Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: TODAY- The Pond! TOMORROW - The World!

Los Marcados (1971): A Ranchero that is heavily influenced by styles and theme of the Spaghetti Western, so expect lots of close-ups of the faces of ugly and sweaty people, more implied and more than implied nastiness than you can shake a stick at and peculiar uses for the camera's zoom objective. Plus some fascinating weirdness, latent homophobia, and heavy, melodramatic sighing into the camera.

Alas, the film's narrative style is so confused and unclear that it's pretty impossible to understand why people are sighing into the camera, and how they relate to the other people in the film. I'm somewhat impressed that director Alberto Mariscal makes what is basically a simple revenge plot this difficult to understand, I just wish he'd put the energy he uses for that attempt into quickening the improbably slow pace of a story in which not much is happening anyway. I suspect if a viewer can get into the film's groove, she might find something psychedelically relevant here. I couldn't.

Space Battleship Yamato (2010): It'll come as a surprise to nobody that, provided with a large budget and a horribly cliché-ridden script based on a much-loved yet horrible old anime show, the Japanese film industry will crap out the same sort of nonsense most high budget US movies try to torture their audiences with. So expect a bit of pew-pew, much bathos, a tear-jerking soundtrack, and a script that barely bothers to cohere because it prefers to spend most of his time to regurgitate ye olde clichés of military porn. Though it's pretty obvious that someone in charge of the production has seen at least a few episodes of Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica, it's just as obvious that said someone wasn't willing or able to actually apply any of the lessons he could have learned there to the movie at hand.

I could cope with the film's complete lack of ambition and applied intelligence better if the film were at least somewhat charming, but where other stupid movies might carry a sense of wonder or some visual imagination around, Yamato only has the vacuum of space.

Winter's Bone (2010): Thanks to Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, I don't have to end this on a bitter note, because what could have been a particularly arrogant and cynical piece of Oscar-baiting poverty porn is anything but. Granik does not look down on her characters, and she doesn't judge them or the world they live in in a simple way.

Most of the film's strengths lie in Granik's ability to give her story a quiet and unassuming intensity built out of the acting's unhurried subtlety and a visual style that finds beauty and clarity in compositions that seem much more spontaneous and natural than they actually are; there's an art in achieving an emotional effect by underplaying how much work you've put into achieving it, and Granik seems quite an expert at it. That her film is a perfect counterpoint to the self-important "I am big, deep art" gestures and kitsch-philosophical depth of stuff like The Fountain and Tree of Life does make Granik's approach to filmmaking like a holiday in a land where artists from time to time look away from their mirrors, too.


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