hitchcock, horror...drive

On the surface, Drive is a fairly straight forward neo noir thriller. It’s about a heist gone
wrong, unrequited love and the violent underbelly of Los Angeles. Like many classical noir films,
the city of LA operates as a character within the film. There is perhaps a small debt owed to
Michael Mann here in the minimalist landscapes where the city vacillates between an abstraction in
the background and an ontological space we are acutely aware of. Drive is a film that is in dialogue
with itself. It is not pastiche or even simply homage, but something with more depth that emerges as
a reflection on genre and a meditation on the discourse of film itself.



A lot of directors have made this kind of film. Tarrantino in particular jumps out as someone
who is interested in making films for cinephiles. A lot of us enjoyed the overt references to film
theory in Inglorious Basterds. But where Tarantino employs a bloodbath of violence to disrupt the
narrative and invoke an awareness of the constructedness of the film apparatus, Nicolas Winding
evocation of the language of film is more sustained and operates on a level that is subtly
woven into the narrative rather than a disruption or even extension of it. Where Tarantino’s films
feel like they want to show off what he knows, Drive lets the theory take a back seat. It’s there
informing the story in an important way, but as subtext.


in the mood for...

in the mood for love is a terribly romantic film. it drips with atmosphere and longing. the slow takes, musical interludes and near perfect chemistry between tony leung and maggie cheung are hypnotic and very nearly lull the audience into believing that this is the kind of movie where love simply has to prevail. but- it's not that kind of movie. this is the kind of movie where the possibility of everything is dangled in front of us. we wait, afraid to exhale, lest the delicate bubble of desire pop. and we wait. and wait. unrequited love does not quite explain it. the film conveys an incredible sense of passion without a single screen kiss. it's not for the faint of heart. but if you like your romance weighty with a sprinkling of tears, go back to this classic. and happy valentine's day...



stills from wong kar wei's in the mood for love, 2000


"in those days, pleasure was not considered fashionable; indeed, we on the left saw it as a vaguely right-wing feeling." --bernardo bertolucci


i was turned on to this book- film: the critics choice over at FSFF. it's a beautifully designed coffee table book that also happens to be pretty high on substance. heavy hitters like david bordwell and peter wollen among other contribute with bernardo bertolucci writing a short intro that's really quite passionate and polemical. buy it used for mere pennies. 

film crit roundup

over the years since leaving college and becoming a working professional, i've stopped frequenting libraries. it's not something i'm proud of because libraries are some of the most wonderful inspiring spaces around. wandering deep into the bookstacks always gave me this strange feeling of isolation and privacy cocooned within a public space. there is no algorithm that can mirror the feeling of walking over to a shelf and then browsing its length and randomly finding other interesting books. the dewey decimal system really does rule.


but location, modernity and a busy lifestyle have for me supplanted the library with amazoning. it's not the same thing. one doesn't get lost in a database in quite the same way. but there is a specific pleasure to be found in browsing a vast array of books in your pajamas at 1am in the morning when you decide you just really need to find out what the new umberto eco novel is all about. and then wirelessly downloading it to your kindle in mere moments? pretty sweet.


in addition to the physical action of browsing, i also find myself missing being able to cull through back issues of journals. as a student, this was perhaps where the most golden nuggets of information could be found. but again, the internet offers some recourse. it seems many of the best journals for film have a degree of online access. additionally, there are strictly new online resources of varying depth and scope. Here's a hitlist of my favorites:


traditional film journals:


online blogs offering thoughtful criticism, theory and the virtual cinematheque experience:


design oriented approaches to looking at films:



the tree of life

it's been suggested that the tree of life may be a film made for cinephiles, but i think this sells both the film and the audience short. like 2001: a space odyssey, it's a film that contains experimental elements, a philosophical stance, and a story providing a framework for answering the really big questions. it's exciting to see a mainstream big budget film depart from conventional ways of storytelling and ask the audience to to take a leap into abstraction.


these moments of abstraction- exploding super novas, the origin of life, our primitive world and it's natural processes seemed to push the depth of the narrative. the core of the story- a family melodrama is fairly conventional. the way in which this story unfolds is not. when we step outside the story into the universe we learn that the idea of grief is as old as time and only something massive like the universe and time itself can begin to quantify the feelings of loss and rage in the face of death.


the dinosaur tableau in particular is a divisive moment in the film. audiences seem particularly polarized by it's relevance. i found myself thinking that in a post jurassic park world, computer generated dinosaurs are expected to be hyper realistic. perhaps the shortcoming here was that these particular dinosaurs were not and thus functioned on the level of distanciation, pulling us out of this fantastic world and into the banal one of computer “wizardry.” nevertheless the moment is still relevant as a symbol of the father. we learn that the need to dominate is ancient and pervasive. it is not specific to man- it's nature vs. grace.


the complexity of the family unit, the roles both children and parents play in both it's cohesiveness and the way in which it can shatter apart is what really spoke to me about this film. the story of families, how we celebrate, grow and suffer together is dynamic. it is more often a push pull dance between the parts than the force one single person exerts upon it. the family is not just the kernal from which all life springs but also a reflection of the world we inhabit, putting us on a continuing trajectory of suffering, grief, joy and love.
















stills from terrence malick's the tree of life, 2011