I was completely transfixed by Best of Luck With the Wall, a recent offering from Field of Vision. Technically impressive and buoyed by a sharp original score, the only words you'll find in the film are in the title; the rest is a sweeping visual assertion unlike anything I've seen this whole election season.
What would it mean to try to “see” the entire southwest border at once? To travel the whole 1,954 miles in, say, six minutes?
* thanks to a dear mentor Manfred Becker for sharing this with me.
2015's Victoria, directed by Sebastian Schipper, is not the first one-shot wonder, but it's the first THRILLING one-shot wonder. In addition to the incredible camerawork that follows multiple characters, locations and rhythms, the film is crowned by phenomenal performances and writing. In terms of picture editing, the only decision was to choose which of the 3 takes would be used. How difficult was that choice?
I caught my second Chairlift show a few months back at the Biltmore Cabaret. Everything about this band is top-notch: their weird wonderful range of sounds, masterful arrangements conducive to dancing or kicking back, clever lyrics, wildly original music videos and lead singer Caroline Polachek's outstanding voice. After the show I had a chance to briefly chat with Polachek about one of my favorite music videos of all time, from their first record:
That hypnotizing glitch effect is a technique called datamoshing, which I'm sure will be of special interest to any codec nerds out there. Here's a great website about it, including how-tos. Curious what else could be done with this. I sense a lot of potential, e.g. used as device within feature films. Apparently the team behind the video was racing to release it before their peers, who were using the same technique for Kanye West. Yeezy's video came out second. Still excellent:
Flashback to one of my favorite films from Hot Docs 2014. Wonderfully edited, it is a poignant window into the lives of three teenage boys and the town in which they live: Rich Hill, Missouri. Each grapples with severe socioeconomic disadvantages of one shape or form, and thankfully the filmmakers go beyond the surfaces and allow us to know them, learn from them, feel for them, and care that much more about them. Though most reviews are positive I was surprised to find a number of writers criticizing the film's visual splendor and aesthetic grace. Here's a passage from Roger Ebert's review that addresses these criticisms. Couldn't say it better:
One of the first things that deserve to be noted about “Rich Hill”—and that may make it controversial in some quarters—is its beauty. Any description of the film that only describes its people and events would largely miss what it feels like to experience it. From its first moments, when several jump-cut shots of a teenage boy getting ready for school give way to lyrical views of Rich Hill as it comes to life in the morning, the combination of editing rhythms, Nathan Halpern’s music and Palermo’s strikingly luminous images conjure a world that seems to pulse with its own inner warmth and radiance.
I love that there is nothing flashy going on here, stylistically speaking. The simple scenes that revolve around the piano suffice to fly.
I was lucky to catch a discussion with Joshua Oppenheimer in Vancouver before a screening of The Look of Silence. Along with its precursor The Act of Killing, these two films are staggering companion pieces, must-sees that are having very real impacts on filmmakers, politicians, societies, etc. For in-depth pieces, try this one from The Atlantic, or this one from The Independent.
Since most who attended the talk are involved in filmmaking, he indulged our curiosity about the particulars of his process and techniques. Here are a few highlights :
Tonight I re-watched Jules et Jim, a choice made after spotting the excellent poster at a coffee shop (excellent because it depicts Catherine, not the titulary Jules and Jim.... clever), and realizing I had large gaps in my memory to refill.
The film is a free-spirited rendition of sweet and free going sour and confined, on many levels. It's a radiant reminder that cinematic freedom can be exercised in every department, and meaningfully.
When a public luminary leaves us suddenly, it hits hard because they never withdrew from their vital role in present-day humanity. Today I thank: David Bowie, Oliver Sacks and Karen Schmeer. Their stars will never dim.
I didn't realize (but am not so surprised) it took 5 years to build and finesse this masterpiece of overlapping patterns that span highly distinctive lifestyles and life forms.
"That's the big joke. It wasn't fast at all, and it wasn't cheap, but it was out of control." (Karen Schmeer)
brilliant documentary, impressive editing. Great conversation piece. So much to think about and feel. Heartbreaking and haunting but ultimately uplifting because creativity/ imagination / love win in the end. Most importantly there's a joyous dance scene to Baltimora's Tarzan Boy.
Saw Pawn Sacrifice and wish I could have the time back. It was formulaic and two-dimensional. I'd suggest sticking with Liz Garbus' Bobby Fischer Against the World, a far more nuanced and respectful take on the chess sensation who fell from grace due to a toxic combo of worsening mental health and ravenous media . Aside from exploring the external events/influences in Fischer's life it also manages to convey the enchantment of chess itself, e.g. more possible chess games than atoms in the universe., allowing a better understanding of chess fanaticism. Another scene that stands out reveals a historic pattern of mental illness in chess prodigies. I didn't know about this but at a base level I am not surprised. Some of my earliest memories of rage and frustration are from losing chess games. All that tension building up inside the body as the mind tries to reduce infinity.
Sparse highlights from the great spinning sphere of publication.