Saturday, May 19, 2007

In the last three days, have seen Rolf de Heer's "Ten Canoes", Manoel De Oliveira's "The FIfth Empire" and Franco Brocani's "Necropolis". Also: watched Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige". In terms of the last: since we'd seen "The Illusionist", Larry and i figured that we should catch the other period-magician-melodrama that had been released last summer. "The Prestige", as with "The Illusionist", turned out to be beautifully crafted (incredible sets, costumes, cinematography, soundtrack)... but the story of "The Prestige" was a little too tricky, without a central through-line, it kept splitting, and the characters weren't so much ambiguous as confounding. Ultimately, "The Prestige" wasn't as satisfying as "The Illusionist", but it still wasn't bad, it just didn't really work.

Rolf de Heer's "Ten Canoes" was quite viusally spellbinding. In his previous film, "The Tracker", he was going for a mythic quality, which he barely got away with because of the intensity of the performance by David Gulpilil, but in "Ten Canoes", there's the stolidness which often comes about when casting nonprofessionals. There's no illumination, so everything seems opaque. Yet it's a very beautiful movie.

"The Fifth Empire - Yesterday As Today" isn't quite as wonderful as "The Magic Mirror", but it's fascinating, especially in light of the attempt to create a contemplative style. Stylistically, the long takes, with the emphasis on the dialogue, can be seen as reminiscent of late Dreyer (cf. "Ordet" and "Gertrud") . The textured compositions, often shadowed figures in darkened rooms, with layered perspectives, are often amazing.

"Necropolis", from 1970, seemed so quintessentially of its period, a rather minor European attempt at an underground film. Watching it, i was reminded of Raymond Durgnant's comment on "underground movies" when he was writing about Godard's "One Plus One": "'One Plus One' is an underground movie; as sullen, as uneven, as superficial, as underground movies are, yet also as abruptly beautiful, just as the film's elongated, etiolated architectonics converge on the apotheoses of Jagger and Wiazemsky." Though "Necropolis" doesn't converge on anything quite as mythopoeic as Mick Jagger, it does have Viva in what seemed to be an interminable monologue.

Today, there was the annual AICA meeting, plus a panel on the AICA mentoring program. A lot of questions being raised about the future of art criticism. Is there a future for art criticism?


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