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Film Socialisme

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Jean-Marc Stehlé, Agatha Couture, Mathias Domahidy, Quentin Grosset, Olga Riazanova, Maurice Sarfati, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye

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Film Socialisme


Like nearly every film the French New Wave master has produced since the late ‘60s, Jean-Luc Godard’s latest opus, the ambitious and confounding Film Socialisme, was dismissed by critics and avoided by audiences when it finally hit American screens last summer. But it’s their loss: Film Socialisme is as radical a slice of cinema as any you’re liable to have seen all year, a revelation to savour. Is it difficult? Certainly, but as with all serious art, its rewards are well-worth the effort. Calum Marsh


 

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50/50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Philip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer, Anjelica Huston

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50/50


50/50 was a gamble from the start. A comedy about a guy getting cancer with Seth Rogen playing the best friend didn’t sound like much of a winner on the surface. But the movie is a fictionalized version of Will Reiser’s true story, written by Reiser himself. Who, at the time, happened to be a friend and co-worker of Seth Rogen. The part was literally written for Rogen, and naturally, he excels at playing himself, getting big laughs throughout the movie. But the heart of the film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, standing in for Reiser and playing the character with the perfect mix of humor, denial, and, eventually, acceptance. Healthy 27-year-olds aren’t supposed to get cancer, and Adam (Levitt) naturally has a difficult time dealing with it. 50/50 deftly toys with the audience’s expectations. On one hand, it plays out as a well-written romantic comedy (a rarity these days), with the always-welcome Anna Kendrick turning in another fine performance. But on the other hand, the film keeps the focus on Adam’s treatment and the emotional difficulties it causes for him and everyone around him. 50/50 is a film rarity, able to balance comedy and drama equally without losing the humor or the emotions of its situation. Chris Conaton


 

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Pina

Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: Pina Bausch, Malou Airaudo, Jorge Puerta Armenta, Andrey Berezin, Damiano Ottavio Bigi, Clementine Deluy, Josephine Ann Endicot, Lutz Foerster

(Sundance Selects; 2011)

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Pina


Breathing. When you watch bodies in Wim Wenders’ Pina, you hear and see them breathing. In a movie about dancers—about the work of dancers, their efforts to tell stories, to move audiences, to help them wonder—this is no small thing. As it remembers Pina Bausch, the choreographer, the movie also explores the relationship between bodies and movies, using 3D in new ways. At first, this relationship might seem simple: dancers from Pina’s Tanztheater Wuppertal appear, they gesture or step, they are framed, and shots are cut together to insinuate or follow movements. But soon Pina is doing something else: it’s breaking up and putting together the gestures and the steps, it’s gazing at faces, it’s not quite keep up. The first dance in the film, Rite of Spring, from 1975 and set to Igor Stravinsky, is startling. Men and women dance in groups, approaching and retreating from each other, enacting the rite of coming together and apart, of violence and attraction.


As they dance, as they move and breathe and sweat, the stage is transformed. As dirt is laid on the floor, bodies become dirty: sex as dance as is work, a process, an adaptation. The dancers continue to move and sweat and breathe, and now come new sounds, scratching and scraping and softening, they move in shafts of light, they recede into shadows. Their efforts are increasingly, insistently visible in the 3D, an illusion of density the film doesn’t press but allows to hover. Cynthia Fuchs


 

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Super 8

Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills

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Super 8


In a year full of film nostalgia, Super 8 does double-duty, recalling the Amblin movies of the ‘80s while also touching on the joy of making homemade low-budget movies (and the never-ending quest for “production values”). While the monster-movie aspect of Super 8 is its weakest facet, its ensemble of youngsters is as strong as you can find in this year or any other. They’re plucky without being typical “movie kids”, their feelings ring emotionally true for adolescents, and director J.J. Abrams really nails the way a group of kids all talk over each other. As much as Super 8 made me think about the movies from my 1980s upbringing, what it really made me nostalgic for is hanging out with a gang of awkward-but-creative pre-teens. Marisa LaScala


 

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Le Quattro Volte

Director: Michelangelo Frammartino
Cast: Giuseppe Fuda, Nazareno Timpano, Bruno Timpano, Artemio Vellone

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Le Quattro Volte


A unique celebration of the cycle of life, Michelangelo Frammartino’s second film, set in a remote Italian village, follows a sickly, elderly shepherd, a newborn lamb, a tree and a coal kiln, all of these ‘stories’ tangentially linked. Frammartino has a magical gift for long, unforced sequences: one of these, in which goats run loose through the village, symbolizing the death of their master, is one of the most memorable and delightful of any this year. Cleansing and evocative, despite the lack of dialogue; otherworldly, yet grounded by the realization that death is never far away, Le Quattro Volte is perhaps even more beguiling than The Tree of Life. Andrew Blackie


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