Sunday, February 5, 2012

Films Viewed (January 2012)

Life During Wartime, a sequel to Happiness, is filmmaker Todd Solondz' meditation on the aftermath of unspeakable acts and (obliquely) the state of Israel. Heavy, philosophical, and free of transgressive acts. An entirely different film from the first on several levels.

The Artist has been a bit of a minor sensation in the world of Baltimore film, opening with some fanfare on two screens at the Charles. Interesting in technique, this (mostly) silent black and white film watches the rise and fall of stars at the advent of the talkies. A perfect showcase for the throwback mugging of Jean Dujardin. Didn't blow my mind, wasn't terrible.

The Charles theater revival series helped me check The French Connection off my list. Two cops go after a big heroin bust in a complicated and crumbling 1970s NYC. A showstopping breakthrough for director William Friedkin that delivers the action movie goods but aspires to to do more (and sometimes succeeds).

Red Desert represents my first technical disappointment with a screening at the Charles in some years. Having just seen the rapturous Criterion restoration of the film on a hi-def television, this print looked muddy and dark (problem with the bulb? problem with the projector?). In a film so carefully color coded, the effect for me was ruinous. Still, I focused more on other aspects of the film this time around and discovered new things.

The Descendents deserves the acclaim piled upon it, the story of an aging and reluctant patriarch deciding the fate of his family's land inheritance while also dealing with his wife's coma and apparent infidelity. Just note perfect. As a divorced kid, I can relate to many aspects of this dysfunctional family tale.Link
Week End is always good, Godard throwing up his hands and saying "I give up." A wonderful mess of a film. The revolution is just around the corner as two crude bourgeois cardboard cut-outs head for a weekend in the country. Nice to see it with a friend of a friend who does not often wade in such waters.

Moneyball was not a bad choice for a rental. A small-market baseball general manager figures out how to utilize statistics to build a successful team. Filled with Pyrrhic victories, sharp dialogue, and solid performances.LinkLink
Hoo boy, A Dangerous Method! Freud meets Jung, Freud loses Jung... you know the story. Or do you? Kiera Knightley gives a brave and open performance as the test case at the dawn of a new era of psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a jolly good time, all grey and drab and British. Cold war spies battle back and forth as spies do, cautiously, silently and cleverly. Cream of the crop ensemble cast, perfect director for such material. Sure, it was the CliffsNotes version of the plot, but I'm a quick study.

The Mill & the Cross serves as an auspicious introduction of more contemporary films to the Charles theater revival series. Rutger Hauer as Breugel, painting the world around him. A smart, visually sumptuous art film. Who were all those people packing the screening? Good for them, and good for the Charles.Link

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 10 features (8 in theaters)

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