When the trailer for Wes Anderson’s upcoming film Moonrise Kingdom was released earlier this year, the reaction on social media outlets seemed to boil down either “Another Wes Anderson movie? That looks great!” or “Blah blah hipsterism, precise framing, primary colors, twee, blah blah 60’s music blah”. The latter camp seemed to chastise Anderson for, heaven forbid, having an assured, singular, and recognizable aesthetic. Perhaps these complainers would rather Anderson completely abandon his personal and creative convictions and no long make movies the way he wants to and knows how to make movies. Who knows? But it did raise the question over when an artist is simply exercising his or her artistic signature, and when the artist is simply engaged in wheel spinning, resorting to easily identifiable personal tics and empty flairs, without any actual content behind the form.
What possible benefits would there be for our entire civilization to destroy itself? I think Stanley Kubrick had figured out a possible answer for this question and explored it with Dr. Strangelove. The scene is set from the very beginning as a mid-air refueling procedure mimics human sexuality during the opening credits. This is the setup for one of the longest jokes in cinema, and 90 minutes later the results of this lascivious mid-air encounter result in the orgasmic explosive punch-line that would cause the end of (most of) human civilization. So what possible benefits would there be for humanity to destroy itself? I think Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove answers that question quite clearly with his suggestion that they all move underground and choose women for their “sexual characteristics” in order to save the human species.
Voiceover narration begins Stanley Kubrick’s first film, Fear and Desire with a statement that the events that are about to unfold exist in a world and time outside of our own. The English language would be used in the film, and the characters looked like all-American GIs, but their national identity is purposely ambiguous to give their story a universal quality. This is Kubrick’s grand entrance in to the story of film, and from the very beginning the seeds of genius are evident, and his mastery of image and composition is immediately apparent. This is an exploration of technique and ideas by a budding genius and a fascinating investigation of ideas that Kubrick would explore with more technical proficiency and larger budgets in his later films. It is a high concept experimental film, and though it has a cohesive narrative, the expression of ideas is far more important to the film than the story.
Darkness takes the stage as we are introduced to one of the most important characters in this film of epic spectacle. Suddenly we are overtaken with the orchestral grandiosity of the score, and remember what it was like when cinema felt larger than life. The score of Spartacus sets the tone for the grandiosity that is to follow, and we are allowed to get acquainted with it before the first human figure hits the screen. The credit sequence is even larger than life as the 70mm Technicolor frames are blasted in to the hallowed halls of the canon of film. This is film on the scale of D.W. Griffith, this is film when it fires on all cylinders.
When the budding auteur does a genre film, it is not done with the same earnestness it would be had it been directed by a B-movie director. The auteur filters the most important elements of the genre film to condense it in to a self-aware entity that is quite different than a typical B-movie. When art meets pulp, that’s when the magic happens. It becomes self-referential and post-modern, becoming more of an artfully crafted homage piece than an earnest genre thriller. Such is the case with Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss. Kubrick had already established himself as a master of the lens through his career as a photographer before moving on to film, and this mastery is evident in Killer’s Kiss as it transcends its genre roots to create something vibrant, original, fluid, and masterfully shot.
In the beginning there was darkness. Wait; let me reconsider that sentence for one moment. In order for there to have been darkness, there would have to be light and an absence of light to compare it to. In the beginning there was something. Some theoretical physicists believe that the unrelenting forces of gravity when left unchecked will essentially cause all matter to converge at a single point and collapse in to itself until there is in essence, nothingness. That singularity will continue to fold in on itself until it has nowhere else to go, and the entire thing bursts in a wave of unimaginable energy. Matter and antimatter would theoretically collide to create a zero sum game that results in nothingness. Luckily for us, the universe appears to be an imperfect place, and for whatever divine reason matter was able to outnumber antimatter just enough to leave behind cosmic dust, infinitesimal in size but numerous enough to coalesce and create everything that we know as reality. Gravity is the ultimate goalkeeper in this cosmic game, and it pulls those tiny pieces of matter together to eventually create hydrogen, that most basic of elements and the foundation of all things. In “time”, these gravitational forces would cause tremendous heat and energy that could fuse those hydrogen atoms together
Cast: Tadanori Yokoo, Rie Yokoyama Director: Nagisa Ôshima Country: Japan Genre: Experimental Official Trailer: Here…
Haneke’s 1997 Funny Games remains his most controversial film, its combination of the bleakness of his darkest works and the caustic indictment of its own medium’s violent voyeurism earning it a key place in the annals of film history. Ten years later, the intermittent arrival of the widespread fetishisation of violence and the proliferation of the so-called “torture porn” in mainstream cinema in some ways proved Haneke justified in his concerns, prompting him to remake the film shot for shot, but this time in English with an American cast. The idea of Funny Games had always been to critique the way in which the majority of audiences engaged vicariously with violence in cinema, particularly those in the United States (the very fact that the original, despite being in German, was officially entitled Funny Games is a telling remnant of this original intention). With the benefit of a critically acclaimed body of work behind him, Haneke was at last at a point after the success of Hidden where he could finally find the financing to make the film according to his original vision.
It was Benny’s Video which first brought Haneke’s name to widespread critical attention, the manner in which he indicted the dangers of cinema and its inherent voyeurism singling him out as a director of promise and potential. With Funny…
There is a great homogeneity to Haneke’s filmmaking, a consistency of style and substance that makes each of his works distinctly recognisable as “un film de Michael Haneke” however far they might stray from each other. Arguably, none does so more than Time of the Wolf, setting itself in some indiscriminate future where French society appears to have collapsed in the wake of an unexplained apocalyptic event. A director firmly committed to highlighting and critiquing issues of our society and of our species in the here and now, it may have seemed initially strange for Haneke to turn his attention to what might be classed a genre film rather than his typical intimate personal drama.