Female Filmmaker Project
I’ve watched films without subtitles before and I went into this not knowing what it was about and I assumed Akerman’s form would make sense for not exactly understanding what the characters were saying. It does but, this is a film largely about conversations between Akerman and Holocaust survivors. Akerman herself has family ties to the Holocaust. Her grandparents died in Auschwitz and most of her mother’s family perished as well. This is a heavy subject for her to confront. I wish that I could know what these women were saying. I’m sure it was heartbreaking, human, and powerful. I hope one day there are subs available somewhere so I can give this a proper viewing. Although I assume learning french might be an easier route.
Aside from the fact that I didn’t know what the characters were saying I still enjoyed watching this for the way Akerman constructs images. There is a connection between this and Jeanne Dielman, News From Home and Meetings of Anna in form. The long static takes built around a person and what they’re doing in a room are here, as well as the lingering takes on people in a city setting. She also finds ways to frame these women in new ways from interview to interview. In one take she shoots an interview with the glare from a spotless dining room table visible, and the light from a window is shining on her subject. Moments later she uses mirrors to specifically show a reflection of another woman in a dining room symmetrically framed by two plants on either side of Akerman and her subject. There is even an extended section of one of the women cooking which calls up the rigorous camera work in Jeanne Dielman. Akerman’s work has always felt like an extension of documentarianism (News From Home and Hotel Monterey) and I found her eye for creating images to be just as strong when she uses the talking head format that most documentaries use. My favourite moment of the film was when Chantal and one of her interviewees sits down for dinner together and Akerman nods off. The other woman wakes her up and they both give each other a little smile. I may have not known what anyone was saying throughout the entirety of this, but that warm moment of recognition between the two transcends language.
Female Filmmaker Project
What’s remarkable about Claire Denis’ L’Intrus is that at a structural level it is maybe her most cinematic feature to date, and I don’t mean that in terms of big or sweeping. I think cinema as a medium is visual at it’s core. It is about telling a story through images and L’Intrus is built up entirely on images. The narrative is stated in any expositional terms by any character, but shown in every frame. This makes L’Intrus her most basic achievement in cinema and her most difficult statement, because it’s entirely interpretational. I’m not sure if what I’m seeing is a vision, a dream or reality but in every image there’s meaning both obvious (dogs eating a heart) and cryptic (I’m still not sure what the dogs mean). This makes L’Intrus feel challenging, but in truth everything is laid out there for you to have as you will.
After recently viewing Chantal Akerman’s Hotel Monterey I also thought about this as a film about the idea of home, but instead of it being only about the nature of a home as a place it is about the body as a home. Louis Trébor (Michel Subor) is a man who needs a heart transplant, and with the heart being an essence of life and perhaps even a metaphor for the soul does that mean without his heart is he now homeless within his own body? I think Denis’ film points towards yes. After his heart transplant he wanders aimlessly. He isn’t quite himself anymore. He moves from country to country and nothing feels quite right for him. He cannot settle and even his family feels different.
This makes me think Denis’ film is also about aging and regret. Louis’ has never been a good father. His entire family is estranged and he doesn’t even know his grandchildren. Despite his heart transplant he is sickly and even if he continues he doesn’t have the warmth of life in him. He doesn’t have a family so in one of the more absurd scenes a group of people he’s living with hold auditions to be his new son. While on his death bed he has one final vision of his son with the same scar running down his chest, he sees a coffin later and Louis is then on a boat. I think this signifies his son being the one thing he lost in life that he wishes he could have back.
What makes L’Intrus so fascinating is how flexible it is, and how someone else could easily come up with something different. In the power of cinema as an artistic medium I think a viewer can see what they want to and go on their own path. L’Intrus is one of those films. It feels expansive and in it’s imagery so very human. We all have dreams that we’re unsure of the meaning and one of the coolest things about cinema is that it can sometimes act as a function of those dreams. Where everything is endless and definition is mutable.
Originally posted on Letterboxd
Veronica Mars was always a television show that worked best in a long form narrative. It gave the show the room to breathe, develop characters and go into themes of class, gender, race, and gendered violence. The show was never great at handling stand alone cases and the problem with now having a movie is delivering a great standalone case in 100 minutes and they fail. The mystery here just isn’t interesting and there’s no time to work this case the way writer/director Rob Thomas is used to handling things. Saying this case is rushed would be an understatement. This brings up questions for me as to why viewers feel the need to resurrect television shows to bring them into cinemas. As much as critics these days want to make comparisons between the two filmed mediums there are differences that make translation extremely difficult. Veronica Mars is one show that just doesn’t work well in the realm of cinema. Rob Thomas doesn’t have an eye for visual language for one and the already mentioned issues of adapting a story that used longform narrative for it’s entire lifespan can’t do the same in cinema so it was obviously going to feel different. What I’m left with is feeling this is neither good cinema or television. There’s fun to be had in the rhythms of the dialogue and Kristen Bell’s performance but those things were always going to translate. I can’t say the same for the rest.
There’s also the problem of pandering which makes the entire experience feel plotted by fans. This leads to a kind of toxicity within the narrative where relationships point more towards bad fan fiction than character truths, and that’s really frustrating considering the voices feel right but their decision making a little off. Every character also has to show up long enough for audiences to see everyone. It’s almost clever Rob Thomas wraps all of this around the theme of high school never ending, but in reality it’s more about catching up with everyone because that’s what the audience wants to see, but I guess that’s what you get with a crowdsourced picture. I don’t want to come off like I hate this or even dislike it though, because that isn’t necessarily the case. I’m a longtime Veronica Mars fan so it’s nearly impossible for me to toss this aside without being happy at hearing the fucking theme song again or Kristen Bell talking circles around everyone else (what a shame it is that screwball comedies are mostly dead and she can’t star in one of those). It’s just not much more than a television movie, and I can’t imagine non fans are going to like this or even get it.
Veronica Mars feels like you’re favourite band in the world reuniting to record an album. You’re obviously excited and you never thought you’d get to hear these people working together again. You turn on the album and that all familiar feeling of knowing these people comes back, and you’re happy for a few moments, but then that feeling starts to slip away and you know the fire is gone. Then the album ends and you’re grateful you have more new music from a band you loved, but it’s just extra songs.
No one talks about dysphoria in mainstream media and if I had to guess the majority of the population isn’t even aware of gender dysphoria and the real problems transgender people go through in trying to deal with those feelings. It’s almost unbearable at times and to have a worldwide ignorance of something that effects my life greatly is nothing short of immensely depressing. When I first told my parents I was dysphoric constantly and needed to transition they didn’t know what the word meant. I had to explain to them trans 101 and after all that time and after I told them about all the pain I was going through they still rejected me. They told me I shouldn’t do this for religious reasons, and told me they wouldn’t support me under any circumstances because I’d be a freak, never a real woman, going to hell, etc. What I’m getting at here is that the everyday person doesn’t understand what kind of struggle transgender people go through on a day to day basis. I think a big part of this problem is a media silence on our issues and the representation we do get culminates in either A.) Being the punchline to your joke or B.)Being your murder victim. This kind of representation openly damages people like me because media can humanize or dehumanize people who are on the fringes of society, and I certainly am.
Originally posted on Letterboxd
I find it a little bit odd that my two favourite bands (Metallica, Bikini Kill) from my teenage years ended up getting films made about them in 2013 (the other being The Punk Singer). My relationship with Metallica is a lot less complicated than the one I have with Bikini Kill. It basically comes down to the fact that I always thought their music kicked ass, and as juvenile as it sounds that’s still pretty much the crux of my relationship with Metallica. There was a time when I was so heavily into the band that I listened to Master of Puppets daily. My relationship has since cooled, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the sheer absurdity of Metallica’s Apocalypse Concert film Through The Never.
During the first few minutes of Through the Never I thought for sure this was going to be nearly cringe worthy. I mean Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield drives by in a car that shoots flames out the back, a rabid Metallica fan arrives at the show first and starts screaming the band’s name at the top of his lungs, and Bassist Robert Trujillo literally is playing bass in a room with vibrations coming off the walls that it distorts the image. Then something came to me. I’m watching a concert film about Metallica and they have NEVER been a subtle band, and once I actually started to go along with some of the more bizarre narrative moments I settled into the groove of what the film was trying to do and that’s represent the spirit/attitude and imagery of a live Metallica show. Much like the way 200 Motels would represent the filmic version of what Frank Zappa’s music sounded like Through The Never does the same for Metallica. It’s in your face, brash, and very straightforward.
However, the concert itself is where I think most of the strength of the picture lies. They recreate some of their albums covers on stage and even go back through some of their greatest hits of stage antics (the flaming man who ruins the stage is taken from 1996’s Cunning Stunts and Lady Justice falling apart was a staple of their …And Justice For All tour in the late 80s). It’s always fascinating to watch and never feels like four guys just playing on stage. They definitely perform with the intentions of the stage show being as great as the music they perform and that was an admirable decision. Nimrod Antal also keeps the show interesting in the way he shoots the band. His framing is way above par for the home video releases of the previous concert films the band has released and also injects some nice visual moments into the picture. One moment of hazy red lighting from above casting a warmness over Hetfield as he stands between each cymbal on the left and right side of the drum set was an especially strong image, and probably the finest visual moment at hand.
I think this is best suited for fans of the band, but there is probably enough here to keep non fans interested for 90 minutes. The concert always looks dazzling and the band has been performing long enough that they know how to work an audience. They have a level of professionalism that only comes with performing live for 30 years, and it shows in just how appreciative they seem of their audience while still being as aggressive as they can be in their middle age. This is a band still at the zenith of their popularity making a movie that they probably all wished they could have made when they were 16 years old, and I find that youthful charm to be refreshing after the self seriousness of Some Kind of Monster. These are still basically the same guys who recorded Kill ‘Em All, and it’s only fitting that when all the dust settles and all the story ends it’s just four guys sitting in a room playing, because they’ve always been a band that prides themselves on the music they create whether people love it or hate it, and I’m sure they feel that same pride about this film.
Originally posted on Letterboxd
Scorsese’s first feature begins with a shot of a Catholic mother making food for her family. The image dissolves at the sight of a virgin Mary statue and cuts to a group of young men standing around talking. Pop music begins playing over the image and the men are compelled to beat up other men. It’s almost humorous how perfectly Scorsese would capture nearly every last theme he’d play around with for his entire career in the first two scenes of Who’s That Knocking at my Door?. It’s a testament to his talents as a filmmaker that he came right out of the gate knowing exactly what he wanted to say, but then Scorsese has always been an almost autobiographical filmmaker. You get the sense that Scorsese knew these people when he was growing up and both admired and feared their actions. Throughout his entire career Scorsese would romanticize violence through the usage of music only to show the horrors and repercussions of these actions later. It was a lifestyle that he never ventured into, but one he understood, because in a way he lived it. The Catholicism present here is also looming over every scene. When R.J. and the girl kiss you can see crosses in the background. When they approach the idea of sex it’s shot down when pangs of guilt overcome our protagonist. Then there is the flurry of catholic imagery that closes the film cementing RJ’s solace in god despite damning his relationship with the girl due to archaic ideas of purity and virginity.
The other thing that I find extremely interesting here is how Scorsese treats men and women. It’s the 1960s and second wave feminism is only just starting to gain any kind of traction so the climate at this time is still very much difficult for women. The idea of women’s liberation has only just started so for Scorsese to make a film that is partially about the problems women had to endure during this time when it comes to rape is something admirable. Scorsese certainly places the narrative in the hands of RJ but he gives the girl in this film the space to push back when need be and reject RJ when he blames her for her own rape. The rape scene itself is shot differently than the rest of the picture. It’s much more brutal, disorienting and the music is doubled over to create a horrific effect. This is a picture where the girl and the guy don’t end up together and it’s ultimately the woman’s choice to end the relationship, because of RJ’s horrible behaviour. She’s hurting, but she doesn’t end up saddled with RJ and that is progressive. In regards to RJ’s presence in the picture he sets up the kind of archetypical character Scorsese would create for years to come in pictures like Mean Streets, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. RJ is a gangster troubled by catholic guilt. He was very set ideas about what’s right and wrong, and how men and women should act and it’s ultimately his undoing. He still has his boys and his god, but he lost his girl which makes this film a little different from some of Scorsese’s other films.