The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

Archive for the ‘New York Film Festival 2009’ Category

NYFF 2009: Ne change rien

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Ne change rien: Jeanne Balibar

No mere documentary, Portuguese director Pedro Costa’s enthralling Ne change rien is a cinematic offering laid at the feet of its bewitching singer-star, Jeanne Balibar. She’s glimpsed at music rehearsals, live club performances, and in studio sessions, meticulously honing vocal phrases and adjusting tempo with exactly the same attention to precision that Costa brings to his own rigorously arranged compositions. The lithe, luminous actress has a robust career in France, where she’s appeared in films by Jacques Rivette (Va savoir) and Arnaud Desplechin (My Sex Life…) as well as numerous theater productions. She also moonlights as a chanteuse (or perhaps it’s the other way around), fronting a crackerjack quartet whose whirring loops and effects-driven guitar textures create a coolly luxuriant cushion for her throaty songs of tortured love. An ardent cinephile, Costa has cited Godard’s One Plus One as an inspiration for his approach here, which eschews voiceover and interviews in favor of moody, atmospheric detail and abundant use of long takes. But he also applies the distinctive, low-light visual style he developed for In Vanda’s Room and Colossal Youth, a tack that aligns this sultry music doc as much with the mise-en-scène of classic cinema (Von Sternberg, Nick Ray) and T Magazine–style fashion portraiture as it does with Straub-Huillet (a salient touchstone for the auteurist director) or ultrahip band-in-the-studio genre artistry. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by eyemaster

October 18, 2009 at 9:18 pm

NYFF ’09: 36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup

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Jane Birkin, Sergio Castellitto: Jacques Rivette's 36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup

Reviewing Gang of Four for Cahiers du cinéma in 1989, the late philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote that Jacques Rivette’s project is “a cinema that opposes its theatricality to that of theater, its reality to that of the world, which has become unreal.” That’s as succinct a formulation of the great director’s body of work as we are likely to get, and one that applies just as well to his latest drama, a whimsical eulogy of sorts to the New Wave icon’s treasured theme of life-as-performance. Modestly scaled and terse by Rivettian standards at 84 minutes, 36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup is a playfully oblique, often melancholy study in love, mortality, and the mysteries of grief. Yet compressed within the bantam framework of the film—which concerns people inhabiting a world all their own, a family of clowns and aerialists—is a banquet of ideas about cinema and life, the truth of art and the sorrows of imagination.

Read the rest of my review at Reverse Shot.

NYFF ’09: Police, Adjective

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Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective

Less is more in the sophomore feature by Cannes Camera d’or winner Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest), a filmmaker attentive, like his fellow under-40 countrymen Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu, to the ironies of bureaucracy in post-totalitarian Romania. Police, Adjective is a slow-burning, intriguingly subtle tweak on the crime procedural. But the arc of this story, unlike most classic policiers, is almost bewilderingly straightforward: Cristi (Dragos Bucur), a young plainclothes cop in an unnamed provincial town, stakes out a high-schooler suspected of dealing hashish, yet is reluctant to haul him in on the testimony of a dubious informant. Despite its resemblance to a character-driven psychological suspense film, however bare-bones its approach—it’s no Zodiac, and doesn’t aspire to be—Police, Adjective is more a showcase for Porumboiu’s formal precision with urban anyspace and penchant for mordant, slice-of-life humor, its wry punchline ultimately hinging (as the title boldly hints) on the vagaries of language.

Read the rest of my review at Reverse Shot.