Movie Diary 10/30/2017

Faces Places (Agnès Varda and JR, 2017). A whimsical collaboration between the great Varda and the French public-art-maker/agitator JR. There are some wonderful moments along the way, including Varda’s tendency to flash annoyance at her younger, very impish collaborator. I liked it fine, but I hope the 89-year-old Varda has one or two somewhat more ambitious features in her.

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Goodbye Flow (This Week’s Movies)

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Edward Bear, Will Tilston, Domhnall Gleeson: Goodbye Christopher Robin (courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

Goodbye Christopher Robin. “In its admirably modest way, this is a thoughtful film — more Pooh than Disney in its style.” (Weekly link here.)

Human Flow. “Watching the film is like seeing a portrait of the human soul as it is being systematically reduced in size—not the soul of the international refugee, but everybody’s collective soul.” (Herald link here.)

Movie Diary 10/26/2017

Thor Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017). The Marvel movies take a definitive turn toward out-and-out comedy, and it feels so right; this is a superhero movie like Help! is a spy picture. Waititi’s comic timing (not least in his own vocal performance as a gladiator made of blue rocks) is front-of-stage from the very first scene, to the point where I actually wanted the thing to be a little less jokey at times. Chris Hemsworth’s best asset has always been his humor, so the match is a good one, and if the movie overall is insubtantial, it’s still a relief from comic-book films that are supposed to be oh-so-dark. (full review 11/1)

Movie Diary 10/25/2017

Sergeant Rutledge (John Ford, 1960). The military trial of a “buffalo soldier,” played by the monumental Woody Strode, in a film that has some very strange tones but some very deft storytelling devices, too. Great moment from the middle of the movie, when the white characters played by Jeffrey Hunter and Constance Towers exit a room and the scene continues with four African-American characters continuing to talk with each other – not as comic relief, but as an integral part of the central plot. The sequence feels like something significant in a big Hollywood film.

Buffalo Soldiers (Charles Haid, 1997). Good TV-movie about the black troops in post-Civil War America, with Danny Glover, Mykelti Williamson, and a super-cool Carl Lumbly. In the final 20 minutes the film takes an unexpected turn and finds a really rather radical way to resolve a cavalry vs. Indians standoff – you can see the NFL “take a knee” strategy being explored in Western terms.

Movie Diary 10/24/2017

Les orgueilleux (The Proud and the Beautiful) (Yves Allégret, 1953). When I took French in high school the nun who taught the class used to go on about Gérard Philipe, his talent and beauty and his tragic early death. If I see him in a movie, all I can think about is the effect he had on this nun at Blanchet High in Seattle. But you can see why – in this one he overdoes the shambling tragic drunk bit but in some scenes he has an electric physicality that rivals Mifune’s. The story is about two French travelers who carry meningitis into a small Mexican town; Michèle Morgan is the wife, Philipe a local doctor (French emigré) who’s now a filthy drunken bum, Carlos López Moctezuma the Mexican doctor, Victor Mendoza a wealthy saloonkeeper. The script apparently had its roots in a screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre. It’s a very sturdily-made, essentially sentimental film, although you can understand why it had certain tendencies that Truffaut and the coming New Wave would want to tear apart.

Breathe, Loving Snowman (This Week’s Movies)

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Loving VIncent (courtesy Good Deed Entertainment)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

The Snowman. “Fassbender is weatherbeaten and completely convincing, and Ferguson and Gainsbourg are excellent in support. But they are fighting against a story that might have been confusing even if the movie didn’t appear to have been edited with an immersion blender.”

Loving Vincent. “There is something psychedelically exciting about seeing the action unfold, so wild are the colors and designs.”

Breathe. “A stubborn strain of unsentimental, even sarcastic, humor.”

Movie Diary 10/19/2017

Human Flow (Ai Weiwei, 2017). A documentary made by an artist will likely be different from one made by a journalist, and this is proved by Ai Weiwei’s lyrical, haunting film. The subject is the global refugee catastrophe, which you have heard about but not quite “seen” in this way before. Understandably, Ai Weiwei doesn’t provide all the context for every situation (he shot in 23 countries), nor the solutions to the problem. Instead, the film seems to chart how the human soul is withering.