• Universal Soldier: Regeneration

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration

    Hyams may be the only Carpenter student to really learn his rhythm: he doesn't stop at 2.35: 1 & synth fetishism and instead works towards a similar dynamic of compositional tension and steadicam movement. His innovation here is a complimentary matching of this form with his physical players. Chaining the momentum of a steadicam track to Andrei Arlovski, he gives formal expression of the man's strength and danger, as well as of his depersonalized, instrumentalized headspace: evocations of The Shape aren't…

  • Alone

    Alone

    Nice to be reminded one needn’t settle for Collet-Serra. At its most rote it’s basically theater with its survival/trauma plot, but the pleasures come from watching a skilled formalist ply their trade. Creative use of rack focus, digital light (those flashlight beams), the always pleasing tracking shots through trees, and a generally intelligent sense for the 2.35: 1 frame. The opening act makes great use of the loneliness of backroads and the tunnels of headlights at night. And, to top it off, it concludes with a hyper-physical Hyams fight sequence. Good, sturdy genre cinema.

  • Sudden Impact

    Sudden Impact

    Eastwood returns to the exploitation roots that sit incongruously at the start of his career. It’s his most intensely poetical film, an expressionistic dance between anima and animus, night and day, drama and comedy, the Pacific Ocean and the Californian coast -- I think Kehr was onto something with his suggestion of a Jungian interpretation, albeit not strictly. For the first half he intercuts the graceful, Siegel-derived style of his early work with a disciplined rummaging of Hitchcock (Lalo Schifrin…

  • Jersey Boys

    Jersey Boys

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t know where I am. I think, What the hell happened? What’s gonna happen? Everybody leaves. Why does everybody leave?

    Frankly, after sitting with it a while, I’m taken aback by how haunting, haunted, this film is. You wouldn’t expect it but it’s much more bitter than The Mule, which offers at least some idea of closure, albeit hard won and at great length. Jersey Boys covers enough familiar Eastwood…

  • Turtle Vision

    Turtle Vision

    "Somehow, your videos make me feel like I'm really doing the peeping myself. I feel something from your films. I don't really know what it is, but you are the best cameraman."

    "It's something like an 'image-video,' but it directly influences the human subconsciousness. It opens what we could refer to as the hidden door deep within the heart."

    the essence of Satō's cinema in two quotes. trauma formalized in video fog, the apparatus of cinema conflated with the body, our complexes and eroticism become cybernetic.

  • High Plains Drifter

    High Plains Drifter

    Thinking in images, like Leone. A chilling one, early on: Clint Eastwood, emerging into daylight after having just raped a woman, paralleled with the inhuman steadiness of a tracking shot, seen in profile; in the shadows, he’s a black silhouette against the bright town: an “angel of death,” in Unforgiven terms. Already, here and in Play Misty for Me, his cinema is draped in shadows, even under California climes, shadows that seem to crack through his iconic and ungiving face, or emanate from behind it, isolating it like a death’s head. We’ve seen that image and we’ve seen this film several times now, reconsidered and revised.

  • Five Element Ninjas

    Five Element Ninjas

    The questioning of the martial world is so baked in by this point that it barely warrants a couple of asides. Heroes are devoid of any purpose in life other than to complete a cycle of vengeance, and self-knowledge is limited to pausing on the moment of killing to assure oneself of one's righteousness. Violence takes precedence. Without the emotional grounding of, say, Lau Kar-leung, Chor Yuen, or hell, earlier Chang Cheh, the usual "get wrecked - practice - rematch"…

  • The Wrong Man

    The Wrong Man

    "the teeth are ahead of the jaws"

    The first hour or so is brutal and some of the finest material of Hitchcock's career. He interlaces the subjectivity of Fonda and others with a colder, more objective perspective, so it never verges into a Kafka abstraction. The dry procedural is understood more by the audience than by Fonda, and it's Fonda's subjectivity that functions as critique: we see the apparatus of law, and how it's seen by one of its subjects,…

  • The Witch's Curse

    The Witch's Curse

    These "so and so goes to hell" films ride as much on the contrast between their normal above world and the brimstone one bellow as on any surreality encountered therein. This works nicely here as the genre-bending is particularly odd. The opening mixes social horror and melodrama, before Maciste inexplicably shows up and shifts this into subterranean peplum -- I'm sure the figure of Maciste is at least partially more intelligible to those who caught earlier entries in the series,…

  • Face/Off

    Face/Off

    Watched like 40+ minutes as I waited for a basketball game.

    The farthest Woo ever went with his union of opposites theme, largely because of the thread of performativity that complicates the usual binary. All kinds of strange tensions: the star persona as schizo creation (Cage, in one of his best performances, playing a man embodying his persona: he has to perform the tortured rediscovery of himself), the contextual nature of personal virtues (Cage and Travolta mutually improving aspects of…

  • To Catch a Thief

    To Catch a Thief

    Come for a gorgeous travelogue assembled by the preeminent formalist of that era, stay for the loving evocation of Louis Feuillade. Reminds me lightly of Donovan's Reef, only in that in both the soufflé of Hollywood entertainment only barely masks a very recent and horrific past, that quietly informs the relations and actions of the players. No bad vibes in this one though, it stays a game, playfully suggesting luxury's origin in immorality but never tipping fully into gravity. All loose ends are retied in the charisma of star and director.

  • Too Old to Die Young

    Too Old to Die Young

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Refn channeling the collapse of America through his pet obsessions, namely sadomasochistic violence, the Oedipal complex, and the anti-redemption of Western man. It’s distinguished by the overwhelmingly sexual solipsism of its viewpoint, the audacity to look at America’s perversity and try to align it with its own. This is modern exploitation, or, as much as a work funded by Amazon could be, and by that I mean Refn, for all of his contemporary flashpoint performativity, is the genuine article in…