Friday, April 30, 2010
Throughout film history, many of society's social problems have been tackled by filmmakers, whether it be through protest, propaganda or more nuanced approaches. Writing about the last decade in film, I have noted when certain films have directly commented on the important historical and political moments of the aughts. Unexpectedly, it was a 50-year old trilogy of Japanese films just under 10 hours in length that I believe effectively touched upon what has defined American society in our new century. What does a movie like this have to say about the way we live now? Perhaps, we have become a society where the shouting voices have overwhelmed the reasonable ones and strict ideological stances have failed us time and time again.
"The Human Condition", directed and co-written by Masaki Kobayashi and starring the great Tatsuya Nakadai, was a film I had only heard about when it was being resurrected for repertory theater runs about a year and a half ago. Since it was a long and challenging film, it was often difficult to find many filmgoers willing to make the commitment. For that reason, I could not see it myself until the Criterion Collection, after another one of their exhaustive restoration projects, released the entire film on DVD, allowing me to probably absorb it better at home than I would have sitting in a theater for an all-day marathon showing.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Noah Baumbach's last three films have tended to stir up the same debate: How much is any audience member willing to spend with characters who have very obvious unlikeable qualities? I admit myself that I find his films often to be a tough sit, though all of them have normal to short running times. I am generally relieved when his films come to an end, though not necessarily in a bad way. It is clear that Baumbach has been working through some serious personal issues in this film and does not care to sugarcoat his characters' personal flaws by having them beg for your approval. This brings up an issue that has become more prevalent in the discussion of current films than it was, say, during the 1970's, which "Greenberg", in its cinematography and pacing, recall. How important is it to like the protagonists in our films?
The reason I say it is more of an issue now is that movies today are often populated by characters who are designed with certain obvious positive qualities such as being heroic, having a sense of humor, being completely selfless and sensitive to feelings from the opposite sex. These are done for mostly commercial reasons, as they operate under the notion that "likable" characters will make them more palatable to mainstream audiences. Who wants to spend two hours of your time with a character that you do not want to be around in real life? Compare this to the flawed anti-heroes that populated American films more frequently many years ago.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
We now reach the midpoint of my series about the the 00's in film, focusing on the years 2004 and 2005. You can read the first two parts here and here. I am aware this is taking awhile, but let's face it. There will not be a whole lot of new movies coming out in the next six months that I actually want to see or talk about. (With the exception of a couple of films, the upcoming summer movie season has provoked nothing but my complete indifference.) So this blog may focus on the past for awhile and become primarily about older movies I have seen the first time or have recently revisited. That said, the final two parts of this series should be coming a little faster and this should conclude next month.
With this series, beyond discussing my favorite films, I am covering the significant changes concerning the various aspects of movies in the '00's. While the first part focused mostly on where the world of film was following a decade of generally superior quality and the emergence of many important directors and the second part focused on the deterioration of good manners from movie theater audiences, this part will focus on the significant changes in technology that has changed the art and craft of filmmaking. This will obviously be a little more tech-heavy, but, seeing how involved I am with the technology on the editing side, I consider this rather important in how it changed movies not only in the last decade, but for the long-term.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
When I asked myself recently whether there had been any exciting new directors that started their career in the first decade of this century, I mostly drew a blank. Sure, there were some filmmakers who exhibited some interesting ideas in their first films, but have had trouble getting a follow-up film together particularly in this unforgiving economic climate or have simply whiffed at bat in their subsequent films. What has been rare is to see a filmmaker take chances with every new film, exploring different subject matter with a certain level of ambition or demonstrating a willingness to expand their style much from their debut films. To me, the sign of a great director has to do with how much further they explore with each new film rather than finding an identity and then repeating themselves throughout their career.
That is why I consider Bong Joon-Ho the most significant director to have started his feature film career in the aughts. Each of his feature films seem like mere genre pieces on the surface, but then you see a true humanist approach to his characters, who often feel like real people living in absurd worlds. His feature films range from a social satire to a police procedural to a monster movie to a morality tale involving crime and family. Even those descriptions do not actually do justice to what each of these films accomplish, as they often veer so wildly in tone (not just from scene to scene, but sometimes within scenes) that you begin to realize that Bong may not just be subverting genre, but may actually be creating a cinematic universe where classifying stories as thriller, drama, science fiction or comedy may be irrelevant.