Explicit in its affirmative stance towards community insurrection when confronted by subjugation by the state's land commodification, Kaala is a brazen piece of populist political cinema. A demigod spawn of marxist historiography leads the proletarian army in this melodramatic tale of community uprising against a greedy land developer emboldened by the state - whose desire for wealth accumulation hides between the shroud of economic growth and progress. Kaala is a potent tale about the paramount nature of the social fabric of any community, exhibiting how the capitalist state fractures society through creating artificial fissures of differentiation among the populace, perhaps unintentionally being anti-authority due to the martyr mythology narrative device its construction adheres too, aligning more with Karl Polayni than the Marxist-Leninist historiography it seems to explicitly align with. To put another way, while its bombastic aesthetic designs and narrative mythological arch are explicitly populist - brazen in its communist hammer and cycle symbolism - the film manages to detach the pejorative implications of the populism due to its seemingly implicit emphasis towards personal autonomy in any social formation, aligning more with an anarchist/ancom historiography where the social fabric of a community is embedded into any economy of market exchange.
A feverish an amalgamation of anxiety, animosity and uncertainty crippling the 1983 epoch, Emerald Cities is satirical, symbolic, and full of panache, mirroring the uncertainty of the moment. The film's frantic assembly of image and audio design are anarchic, coalescing into a potent display of rebellion, one which serves as an affront to nationalism, a critique of capitalism, and perhaps most importantly an utter rejection of the desires and expectations of the ruling class through sheer desire for personal autonomy.
A rich contextual tapestry, Happy Hour is a transcendent work of art, one thats brazen scope is complimented perfectly by its intricate understandings of the complexities of the human experience. The material and abstract are explored with honesty and justifiable complexity, with Ryusuke Hamaguchi bringing the ontological to the foreground of his text, allowing it to breath and present itself, while the subtexts manifests and reinforces the film's themes over this longitudinal study of four female friends. A rapturous critique of the patriarchal organizational structure of society, Happy Hour evokes how the emotive, sensual nature of the body often becomes subjugated by the mind under such social arrangements. For the feminine form these forces are viewed as antagonistic instead of harmonious due to threat they pose to the status quo, breeding internal conflict from within, as each woman restricts and compartmentalizes their own internal strife due to their inability to express themselves. The vast entanglements of any meaningful social formation are astutely observed, with the film fully acknowledging the complexities of social relationships while simultaneously rejecting the simplistic duality between egoism and altruism. The film's critique of the patriarchal system is sharper than most, exhibiting the downstream nature of any socially repressive system where positive liberty and negative liberty oscillate and conflict across various social stratas, with many of the men in this case being destructive implicitly, complicit with the system that suppresses and restricts those whom they love - a wonderfully pointed, large scale social critique. The visual edifice employed by Hamaguchi is masterful, being assertive and assured in its aesthetic decisions in a way that wholly encapsulates the labyrinths which exist in consciousness, whether they are platonic or actionable. Every scene is rhythmic and astutely realized, every composition designed to evoke the underlying emotional subtext of these characters. In a sense, Happy Hour is about the utter importance of communication on an individualistic level, as it effectively skewers the crude dichotomy between right and wrong, recognizing that this notion itself is an abstraction, often used more as a device to restrain personal autonomy, expression, and desire. At this point, I have no qualms with acknowledging that Ryusuke Hamaguchi is one of the very best filmmakers in the world working today, everything about Happy Hour is masterful
While plotting has by-and-large reached the point of insignificance to me, often more likely to elicit a state of boredom, Le Doulos feels explicit in how it subjugates the viewer to its dense, complex plotting, exhibiting a near torturous level of ambiguity with its long-winded set-up. When I say subjugation it is not meant in the pejorative sense but more a device which Melville employs to his thematic ends, as he wields this clever construction to enrapture the audience in the labyrinths manifested through a lifestyle built around deceit, deception, and ultimately tragedy. This lifestyle, this game is one which subjugates identity while simultaneously placing it in utter seclusion - the inevitability of death through suppression on a spiritual level is felt in a sense and is inescapable for anyone who plays.
A salient example of the power of the medium, Clement Cogitore's Braguino is an intoxicating piece of visual and audio assembly, one which evolves as it progresses, beginning as an idyllic observational documentary about life among the wilderness, only to slowly and methodically divulge into an impressionistic nightmare of distrust and the potential for violence. Proof that cinema is first and foremost a visual medium, the montages implored by Cogitore evoke a sense of imminent danger, with conflict being palpable throughout due entirely to how the filmmaker portrays his subjects - individuals who've expressed distrust about their neighbors. In a sense, this struggle feels like a microcosm of the ills of the larger world, one in which fear of the unknown breeds distrust and ultimately hatred.
Jean-Claude Brisseau's Celine employs the supernatural artifice as a device which connects the grand scope of existence and the general nature of such intangible ideas as love with the intimacy of an individual's emotional response to such inquires. Psychological healing examined with an astute understanding of the friction which exists between personal identity and any such form of social stratification, with feminism obviously being of paramount importance but not solely accounted for throughout this film's exploration. Understands the tumultuous nature of healing and growth, in that it often must manifest itself internally and then be reinforced through mutual aid, companionship, and understanding.
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.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.