In a single word, Miguel Gomes’ 6+ hours Arabian Nights Trilogy is disappointing. Featuring three separate films, distant in content but similar in theme, Gomes crafts, at times, quite a commendable series. Yet, for trilogy of its length, Gomes’ work only treads water on the themes it presents to the audience, and doesn’t care to…
Klinger’s Double Play (2014) incorporates cinema history into the readings of two similar minded but stylistically different auteurs of our time. Beginning with shots from a program called Cinema de notre temps (Cinema of our time), and images of famous film critics, historians, and filmmakers, such as Andre Bazin, Klinger ensures that a …
David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) is a very odd film. It mostly takes place in the back of a limo in New York on a crosstown trip from Wall Street to an outer borough for 28-year-old Wall Street whiz-kid Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) to get a haircut. Sounds simple, but it’s not. He conducts business from the back of the car and it is in these conversations where we get to know something about Packer.
Not only is he going across town for a haircut, he’s stuck in traffic because the President is in the city and there is a threat on his life, as well as a threat on Packer’s life. We get updates from his chief of security Torval (Kevin Durand) that are veiled and don’t really have much of an impact on Packer. Neither does the impending bankruptcy of his company. Many of his conversations hinge on his company’s betting everything against the yuan (China’s currency) from going up again. He’s losing hundreds of millions of dollars and his personal fortune of billions along with it and he doesn’t really seem to care.
The Consul of Bordeaux is a something else; something it doesn’t deserve to be. It tells the true-life story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a simple man that made a life changing decision that helped saved the lives of 30,000 people during June 1940, at the height of World War II. Using the job of approving passports in Bordeaux, France, he went against tremendous odds and the strictest of orders to help many people reach a safe refuge, including 10,000 Jews. The story is told through the view of a young man at the time, which had the fortune of helping Mendes through this life-changing journey. This is an incredible true story, and to see the result of the motion picture dedicated to this is disheartening.
If someone were to tell me Cosmopolis was a film inhabited by robots, if the big reveal at the end of this enigma were that aliens had taken control of these humans and were manipulating them for some sort of extra-terrestrial experiment, maybe I would have enjoyed what I was watching. But these twists were not part of the story, and what we are left with is a film of soulless people speaking obtuse and bewildering musings about wealth and life in strange and unexplained settings where nothing really connects and nothing is of much interest. As the story unfolded into more and more confusion and nonsensical sprawl, I grew colder and colder to the proceedings until I simply did not care anymore.
He wants to get a haircut, a physical process that removes equally physical hair. Eric Packer, though, does not live in a universe of physical things. He is a man of the digital age, of intangible cyber money, of incomprehensible speculative flight, of bits and numbers, of utterly fantastic wealth, fantastic both because of its sum and its unreality. He interprets the market and its rollercoaster swings, bets against the yen, borrows impossible amounts of the Chinese currency, indebting himself to financial ruin because his dogmatic calculus tells him the yen will fall, except it never does. But what he wants is a haircut, and not just anywhere, but in the barbershop of his infancy, where his dead father used to take him. Weathered by time, the barbershop, like the haircut, is very physical; it has a history, not just for Eric, who remembers his youth, but in and of itself. The barbershop is a scarred, aging place where people have lived and breathed, and where, besides a lonely swivel chair, stands a plastic toy chair shaped like a car and intended for children, a joke version of the idiotic limousine – pristine, ultramodern, without history – on which Eric travels through hectic, riotous New York to cut his hair.
When you are watching a film that you believe is a more vivid glimpse into hell than the reprehensible Hobo With a Shotgun, you know the filmmakers have taken a misstep somewhere along the way. While Cosmopolis is in no way offensive in its depiction of graphic gore, explicit sex or foul language—Cosmopolis is positively tame compared to the aforementioned nasty grindhouse imitation—its impenetrable style and emotionally dead characters that indulge in painfully wanky, pretentious dialogue will leave audiences just as stunned and repulsed. Perhaps this is a drastic comparison between films of vastly different genres (actually, Cosmopolis’ genre still eludes me) but while some may cringe and squirm in their seat at the burning bus full of innocent children in Hobo, some may also be left with the same reaction to the abstract interactions in Cosmopolis.
While his last decade has been spent producing works most directors would be proud to count among their canon, David Cronenberg has in a sense diversified from what many consider to be Cronenbergian, moving away from the wince-inducing viscera of The Brood, Videodrome, Crash, and eXistenZ to more typical crime dramas in the form of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. What many saw as a misstep in 2011’s talky psychological drama A Dangerous Method perhaps best highlights the distinguishing factor of the director’s work since the turn of the millennium: his films have been penned by others.
This was the best movie I saw screened at the Buenos Aires Film Festival, and also one of the most obviously flawed. Not the most flawed, but certainly a case where the faults are immediately apparent. Besides the violent conclusion - with its bottomless humiliation of a woman - there are stereotypical criminal thugs and frigid high-class characters who look like rejected zombies from an Antonioni movie casting call. In between, there is an extended slum family, the protagonists of the film, who display such human vitality, perform such evocative movement and dialogue, and play out such deliciously intertwining narrative threads, that any misstep can be excused as a result.
A cinephile film, not cheeky and ironic, but innocent and childlike. What movie references are in Tabu almost don’t exist as such, interwoven as they are into the romantic texture of the visual symphony. I am reminded of another Portuguese film, Pedro Costa’s breakout bombshell O Sangue, with its interminable list of cinematic quotes and paraphrases - compiled by Adrian Martin in a memorable review - all melted into a delirious whole. So dynamic is the weaving of references, that the borders between them disappear, dissolved into a unified brew. Something similar happens in the playful Uruguayan gem A Useful Life, about a film archivist who finds himself out of a job when the cinematheque he works in has to close for financial reasons. Unable to share films with others through the projection of celluloid, the archivist takes to the streets of Montevideo, where he communicates his love of cinema through his body, dancing and walking around like a 21st Century Monsieur Hulot. In all these films, Tabu included, the references are mashed together into a poetic language of inflection and cadence, the words nonsense vehicles for an evocative sound.