The history of the drive-in is inextricable from the history of censorship in big-budget American cinema, and is also inextricable from the history of the automobile in the U.S., which is in turn inextricable from the history of suburbanization, white flight, and other phenomenon related to how social space is treated, and fenced off, in this country.
The drive-in would become, in the postwar period, a national phenomenon, a symbol of untethered, ever-expanding, pedal-to-the-medal America, both a communal living room for Baby Boom parents and a prowling ground for a generation of teenagers.
The Calming consists of tableaux as elegant and precise as blocks of ice, fixing Lin in the solitude of hotel rooms, cars, trains, and parks, or in moments of hushed chitchat with a curator in Tokyo, a colleague in Beijing, a friend in Hong Kong.
In adapting London’s novel, Marcello and his screenwriting partner Maurizio Braucci have transposed Eden’s story from turn-of-the-century Oakland to the coast of Naples, but they’ve also left the question of when intentionally unresolved, indeterminate.
McQueen toggles between fiction and historical recreation, all the while attempting to imbue nuance and depth to a depiction of black life in the West Indian community of London from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The new Jia documentary may not have the aesthetic boldness of his best work, but it illuminates the proximity of fiction and nonfiction in his oeuvre and doubles as something of a directorial mission statement, highlighting the role of the artist in writing and preserving history.
Note the staging of his scenes here, how people almost always have some physical object between them as they share increasingly intimate details about their lives, or how that physical object, like a plate of freshly cut apples, can be used to close distance in the presence of silence.
This first foray into scripted narrative by documentarian Heidi Ewing trembles with longing. In this nonlinear, decades-spanning romance about an undocumented gay couple from Mexico, Ewing paints the first blush of love as a neon-lit meet cute, a first kiss beneath a purple dawn.