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Archive for November 30th, 2016

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 © 2016 by James Clark 

      Broken Flowers, the Jarmusch film from 2005, has introduced, quite startlingly for a project concerning crushing problematics, a figure who is not hopelessly lost. Carmen, the “animal communicator,” whom protagonist Don regards as having lost her once impressive (to him) rational acuity (as a lawyer), sends him on his way as understood to be a total waste of her time. What makes her so sure of this? The actions of Lone Man, in the film, The Limits of Control (2009), contribute to that understanding, though his career has much more in common with that of the contract killer, Ghost Dog, in the 1999 Jarmusch production of the same name.

Over the past several postings, I have highlighted recurrent pluses and minuses enacted in this filmmaker’s work (and recurrent performers), in witty and heartfelt scenarios, for the sake of awakening viewers to a dilemma like no other, and which would sustain the essential drama far beyond the theatre. Once again, as we get to the nub of The Limits of Control, these currents must be shown in action. But here, instead of concentrating almost entirely upon detailing patterns and personas amid socio-economic preoccupations in the service of reiterating that life on earth is not nearly as lively as it could be, we’ll also look to the cinematography, visual and sonic design and performance as marshalled as never before in a Jim Jarmusch film, in order to embrace the love and ruthlessness evinced by Carmen, and being given a go here by a flamenco troupe, an always-nude hooker and a killer devoted to tai chi. (A very significant shift in sensual delivery appears in the form of the camera work of the brilliant exponent of mood, Christopher Doyle—having lifted many viewers of major works by Wong Kar Wai—replacing here the tenure of Robby Muller, Jarmusch’s long-time stalwart on behalf of kookiness.) (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Brothers Grimm meet film noir and the silent cinema’s German Expressionism in a dazzling graphic novel and gender bender titled Snow White by Matt Phelan.  Show business, the Ziegfeld Follies, and the onset of the Great Depression  after the thriving Roaring Twenties are woven into a wholly irresistible updating of the most beautiful girl in the land and her seven protectors that begins in Manhattan’s Central Park in the winter of 1918, less than a year after the end of the First World War.   Though the ink and watercolor paintings are wildly diverse and comic book in style the palette mixes sepia tone with conventional black and white, much like the silent cinema of the period.  The sparing use of red impacts the book’s themes dramatically, and when full color appears late in the book its use is celebratory.

Snow White’s opening, which segues into a nearly book-long flashback recalls two of film noir’s most iconic works, Robert Siodmak’s 1946 The Killers  and Billy Wilder’s 1950 Sunset Boulevard, when the leading men are either dead or will be killed within minutes, and the remainder of the films document how they came to be doomed.  The NYPD crime scene tape cordons off the area around a glass coffin, and investigators attempt to pry vital information from a gang of seven who resemble the Dead End kids.  After asking what is going on, and who is the victim, one boy welling up with tears is only able to offer up three words: White as snow.   (more…)

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Joe Dante’s Matinee

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by J.D. Lafrance

“Going to the movies is sort of like going to church for me. When the lights went down I would be as likely to stay for a double feature as I would be to just go home.” – Joe Dante

Much like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994), Joe Dante’s film Matinee (1993) is not only a love letter to cinema, but also a celebration of watching movies – the collective experience of seeing a film in a darkened movie theater with others. However, Dante’s film is more than that. It is also a period piece that recalls the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought Russia and the United States to the brink of nuclear war. He filters this through a coming-of-age story as seen through the eyes of a boy who lives in close proximity to this volatile situation.

Dante is a life-long movie buff with many of his own films paying homage to 1950s science fiction and horror B-movies, but filtered through the prism of 1960s radicalism. In fact, he got his start working with these kinds of movies thanks to mogul Roger Corman and gradually worked his way up through the system until he was directing studio fare like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987). Matinee is arguably Dante’s most personal film to date, a passion project that he cultivated for years until Universal gave him the money to realize it. The film was given a wide release, but much like Ed Wood, it underperformed at the box office, appealing mostly to fellow cineastes.
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