Synopsis: Two soldiers are assigned the task of hand-delivering a message to prevent a deadly attack. Trailer.
dir. Sam Mendes. 119m; 2.39:1.
Here’s the thing about unbroken takes. They’re incredibly difficult to create. The only thing harder to do in cinema, requiring more planning and careful execution than an unbroken take is… a longer unbroken take. Mendes’ 1917, like Birdman (teaser), is composed of a few unbroken takes, stitched together at key moments (usually a frame of pure black, a la going in and out of the tunnels) to appear like a seamless move. Mostly, however, scenes run for dozens of minutes at a time where there is absolutely no opportunity to break.
Mendes and superstar DP Roger Deakins have etched into the medium’s legacy something that will stand as a pinnacle for a long, long time. A move like this is simply too difficult, too complex, and in need of too much skill for people to try and replicate. Popular films start trends; this one won't. It’s just too hard to do.
Look at the scale of this thing.
An airplane crash, a fire, crowds, explosions, stunts, with every moment blocked and rehearsed, every aperture change and focus pull, the camera switching mounts as it glides over rivers and out windows, into basements and over rubble. Birdman had the advantage of a controlled indoor environment. This is something else entirely.
It’s the breathtaking magic of truth. The immersiveness, the jaw-dropping you-are-thereness, of being able to truly believe what you are seeing on so many more levels than normal… this is one of a kind, and though it isn’t the best picture of the year, it is entirely and absolutely worthy of winning Best Picture of the year this Sunday, as it probably will. A milestone.
Further thoughts on Birdman and unbroken takes here.
Synopsis: An unemployed family infiltrates a wealthy one, and things get complicated. Trailer.
dir. Bong Joon-ho. 132m; 2.39:1.
Parasite is more commercially digestible, and if it gets viewers on board with arthouse and international films, all the better. His direction is precise, with razor sharp editing, deftly executed delineation and reveals of information, and highly controlled camerwork with distinctive movement choices for each class level. Like so many of the pictures I'm reviewing this year, it's a touch violent for me, but spectacularly well made.
3. A vida invisível de Eurídice Gusmão (The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão)
Synopsis: Two sisters live their lives after being separated by the men in their lives, each unaware the other is nearby, and struggling. Trailer.
dir. Karim Aïnouz. 139m, 2.39:1.
In her landmark 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” art historian Linda Nochlin reminds us that saying 'you can tell this was made by a woman’ is a fool’s exercise. She writes that
“in general, women's experience and situation in society, and hence as artists, is different from men's, and certainly an art produced by a group of consciously united and purposely articulate women… might indeed be stylistically identifiable as feminist, if not feminine, art. This remains within the realm of possibility; so far, it has not occurred” (emphasis mine).
She continues: "No subtle essence of femininity would seem to link the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, Mme. Vigee-Lebrun, Angelica Kauffmann, Rosa Bonheur, Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Kaethe Kollwitz, Barbara Hepworth, Georgia O'Keeffe…” The list goes on, including Sand, Woolf, Plath, Eliot, Sontag, Dickinson and more, before concluding that
“In every instance, women artists and writers would seem to be closer to other artists and writers of their own period and outlook than they are to each other. It may be asserted that women artists are more inward-looking, more delicate and nuanced in their treatment of their medium. But which of the women artists cited above is more inward-turning than Redon, more subtle and nuanced in the handling of pigment than Corot at his best? Is Fragonard more or less feminine than Mme. Vigee- Lebrun? Is it not more a question of the whole rococo style of eighteenth-century France being "feminine," if judged in terms of a two-valued scale of "masculinity" versus "femininity"? …In any case, the mere choice of a certain realm of subject matter, or the restriction to certain subjects, is not to be equated with a style, much less with some sort of quintessentially feminine style.”