A brief, further example of the director fetish

17 April 2011


Following my lengthier entry earlier this week on the director-centric approach that guides a large part of film culture, I thought I'd comment briefly on a particular article in the May issue of Sight & Sound, the magazine whose editorial in the same issue sparked the previous post.

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

15 April 2011


The narrative of Meek's Cutoff, the latest film from writer Jon Raymond and director Kelly Reichardt, begins somewhere in the middle of its own history. In 1845, having already veered off the Oregon Trail in favour of a shortcut suggested by guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), three families find themselves stranded and in desperate need of water; very early on in the film, one character etches "LOST" into a dry tree trunk. Its Academy ratio suggests a more romanticised West has been left behind, its would-be vistas humbled to the narrower needs of surivival. Early shots portray daily monotony; a montage sequence utilises painstaking dissolves to evoke the passing of time. The first reel contains no dialogue.

Towards less fetishisation of the director

13 April 2011

MP here

Last week I joined the subscribers' bandwagon and congratulated or thanked Sight & Sound magazine, via its Twitter page (here's mine) for including two freebies with its May issue: a sampler CD of the upcoming Tindersticks release of scores for Claire Denis's films, and a promotional supplement from Intellect entitled "Why does film matter?"

Essential Killing (2010)

10 April 2011

Essential Killing begins in Afghanistan, when a jihadi is captured and tortured by US forces after he has killed three of their soldiers; the film ends with the same insurgent having escaped during transit and subsequently endured a harsh Polish winter. What began as a specific kind of chase film ends as a survival drama that transcends its political ramifications.

The Silent House (2010)

If cineastes are aware going into The Silent House (La casa muda) of its makers’ claims to have shot the film entirely in one take, they might be surprised to see an editing credit (given to Gustavo Hern├índez, who is also the film’s director) in its opening credits. If there aren’t separate shots and scenes to cut together, surely montage isn’t required. Like Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), though, the achievement here is to given the illusion of the single take; there are several instances here where on-screen darkness could allow for an invisible cut. Even so, the result is an interesting if not always successful film.

Limitless (2011)

09 April 2011


Given that its starting premise involves a down-and-out writer who takes a pill that allows him to “access one hundred percent” of his own brain, it’s mildly alarming that Limitless is set for the large part in the corporate end of Manhattan, an area and subject matter that might in the current climate demand more serious attention.

The film(s) I always go back to

03 April 2011

The French Connection, 1971
MP here

Kid in the Front Row sparked a blogathon yesterday based around the film we always go back to, for whatever reason. Which film do people, as Kid in the Front Row writes, "always find themselves re-visiting after stressful weeks, or messy break-ups, or maybe just because they love it so much"?

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

02 April 2011

Early on in Werner Herzog's latest documentary, the director tells us in his inimitable voice that since the Chauvet Cave, the large focus of the film, is only accessible for extremely short intervals and navigable only via the two-metre walkway that has been built as a strictly kept-to viewing platform, Herzog and his minimal film crew are inevitably going to be in each other's shots. If we can accept this small apology from the filmmaker who has in the past gone to great lengths to provide the extraordinary - from mirroring steamship-over-mountain escapades on the Fitzcarraldo (1982) set to filming in the Antarctic's hostile conditions for the visually hypnotic Encounters at the End of the World (2007) - we might be pushed here in forgiving the increasingly grating presence of Herzog himself.