There is such a beautifully understated humanism to Wild Berries, a film that is instilled with such a distinct rejection of the tonal simplicity, exposing the complexities of living through its ability to invoke pathos and find humor in the complex and chaotic modern world. Astute in its observations around perception, Wild Berries feels in the end like a plea for less judgment and more empathy. These characters are messy, the dysfunction permeates, yet what becomes more and more apparent as this film wonderfully unspools is how much of the conflict and deception is rooted in these characters' inability to outwardly express their internal anguish. They cannot communicate freely, unable to detach themselves from societal/social expectations and norms. Modernity has made living exponentially more complex. No one should openly pass judgment. We all have our struggles and in our inability to step out of ourselves and see others with the same empathy and understanding, we continue to stumble and fall.
"When do they have time to think"
Wish this film had more irreverent humor to enliven its acidic satire. Colorful aesthetics and vibrant formal style juxtaposed with the post-war milieu of a fractured, competitive Japan that has aligned itself with the interests of a capitalist system in which big business reigns supreme. Above all else, Giants and Toys understands advertising better than most films - it is all built around psychological coercion, control, and conditioning. Post-war Japan death spiraling, culture contorted in the name of capitalist notions of progress focused specifically on the illusions of it creates both internally (meritocracy within the corporate structure) and externally (the manipulation of the masses intrinsic to publicity). A world of illusions. Pretty to look at, sharp in its observation of the epoch, yet I just couldn't help but wish the film was more fun.
Juxtaposes outright moral degradation, depravity, and overt violence with the capitalist system in which the social world is nothing but a force to be manipulated, exploited, and extorted by the ruling class. By no means incisive, rather facile, and arguably disingenuous given its proclivity to exhibit such acts with such vigor, yet its outright disregard for asceticism is somewhat admirable. Personifying the male gaze in its depiction of sexual violence, Like Rabid Dogs certainly lives up to its name. It's rotten to its core, calling it fun makes me feel dirty, and this is unquestionably one of the more repugnant, vile Poliziotteschi films I've seen.
Property and possession. Medieval brutalism and masculine narcissism are displayed through a stark aesthetic and formal style in which the world itself is conveyed as morally repugnant, rotten to the core. The Rashomon deployment of varying perspectives isn't perfect but it does provide the film ample opportunities to pronounce the stark differences between the masculine and feminine when it comes to status, perception, and pride. Both Driver and Damon's characters are ultimately petty, sensitive ego-maniacs that show their weakness with any slight transgression. Their vanity is transparent, and the contrast between their fragility and Jodie Comer's strength and resolve in the face of an unjust world largely works. Scott remains very effective at the construction of such an unforgiving world and Affleck is having a blast here. The placation of the masculine ethos by femininity.
El Planeta (2021) - Amalia Ulman
Dead-pan humor, a means of excavating and elucidating the sheer absurdity of the modern world. The understated egoism that permeates this film is effective. Little affection towards others is expressed, all social exchange, familiar or otherwise, feels rooted in personal attainment/fulfillment. Individuals are pathologically conditioned to look out for themselves, unaware of the progressive detachment from non-material benefits of social exchange. The mother-daughter relationship resting at the fulcrum of this story beautifully expresses this - two characters who converse but don't say much, conditioned by the world around them to project a facade of material progress instead of being honest with themselves and others. Playful formal stylings and a tone enshrouded in the static evoke an effective milieu - a simple, yet pointed delight but at times I found it to be almost too lethargic but I guess, also, that's sort of the point
Ju Dou (1990) - Zhang Yimou
The coercive effects the strictures of traditionalism place on the living. Zhang Yimou's expressive aesthetic suggests that desire, romance, and ultimately love are forces not binded by societal expectations, they are anarchic by definition. They percolate and fester despite the desire for order in the form of traditional social norms. Utimately, emotion itself, whether attached to positive or negative notions of moralism, are spawned out of the same emotional architecture - the internal impulse isn't based on experience or expectation from the external world despite the comfort such a notion gives us. For the star-crossed lovers at the fulcrum of this story, the tragedy feels inevitable, and despite their transgressions in the material world that are ultimately sculpted by these social strictures, Yimou remains sympathetic and recognizes the tragedy here. The existential sense of belonging they share is pure and the deceit and underlying violence that ensues is a direct result of the social restraints placed on them.
France (2021) - Bruno Dumont
The power and intrinsic artificiality of the image, how it seduces and re-arranges reality through the complex edifice of media. Interconnectivity of the transnational world in which the ruling class, whether capitalists, politicians, or journalists, sculpt and re-arrange the narrative related to empathy and progress in order to continuously maintain power and control, protecting the status quo. Those who view Dumont's France as nothing but an overt satirical critique of the media need to take a closer look, as what Dumont has truly crafted is an acute study of modernity in which the manufactured image is just another deception brought by the euphoric promises of technocrats, who often promise better efficiency but never recognize the externalities on display. In the case of media, progress was promised or assumed to come in form of further perspective and detailed insight but instead, it has re-arranged the masses' perception of each other and oneself. Media in the modern age has reset the perimeters of acceptability and become a tool itself for control. Media has turned insidious, pushing us further away from a sense of commonality, mutualism, and empathy through its manufacturing of binary notions of complexity that ultimately obfuscate our ability to live and experience instead of constantly seeking validation and accreditation for a job well done, whether via tribalism or professional attainment. Léa Seydoux is magnificent in this role, encapsulating the grand cognitive dissonance involved with this character who exploits the masses and 'the other; while straining and struggling to find something more real, more genuine in her own personal existence. She is an entitled character that somehow feels empathetic due to her inability to even recognize how manufactured her whole world is. The camera's gaze seemingly gravitates towards the elemental even in a film largely made up of manufactured landscapes and what I think Dumont is really expressing is how for the western world empathy is largely an illusion, a performative gesture. "My job is my job" Seydoux expounds, and I think no line better sums up this film. We all have a job to do, a profession to maintain, and while Seydoux's role may be more explicitly manufactured than most, from a macro perspective Dumont suggests that such crude self-serving utilitarianism blinds us all from just how far we've fallen from a simpler means of understanding and commonality between our fellow man.
Ascension (2021) - Jessica Kingdon
"Knowledge must be monetized"
Truly, one of the best horror films of the year. Feels indebted to the work of Godfrey Reggio given the visual tableau it constructs. Beautifully illustrates how mantras of self-sustainment and personal growth are coopted by the capitalist system to exploit labor and dehumanize the self under the false flag of meritocracy. A unitary economic system, transnational capitalism has no regard to cultural specificity, and one of the most interesting and distinct elements of this film is how it details not only the pernicious effects on the collective consciousness but also the malleability of this system itself. A visual feast, a sympathy of productivity, and a deeply haunting experience that provides a stunning look into the modern state of China.
Formally and tonally imbued with a playful sense of spontaneity and observation. This meta-narrative is a low-key examination of collaboration, which at its best illustrates the reciprocity embedded into filmmaking where distinct divisions of labor, all with their own experiences and expertise, coalesce to create, to give birth to something new in this world. The Tsugua Diaries feels like one of the only COVID-era films I have much interest in. It has no exploitative aims or designs. It exhibits exchange and interaction as ethereal, enunciating subtextually the sheer beauty of the small moments of interaction and exchange that we all took for granted and came to sorely miss. This of course is not void of conflict but so imperative to what it means to live. Affect is so palpably expressed, and in many ways, the film production feels figurative to social exchange as a whole. It's also just a very good vibes movie.
A brazen, irreverent societal critique of the medical system in America and a corrosive practices and incompetence that manifests within its walls. At its best, the film's critique transcends the specificity of its setting, expounding on the collective combustibility of the era and the continuous encroaching corporatism that infects all aspects of life - its a mad, mad, world it projects, and perhaps it even pleas for us to return to a more simple, natural way of life in which our shared humanity, our mutualism is more easily realized. An unquestionably messy film but one that is a rather enjoyable experience, due to its go-for-broke demeanor that is more farce than satire. It doesn't completely congeal but its intent is direct and effective in its best moments, feeling as if the filmmakers were emboldened by having George C. Scott in its lead role. Unsurprisingly, Scott gives a deranged, intoxicating lead performance as a depressive, alcoholic doctor whose proud of his impotence lol (What a scene!). The fracturing of the family, community, and empathy under the continuously encroaching corporate America that infects every part of social life.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.