It’s definitely fitting that Alain Resnais should end his career with a cinematic exercise in obfuscation, but even for his tastes, Life of Riley is an astoundingly multilayered film. An adaptation, Resnais’ third, of a famously post-modern English playwright, translated into French, but retaining the setting in England, a country we only see in rolling location shots down country roads, which then fade into postcard drawings of estates, which fade into an assortment of gardens that are clearly sets, complete with curtains, with characters whose close-ups are against a cross-hatched background reminiscent of 50s style newspaper comics, the film is very nearly an assault on cinematic conventions, an exercise in uncovering, through obfuscation, human emotional truth. As such, Resnais extends the self-knowing conceit of his source material to an absurd degree, making the camera lens itself a fourth wall.
Most of us have a conception of things outside of ourselves as being rather flat, singular and unchanging. We think of another country and see the stereotypes from old cartoons or action movies, of another religion and see the barest essentials of ancient practice, unchanged over time. One of the most beautiful things about modern film, especially documentary film, is its profound capacity for education, to act, as Roger Ebert famously said, as a machine for making empathy, through elucidation and the chance for others to express themselves. Daughters of Dolma, an Adam Miklos documentary about Tibetan Buddhist nuns, is one such piece.
In this journal, Tyler and David discuss the movies and TV shows they’ve watched recently, including:
SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION
RUN ALL NIGHT
A STAR IS BORN (1954)
RIDE THE PINK HORSE
DO YOU BELIEVE?
THE SURE THING
DO THE RIGHT THING
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Although it’s a year from release, Warner Bros. feels the need to trickle out images for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The latest of these shows Jesse Eisenberg (To Rome With Love) as a skinny, steely Lex Luthor. Precious little of the plot has been revealed. Lex Luthor has been the classic villain in the Superman; the only live-action films not featuring Mr. Luthor are Superman III and Man of Steel.
When a documentary includes narration in the low tones of a German man, our conditioning makes us think of Werner Herzog. But even though Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s The Salt of the Earth contains the stark beauty, endearing oddballs and mankind vs. nature dichotomy of Herzog’s work, the result couldn’t be more different. There’s no sardonic, existential pondering in Wenders’ voice. Rather, and despite the graphic and upsetting nature of some of the imagery, the film is warm, humanistic and even sentimental.
Do you like racist jokes? Do you like gay jokes? Well, friend, I have the movie for you! In the tradition of comedies like Trading Places, Get Hard places its characters in a different perspective and worldview that’s not their own. But imagine watching the first draft of a screenplay unfold for you on the big screen and you’ll have Get Hard. It’s stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart doing a lot to elevate the material but with a movie that seems to have a lot on its mind, it’s certainly dumb, albeit with a handful of laughs.
The Dark Valley, dir. Andreas Prochaska (Austria/Germany)
A lone, mysterious stranger, draped in black, rides his horse into a ruthless town. But this stranger is a photographer, not a feared gunslinger. And this isn’t a shantytown in the middle of the Western desert, but a logging town in the Austrian Alps, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and deep valleys. The Dark Valley is a sobering film that pulls from traditions of the Old West. It is a very interesting mix of cultures that stands on its own, above its genre trappings.
Have you ever found yourself musing, “You know, I liked that Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I just wish it featured dogs instead…and took place in Budapest”? Well, then, I have good news for you, friend. Kornel Mundruczo’s White God is certainly a more serious, socially-conscious, and generally more accomplished film, but it’s…entertaining?
Noah Baumbach’s last film, Frances Ha, was my favorite that year, a wistful yet still funny examination of the aimless twenty-something artist trying to make it in New York. It is important to note, however, that that film was co-written with actual twenty-something Greta Gerwig. This time around on While We’re Young, Baumbach is writing alone, and approaches the same types of characters – only from the perspective of someone his own age.