Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique is a masterwork of mood, more concerned with tapping in to deep wells of feeling than with concrete ideas and concepts. Kieslowski was a filmmaker who dealt more in intuition than intellect, which is not to say that his films don’t contain material worth chewing on intellectually, just that they resist literalist or symbolist interpretation and exist more in realm of sensual experience.
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A nightmare begins; the screen is splashed with bright primary colours, the shots contain a maniacal energy as they shift gracefully from one threatening composition to another accompanied by a pulsing rock score complete with strange howling and secret voices whispering… This is Dario Argento’s Suspiria, this is his nightmare.
There is something almost daunting in approaching for the first time the work of a director universally acclaimed as among the greatest and most influential in cinema. A stellar reputation preludes the strong possibility of disappointment; can anyone ever live up to such significant hyping? Ingmar Bergman is widely regarded as one of his medium’s finest artists, and yet his significant body of work was something I—for these very reasons—had never dared traverse.
Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia continues the biographical threads that Zerkalo had started. It is a rumination on the faithless man that has been separated from his roots for far too long and he is haunted by the past and an insatiable and unquantifiable desire to return to what once was that will never be again. He is manipulated by forces that are outside of his control as they have been ingrained upon his soul by life experiences that are long since passed and forgotten. We are all unwitting and unwilling products of our roots and our futile attempts to search for answers to fill our existential void only leave us disenfranchised as we try desperately to reconcile our past experiences and tribulations with our current realities.
Between Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize winner Armadillo, the Oscar-nominated Restrepo, and forthcoming Hot Docs selection Hell and Back Again, the unprecedented access afforded to Afghan war journalists has yielded some of the most powerful nonfiction filmmaking in recent memory.
The hushed whispers of the voice over narration in a Terrence Malick film are indicative of his entire body of work. The imagery is so gentle that to try and reach for it might make it crumble and blow away like the sands of time in an open palm. The narration sits softly in its place, not providing exposition or context to the imagery, but quietly setting the delicate tone that lends a gentle permanence to the impossibly beautiful images that Malick has managed to capture.
Among the most well-known of international directors on the art house circuit, Michael Haneke has captured glimpses of the vacuousness of modern middle class life, the casual brutality of mankind’s very nature, and—most recently in his Palmes d’Or winning The White Ribbon — the malleability of childhood and the peril of authoritarianism. Often forgotten amidst the more highly ranked of Haneke’s impressive oeuvre is his 1994 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, a delicately structured film worthy of retrospective consideration.
The man of faith, the empirical man of science, and the neurotic writer stand at the precipice of human understanding. They are tormented by the questions that have driven them for their entire lives but are terrified of what the answer might be. Such is the paradoxical nature of the human condition. We are driven by our innermost desires to seek out the existence of objective truths in the universe but we are too terrified of our own nature to confront the answers to these questions.
Like my favorite film, also released in 1939, Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, this movie feels so modern, so fresh, and so new, that its date of release seems like some sort of ruse, a trick played on history books. And yet, it is a period film, set in 1885, concerning Kabuki theater and detailing the tribulations of a frustrated actor, all of it clad in appropriately dated clothing and shot amidst timeless architecture.
With great film, each subsequent viewing has the power to make you believe that this is the time you truly “got” the film. You convince yourself that you only understood the film superficially on previous viewings, but this is the time that you were totally in tune with the images on display. You are able to contextualize each scene with more objectivity than any previous viewing and have numerous “aha!” moments wondering why you couldn’t see things so clearly before. A great film has the ability to do this to you for at least a few re-watches, a masterpiece will do this to you every single time you revisit the film. The trick is to keep these new revelations in objective context on the back burner as they betray the emotional context, and a Tarkovsky film should be felt and not rationalized. If you are able to strike that balance then you are rewarded with the richest experience that one could hope for when revisiting a film.