Directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who translated his original stage choreography to the screen) fill their 70mm frame with ecstatic movement, operatic emotion, and brilliant color: it’s a dazzling Hollywood spectacle yet it still retains a remarkable delicacy and texture.
In constructing his film in this fashion, Sauper reminds that “characters” are the provenance of fiction, while “people” should be the stuff of documentary films. Thus he doesn’t make an effort to stretch and shape his subjects’ lives to conform to preconceived narrative expectations.
Even if the film builds to a shrug, Baumbach is working at an increasingly sophisticated craft and dialogue level from moment to moment. Endless amounts of near-uniformly quotable dialogue come out at a clip only a shorthand writer could keep pace with.
What started in 1994 as a two-day, modestly attended, parochially English affair has, in the decades following, tripled in length, welcomes more than ten times the number of visitors, and is now a tent-pole event on the international documentary industry calendar.
In a moment when documentary film seems back under the thrall of all things cinema vérité, How to Smell a Rose is a terrific reminder that vérité is not merely the avoidance of interviewing subjects on camera, the eschewal of tripods and lighting, or acting the proverbial “fly on the wall.”
The wide-gauge format 70mm reached its greatest popularity in the 1950s amid a boom of new innovations intended to reverse the fortunes of foundering Hollywood studios; for a time, they even appeared to have done the trick. But every great reign is followed by an epoch of decadence . . .
“We were living everything at the same time and with the same intensity, without priorities or differences—a photograph by Frank or Walker Evans would have the exact same power for us as a film by Godard or John Ford or a song by Wire, the Clash, or Gang of Four.”
Though Sergei Loznitsa has made eighteen films since 1996, delineating a logical arc in his career—as one might have attempted to doduring a full retrospective at Crossing Europe Filmfestival Linz this past April—isn’t easy.
Phoenix is a gorgeously odd film, a quietly symphonic elegy fueled by a magnificently preposterous plot that ends up as something like a cross between Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli and Hitchcock’s Vertigo—but communicated through the specific experience of Jewish-German identity.