It is hard not to perceive something darkly subversive in the making of a film in which a beloved cinematic icon sits in bed, made up like a poodle and festooned in wig, frills, feathers, and fabrics, rotting away from gangrene while a whirlwind of bland and ill-equipped hangers-on try vainly to keep him preserved.
This elegiac essay-portrait is unexpectedly timely; it concerns Portuguese cinema and its uncanny position between life and death, past and future. Its subject is a legendary film scholar, programmer, and longtime head of Cinemateca Portuguesa.
With Jauja Alonso follows the ever-widening orbit his films have been tracing even further, nudging his trademark concerns away from the largely observational, vaguely romantic cinema of his earlier work into something considerably more expansive, playful, even supernatural.
One of the enduring canards of that devilishly intractable film-critical tick known as auteurism is the notion that a certain filmmaker has obsessions, idiosyncratic (and, ideally, perverse) fascinations that find their way, almost furtively, into their movies.
In a way that distinguishes them from most works that deal with pre-existing footage, Duque’s work suggests that what continues to define cinema—against a purely iconic, informative mode of visuality—is the way in which it affords us privileged access to lived experience.
Leviathan is almost entirely disinterested in the naturalistic or anthropological, neither a landscape (or even seascape) documentary, nor an insight into labor and social relations. Instead, Leviathan offers an image of the world as almost something alien.
Anyone baffled and disappointed by Lines of Wellington—a bloated, hastily composed Napoleonic epic prepared by Ruiz and completed by his widow and longtime collaborator and editor Valeria Sarmiento—needs to take a more sober glance at Ruiz’s oeuvre as a whole.
From the modernist glimmer of New York’s skyscrapers to the gray colorlessness of the crop-dusting sequence to the deep reflective properties of that suit (insert obligatory Mad Men reference), North by Northwest is Hitchcock’s fullest exploration of the silverness of the silver screen.
It is a film maudit not because it suggests a filmmaker struggling with his material, but because the film falls short of the mark even while it remains so close to Bergman’s other work. In this way, it’s the film maudit at its most maudit: the self-parody.
It doesn’t just dabble in a subject matter the filmmaker has hitherto eschewed, but goes whole hog, channeling spirits from the netherworld and envisioning the bright lights of the Great Beyond with all the loud music cues and fuzzy CG of an episode of Medium.