Suburban milieu of detachment and longing is a common theme throughout independent cinema and yet Dennis Cooper & Zach Farley's feature, Permanent Green Light, manages to encapsulate this while going a step further in its examination, where the coming-of-age story centered around existentialism isn't one rooted in some form of nihilism, cynicism, or depression, but one of intellectualism - and by intellectualism I mean one rooted in observation not action. Exhibits a general sense of complexities intrinsic to society, with one of its more interesting observations being centered around the nature of spectacle, the dehumanizing effect which the macro has on the micro moments which make up human interaction. Shows an interest in linguistics and more specifically rhetoric and how it is employed in casual day-to-day interactions in life, exposing the unseen externalities which rhetoric creates due to its subversion of underlying intention. While understanding intent is of course, an indeterminate proposition, the fact remains, subconsciously speaking, that lack of understanding intent outside of common rhetoric is repressive when viewed through the lens of intellectual curiosity, an ideal which is intrinsic to understanding to complexities of the world. Through its opaque main characterization, Permanent Green Light exhibits how the way we articulate and express oneself whether through language, movement, etc. remains detached, on some level, from what we as individuals are truly feeling. Aesthetically speaking, the film's application of a largely static structure, aligned with sharp compositions, evokes a sense of diaspora, despite these individuals being teenagers living in their childhood homes. In the end, Permanent Green Light is a complex and provocative film which is open to many philosophical interpretations, yet that doesn't mean the film is vague or unclear, being astutely fixated on the confrontation between curiosity and bias due to linguistics - syntax and rhetoric, with much of language now attached, unjustly or not, with various ideological interpretations of the world.
Aptly infuriating, One Child Nation is a harrowing documentary which manages to balance the personal emotion of the filmmaker with a more expansive, general investigation of the China's infamous One Child Policy. Uninterested in dabbling in often crude political ideological definitions which breed tribalism and subvert morality, this film appropriately places its subjects and a general sense of humanism in pole position, being a relatively implicit critique of authority and collectivization. One Child Nation astutely recognizes how 'the will of the people' is often nothing more than useful rhetoric, a deceit which through propaganda is often repackaged as nationalistic pride, in which the majority crushes the minority. Fetishistic towards the authority principle, this construct of national identity becomes a useful tool for those who wield the monopoly of violence, offering a form of mass manipulation which slowly erodes the notions of free association, personal autonomy, and choice, reinforcing the power and control which the party (or state) have over the individual, hidden beyond the veil of 'the common good'. Examining the corrosive nature of propaganda and national forms of identity, One Child Nation's seamlessly shifts from a relatively personal expose to investigative foray into the totalitarian collectivism of China's policy, a film which at its heart recognizes the necessity of individualistic choice. There is a general anxiety which envelopes this film, one rooted in the fear that such a horrendous act of violence in the form of this policy will be forgotten. Explicitly stating the importance of remembrance, not from the state but from the populace who lived it first hand, One Child Nation is a harrowing reminder of the equalizing nature of time, one in which many heinous acts of violence throughout history have become merely footnotes when juxtaposed against the grand scope of history. The detachment from degradation which time provides, coupled with humankind's persistent arrogance that it has evolved beyond such barbarism serve as a prescient takeaway from One Child Nation, a film which first and foremost pleas for personal autonomy and a general sense of morality. While the film doesn't explicitly speak to the details of the farming crisis - how opting for collectivized farming over high-yield single-plot family farming lead to such food shortages - I believe this was an intentional decision, as the film's primary focus remains on those individuals who suffered, disinterested in engaging in an examination of the messy, muddy waters of the Chinese polity. With the oppression delivered by this policy is expansive, longitudinal and to this day incomplete, One Child Nation opts instead for a humanistic portrait of the grand scope of those effected by such a policy, with the reverberations being a profound reminder of unforeseen externalities attached to any policy conducted by centrally planned/authoritative structures, despite of said intent.
Set in the post-revolution days of Indonesia where independence from Dutch rule was achieved, Usmar Ismail's After The Curfew provides a harrowing portrait of revolutionary idealism, one which exhibits how corruption and coercion often aren't uprooted but displaced and realigned from one power structure to another under the allotted nature of statism. While it affronts authority and recognizes the need for individual autonomy at every opportunity, After The Curfew's isn't polemic in tone despite the weight it carries, exuding a general sense of concern on multiple fronts in the wake of the revolution, uneasy first-and-foremost that the sacrifices which so many took for independence will ultimately be in vein. While there are many film's which recognize the importance of revolutionary independence, I'm not sure I've seen one as honest as After The Curfew in how it demonstrates that the real work comes after the revolution, where the zeal of revolutionary violence is still palatable and the power vacuum left in the wake is seductive to those whom crave authority or power over others. While people are bound to get out of this film what they want, the film shows little desire to project any type of specific political historiography lens onto the Indonesia struggle, instead it rings first and foremost as a plea for humanism and equality, showing concern that the masses will fall victim to the same ends via different means in post-revolutionary Indonesia. This is precisely why structural and institutional violence must be opposed rigorously whenever or wherever it is implemented under the veil of progress - oppression over one minority group or one individual for the sake of the majority is still oppression, which is expressed beautifully in this film through the character arch of a young female prostitute who finds her autonomy subjugated no matter the pre or post-revolution temporal space she occupies. From ruling-class bureaucrats and businessman to the overzealous ex-revolutionaries whose answer to nearly any problem seems to deviate towards violence, After the Curfew provides a nuanced yet piercing examination of the post-revolution epoch in Indonesia, exhibiting how coercion, oppression, and misogyny - violence of any kind - is difficult to curtail given the inter-sectional nature of meaningful social formation under any polity. Progress is a ubiquitous term, one which is malleable, which is precisely why a sense of rigor and fortitude are necessary forces when confronting any form of authority, specifically when the goal is freedom and equality for all people across various strata.
While the primary intent of this observational documentary feels rooted in giving its subjects - Bosnian War Veterans - a platform, Among Wolves manages to be so much more, offering an astute reflection on war, not only from the individual perspective, but from a more macro perspective, delivering a subtle yet blistering critique on the contemporary polity. The formal construction, the way in which these veterans are first introduced to the viewer, intentionally posits these men as a party to vulgar or "toxic" masculinity. This is an effective bait-in-switch in that it invites the viewer to bring their preconceived notions to the film right away, just so it can thoroughly eviscerate such bias throughout the remainder of the film's running time, exposing how such bias are rudimentary to why conflict remains, in a sense a reflective device that effectively positions the viewer in a sense of self-reflection before they even engage with the this observational study. "The Wolves" are a biker club, with many veterans among their ranks, lead by a somewhat stoic man whose background makes him a staunch proponent of discipline. These men seek a form of redemption through acts of service, assisting their struggling community through various acts but more central to the story and theme itself is their growing attachment to the wild horses on the nearby plains, horses which shared a spatial proximity with the veterans on the frontline during the war whom now find themselves threatened by urban development. The eternal impact which war has on the individual long after the last bomb has dropped, the meditative aesthetics of silence which are almost universally shared by those unfortunate souls to witness such violence and death first hand is evoked throughout the film to largely strong effect, yet perhaps the film's most prescient aspect is how it deconstructs the false dichotomy we place between egoism and altruism, exhibiting how these men's actions of selflessness are also therapeutic to their own self, exposing how both these social constructed terms are in a sense fabrications when viewed through the lens of mutual exchange. There is a scene late in the film where one of the subjects documented states "If our society, municipality, state, whatever, was designed like a herd of horses we'd be better off" - This is a powerful statement, one which implicitly is an affront to all kinds of authority and power, regardless of polity - I for one, couldn't agree more.
An outright assault on asceticism, The Crazy Family plays like a farce of traditional Japanese family drama in which Sogo Ishii signature manic style revels in a thinly-veiled critique of the social structures at place in Japanese society, specifically the oppressive nature the patriarchal family structure places on the personal autonomy of the other individuals who make up the traditional family-unit. Told largely from the perspective of the patriarch, a man whose become increasingly convinced his family is suffering from some intangible disease, objective and subjective reality becomes completely subverted in The Crazy Family, leading to an absurdist parable in which traditional family's authoritarian structure sits in the cross-hairs of Ishii's chaotic, transgressive formalism.
Simple narrative implications provide a rich contextual framework for Jerzy Skolimowski who employs bleak aesthetic designs to amplify and agitate the preconceived notions and expectations of the viewer, presenting a singular treatment of an archetypal story, one in which a man becomes increasingly infatuated with a woman he knows only due to spatial circumstances. Introspective and meditative in its examination of loneliness and the importance of socialization, Four Nights With Anna exhibits how identifying the distinction between malice and lack of knowledge, in this case of the social variety, can be paramount when it comes to determining the circumstances of eccentric or outre behavior.
By-and-large more of the same - still endearing in its utter-absurdity, relying heavily on the charisma of Statham and Johnson, a chemistry which begins to wither due to over-exposure of this alpha, testosterone-dripped performative sense of importance. There is something to be said about the film being more focused than the FF movies, due primarily to the intrinsic nature of a story centered around just Hobbs & Shaw, but the thin characterizations of these two characters does become a tad grating in the back-half of the film. Love how this film basically breaks down thematically as: pro-family, anti-transhumanism, and anti-technocrat, plus it quotes Nietzsche lol... this franchise.
A clever conceit, radiates elegance with stylistic flourishes which are only an early indication of Ophuls' mastery. I almost get depressed watching films like this - the ingenuity and creativity exhibited vs. today despite the obvious technical limitations, a salient example of how creativity is perhaps at its best when it is out of necessity to creation. At a brisk 70 minutes, The Tender Enemy is easily digestible, whimsical, and features slight undercurrents of melancholy, being a solid feature which ends up being a moral tale about how the past often informs the present. Despite the narrative construction being male-centric - being told through the lens of three past loves of the matriarch - The Tender Enemy's theme and ultimate emotive substance is personified in the relationship between a mother and daughter, exhibiting how personal agency and rejection of societal expectations are paramount to one's own sense of happiness.
Conducted under the Reagan epoch and featuring the blunt-force temperament of an exploitation film, Tony Garnett's Handgun is polemic take-down of the systemic nature of sexism and an american culture at large which reinforces such oppression. Going into this film I was expecting it to a be a lower-tier version of Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45, a film that uses exploitation cinema to speak to underlying injustices in American culture. While Handgun lacks the stylistic precision of Ms. 45, this film remains a nice complementary piece of cinema given its disparate local, taking places in the south, a near agrarian spatial environment in Texas rather than the hustle-and-bustle of the big city in which Ms. 45 is set. I say they would be an effective double-feature, in that both films feature the hyper-reality/flair of exploitation cinema while their disparate settings provide a nice remainder that these injustices are not unique to a particular social strata or geographic local, but one that systematically built it.
Disparate individuals adrift amongst the promise and prestige of the institutions of Hollywood, Tarantino's latest operates in a temporal which exudes the continuous contention between institutional structures and cultural change. Tarantino's revisionist historiography continues to romanticize epochs but Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is more incisive in its presentation of this particular epoch, one in which a sense of happiness or belonging is beholden to all characters in one way or another, with the means themselves being in a state of agitation. I think a lot of people seem to think their is an implication that Brad and Leo's characterizations are viewed through a lens of affirmation when that couldn't be further from the case, as they are the old guard, who themselves are trying to cling onto the notoriety and success granted to them by the cold institutional structures of Hollywood. Sharon Tate's treatment in this film is one of subtle grace, she is representative of seeds of change but a believer in these institutions, a character who through this revisionist lens speaks to a promise of change devoid of violence or force against the larger institutional apparatus. Could argue that while the ending provides a unique and elegant 'what if' scenario to the potential star of Sharon Tate, the film is also arguable pro-institution, with Tarantino's film being somewhat explicit in its desire for communication - discourse not debate - in an attempt to fulfill the dreams of desires of as many as possible without the use of violence through the studio apparatus. Film glides, rhythmic pacing and music impulses see him in peak form, and while Tarantino continues to hide between the superficiality of movie-making, unwilling to deconstruct the ontological relationship between the signs of the past and self in the present, this film feels like his most expansive cinematic effort, one that is the apotheosis of him as an artist.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.