American Sniper’s defenders have basically staked out ground as formalists, while its detractors have made both weak and strong claims about the “responsibility” filmmakers have to a certain amount of ethical rigor and political engagement when making a film about an actual military conflict.
One could easily imagine German’s masterwork flickering through the gate in projection booths and then deposited in serpentine curlicues directly into a wet open pit, to be fermented like kimchi or composted like coffee grounds and eggshells.
Rather than Powell-Pressburger’s distinctly Anglo-Saxon mysticism or Huston’s folk-grotesquerie, Macdonald’s style hews close to the currently accepted tenets of realism, a matter of busily plucking out isolated details, which achieves a strangely disconnected and flattening effect.
Kinky but never salacious, The Duke of Burgundy is a penetrating dissection of an imbalanced relationship before it shifts into being a surreal, teasingly nightmarish evocation of that imbalance, and it’s more fascinating as the former than the latter.
“What do you do when you have a need that your partner finds repellent? Who is compromising? You giving into that person and performing these acts for them? Or you not performing them and the other person suppressing their own desires to make you happy? Who’s suffering the most?”
It’s a face that obviously looks great at a glance—she’s served as a print model for L’Oréal and Bulgari—but to truly appreciate its power we need time. Julianne Moore’s face—and all that it conveys, conceals, and emblematizes—demands the dimensions of cinema.
I’m placing the scare-quotes on “film” culture because after a good 115-year run, shot-and-displayed-on-film moving image art is no longer standard, or even particularly common, in any idiom. This is not, in and of itself, a tragedy.
Mascaro’s latest is his first foray into fiction filmmaking, but like his documentary work, Ventos de Agosto is grounded in the realities of contemporary Brazil, particularly as experienced by citizens situated on society’s margins.
The film proceeds as a series of vignettes, mostly interiors, almost entirely shot with a stationary camera, a self-imposed rule which Hausner will here and there violate for a slight pan or a slow zoom, her austerity coming up just shy of that found in the period pieces of Rossellini or Straub-Huillet.