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Archive for the ‘David Schleicher’s Movie Reviews’ Category

by David Schleicher

Anything can happen; all things are possible and plausible. Time and space do not exist: over a minute patch of reality imagination will weave its web and create fresh patterns…” –August Strindberg, Preface to A Dream Play (1902)

How could something do deeply nostalgic and rooted in the maker’s own childhood come across as so fresh? Indeed, Strindberg was right…anything can happen. Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander happened. But it’s far from just anything. It’s definitively something. But what is it?

As Bergman himself mused, “I’m deeply fixated on my childhood. Some impressions are extremely vivid, light, smell, and all. There are moments when I can wander through my childhood’s landscape, through rooms long ago, remember how they were furnished, where the pictures hung on the walls, the way the light fell. It’s like a film-little scraps of a film, which I set running and which I can reconstruct to the last detail-except their smell.” 

Bergman’s family patch, so carefully woven across 312 minutes of master visual, aural and thematic craftsmanship (yes, it’s a Swedish TV miniseries by origin that was cut down to 188 minutes to play theatrically around the world, but it transcends any medium like all the best do), is both painstakingly of a place and time, and universally eternal in its rendering of childhood’s trauma and familial strife. (more…)

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Inception-movie-image

 

by David Schleicher

Inception opens with the pounding strums of composer Hans Zimmer’s deep level slow-down of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien…something a viewer wouldn’t realize it is what it is until after research and repeat views.

Like the waves crashing against the shores of a dream-made city crumbling into the ocean, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is relentless, and once it kicks into a descent into dreams within dreams (all part of a neo-noir heist filled with all your usual tropes and characters), its grand entertainment of the highest order.

And like Edith Piaf’s scratchy French ode to living without regret, Inception bears repeating over and over.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, but Inception works every time on every level without fail.

Parisian streets folding in on themselves.  Joseph Gordon Levitt’s battle dance with subconscious fiends in impeccably decked out hallways and finely appointed modern hotel rooms that spin and tumble like a Dyson vacuum cleaner’s cyclone wind tunnel in robustly hot-air elegance.  A white van falling off a bridge forever in slow-mo.  A feloniously feline femme fatale in the shady form of a whispery smoky Marion Cotillard (who not unwittingly was cast by Nolan after she became famous for playing Edit Piaf in another movie) who keeps falling to her death over and over, forever haunting a heartbroken Leonardo DiCaprio – her leap, like the musical kick, mapping the universe with emotional thumbtacks.  A child’s pinwheel planted inside a safe that carries with it all the weight of all the pained father-son relationships of everyone sitting in every darkened theater where communal gasps echoed beyond the closing image of a spinning top, teetering…tottering… (more…)

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Night of the Hunter 1

by D. H. Schleicher

The singer in the opening of Charles Laughton’s 1955 classic The Night of the Hunter invites viewers to dream along with its young protagonist, John Harper (Billy Chapin), but what transpires in the film is a pure nightmare where religious fanaticism begs us to treat everyone like children and envision a world where everyone is fair game for evil.  He’s just a poor kid whose dad was just hung for murder (but not before entrusting his son to hide his stash of money), whose mother (Shelly Winters) is helpless, and whose little sister, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), needs minding.  Into his life steps the world’s most vile step-father, Harry Powell (the magnificently monstrous Robert Mitchum) – a widow-killer and money-hungry would-be preacher who wows the simpletons of the small towns he invades with his fire-and-brimstone rhetoric.  But John is on to him from the get-go (he knows this jack-ass just wants the cash), and John rails against the man and his worldview.

Women are grotesquely marginalized by the faith-based worldview of the characters in The Night of the Hunter as well as by the time period in which the story takes place (1930’s West Virginia).  Ordered to suppress their desires and obey their men, they are treated like children and called stupid and foolish, slapped around, and murdered…the slitting of Willa Harper’s throat depicted in horrifically stylized expressionistic shots, some of the most menacing mise-en-scene in the history of cinema – culminating with the famous “hair in the tangled deep water reeds” scene of her desecrated body “at rest” in the bottom of the river.  Teenage girls are even stupider, and worth only their wombs that shoot out bastard children whom the righteous (be it in the form of evil Harry Powell or goody-goody Rachel Cooper) then must watch over.  Meanwhile, the littlest of girls, Pearl, is just (in the words of Powell) “a miserable little wretch,” depicted without the brains to discern bad men from good (if this is innocence, then innocence must be lost!)

After his mother’s murder, John absconds with Pearl down the river in a skiff in a Grimm’s fairy-tail journey – not a single authentic shot to be found – all hyper-realized imaginings of children on the run for their lives.  It’s creepy and atmospheric, and the water of the river seems to be flowing both ways in just another example of the film’s overt symbolism and weirdness that creates the greatest of unease.  But John is vigilant – and always keeps a step ahead of Harry Powell. (more…)

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tree of life 2

by David Schleicher

Malick’s sublime 2011 masterpiece, The Tree of Life, invites you to watch it as a child…and loudly, the producers remind us on the Blu-Ray – not just to hear all the philosophical whispering and pining that highlights the voice-overs, but to sit in aural awe of the classical music and natural sounds that paint with Lubezki’s fluid imagery a cacophony adjacent to dreaming.

Remember the first time you heard a piece from Beethoven as a child but didn’t know exactly what it was, only that it made you feel something you hadn’t before?

We never know exactly what happens in The Tree of Life.  A middle child of three dies at some point, while an older one lives his adulthood in a sterile corporatized environment that couldn’t be further from the Texas Eden he experienced as a child – all of the family lives, loves, pines, mourns, remembers, but in transient states inter-spliced with meditations on the nature of nature, the meaning of life, religion, social mores, grief, motherhood, fatherhood, brotherhood and a cosmic tapestry that denotes the beginning and ending of time.  All meaning what?  We long for that meaning (just as a child – born in the natural state of a scientist – longs for answers to the questions they observe).  But instead, we are summoned to a cinematic cathedral to experience some grand impressionism…where all was formed in childhood.

To claim The Tree of Life is not a film about childhood is akin to claiming one’s childhood experiences have no bearing on how they turn out as an adult.  Childhood is paramount both in life and this film. (more…)

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by David Schleicher

HECK!

I first saw Fargo when I was in high school. I loved it, but I could barely describe it.

And those accents!

In college…we couldn’t get enough of it. Everyone had to get initiated into the cool club of hipster film watchers who could quote it and speak the lines and make up their own lines in….those accents. It was a pre-YouTube meme.

But Fargo – what was it then? Can its suchness be defined by what we see on screen?

Let’s examine – This is a true story; they lie to us.

The first image is of obscured white-washed wilderness. Is this a desert? No. There’s snow. A tow truck.

We hear Carter Burwell’s noirish fairy tale of a music score.

This is F A R G O, they announce.

Where is it? (more…)

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