In between A City of Sadness, one of the definitive films on Taiwan’s political past, and The Assassin, the wuxia film that just took home the Best Director prize at Cannes 2015, Hou Hsiao-Hsien came out with Three Times, a meditation on love and change featuring a radical cinematic conceit: the same two actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen, play the main characters across three narrative segments set at three different points in history. This flight of fancy seems out of place in a film otherwise grounded in mundane environments, but under Hou’s sure hand, this bold impossibility grows into a key aspect of Hou’s exploration of very real realities – for one, the way “love,” both as a word and as a social practice, has changed over the years; for another, the way Taiwan has shifted as a cultural and political entity throughout the past century. Continue reading
Abundant spoilers ahead. In addition to giving away everything that happens in ‘Gone Girl,’ I reference the climax to Takashi Miike’s ‘Audition’ in the caption for one of the pictures.
Driving along an open road with her window rolled down and a pair of shades over her eyes, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) is far from dead. In fact, she is so vitally present that the film grants her her own voiceover narration, putting her on the same level of narrative authority as her alleged murderer and husband Nick (Ben Affleck), our previous point of identification. This reveal, which occurs suddenly around halfway through David Fincher’s Gone Girl, is jarring. It rivals the perspective-hopping seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and, more recently, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects. But whereas the latter two films use the plot gimmick more or less exclusively to generate suspense through the violation of viewer expectations, Gone Girl also has social concerns in mind. Continue reading
Spoilers galore. Don’t continue if you haven’t seen Certified Copy, though you really should watch it regardless of whether or not you decide to read my essay.
The film begins simply enough. A British writer, on tour in Tuscany to discuss his new book, meets up with a Frenchwoman to roam through the city’s rustic locales. She is apparently his fan, judging by the six copies of his book which she’s bought and which he autographs at her request. They exchange polite conversation, and though we sense tension between them, we think little of it. He’s a professional big-name, after all, and she an art groupie of sorts – we expect him to be a little aloof and her a little flustered. Continue reading
**Note: This essay contains spoilers, both for Blow Out and Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. I suggest you watch both before continuing. Don’t worry: they’re both enjoyable, and Adaptation is flat-out amazing.
Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is no ordinary thriller. It’s a film whose 108-minute runtime ends with the successful production of not one but three movies: diegetic footage of a plot-level political assassination, manually assembled from two different sources by hero and soundman Jack Terry (John Travolta); a film-within-a-film exploitation picture that Jack is working on at the start and end of Blow Out; and, of course, Blow Out itself. Tracing the ways in which these various movies contrast and complement one another over the course of the frame movie reveals Blow Out to be, firstly, an assertion of his status as an auteur and, secondly, an interrogation of the tropes that govern the conventional suspense thriller. Continue reading
*Spoiler warning: this essay goes in-depth into the plot of Paris, Texas and briefly discusses the meaning of Rosebud from Citizen Kane (for those of you who haven’t seen Orson Welles’ masterpiece)*
Despite its odd name, Paris, Texas is a real place. A quick Wikipedia search locates the town just “98 miles northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in Lamar County,” but in the eponymously titled film from Wim Wenders, this stateside Paris exists as an abstraction. It’s never seen and is referenced only a couple of times. It’s a place especially significant to Travis, our mysterious hero whom we see trekking through the Mojavi Desert at the start of the movie, near-empty water gallon in hand and a tattered suit draped over his scrawny frame. Continue reading