Archive for December 19th, 2012

by Ed Howard

The General is one of the purest delights that the cinema has to offer. Its construction, and its appeal, is utterly simple, and yet there’s a visual poetry to it that goes far beyond its minimalist surface. Buster Keaton’s most famous feature, co-directed with Clyde Bruckman, is quite possibly also his best, and certainly the most direct, undiluted example of his kinetic, visceral comedic action. The film has not a shred of fat on it, not a wasted moment. There’s none of the sometimes meandering set-up that kicks off some of Keaton’s lesser features, no need here for extended exposition or narrative. It’s just one great scene, one great pantomime gag, after another.

Keaton plays Johnny Gray, a train engineer on a Southern rail line during the Civil War. When the war starts, he tries to enlist and is rejected because his civilian job is too important, but his girlfriend Annabelle (Marion Mack) and her family just thinks he’s a coward, so the serious young man — who, a title card informs us, loves only his train and his girl, probably in that order — is eager to prove his bravery and his masculinity. With that out of the way, the film then hurtles forward into the two extended railroad chase sequences that together comprise virtually the entirety of its running time. The film is neatly halved: in the first half, Keaton pursues a group of Union train thieves across Union lines, and in the second half he steals back his train and is chased by the Union army back across Confederate lines, in a race to warn the South before a sneak attack is sprung. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

a.k.a. In Another Country

director Hong Sang-soo

(South Korea, 89 min)

Hong Sang-soo is another of those korean directors that are always being talked about in certain circuits of film fanatics, critics and scholars, sometimes with more praise and analysis than any of those I mentioned in last week’s article about the south korean film Pieta, directed by Kim Ki-Duk. He seems to be regarded as a director who has a distinct sensibility and set of themes that he puts forward in every one of his films, and he also seems to be pretty regular and prolific in that sense too, putting at least one movie a year for the past 5 years, and more or less a movie every 2 years since 1996 with his debut ‘The Day a Pig Fell into the Well’ (1996). As important as the director is in this concept for a film, and its (sometimes innecesary) intricate storytelling, the most important and noticeable thing about this film is its main character: the talented and famous french actress Isabelle Huppert. It’s amazing to see how her career has advanced and expanded as years have gone by, specially in these recent years, as we see many of the most important directors of the world look for her to star in their movies, and so she has only gone up and above any expectation, with over a 100 movies in her repertoire, and with only 62 years of age (you wish you looked like her when you were 62 sistah). Just in 2012 she starred in the italian film ‘Bella addormentata’ (2012) directed by Marco Bellocchio, the portuguese production ‘Linhas de Wellington’ (2012) directed by Raúl Ruiz’s widow Valeria Sarmiento (since he died when it was in pre-production, she was suggested to continue it), the pinoy film ‘Captive’ (2012) directed by the famous Brillante Mendoza, the french film ‘Amour’ (2012) directed by the german director Michael Haneke (where she plays a brilliant supporting performance), and in this south korean film… and here we’re talking just about this year, if we go back in time we see many collaborations with directors like Raúl Ruiz, Michael Haneke, Claire Denis, Ursula Meier, David O. Russell, François Ozon and even in an episode of ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ of all series that she could’ve starred in. (more…)

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