Archive for July, 2012

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The Last Days of Disco

July 30, 2012

directed by Whit Stillman, 1998

Having previously dismissed Stillman’s Damsels in Distress on the grounds that its biting satiric functions were far too dry for my taste, I’d approached The Last Days of Disco with managed reservations. Where Damsels was concerned with the codes and pampered perspective of campus life, Disco operates as a scathing depiction of the early 80s and the flailing disco scene; think of it as American Psycho without the violence. The film follows a group of friends and their quest to make their lives more fulfilling. Stillman’s film excels in depicting the stilted progression of said group as each endlessly lament on the “what-ifs” of their predicaments – the characters do a lot of talking  and very little “doing.” And this is part of the film’s playful charm; the disco serves as a roundtable for the group, partially spotlighted by Alice (Chloe Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale), the film’s central characters, who are no more important than the handful of others they interact with. Since this is only the second Stillman I’ve seen, Disco’s beats and rhythms are far less distracting than the aforementioned Damsels, which I admit was a poor choice for my first Stillman. There’s a familiar, yet satisfying soundtrack at the core of this film, and several characters worth keeping up with – Stillman’s pension for fast dialogue and consistent social critiquing may take some time adjusting to, but it all blends together rather seamlessly throughout. The undercurrent of security in a time of financial uncertainty resembles our state today, and even as Alice longs for something more, she’ll always have the disco.

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The Best Films of 2011

July 26, 2012

1. The Tree of Life
2. Drive
3. The Turin Horse
4. Melancholia
5. Margaret
6. Oslo, August 31
7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
8. The Skin I Live In
9. A Separation
10. Wuthering Heights

Honorable mentions: Outside Satan, Midnight in Paris, Take Shelter, Shame, Road to Nowhere, The Adventures of TinTin, Alps, This is Not a Film, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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Night on Earth

July 26, 2012

directed by Jim Jarmusch, 1991

Going off its synopsis, Night on Earth could appear as a familiar exercise; one that seems plagued by routine predictability. Jarmusch isn’t doing a ton different in this charming multilingual portrait of disconnect and proximity to set it apart from other films of the same approach, but there’s a certain awareness at work that Jarmusch effortlessly captures. Five cities. Five taxicabs. Each are conduits into the possibility of the night, a period where surprises, delight, and soft tragedy are aplenty — communication or disconnect depends solely on the driver and his or her particular fare. The film is a series of non-related vignettes, each thriving of their respective off-kilter detours and surprises. Some are as simple as two women of different generations arriving at some fleeting moment of honesty amidst their running awkwardness together, Winona Ryder playing the chain-smoking Corky, and Gena Rowlands as a casual casting agent — their opening segment being the strongest of the five. There’s also Giancarlo Espositio and Armin Mueller-Stahl switching roles as cabbie and passenger as the former’s negligence behind the wheel is played for laughs. Jarmusch’s portrait of alienated souls scouring the dead of the night is frustrating and illuminating, humanistic and humorous.