Friday, August 28, 2015

Cracking Up: A Brief Review of Roman Polanski's Repulsion

Cracking walls; cracking pavement; cracking psyche.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans: The Appeal of Silent Film

Like many modern film viewers, I often have trouble connecting to silent films. Over the years of cinematic history, filmmakers have developed shorthand techniques for expressing action, emotion, and theme in a way which is not necessarily better but is almost certainly easier. And yet, most of the silent movies that remain in the cinematic lexicon have something special which makes them remain watchable to this day. This movie is barely farther from the origin of cinema itself than I am from my own birth, so it's totally impossible for me to conceive of how revolutionary it is; but the fact that it never feels distractingly dated or artificial is an incredible testament to its success.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sex without Emotion: The Dreary Politics of Shame

Steve McQueen's directing stands out as the primary force shaping the feel of the film. Every scene is very precise in its tone: the cold, slow, bleak life of a man without desire, a life which is more like death. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of the filmmaking: the camera is always steady, and its few, subtle movements have a controlled sense of choreography that only comes from a director with a distinct vision (and a cinematographer with a strong hand, of course).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Casino: Individualist Business vs. Faceless Capital

The only thing Martin Scorsese loves more than propping ambitious men at the top of a cliff and watching them fall back down is propping ambitious men at the top of a cliff, giving them buckets of cash, and then watching them fall back down. In Casino, Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) owns and operates a casino in Las Vegas. He's at the top of his business, but the force pulling him back down isn't so much his own greed (that's part of it, but not the main part), it's his friends. Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is originally Sam's muscle, but he's so violent that he eventually gets kicked out of the gambling scene altogether and starts his own mafia ring. Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) is originally a hustler in Sam's casino, but she's so driven by the affection of others and the acquisition of wealth that she accepts Sam's proposal to marry him.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bicycle Thieves & the Economics of Desperation

A touching tale of hardship and struggle, Bicycle Thieves is one of the most popular and well remembered films from the Italian Neorealist movement. I've never been a fan of Italian Neorealism (I often find it a bit too sleepy for my dumb, attention-starved brain), but I've always been fascinated by the issues they tackle (class, nationality, family). In Bicycle Thieves, I finally found those issues tackled in a way that was also entertaining to watch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dog Day Afternoon: Case Study in Character Development

Billed as "the most bizarre bank siege ever," Dog Day Afternoon is a remarkably strange beast which comes rather close to living up to that claim.