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Archive for October, 2010

**** out of *****

Schmaltz done right.

I lived in Iowa for 20 years. During that time, I never had much interest in seeing The Brides of Madison County, either the film or the actual bridges. The film came out when I was 11, at a time when Ace Ventura sequels were more my bag. Watching old people on a farm didn’t quite do it for me. It wasn’t until my move to New York was imminent that I thought to seek out the film. What better way to leave my home base than to watch one of its quintessential films?

I didn’t get around to. Watching The Bridges of Madison County in my New York bedroom, however, provided its own set of surreal pleasures. I can say the film resonated very little with my Iowa experience. I can also say it made me cry.

Clint Eastwood‘s films have a way of pinpointing my softie spot and hammering it with blue-collar diligence. Only two other working directors have a comparable effect on me: Wong Kar Wai and Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Those directors hit me on an arty, existential level; I experience something like profound terror after a Wong Kar Wai film, a feeling I can’t quite put into words. Eastwood’s films are different. Putting them into words is easy: They’re sad. Eastwood goes for the old-fashioned punch to the stomach. He crafts simple stories with the clear intention of making you weep.

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This review originally appeared on Quarantine the Past on January 1, 2010. The original links have been removed because, well, WordPress wasn’t liking them.

Today I’m joining Film Comment, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and indieWire to call Mulholland Dr. the best film of the decade. This wasn’t a difficult decision. A cinematic sugar rush, dizzying and dazzling, Mulholland Dr. bursts with moments of pure inspiration. It challenges and rewards in equal measure, making it the most satisfying film in David Lynch‘s 30-plus year career. The writer/director injects his nightmarish style with healthy doses of heart and humor to lure us into his film’s world. Mulholland Dr.‘s immediate pleasures turn its macro-level puzzle into something inviting, hypnotic, and even fun. (more…)

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As this is an extension of my previous blog, Quarantine the Past, I’ll be uploading some of my previous musings for a more permanent home here on Print the Legend. I will label these posts clearly as archival. Expect more new content shortly, including a review of the 2010 Werner Herzog film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

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****1/2 out of *****

An exhilarating endurance test.

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos, aka Carlos the Jackal, needs you to know a few things. Namely, that he’s smarter and suaver than you in every way.

Ten minutes into Carlos, the new biopic from director Olivier Assayas, Carlos eases into a cab and mutters, “Don’t drive in circles; I know Beirut” before the driver can even begin to rip him off. Translation: Don’t even try it. I’m one step ahead of you, always. Fulfill your function and get out of my life.

Assayas underscores the moment with a blast of propulsive post-punk, turning an everyday exchange into something exhilarating. Carlos may be an insufferable human being, but, on the film screen, he’s a giant, a transfixing egomaniac. He embodies swagger. Right away, Assayas treats us to simple pleasures: A cocksure dude rides around Beirut, looking cool as hell, while The Feelies kill it on the soundtrack.

And then something remarkable happens. At the height of our fun, Assayas violently cuts to the next scene, in which Carlos arrives at his destination to talk politics and strategy. The thrills vanish, leaving only the practical, mundane work of enacting political change. The rest of Carlos follows this same general template. Moments of stylized action collide with the unglamorous details of organizing an effective movement (that should sound familiar to anyone who’s worked on a campaign). Employing this schizophrenic structure, Assayas creates a complex, hugely ambitious portrait of Carlos that expands way beyond simply recreating the man’s greatest hits. Most biopics reconstruct a person’s life with little intellectual curiosity, like a very lifelike, very pretty, and very meaningless painting. Carlos explores what The Jackal’s story says about greater issues: media stardom, globalization, myth making, violent versus non-violent activism, romantic versus pragmatic activism, post-Berlin Wall Marxism, the minutia of militancy, Marxism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rejection of the “petit bourgeois” lifestyle, post-1968 revolutionaries — I could keep going. Did I mention this film, originally produced for French TV, runs a staggering 330 minutes? (more…)

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