Jan 21, 2013

Monday's Words of Wisdom

I haven't attended to the 'Words of Wisdom' feature on the blog for ages, but I've decided to bring it back for good to highlight my favorites of everything I read during the week every Monday. This week's edition is a triple punch.

First up, Joaquin Villalobos, whose writing I've just recently become familiar with but already love immensely, shares his top ten list of 2012 and it's very compelling. He even manages to make convincing arguments for films I downright loathe, but naturally, my favorite part is his bit on Tabu. If you've been following me on twitter, or have read my semi-review, you already know that it's my number one film of the year - Joaquin places it at number 2 - and I don't think I could have described my passion for it any better than he does:
"Full of the savory romance everyone is wanting, Gomes presents their story not so much with the techniques of silent film but with those of a burgeoning filmmaker to capture a marvelous sense of discovery in the natural world, reckless emotions, and a tale’s endurance. This veritable paradise echoes the settings, objects, and music encountered earlier in Lisbon suggesting a historical continuum to narrative and shows how mental pictures of spoken stories flesh out from indelible memories. Tabu is a film filled with riches attesting to improvisation and the earliest elements of film that its characters can only dream of, crocodiles and all."
You can see his complete list here.

Nick Prigge has written a review of Oslo, August 31st. It's poignant and personal like the film it's about. You may remember Joachim Trier's film was my top film of 2011, and a large part of my affection comes from Anders Danielsen Lie's beautifully performed Anders, whose sense of pathos was immediately tangible for me on a personal level. Nick seems to have found the same magic in the film and his performance.
"And Lie, in a performance mesmerizing in its restrained intensity, lets his face delicately register each piece of newfound information, as if they merely reinforce long held suspicions of the uselessness of taking it one day at a time in a society so insistent on conjuring up Five Year Plans."
You can read his review here.

Finally, my favorite blogger Andrew Kendall, who is luckily back full force to his prolific self after a hiatus a few months back, has detailed his thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty while also revealing that he has multiple selves - I'm not surprised! I'm completely torn on his piece, to be honest. I enjoyed the film quite a lot more than he did and we seem to have different perspectives from which we review films. It'd be disingenuous of me to claim that personal emotional investment in the characters or other elements of a film don't affect my appreciation of it (refer back to Oslo, August 31st) but unlike Andrew, I think Zero Dark Thirty's depth is a consequence of the chasm it creates between us and the screen, politically and emotionally. Certain narratives benefit from allowing their audience to project emotions onto the characters that embody it and Zero Dark Thirty fits in that mould. Creating characters for the audience to root for isn't at odds with objectively dissecting a political procedure - a fact Ben Affleck needs to be reminded of - but I think Bigelow aimed for something entirely different here and she succeeded. Maya isn't am emotional vessel through whom the audience connects with this story. Quite the opposite, our distance with her needs to be maintained for the spectator to observe and comprehend how the hunt for Bin Laden really happened. Andrew argues that the film is not really about Maya, which I think is correct, but that's precisely why I appreciate the lack of fabricated emotional investment in her character. The audience isn't meant to live her painfully mundane experience to appreciate her unwavering resolve or feel the emptiness she feels in the final shot. Maya is a character as incomprehensible to herself as she is to us, which makes her final personal catharsis (or revelation, rather) all the more meaningful for me. This is a film that, in my opinion, succeeds precisely because it remains apolitical and expressionless throughout. Then again, it's anreasonable criticism to accuse the film for lack of perspective if it asks the audience to project meaning onto a meaningless bureaucratic procedure in the first place.
"Bigelow, along with her sound and visual team, keeps the tension taut over time and steadily guides the audience through the moments with a fine knowledge of when and how to thrill. It is significant, though, that these best of moments of the film would be just as impressive without any back-story to them.
Movies are called thus because they are moving pictures, but unlike visual art pieces context is always essential for film. A brilliant film scene will be brilliant on its own, but it should take on more profundity within the narrative it rests and the telling lack of profundity is wrested from the film’s persistent disinclination to emotion."
It's a lengthy piece, but a well-judged one. Much as I appreciate Bigelow's film, Andrew's sentiments are understandable for me, so much so that I can see myself echoing similar thoughts on another film that doesn't engage me quite as much. You can read his article here.

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