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Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

 © 2018 by James Clark

      Playwright, and now auteur, Martin McDonagh, brings to the screen—in his film Three Billboards (2017)—a close encounter with obsession we’ve all seen; but not like this. Fashion and industrial designer, and now auteur, Tom Ford, recently (in 2016) constructed a fascinating study of obsessive revenge, titled, Nocturnal Animals, wherein a writer plots revenge upon his former wife by way of disclosing to her the script of a protagonist who was unable to protect his wife and adolescent daughter from being viciously raped and murdered. The latter filmic locomotiveknows of only the single gratification of destroying an attacker at great heights of physically painful violence.

McDonagh’s vehicle,it seems to me, regarding the aftermath of a vicious rape, murder and immolation of an adolescent girl, does not so much give an accounting of baptism for the sake of decisively taking a stand in a malignant world. Instead, the disclosure upstages apparently sterling personality by way of a weave of sensibility intrinsically on the order of a roller coaster.

A striking and fertile instance of the phenomenon in question pertains to the British lady enclosed in small-town Missouri in the capacity of the wife of the Chief of Police who is facing incurable cancer. We first see her, her two young daughters and her husband maintaining remarkable joie de vivre while pierced with imminent catastrophe. This unmistakably secular group makes its way to a forest and stream attraction, the children eager to cast their lines in that idiom so complementary to a rural home. The happily situated father, Billy Willoughby, orders the little ones—with gentle, jocular gruffness—not to stray from the picnic blanket where they were to ply the stream at its bank. Meanwhile, Billy and the missus depart for a round of coitus in the deep woods. Back home, the lady of the house warmly congratulates the lawman for his “great fuck.” She chafes a bit, burdened with what he calls her “Chardonnay headache” and his having to tend to a couple of saddle ponies in the barn, but the moment of not liking the rural South is readily stanched. Bill goes to the lovingly maintained barn, places a bag over his head—on which we read, “Don’t Remove the Cover”—and he shoots his head with a hand gun. The next step is the three girls comforting each other on the bed. The following morning the brave and dutiful mom visits a souvenir shop and confronts the clerk on duty, namely, Mildred Hayes, a taciturn, anxious middle-aged lady with a youthfully erect presence. The visit is far more angry than unhappy, a situation giving us a start. She hands over a sealed envelope addressed by Billy to Mildred. She cannot resist berating Mildred for her campaign of ridicule and fury regarding—a year after her daughter’s horrific murder—the local police (and particularly Billy) failing to apprehend the culprit or culprits. Billy’s widow, with virtually the whole town backing her, adopts a murderous hatred that Mildred had so unfairly ambushed the harmonics of her family’s remarkableness. (more…)

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© 2018 by James Clark

      Seeing Ruben Ostlund’s film, Force Majeure (2014), where a husband and father runs away from his family when faced with an avalanche about to hit (which in fact doesn’t), we were clearly in the hands of an artist who had much to say about the indispensability of courage. His recent film, The Square (2017), finds him elaborating upon the earlier film’s domestic crisis coming to bear when being safely on the sidelines (like Ostlund’s Sweden in being “neutral” in face of a violent Germany amidst World War II) sows a deadly nightmare.

Let me inject some local color perhaps necessary when the locale is a backwater clouded in a distant and precious past. (Force Majeure, on the other hand, takes place in the well-known cosmopolitan French Alpine playground.) For the purpose of being on the same (target) page as Ostlund, we must know that the Swedish populace has for centuries been rigidly homogeneous as to race and culture, and overseen by the Evangelical Lutheran Church and its ardent and benevolent social priorities as to the vulnerable and incompetent. In the years immediately after World War II, the owner/ manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team (and a military zealot), namely, Conn Smythe, molded the team’s culture as opposed to appeasement, a priority one of his more virulent successors, Harold Ballard, honed into hatred of Swedish players, assumed to be cowards. One of my school chums, Don Baizley, was to go on to work as a lawyer/ hockey agent, with a special mission to introduce Swedish skills to the National Hockey League. I think. on the basis of The Square, there is little doubt that Ostlund follows Smythe and Ballard’s, not Baizley’s point of view. However, this film’s imbroglio is far more a search into difficult skills few have ever mustered, than simply kicking ass. (more…)

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 © 2017 by James Clark

      You have to be careful about tricking out one’s film with factors from other artists. The recent Blade Runner 2049 (2017), offers us a cornucopia of blue-chip endeavors, all of which putting Villeneuve’s spectacular and shallow film to shame.

First of all, there is the first Blade Runner (1982), overseen by an expert, Ridley Scott, regarding the monstrous problematics of interpersonal integrity. Like the current film, Scott’s Blade Runner has been seen as a science fiction entertainment, which is to say, a saga saturated with a baseline of classical scientific possibility. As to this very specific binary business of widespread 21st century navigating, one aspect especially should not be missed, namely, that the protagonist of the Scott film, namely, Deckard, first comes to view to us as quite happily retired from the LAPD where he was regarded as the foremost hunter of wayward slave robots. As we first see him enjoying the Oriental fare of a seriously decrepit Los Angeles sidewalk comfort bar, and being much food for thought as a rather vivacious player within a world of squalor and dazzle we’ve never encountered (this being 2019, not 1982), we know immediately that he’s having no trouble being stimulated by the world, and is steadfastly not being fixated upon “the good old days.” Only the threat of a trumped-up arrest from his former superior restores him to displaying the (now seen more than ever to be time-wasting) expertise in bloodily “retiring” bio-engineered maverick quasi-humans, known as “replicants,” designed for dangerous and super-human work. Thereby, we have a speculative back-story of a free-spirit coming to grips (however boozily) with matters transcending police work, including office politics and moonlighting. In marked (and careless) contrast to Deckard, the born skeptic, we have in the current film a docile, if lethal, replicant/ LAPD detective putting down (30 years after Deckard’s controversial going AWOL) remnants of a long-surpassed replicant issue with traces of that rebelliousness unwelcome to a rather dizzy police state. That the latter protagonist, namely, K [an abbreviation of his serial number], comes to a level of skepticism himself in the course of his employment would be a very different instrumentality from that overseen by Scott. (more…)

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© 2017 by James Clark

      Among the many and rare skills of filmmaker, Kelly Reichardt, I think the one that most defines her work is the remarkable attentiveness to mood. From time to time we all experience how difficult it is to read the real angle coming to us by figures we have a close and clear bead upon. Often a full disclosure can only be attained by discerning a panoply of incidents (overt and covert), perhaps tracing back to a distant past.

Possessed of very high-powered disclosure in that strategic area, she has memorably deployed those resources in order to, in the film, Old Joy (2006), produce sophisticated havoc upon conventional, politically correct assumptions about the sacred cows of our orbit, for the sake of initiating the neglected, very difficult and crucial task of sensuous coherence.

Old Joy directly purports to cover a reunion of Kurt, an itinerant, getting in touch with a former friend, Mark, living, as always, in Portland, Oregon, and now married to pregnant, Tanya, in their environmentally lush home sustained by intellectually demanding jobs. Here we should note a glaring irregularity about each of them. Along the way of this saga we learn that Kurt, the self-styled, not to mention unctuous, “people person,” has waited until his considerable stay in the venue was no longer tenable before leaving on Mark’s answering machine, “I’m in town and I’m just hoping you’re in town.” As to Mark (a mark?), as the film opens, his eyes are closed as he sits in his rather overrun, “authentic” yard, staving off a nervous breakdown, with a Tanya who is pretty much fed up.

This seeming conjunction of ardent, youngish searchers benefits (if that is the word) from the eyes of the “indie” stalwarts who constitute for Reichardt a force needing shock treatment they are unlikely to like. What’s not to love about a counter-cultural rogue, drug addict and homosexual predator catching up with an academically-secured humanitarian, addicted to that liberal radio gospel hour, Air America? Let’s see.

(more…)

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 © 2017 by James Clark

      This film, from 2010, touted as a remarkably “minimalist” presentation in the form of getting real about the gritty hardships of mid-nineteenth-century travel with a view to starting afresh in Oregon Territory, proves to be, in fact, a most modern story. It features three ox-drawn covered wagons, a circus-cowboy-buffoon and scout and three ladies of the convoy in bonnets and gowns so pronounced they resemble an order of nuns. There is, you might appreciate, room for large confusion in getting to the remarkable sophistication being the nub of this work’s working.

Whereas other film investigators in her orbit tend to put all their audacious cards on the table each time out—producing therewith a critical mass of mysterious logic for their fans to digest in relative tranquility—Reichardt harbors a secret trajectory (from out of the iconoclastic territory beloved by her colleagues). And that outer limit does not show up in strength time after time. In fact, to date, it has only appeared twice, in our current effort, and in the very recent, Certain Women (2016). Badasses everywhere you turn; but rarely devising something about badasses beyond the standard appalment and compromised isolation. In Meek’s Cutoff, the desperately lost wagon train captures a lone Indian and proceeds to coerce him to reveal where the water might be. In Certain Women, Jamie (an Indian woman requiring some surveillance to be seen as such) offers to show a lost lawyer where the fun is and gets a rude brush-off which smashes her equilibrium going forward. In the saga of Meek and his would-be cutoff of a supposed primitive nobody, there comes about a turning of the tables, with the outsider having somehow acquired the trappings of an insider. But so much seemingly old-school nail-biting and games-playing obtrudes there that the remarkableness of the loner does not effectively register. However, in the light of Jamie’s being robbed of her unsecured mojo, Meek’s Cutoff (Meek the boss-clown being denied his bid to annihilate the Oregon Indian) brings that “new frontier,” which tripped up Jamie, to an instinctively vivid significance. (more…)

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 © 2017 by James Clark

      After enjoying a number of films loaded for bear, it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air to see to it that small game must not be forgotten. Whereas the likes of Kiarostami, Jarmusch and Refn are wired for blowing the planet into outer space, filmmaker, Kelly Reichardt, has perhaps a more low-tech approach to a dispensation of overrated smart-asses.

I recall a brush with her Wendy and Lucy (2008) being haunting and prompting more studies of her work. And now, particularly in the wake of the rarefied, Shirin, her recent film, Certain Women (2016), becomes a must. Let’s not, however, fail to appreciate that Reinhardt can, when apt, throw a deadly cutter in the course of diverging from the mainstream fast balls being expected by a site like Montana. (I’m not unmindful that she has a reputation for being an expert at “slow cinema” to coincide with rural settings. But her “slowness’ has been tempered by the killer instincts of Kiarostami, Jarmusch and Refn, to name but a few of the many fireballers she sees the point of.) Near the end of our movie today, a quite empathetic lawyer, Laura, visits a former client, Billy, now in jail, who hopes to hear more often from her by mail. “Talk about anything…Doesn’t have to be a tome…” But—as part of the tide of an enterprise not so far from the lone coffee drinker in Jarmusch’s, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), contemplating buying a large gun to deal with hordes of impasse she finds insufferable—there is no effective avoidance of playing something along lines of a tome (a multifaceted outreach, a dialectic, in fact). Earthy folks imply paradoxical struggle, and Certain Women is, in its ‘slow” ways, a deep and hard look at an American, not a German, idealism.

A first and most directly palpable thing that hits us in this film is its ponderously dead visuality. Not (very much) is Reichardt about homage toward those “Transcendentalist” boosters of peppy light coming to bear across vast spheres to kiss delicious flora, faunas and contours. Those former boy scouts taking their marching orders from European Romanticism are supplanted here by an emphatic initial distance shot of a rail bed all but swallowed up by brown and grey unlovely grasses with a mountain range miles away on the horizon, pelted by overcast more impoverished than night. A freight train approaches to complement the unfriendly wind whipping along; but the mere touch of a positive motion catches our attention, as does the train’s raspy whistle. (more…)

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© 2017 by James Clark

      Kiarostami’s film, Shirin (2008), is an endeavor that is formally simple and thematically complex. It could be called a speculative minefield. What could be easier than to fathom the stars of a romantic film melodrama, Shirin and Khosrow, being a piece of work? What is tough, though, is to see that the audience of women worthies watching the movie could also be termed a piece of work, notwithstanding their giving to the courtly medieval saga what seems to be their personal best. We have in fact, holding forth, a story of wilful, wordy chaos and groundless presumptuousness. On the other hand, the ladies of the 21st century seem to be silent paragons of patient and generous discernment. Though far less noisy, they come to pass as an online shopping spree where the merchandise does not really fit them. That comprehensive disconnect is this mighty little picture’s real drama.

One deadly entitlement, making the rounds of response to Shirin and needing to be run out of town, is that the specifics of the flashback-heavy, olden bathos being watched are nothing but ignorable, ancient verbosity. (The Telegraph complains, “… the subtitles get awfully intrusive.”) Goofy, yes; but, without being abreast of the various self-justifications rattling across a soundtrack like a Depression-Era radio soap opera-cum-thriller (the visual component never seeing the light of day as we fully make the best of a so-called “minimalist” mise en scene of face-on close-ups of the customers), we cannot well comprehend the myriad, silent but expressive, engagements (of a hundred or so distaff contemporary viewers) with the flighty golden oldies. Failing to give appropriate time to the dialogue, even those commentators most fond of Kiarostami’s curious wit will limply report about women’s self-sacrifices, accessible sentimentality, thoughts flickering across faces to seemingly no more point than a flower garden and how the peculiar austerity of the experience conveys a pitch of modernity satisfying even when not fully understandable. But, more than any other carelessly perceived value, there is, from that constituency, the pleasure of seeing filmmaking conventions overturned: eschewing the reverse shot process which covers both ends of a dialogue; a fixed camera position; and the welter of minimalist productions in other Kiarostami films, like Ten, where a stationary figure puts to herself that which voluminous phenomena do for her self-sufficiency. (more…)

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