Tag: david lynch

2017: Movies

Cinema February 12, 2018

This is a recap of the best movies I saw in 2017 that I hadn’t seen before. It was a good year (for movies).

I was thrilled to “discover” some women filmmakers’ whose work I wasn’t familiar with (Andrea Arnold, especially) and to watch more Akerman and Varda. I often found myself thinking about “performance”—as in, the thing an actor does that becomes notable, or is notable precisely because it isn’t. I’m not a fan of the Daniel Day-Lewis type . . . thing. I much prefer Robert Bresson’s rejection of the actorliness of actors:

ÊTRE (modèles) au lieu de PARAÎTRE (acteurs).
[BEING (models) instead of SEEMING (actors).]

I generally admire the work of those who use non-actors or not-well-known actors in their films—Bruno Dumont, for example, though he disappointed me terribly by using Juliette Binoche in his Camille Claudel 1915, a film I avoided for a long time out of fears that, turns out, were justified.

All this points to my appreciating restraint, silence, and an absence of gimmickry in the craft of acting. But then there are plenty of performances I love which have none of that. I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy? Divine? James Gandolfini? So genre has something to do with it, but still it’s difficult to say what precisely “it” is, except that it’s inevitably thrown into relief by the ever-perplexing Anglophone awards season that’s now under way. (Isn’t the winner basically always either Meryl Streep or Charlize Theron in “ugly” makeup?)

Anywho, these are my favorite performances from movies I saw in 2017: Gillian Anderson in The House of Mirth, Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, Ivan Dobronravov in The Return, James Howson in Wuthering Heights, Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, Nicole Kidman in Birth, Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils, Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman, and the truly gifted and greatly under-valued Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer:

David Lynch. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 1992.

Even movies I didn’t entirely love but appreciated for some reason or other (and often the reason was the casting) showcased some utterly moving work by actors: Ben Whishaw’s John Keats in Bright Star and Cynthia Nixon’s Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion; James Wilby and Rupert Graves in Maurice; and Ezra Miller as the psychopath progeny of Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin—Miller shall soon appear, I predict, in an Anne Rice-Sally Potter’s Orlando-pastiche about a fashionable vampire coming to terms with this ability to hang out in graveyards in daylight.

I despise Lars von Trier (except for the first season of The Kingdom) and Breaking the Waves is full of Trierisms, but Emily Watson kept me watching to the end. Read More

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2016: Movies

Cinema, Fashion January 19, 2017

In 2016, after years of staying away, I spent a lot of time in movie theaters. With a few exceptions, this meant I forced myself into public acts aloneness in the city of Denver, which is not conducive to such acts.

I liked this very much, though I still find it difficult to adjust to the popcorn-eating of fellow moviegoers. The world today might excuse/explain this trait of mine, which other eras would have called a quirk or bad manners, as something that makes me special. Give me a hug/death. But while I allow for the possibility that I’m really very brilliant for not being to stand the sound of popcorn-chomping, it’s really the smell that gets to me and, even more so, the disrespect. It doesn’t at all bother me that hordes of horrific food items might be publicly consumed at some blockbuster movie, but at Carol? Or Moonlight? Non-horrific foods and beverages, discreet foods, like bits of chocolate, I would not object to those.

Yes, I am an e l i t i s t. But the point of a dark room lit up on one wall seems to be the darkness and popcorn cuts through all that like the vilest fluorescent light.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. 2016.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. 2016.

Recent Movies I Loved That I Saw in Theaters

Todd Haynes. Carol. USA, 2015.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. USA, 2016.

Chaitanya Tamhane. Court. India, 2014.

Paul Verhoeven. Elle. France, 2016.

Old Movies I Loved That I Saw in Theaters

Satyajit Ray. Jalsaghar. India, 1958.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Black Narcissus. UK, 1949. Read More

American Speech

Cinema, Illness, Language, Music, Sociology December 3, 2014

One of the great disappointments I experienced when I first moved to the US nearly five years ago was that regular American people sound nothing like the American people in movies.

I don’t mean that any country’s people ever sounds like its cinema, but that a certain type of film can capture, or re-invent, its linguistic community’s continuum of articulacy-inarticulacy in a way that allows you to be moved by its beauty—luxuriate in its pain.

My disappointment in American speech quickly turned into disappointment in American cinema because it’s the other way around. The cinema has failed the people.

Or: the cinema has failed part of the continuum while celebrating the other extreme.

The other extreme being that sort of determined, stylized, sometimes reverential, sometimes parodic-pastiched dialogue that’s completely well done in the hands of say Quentin Tarantino or 80s/90s David Lynch. A kind of over-articulate language that’s on the skin of personhood—think Don Corleone scratching his chin.

Actually, to take it a notch down, this—from Michael Lehmann’s Heathers (1988)—is completely genius:

I’ve always been enamored with the way American TV and movie characters Read More