich tapestry of nightmare fuel. Not sure I've seen anything quite like this, a film so inventive and textured, the layers of this world it creates and the scale it exhibits is really special - this is truly a work of art in its purest sense. An amorphous plot makes this not a film one should attempt to follow but more simply experience, as Tibbett paints a rich canvas of transgressive pleasures and apocalyptic pageantry, one that quakes with pain and nihilism about the nature of existence, the cyclical nature of violence, and the cruelty of such a world. Constructs a grand edifice of wonderment and horror that truly shouldn't be missed.
Was not prepared for how structurally radical this film is - the throughline narrative being complemented wonderfully by tangential vignettes and elliptical devices that exquisitely reinforce the film's theme while reaching towards something that feels existential in its exploration of our relationship with nature purveyed through culinary delights. Tampopo reverberates with such vitality, from its playful narrative flourishes to its deeply sensual gaze that features some of the most erotic sequences I've ever seen. Tampopo pronounces its dynamism from its opening setpiece, and the main thread has a lot in common with the sports film in its deployment of montage and narrative sequencing grounding the film with an inviting core. A delightful, inventive, erotic story of our intimate relationship with food that wields its inspirational story as a base structure agreeable to the film's more anarchic narrative proclivities. Wonderful stuff.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.