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Posts tagged ‘impersonal’

19
Dec

Manufactured Landscapes


Manufactured Landscapes (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

Director Jennifer Baichwal focuses her documentary on Edward Burtynsky’s photography regarding landscapes and connects it with how we continue to neglect our environment as we thrust ourselves into industrialization and globalization. This documentary is different from all the others I’ve seen because it has such an impersonal feeling to it. The narration is minimal so the film lets the images do the talking and it’s up to the audiences to direct themselves on what to think and feel. I have no problem with the issues that the movie is trying to tackle because I do agree that we treat the Earth as secondary instead of taking care of it for future generations. I also agree that it’s horrible that the poor are the ones affected by health hazards because of the mountains of poisonous metals that seem to go on for miles (we dump our computer parts in China–a fact that I didn’t know about). My main problem for giving the movie a mediocre rating is its style. At first I thought it was great: the movie started off with no dialogue as it shows rows upon rows of people working with their hands and with machines. The images are haunting, shocking yet very real all rolled into one. However, pretty much the whole movie is like that and it got redundant. In a nutshell, I got annoyed with the way it repeated itself. It tries to hammer the fact that we’re not taking care of the planet and that people are living in egregious conditions in China. I kept waiting for the moment when the picture finally took itself to the next level but it never did. A lot of critics liked this movie and I can understand why; it was informative and I learned from it. But it was one-dimensional because it didn’t introduce anything regarding groups of people who try to inform others to stop killing our Earth. It didn’t feel finished and it didn’t go full circle regarding its topic; in fact, it got stuck in one place and it seemed to not know what to do with itself. It’s unfortunate because it featured beautiful photographs from Burtynsky. With a little bit more editing and perhaps adding more scenes to elevate the concepts it tried to highlight, maybe I would have liked it a lot more. It certainly had potential but I can’t quite recommend it because it will most likely put people to sleep somewhere in the middle.

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7
Sep

Beau Travail


Beau Travail (1999)
★ / ★★★★

This movie about French soldiers stationed in Djibouti left a big question mark in my head. At first I thought Claire Denis, the director, was trying to establish the characters via showing us the ennui of military life: from ironing clothes, making the perfect creases to the every day physical and mental training the soldiers had to endure. But half-way through the picture, nothing much changed and I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with it. I wanted to know more about what made the characters tick. Instead, by the end of the picture, I couldn’t tell them apart (especially since they all have the same haircuts but that’s beside the point), I didn’t know anything about their motivations, and I didn’t know anything about their lives outside of the military. In a nutshell, it felt very one-dimensional. That feeling of detachment made me not care and watching the film was like pulling teeth. I’ve read some summaries from other reviews and they somehow found a story that the film tried to tell. Upon reading those reviews, I really felt like I watched a completely different movie because none of those descriptions matched what I saw (which was pretty much half-naked guys runnning around all over the desert). Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy movies that are stripped down with minimal dialogue but they have to have sort of emotional resonance. I didn’t find that in this picture despite my best efforts to look underneath the surface. The only scene that I genuinely enjoyed was the last when Denis Lavant broke into a dance. It felt like a huge sigh of relief because the rest of the movie felt so controlled, cold and tough. If they had more scenes like that, this train-wreck would’ve been saved. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

20
Jul

Velvet Goldmine


Velvet Goldmine (1998)
★★★ / ★★★★

I can understand why most people would dismiss this film due to its disorganized way of telling the story and featuring a lifestyle that was not (and still is not) fully accepted in society. “Velvet Goldmine” was about a journalist (Christian Bale) who was assigned to write an article about a glam rock star named Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) whose stardom quickly plunged because he faked his own death. Incidentally, Bale was a fan of Slade when he was younger so the assignment was a lot more personal to him than any other projects he had before to the point where he rekindled some of that obsession he used to have for the rock star. In order to get the full picture regarding Slade’s life, Bale interviewed the people that knew Slade most: the one who discovered him (Michael Feast), his wife (Toni Collette), his manager (Eddie Izzard), and his competition/partner/lover (Ewan McGregor). I must give kudos to Todd Haynes, the director, for featuring strong performances from the four leads (Rhys-Meyers, Bale, Collette and McGregor). He told the story in such a way that each of the four had an equal share of the spotlight and really gave scintillating performances. I also liked the fact that Haynes’ message about music was different. Most pictures that tackle the meaning of music tend to argue that music is a meaningful entity. In here, the message is the antithesis: music is meaningless; music is driven by the artists’ ego and thirst for taking over or changing the world; lastly, music–or real music–should not and does not contain anything personal from the artist because its purpose is to simply entertain; to put something personal in it is to contaminate it and thus defying itself. Well, at least that’s how I interpreted the film. I found this film to be particularly cold: It did not make an effort to convince its audiences why they should care for the characters. Interestingly enough, I loved it because it embraced the feeling of the 1970’s glam rock era which consisted of revolting against the norm, being apathetic to things that should matter, and embracing the dirtiness and griminess of atypicality. For an independent film, I thought it was particularly powerful, especially when it used techniques from the film “Citizen Kane”–fusing past and present in order to truly understand the characters that have been so wrapped up in the darkness they’ve created for themselves. I also appreciated the fact that it featured the fluidity of sexuality, emotions and ideas. This is a rich film with fascinating images and ideas but it’s not particularly accessible so one should be wary on whether he or she should watch it. But if one has an open mind, this should be a pleasant surprise. This reminded me of a weaker “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (though the two are very different films); a little bit more focus would have made this an instant favorite of mine.