Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)


Roman Polanski's The Pianist is surprising in more ways than one. You wouldn't think Polanski capable of filmmaking on this level anymore-- the kind of seemingly simple yet elegant visual storytelling that characterized major works like Rosemary's Baby or Chinatown (and was frustratingly evident in snatches of Frantic and The Ninth Gate). You wouldn't think Polanski capable of epic filmmaking of this scale either: the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the stretches of ruined city afterwards-- it's uncharacteristic of his work, the best of which stay at eye level and on intimate terms with their characters; they have an inwardness to them, a tendency to turn into solitary quests where the protagonist struggles against an inexplicable world bent on their destruction.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Cowboy Bebop (Shinichiro Watanabe, anime series 1998-1990)

Life is but a dream

(Story and plot twists discussed in explicit detail

Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop is I think a bit different from most anime out there ("I think" because anime has over thirty major genres, everything from horror to science fiction to fantasy to competitive Chinese cooking, and one makes a definitive statement at one's peril). Where most science-fiction action anime focus on a hero with a definite goal-- the destruction of an evil power, liberation of an oppressed society, or whatnot-- I can't think of an entire series devoted to the art of doing nothing, or at least as much of nothing as you possibly can.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

The Menu (Mark Mylod, 2022)

A dish to die for

The Menu at least for the first half is nasty fun, served up in high style by Mark Mylod, from an idea by Will Tracy.

The story-- of a handful of guests sitting down for what promises to be the meal of their life-- sounds like The Most Dangerous Game retold as an episode of Chef's Table, and one of the better jokes has David Gelb recreating his dish presentations from the aforementioned Netflix series: the soft glamour lighting, the matte-black background, the labels that fade into one corner of the screen with a succinct description of the dish. The guests take a ferry ride (during which they're presented an oyster bite) to the world-famous Hawthorn, located on a private island. They're given a tour, emphasizing the locally farmed and foraged nature of the kitchen's ingredients, and you recognize the restaurant being parodied, Renz Redzepi's Noma, oft considered the greatest restaurant in the world

Friday, February 03, 2023

Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)

In the room

I can only guess Van Sant's thinking when he did Elephant: that there were all these docudramas and documentaries and news specials and articles trying to pin down the motives of the shooters, and the film is a response saying "there's no way to truly know."