Column and review: SUSCEPTIBLE by Geneviève Castrée

My latest “Worlds in Panels” at PopMatters is a review of Geneviève Castrée’s Susceptible (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013). I draw on Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust (Penguin, 2001) to frame my discussion of the comic.

Solnit notes that seeing remembering as a form of walking through space is related to how we often see our lives: “If life itself, the passage of time allotted to us, is described as a journey, it’s most often imagined as a journey on foot, a pilgrim’s progress across the landscape of personal history” (page 73). Susceptible opens with a visualization of this metaphor.

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Band of Outsiders (Bande à part) review at PopMatters

Last week, my review of The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Edition of Band of Outsiders (1964) posted:

Clearly for these French youth, and for Godard, America, and not so much Paris, was the romantic place, or at least America as imagined through its stories and heroic archetypes. In addition to the cultural fixations of its characters, whenever the movie wants to convey a sense of whimsy or coolness, Michel Legrande’s jazzy musical soundtrack erupts to accompany the action. And yet, the way that Arthur and Franz’s Hollywood plot plays out, the emptiness of their fantasies, suggests that there are severe limits to utopian ideals about distant, and all too real, places.

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Review: OBJECTIFIED on Blu-ray

My first Blu-ray review of 2013 for PopMatters posted today. I look at the design documentary, Objectified.

In her review of the film for PopMatters, Cynthia Fuchs characterizes Objectified as “illustrative rather than provocative” (24 November 2009). Another way to think about the film is as a general primer on the design of everyday objects. In serving that function, the movie is likely to prompt reactions such as, “That’s interesting”, or, “I hadn’t thought of that”, but doesn’t examine any aspect of its topic critically or deeply enough to engage in much beyond the raising of key questions on topics such as sustainability or consumerism.

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Blu-ray review: HARD CORE LOGO

At the end of last week, my review of the new “All Access Edition” of Hard Core Logo (1996), which includes Hard Core Logo 2 (2010), posted at PopMatters.

Hard Core Logo contains a surprise, a moment of shock, that strikes me, both as an individual critic and as someone who teaches the film, as important to any initial viewing. I think that this moment has value not because of plot reasons, akin to learning that Verbal Kent is Keyser Soze, but because it’s a moment about character, one that will influence how you understand the nature and motivations of, particularly, main character, Joe Dick (Hugh Dillon) (Bruce McDonald’s film is, in any case, essentially plotless).

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Blu-ray review: THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO

On Friday, my review of The Last Days of Disco (1998) on Criterion Blu-ray posted to PopMatters:

While Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco, and his other ‘90s films, Metropolitan (1990) and Barcelona (1994), would seem on the surface to be yet another work about privileged people masquerading as universal drama, Stillman’s films are better seen as rare cases of works that actually explore the lives of white, middle class individuals in their particularities and not as universal avatars.

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Re-appreciating Wes Anderson

I have been taking note of early reviews for Moonrise Kingdom because until it opened at Cannes, I had not known that Wes Anderson had a new film coming out. Elbert Ventura’s Reverse Shot review makes a couple of points about Anderson that resonate with me.

Just the release of the Moonrise Kingdom trailer set off impassioned reactions from both sides. In the context of such contentiousness, the movie itself almost feels like a rejoinder to critics—an artist doubling down on the very thing that drives the haters batty. But in the clear light of day, Moonrise Kingdom reveals something else: an artist who could care less about what we think—and who couldn’t do anything about it even if he did.

It is, particularly, the “couldn’t do anything about it even if he did”, that struck me as a new way of seeing Anderson and his body of work. I certainly am not a “hater”, but I had gone from unreservedly looking forward to his films to hoping that maybe he would show me something different, at least in a significant way. I think that The Darjeeling Limited (2007) is a more “mature”, for lack of a better word, version of what Anderson does, and thought, and still think, that is worth acknowledging.

Ventura comes back to this point at the conclusion of the review:

Moonrise Kingdom is the work of an artist who either is oblivious or doesn’t care about his polarizing status. The demand, from even some supporters, was to grow up. Instead, he followed up a stop-motion animation film—the terrific Fantastic Mr. Fox—with a deeply felt tribute to adolescence. (Little did we know that the less successful Life Aquatic and Darjeeling were his stabs at growing up.) Moonrise Kingdom is familiar, there is no question, but Anderson comes by his repetitions honestly—he might not know any other way to make movies. But there is no calculation here; style has not calcified into shtick. This is who he is, and who he’s always been.

As already confessed, I am, or was, in the “grow up” camp, but was also entirely charmed by Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), so much so that I had not given a thought to Anderson returning to any other kind of film until now. Ventura’s final lines, defending Anderson’s work as the reflection of a sincere and deeply rooted aesthetic and set of themes, has refreshed my perspective, and I am looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom in a way that I would not be but for this review.

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Blu-ray review: LA JETEE/SANS SOLEIL

My review of the Criterion Blu-ray edition of La Jetee/Sans Soleil is up at PopMatters. In addition to addressing the films and the disc, I also offer pointers to further reading and criticism on Chris Marker.

A case can be made for going into La Jetée and, especially, Sans Soleil, “cold”; that is with almost no idea of what one is about to watch. Of course, if you have been reading this, that option is foreclosed. In either case, these are films designed to provoke the viewer into thinking about their subjects and themes and to asking questions about what they have watched—What do the images, and their juxtaposition, mean? Who are we listening to when we listen to the narrators?—and here is where many viewers will want to engage in debate and conversation and to seek more explication than a conventional review can provide.

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