Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)


Like a maestro with baton poised Claire Denis begins her 2001 genre film with vague stirrings (couple making out in a car) then a confident if understated gesture: truck drives past hitchhiking woman stops reverses; the woman smiles. Driver climbs out of his cabin walks towards her the truck's rear flashing its appropriately named 'hazard' lights.

So far so what? Working class lump attractive woman--not much to see here. Setup for a rather lurid scenario the woman presumably asking for trouble when she raised her thumb at the guy--only why is the woman's smile so wide why does her eyes flicker with an unnatural spark? Why are we  aware of the truck's flashers aimed directly at us, the driver--who turned them on in the first place--pointedly ignoring their warning as he walks towards the object of his desire and doom?

Friday, October 06, 2017

Out 1 (Jacques Rivette)

Let us play

What to call Jacques Rivette's 1971 work? He named it 'Out' because the word 'in' was so fashionable (the 'in thing' to do) added a '1' because "(t)he action of the film is rather like a serial which could continue through several episodes."

But Rivette is also all about accident and chance (throughout his career but particularly in this production), and (so the story goes) scribbled on the cans of an early work print were the words 'touch me not' in Latin. What could be more eloquently descriptive of this monstrous long mix of fantasy and realism filled with characters so sensitive (so perceptive so susceptible to suffering) they both resist and seek out contact? What more appropriate plea than that the film is a special case that must not be shortened or simplified?

What's in it? A series of scenes where Rivette gathers his actors (or actor) tells them who they are and what must basically be said and/or done to further the plot (such as it is) then cuts them loose. And they fly or stumble (as the director put it) "without text or rehearsal" bringing something new to the scene the film the world.

On and on and on for some twelve-and-a-half hours.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

mother! (Darren Aronofsky 2017)

A boy's best friend

(Warning: overall narrative and plot twists discussed in explicit detail)

Call it Rosemary's Baby with a strong dose of The Shining or: what happens when a pregnant woman's gnawing sense of paranoia confronts a writer's block. 

Darren Aronofsky's latest feature mother!--title is a minefield of smallcase capitalization and punctuation--feels at first like a creepy-funny mix of the two. mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is married to Him (Javier Bardem); both live in a three-story house in the middle of lovely nowhere (no driveway no mailbox, the structure apparently airlifted to location and dropped in place (the production is reported to have used a constructed set for the first-floor daytime sequences, soundstages for the later night scenes involving upper and lower stories)).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)

Bronx Othello 

Properly speaking Scorsese in what is arguably his masterpiece should have introduced the lean La Motta (Robert de Niro) to us first let us get used to him then revealed the overweight figure later on--but no; Scorsese wasn’t interested in easy dramatic strategies. He immediately has us confront the later man in all his fleshy glory complete with piggy eyes and wheezing breath delivering his nightclub monologue, a mix of highbrow quote (“a horse a horse my kingdom for a horse!”) and lowbrow aside (“haven’t had a winner in six months”) in the same gag. We are bemused, if slightly repelled by the man; he looks like the kind of close relative you hide silverware from when visiting. He ends his spiel with arms flung wide declaring “That’s entertainment!” repeats the line thoughtfully looking at his cigar (his lost virility?). The film cuts back to a boxing ring in 1941

Friday, September 22, 2017

Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh, 2017)

Low rent gold

Late in the film a news announcer dubbed the racetrack robbers the "Ocean 7-11" and I can't think of a better term to describe the picture: basically a Steven Soderbergh-directed heist movie complete with large cast and intricate plan, done in a thick West Virginia accent and for a considerably smaller budget.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Respeto (Treb Monteras II, 2017)


Film swaggers all pissed off all kissed off
Staggering while dragging a pair.
Has the grit of an 8 Mile ripoff at kickoff
Midway a Karate Kid flair.

Despite the borrowed feel borrowed beat
We confront a whole other creature
With its own look its own meat its own heat
Pitched like a hundred-five fever

Old man meets young buck shit out of luck
Old will teach young some wisdom:
Words that stun as if head had been struck*
Set to the young buck's rhythm

Cuz rap is no stranger to Philippine shores
We been battling for near a century**
The rhymes the pulse the lyrical wars
The fight to inflict verbal injury

But young buck too the old man fuel
Remind him of a past bad-scarred
The pains of living under Marcos rule
(The ghoul the cruel the redtipped tool)
The ghosts whose memories die hard

All swept aside by the new reality
This 'drug war' our mayor declared;
What's two lives in a fascist totality
(Insanity bestiality gory immorality)
Deaths 'tween generations shared?

This be a new exciting young punk
Aureate glow hard-rapping tempo
But its soul's straight out of '70s funk
Out of Mike and Mario Ishma and Lino***

Film has its flaws can't be denied****
But lands with a 'FUCK YOU!' thud
Speaks truth to power to arrogant pride
To the lust to spill our blood

*(Featuring samples from Bien Lumbera, Frank Rivera, Vim Nadera and other carnivora)

**(It's called Balagtasan, yo!)

***(Not so much the '70s as the '70s to '80s Martial Law films: Mike de Leon's Batch '81; Mario O'Hara's Bagong Hari; Ishmael Bernal's Manila by Night; Lino Brocka's Insiang)

****(Would a man with a gun stop if confronted? Wasn't the man attempting multiple EJKs (Extra Judicial Killings) at the finale the wrong man?*****)

*****(Meaning--those who plan to watch DON'T READ--shoulda been a cop not a drug dealer?******)

******(Still a worthwhile film)

First published in Businessworld 9.15.17

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Twin Peaks Season 3 Finale (David Lynch, 2017)

Cherchez la femme

(Warning: plot outline and narrative twists discussed in close detail)

In the first part of The Return finale co-writers Lynch and Frost assembles most of the series' characters (those left alive I mean) at the Peaks sheriff's station, lashes every (well most) storylines together in a single great gift-wrapped all-encompassing Christmas package of a resolution. In the second half Lynch takes that package stuffs it under the belly of the Trinity bomb and fires the device, sending everything up in a mushroom cloud spinning slowly against the dark New Mexico sky.