Latest Blog Posts

by Bill Gibron

19 Sep 2012

They say humans aren’t inherently evil. They argue that people learn their malevolent behavior at the hands or influence of another, or through the systematic brainwashing of (or reaction to) the world around them. People can’t be born bad, yet we often argue that they can be blessed with talent, insight, or specialized physical ability. No, evil is left to the specious and supernatural, a place where wicked little children kill their rivals, bad seed style, and the maladjusted take to machetes and murder as a means of making sense of their darkest inner fantasies. There is barely room for the misguided, or in the case of some, the mean-spirited and manipulative.

The notion of bad, and the byplay between right and wrong come to the fore in the two films that arrive at number five on the Sight & Sound list of the Greatest Films of All Time. On the director’s side is Martin Scorsese’s mesmerizing Taxi Driver, the tale of a disillusioned loner who becomes a social vigilante by way of his affection for a teen prostitute. Within the overall collection comes F. W. Murnau’s amazing Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. There, a callous gal from the city twists a poor country farmer into plotting to kill his wife. His reaction to such a challenge changes his life forever. Oddly enough, in each case, the threat of violence (or the actual arrival of same) propel the characters forward. Equally intriguing is how faith in humanity is restored once the true villain is vanquished and morality makes a case for its continuing purpose.

by Bill Gibron

22 Aug 2012

They say that art imitates life. Sometimes, life itself is the art. Then there is that grey area known as cinema, a format founded on bring reality to the screen and capturing the world around us filtered through fiction, fireworks, and the vision of those behind the lens. No one would ever argue that all genres are the same, but you can link many of them through the medium being mentioned. Take the documentary. While it is almost always an accurate reflection on the world around us, creativity and craftsmanship are typically applied to render the ordinary anything but. On the opposite side of things (one assumes) is something like Vertigo by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. For the mighty Master of Suspense, the thriller format was nothing but a vessel, a means of channeling his obsessions and imagination into a viable construct that wavered from beautiful to the bizarre.

Yet few in the film critic community would argue a connection between the brilliant murder mystery (currently holding the number one spot and Sight & Sounds overall list) and the early Russian experiment Man with a Movie Camera. You can, however, see how one influenced the other, even if the authority is cursory and indirect. Hitchcock believed in the power of images, of mixing light and shadow, color and composition to provide subtext to his characters’ concerns. For him, the movie was in the making, not in the eventual outcome. Similarly, Man with a Movie Camera‘s Dziga Vertov wanted, way back at the dawn of the artform, to push the boundaries of what the medium could be. He wanted to experiment with visuals and editorial variables, to see if the lens could capture more than the regular everyday existence of his Russian comrades. For both, the end result was art imitating life, and visa versa.

by Bill Gibron

15 Aug 2012

Spirituality can be sourced through many things, religion being primary among them. It can also be found in remembering. From the time we are young until the day we die, we are constantly seeking answers to our purpose, plowing through both the lessons we’re taught in organized philosophies and the fleeting glimpses of a past overloaded with lives. We tend to trade off quite a bit, using gospels that apply while dispelling those which seem outdated. Similarly, we struggle through our own recollections, trying to tell ourselves that these were actually the best of/worst of times and we are lucky/cursed in having experienced them. Nothing truly transcends. There’s no moment of grace, no inspired insight which carries you through to the next hour, or the next breath.

For filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (perhaps best known for his sci-fi study Solaris), memory is fleeting. It is also meaningful and muddy. From the cloudy vignettes which seem to suggest an autobiography to the couplets crafted by a distant, disinterested father, his movie Mirror manages to be both elusive and endearingly emotional. It carries us across three distinct dimensions (pre, post, and long after the War) while reducing such earth shattering events to bystanders in the everyday moves of the Russian people. In The Passion of Joan of Arc, on the other hand, French icon Carl Theodor Dreyer takes the trial and execution of the title character and turns it into a testament of faith. We all know how Joan’s journey ends. How she gets there is as painful and heartbreaking as revisiting an existence marred by equally agonizing events.

by Bill Gibron

9 Aug 2012

The Second World War devastated Europe. All throughout the continent, the loss of lives and the upheaval of everyday life turned a once prosperous land into a series of sad struggles. The Axis powers, more specifically Germany and Italy, were left in literal ruins, forced into defeat by their leadership and misplaced sense of sovereign superiority. Out of this almost apocalyptic atmosphere came one of the most important innovations in the history of film: neo-realism. Begun in response to the lack of support from a spent Italian government, filmmaker vowed to make movies that approached their subjects with authenticity, truth, and above all, passion.

A few short years later, another approach would take over, attempting to bridge the gap between the documentary like aesthetic of neo-realism with the eccentricities of France’s New Wave. It wasn’t an attempt to return to the days of big budgets and even bigger cinematic dreams, but there was a sense that the everyman wasn’t necessarily interested in experiencing depressing stories about himself. Instead, the entire scope of the artform was open for reinterpretation and improvement, leading to an universal shift toward more serious, substantial subjects. By the time of the American’s contemplative post-modern phase, both conceits were absorbed into the medium, making their impact felt from arthouses all the way to the mainstream.A

by Bill Gibron

6 Jun 2012

Prior to its release, extraterrestrials were viewed in a calm if complicated light. Unless they were part of some schlocky ‘50s/‘60s sci-fi romp, they were revered as ancient astronauts, early explorers of Earth, and anything else Erich von Däniken and his ilk could come up with. Even Me Decade “It” boy Steven Spielberg added his own talented two cents into the mix with his epic “what if” Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Yet bubbling under the surface of our look to the skies obsession was the desire to go back to the dark. Invaders might be just that, went the concept, laying the groundwork for high tech retellings of those man in suit drive-in monster movies.

When it was announced, it seemed that the simply named Alien had little going for it. The director, a guy called Ridley Scott, was a cinematic novice. He and his brother Tony had started a production company back a decade before, but had mostly dabbled in commercials and a little seen first feature—The Duellist. The script was by Dan O’Bannon (with some un-credited help by David Giler and Walter Hill) and revolved around a basic haunted house in space dynamic. H.R. Giger, an artist best known for his controversial bio-sexual horror designs (and the cover of an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer album) was brought on to visual the title creature. Early teasers suggested something mysterious, if not exactly menacing.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article