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Frances Ha (Baumbach, 2012)

Frances Ha

“As individuals, we find that our development depends upon the people whom we meet in the course of our lives.  (These people include the authors whose books we read, and characters in works of fiction and history.)  The benefit of these meetings is due as much to the differences as to the resemblances; to the conflict, as well as the sympathy, between persons.”
- T.S. Eliot
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This film is still growing on me.  But I certainly cannot understand all the comparisons that have been made between it and HBO’s Girls.  Beyond mere trivial similarities – both have single women protagonists struggling through the transition into responsible adult life – the two are entirely unlike each other in atmosphere, aesthetic and philosophical themes, acting ability, script writing and … heart.  You might as well compare the “similarities” between Portlandia and Another Year (both are concerning middle-class lives within distinctive suburban communities) or between Entourage and Rumble Fish (both are about groups of single young men learning... Read More

Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974)

  This is the first in a series of posts chronicling the fortunes of Agatha Christie on film from 1974-1988. I have previously covered some of these movies elsewhere, but the content of these posts is entirely new and oriented in a different direction. Spoilers are not only expected, but required, and I offer them with no apology. Detective fiction dominates television. I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic way; take any handful of non-reality... Read More

This is Martin Bonner (Hartigan, 2013)

Many images and scenes in This is Martin Bonner are about either vision or payment. Or both: investment. Chad Hartigan’s film begins with a long shot of a prison; partly obstructing the view of Nevada’s mountainous landscape is a watchtower, an image that establishes what might be considered essential to the film’s visual theme: fortified vision. Watchtowers provide guards a position of elevated vision from which they watch over... Read More

Black Mirror (Brooker/Channel 4)

“As we contemplate the world converted into a huge machine and managed by engineers, we gradually grow aware of its lack of meaning, and of its emptiness of human value; the soul is stifled in this glorification of mechanical efficiency.  And then we begin to feel the weakness of such a creed when confronted by the real problems of life; we discover its inability to impose any restraint on the passions of men, or to supply any government which... Read More

Filmwell’s Book of Filmmaker Wisdom, Excerpt 18: Raul Ruiz

Raul Ruiz, director of Mysteries of Lisbon and Night Across the Street, from the second volume in his Poetics of Cinema: “What we have seen is something new, something the art of memory could not have foreseen: images striving for their independence. They aim to make themselves noticeable, to have greater worth than that of being a mere sign. As they say in my country: ‘They are telling themselves their own story.’ Well, that and... Read More

Upstream Color (Carruth, 2013)

    On paper, Upstream Color ticks a remarkable number of my boxes: Carruth? ✓ Lengthy sequences sans dialogue? ✓ Auteur struggle vibe? ✓ Economy of image across multiple planes of action? ✓ Responsive PR contact? ✓ Fetching composition? ✓ Alternative distribution? ✓ Arboreal? ✓ Really cosmic stuff going on?  ✓ Pascalian images of the “condition of men”? ✓ Lack of exposition? ✓ Rudy Rucker meets Orchid... Read More

Light Shining in a Dark Place (Sellars, ed. 2012)

I missed this post over at Pop Theology about a book to which I contributed last year, edited by Jeff Sellars (Light Shining in a Dark Place). I wrote a chapter called “Recalling Jesus: Form, Theory, and Trauma in Jesus Cinema.” Which the post summarizes well: He argues, quite rightly, “Excepting discussion of films like The Passion of the Christ or The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Jesus cinema is rarely subject to this kind of film-theoretical... Read More

Announcing: The Alternative History of Jesus

Very long ago I decided to start a series here I was calling the “Alternative History of Jesus,” and then I stopped after two. There were two reasons for this. First, I have been really busy. Second, I thought that the series would actually make a decent book – which would also give me the chance to preface the observations with some much needed methodological stuff. The Cascade imprint of Wipf and Stock has recently agreed, and... Read More

To The Wonder (Malick, 2013)

Curator Magazine posted my review of To The Wonder last week. It was a delight to write for them. But more could have been said about the O’Keefe orchid and succulent shots, the shot focus on the mirror image of the unicorn in one of the medieval “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries, the Lorica of St. Patrick, the largo of Gorecki’s 3rd, and a few other bits of aesthetic flotsam making cameo appearances in Malick’s near feverish vision... Read More

De Palmian Dissonance

(Ed. note: A very welcome, detailed, and incisive guest post from Ryan Holt, who does not write enough about cinema over here. This is the second post in a series on De Palma and Chris Dumas’ recent book Un-American Psycho.)   In his “film essay” on forgery and deceit, F for Fake, Orson Welles performs a magic trick and then jovially declares, “I am a charlatan.” This marvelous statement of directorial identity—also a statement... Read More