July 29, 2004
I just read over at MilkPlus that Michael Haneke, when asked who is the most important director working today, chose Abbas Kiarostami. I knew it! Time of the Wolf’s use of darkness, the use of that last shot off the train (which immediately brought to mind the relief-for-the-viewer-only ending of Taste of Cherry), its amazing sound design … all Kiarostami-like. Formally, at least.
July 26, 2004
Below are my comments on the Time of the Wolf post over at Milk Plus. Warning: spoilers ahead. I doubt many people will be seeing this film, but personally I think most of the film’s meaning comes in the last 3-4 minutes of the film, so I didn’t really want to talk about that in previous posts. But since I’ve already opened that can o’ worms, I might as well reprint it here:
time of the wolf may give a sense of what the refugee experience is like, but the film is hardly a mere slice of life. haneke seems to always be going for universal themes in his films, and personally i see this film as having one main point: we, as humans, need our illusions. this film strips away all society’s illusions of comfort and safety and right and wrong and what is the only relief in the end? a man cooing a bunch of nonsense about racecars and trains and other bullshit that honestly gives this devastated boy some relief. and it gives the viewer relief as well. as does the final shot off the train, even though we don’t know if it’ll ever show. it’s illusory hope, but that’s what this film is saying. illusory hope is all we have, and we NEED it to keep going.
July 22, 2004
Elvis Mitchell on Elephant: “Elephant” sometimes circles the willowy, young male hunks as if they were on a candy dish.
Blogcritics.org: I haven’t read anything that comments on the difference in the way Van Sant views the boys and the girls. I was about to say that his style here makes the ordinary too sensuous for a documentary, but that’s really only when he’s got the boys in his sights. The camera caresses their cheeks and chests…
I watched Elephant last night and involuntarily came up with another paper topic: Gus Van Sant and the Gay Male Gaze in Mainstream Cinema. Someone’s probably written on something like that before though. The film seems like it’s more about gazing at pretty boys than about a school shooting. The camera gazes adoringly at them, girls gaze lusftully after them, and they sit passive and empty and unaware of all the attention. Van Sant has somehow created a high school where boys have zero attraction to females. There’s one hetero couple, but even they seem awkward together and just plain wrong. The females in the film are pushed off to the side and completely uninteresting, while the film gets lost seemingly forever in the blonde locks of John Robinson. When I think of this film, I remember his image, not the brief shootings. It’s odd, and I guess a bit refreshing, to see a film that makes pretty boys the object of desire rather than pretty girls, which is what every other mainstream film obsesses over.
You may not call this a mainstream film though. But Van Sant is pretty mainstream these days, and this film is an HBO film.
I’m going to check out some reviews and see what others say and be back with more…
July 20, 2004
Kirsten Dunst says she made the video game programmers shrink her breasts before she’d approve the release of the Spiderman video game. I’m glad nothing changes in the videogame/comicbook world.
I in fact played said videogame this past weekend with my nephews, and I can attest that her character’s boobs were appropriately demure. Go Kirsten.
July 16, 2004
I have started restricting myself to reading GreenCine AFTER my work is done. My mouse hovers over the link and I have to force myself to NOT click it, because once I do, I’m gone for hours. Someone should be paying them for that shit. It’s the best.
July 6, 2004
Here is my favorite shot from Time of the Wolf:
It’s Isabelle Huppert looking for her son, who has disappeared in the middle of the countryside in the middle of a foggy night in the middle of some unnamed apocalyptic disaster.
Who the fuck has the balls to film total darkness for 10 minutes? Michael Haneke, that’s who. In any other film you’d see at least some kind of barely-lit form, some fake moonlight, something to give the viewer something to look at even though the characters can’t see. But not here. You are as scared and uncomfortable as the characters, plunged into the same darkness. This film continually subverts all viewer expectations of traditional film. Plot, character, image…everything is non-traditional and de-centralized and disturbed in this film. Major moments happen quickly and are not reflected on. Minor moments drag out endlessly. Cliches are set up and then destroyed. Some say this is a Dogma film, and while I don’t think it conforms completely to the manifesto, it probably comes pretty close.
I haven’t linked to any reviews or IMDB profiles of this film, and I’m not going to, because they all use an image that I think you shouldn’t see unless you see the whole film. It’s one of the very few super-dramatic images in the film, and to take it out of context and use it as a teaser is just wrong in a film that so diligently subverts that kind of drama. Of course, now that I’ve said this, you’ll go looking for it. Just know that I disapprove!
Plus, the IMDB profile for the film has the wrong director, the wrong year, and the wrong plot description. It does have an image from the right film, though. Even though it’s wrong.
POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps I should add that Kiarostami on occasion does this kind of thing with darkness, though not in exactly the same way or to this extent. And perhaps I should add that there were a few things in this film that were reminiscent of Kiarostami. And Tarkovsky. And perhaps Von Trier. And perhaps Akerman. But it’s useless to throw out these names; I suppose much of art cinema is slow and full of expansive minimalist imagery.
July 5, 2004
I don’t think I’ve ever applied the term “masterpiece” to a film (other than the classic-film-greatest-hits that everybody calls masterpieces) and the word is so overused I don’t think it has much meaning any more. But I am excited to be able to use it, and mean it, about Time of the Wolf. It is, in my opinion, a perfect film. I’ve never seen any Michael Haneke films before, but I do plan to see them all now. This man is, to use another cliche, an auteur. They don’t come along that often, despite the culture’s obsession with the cult of the director. All directors are not auteurs. They are treated as such, but it takes more than having a handful of films under your belt to really be a filmmaker who has something to say and knows how to say it.
That’s not to say this film is particularly enjoyable. I said in a previous post that you must see it, but I take that back. It’s a very difficult thing to experience, very disturbing and bleak and incredibly slow. But those are also all the things that make the film great. If you’re up for it, if you think you can take it, I highly recommend it. But prepare yourself for a slow and painful ride. A friend told me that Haneke once introduced a film to an audience by saying, “I hope you have a disturbing evening.” That should be the disclaimer for this film as well and, from what I hear, all of his other films.
I’ll be back with more. The long-form holistic review is not, as you may have noticed, my forte’ any more.