Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Favorite (four), part thirty

Just like in my other twenty-nine posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent
My first experience with the cinema of the highly acclaimed Bonello proves a fabulous new addition to trance cinema (Garrel's Regular Lovers, Dead Man, McCabe & Mrs. Miller), films that use time and the camera so effectively they lure the viewer into a near exalted hypnotic state. Bonello has a great eye and a painter's feel for texture and framing. But what most impressed me here was Bonello's completely irreverent approach to the biopic. He never feels the need to follow any of the more conventional rules for chronology or to finish any scenes or "sentences" he begins. He simply glides us through the film and we feel all the more excited because of it.

Alex Garland's Ex Machina
Garland makes a grand entrance with his directorial debut proving a keen creator of mood, a stylist of noticeable control and restraint, a more than competent hand with actors and a director with an eye that in its best moments conjures up memories of Welles, Tarkovsky, and Kubrick. The film I would have wanted Her to be and about as interesting an exploration yet of where our increasing reliance on technology might be leading us.

Oliver Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria
A surprisingly wise and complex film, both thematically and emotionally. As has happened a time or two before with other filmmakers, Assayas impresses so much I am left reconsidering his other work and that he might be a greater filmmaker than I originally suspected. The film is vital, of the present, and like Dreyer's Gertrud, masterful in its exploration of aging. Both Binoche and Stewart are perfectly cast and each turns in as great a performance as at any point yet in their respective careers.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike
Perhaps the Belgians' most emotionally affecting and brutal film yet. Less formal than some of its predecessors and that lack of artistic trapping significantly enhances the feelings at stake. Cyril is up there with one of the strongest characters the Dardennes have created and the performance by Thomas Doret as fully felt as any actor in any of their films. I think there are a couple of moments where they fail to fully avoid cliche and the Bressonian music felt completely unnecessary and heavy-handed. But those are small gripes for what is yet another extraordinary work by the Dardennes.