Double Exposure: Letting Go Of Malick
“When I first saw Badlands, it felt like a promise.”
- A better, edited version of a post on Badlands, To The Wonder and Malick is up at Double Exposure and in print if you’re resourceful.
Beyond The Hills Review [Double Exposure]
The clashes between religion and secularism, often inaccurately broken down along a right-left political divide, are easiest to discuss in generalities. We can track the rising or dwindling numbers of churchgoers, the number of times “god” is invoked in a speech, or the rationale for policy proposals. Yet religion is much knottier than either the cynics or the devout would lead us to believe. Faith is certainly a question of the link between the individual and a hereafter, but in the here-and-now it is often a phenomenon of congregating bodies and beings. Christian Mungiu’s newest film, Beyond The Hills, treats religion in exactly this manner. Set almost entirely within the confines of a monastery on a hill, Mungiu never passes judgment on the veracity of these Orthodox Christians’ beliefs. This is merely a community at work, albeit one whose labor has been assigned transcendental value. The designation of sanctity is a frightening one, for in removing something from the realm of the mundane it is not only placed beyond reproach, but its position ushers in a new level of power over what is left behind. What Beyond the Hills demonstrates is that the clash between the believer and the non-believer is not merely about values, but also competing claims to authority.
Zero Dark Thirty Review [Double Exposure]
An uproar has sounded in the world of film criticism around Kathryn Bigelow’s new film. The problem is no one really knows what we are talking about when we talk about Zero Dark Thirty. It is being bashed on the one hand from activist writers like Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian and on the other Senator John McCain. At the same time, it’s sweeping awards. The basic question here, the source of the fundamental divide, seems to be: can a movie ever really be just a movie?
Cinema Politikon [Double Exposure]
In four minutes and fourteen seconds, Jeremy Hutchison’s The Road to Jerusalem constructs an aesthetic program of political cinema. It is one that, through the sheer force of its persistence, compels spectator to actively and affectively see politics not as abstracted ideologies, but as (often violent) relationships between people and the world, manifesting themselves in and on the body. There are no intertitles, voiceovers or monologues to offer up explanations; we have only the images. The plot is minimal: a bicyclist rides from Ramallah to Jerusalem. But as the bicyclist nears Jerusalem, he seems not to notice the wall directly in front of him – a wall built by the Israelis in the West Bank – and instead continues to peddle toward it. His front tire makes contact with the wall and his body flips over the handlebars. And then the image freezes. We do not see the physical consequences of the bicyclist’s actions; but know he is not enough to bring down a wall.
New Essay, New Upload
Two new goodies went up yesterday and in case you missed them, here they are:
Cinema Politikon - My essay in the new Double Exposure [read it all!] is up. It takes on ideas of political cinema, observational cinema and Jeremy Hutchison’s The Road to Jerusalem
Robin Hessman - talking about her documentary My Perestroika. [Part of The Great Radio Interview Archive Project]
Think On Your Sins: A Skyfall Review
There has always been something off about Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond. His jokes are tinged with a touch more menace than they used to be. His body is stronger and willing to take, and dole out, more punishment. The killing isn’t quite so easy or clever anymore, yet he seems to enjoy the fight the way other Bonds enjoyed the sex. From the beginning, which is to say from the franchise reboot Casino Royale, we knew this 007 was broken. In fact, in a particularly brutal torture scene we watched his enemies break him. Were it not for all the symbols of Ian Fleming’s world, the audience would be forgiven for thinking that they had invented a new character. But, when working within a franchise this big, studios can never go too far astray or they will lose an audience that came for the comforting hallmarks: the cars, the trysts, the gadgets, the drinks and “Bond. James Bond.”
On Race and the Left: A Review of Savages [Double Exposure]
Savage is a loaded word. It is one of those rare linguistic products that feels like what it means. English being an uncontrolled language, derogatory terms are frequently repurposed, but savage remains. This is probably due to the fact that the word is inherently relative. Whether we use it to mean fierce or violent or primitive, it is always in relation to something that is less fierce, less violent or more civilized. They are always the savages, no matter how beautiful or noble they may be.
“We’re Not A Team, We’re A Time Bomb” [Double Exposure]
Death comes from above. Half organic, half metallic aliens descend from a place where the sky has been rent open and tear New York City apart. Police officers and Firemen direct bewildered civilians away from danger, even though it has become clear that there is nosafe place. Buildings collapse, debris crashes to the ground, groups of huddled men and women await their death at the hands of foreign captors. The Avengers, like a number of films before it, is not afraid to unleash mayhem on American soil. There is, however, something eerier at play in a film that shows Captain America and a team of guns-blazing superheroes battling through the street of a New York that has been decimated by an alien flying force.
What Wonderful Music They Make [Double Exposure]
Fifteen minutes into the performance, the conductor started waving his hands hoping to get Philip Glass and The Kronos Quartet’s attention. Their backs to the screen, they hadn’t noticed that the movie had stopped playing. The audience giggled. The conductor turned to the room full of Parisians and apologized. The subtitles were missing, so they were going to start over. First there was laughter and then applause. When you’re sitting in a concert hall, listening to Glass and the Kronos Quartet perform a live accompaniment to the 1931 version of Dracula, technical difficulties are not enough to ruin the night. The lights dimmed once more, the music set in and there on the screen was A Tod Browning Production.