Almost every review I have read of Senna seems to find it necessary to insist that the film is of a wide appeal; that its audience need neither have any interest in, nor knowledge of, the subject of the documentary: Formula One racing. To say that I lack these things would be an understatement of staggering proportion, my attitude toward sport of any kind skeptical and cynical at best. Sport, to me, is like religion: I understand the concept, I appreciate that people get something out of it, but I can’t begin to fathom quite why.
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.
Despite being one of the most talented comic actors of his generation, mainstream popularity continues to elude Steve Coogan, particularly outside his native UK. For evidence of his stateside hoodoo, see Around the World in 80 Days – a calamitous box office failure, notwithstanding its familiar source material, a blockbuster budget, and the backing of Disney’s marketing muscle. Hamlet 2 was similarly ill-received, while his supporting roles (Tropic Thunder, the Night at the Museum series) were never likely to make him a household name.
The most unnerving and perpetually nagging thing about this franchise is that it continually fails to clean up its mistakes from film to film. There’s no question that the previous entry Revenge of the Fallen, owns some kind of award for being the most incomprehensible mainstream cinematic mess in recent years.
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.
As an unabashed cynic and self-professed misanthrope, the latest docu-fictional foray from the duo behind Radiant City is explicitly intended to cure me of my simmering general contempt. Called The Future is Now!, and billing itself as a ‘cynics guide to optimism’, the Hot Docs 2011 selection is an overtly philosophical journey with the grandest of aims: to rehabilitate those who, like me, share a faltering faith in the worth of humanity. Calgary co-directors Gary Burns and Jim Brown reprise the hybrid style of their collaborative debut, and draw inspiration from an obscure French documentary called La vie commence demain (Nicole Védrès, 1949).
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.
On one side of the cinematic spectrum lies Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life; a film of so much beauty and grace. At the opposite end of this spectrum, buried under fifty feet of crap is Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern; a film so caught up in its dazzling 3D special effects (and they are impressive) that it is completely and utterly devoid of the real reasons why we go to the cinemas.
It’s no secret that Woody Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers in the history of film itself. His notorious ruminations on various aspects of the human condition have helped establish himself as both a great writer and director, with his career spanning nearly five decades. Notoriety aside, much of Allen’s recent work hasn’t been able to carry with it the importance or general impact his more famous projects have, leading even avid fans to believe that such a lengthy career may finally be taking its dreaded toll.