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.
Browsing: NP Approved
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.
For Malick, The Tree of Life is a culmination of a life’s work that while only five films in total is more rich and full than most who have stepped behind the lens of camera. Throughout its duration we feel we are in the company of greatness; in the hands of a man who has a better grasp on life and more to say about it than we ever will.
Many is the film which has, on initial release, been critically dismissed and largely ignored, only to be later heralded as a masterpiece of cinema. Such is certainly the case with The Night of the Hunter, a film so poorly regarded upon its original 1955 release that its director—the actor Charles Laughton—was never again afforded the opportunity to stand behind a camera.
It is difficult to reconcile the inquisitiveness and doubt that are intrinsic to human nature from an evolutionary perspective. Why did we develop a boundlessly curious nature? What purpose does it serve for the survival and propagation of our species? We put ourselves above all other living creatures in the hierarchy of the living world because we possess consciousness and an insatiable appetite for knowledge and discovery, but what is it exactly that we are searching for?
Andrei Rublev may be one of the few high water marks of cinematic achievement. It is difficult to reflect on the film while resisting the temptation to describe it with overwrought hyperbole. Its masterful use of historical context, religious overtones, and the grandiosity of its epic scale laid the framework for Tarkovsky’s deeply personal and introspective ruminations on the redemption of humanity.