Columbus ★★½

My 366th film of the year! 🎉🎉🎉

So much of the meditative potential here is soiled by the film’s oratory dialogue. Ideas, emotions, and histories stumble their way out of our characters mouths more often that they do onto the screen, and for this it feels as if Kogonada doesn’t trust his audience to possess the art for themselves. Beneath the weight of all his cinematic expertise, the film inside feels suffocated. Too mannered to breathe until the very end.

What suffers most here is the film’s central relationship. Jon Cho and Haley Lu Richardson constantly feel as if they’re in different films. Forgoing deep listening in favor of wrapping themselves up in the emotional beats and pauses they have to hit within the scene, it becomes apparent that they are constantly gearing up for what comes next. As one emotional purge followed another, I couldn’t help but think it all might’ve worked had the acting not felt so steeped in how the line should sound. The scene at 1:05 beneath the covered walkway was a perfect example of this for me.

My favorite stretch of this film comes within its last 25 minutes. It’s here that Kogonada not only breaks away from his Ozu influence, but fully indulges it as well. The elliptical freeing of Casey’s body and mind, followed by the quiet intimacy of a forbidden hallway opening the door to forbidden feelings comes across as an invention of Kogonada’s own voice. It’s a bright spot brilliantly followed by the way he embraces the empty spaces, teapots, things and people passing through, and furniture left indented by ghosts. It feels like due homage, unfettered by overt emotional appeal.

Two scenes I also loved during this stretch involve the reintroduction to the building meant for healing, and Jin looking out from where his father stood as Casey searches for him. The compositions are alike across respective counterparts, but the blocking is different. Life is repeating itself, finding circularity and completion even as it finds incongruity and reinvention. In these quiet and soul-bearing moments I felt everything this film had done so much to make me feel. Ultimately, I respect it, and I look forward to more of Kogonada’s work.

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