Throughout his career he has chronicled life on the margins to find beauty where others only see barren squalor. Rather than a rhetorical stance, his commitment to lost causes stems from a genuine contempt for conformism, while the anti-naturalism of his dramaturgy abstains from sentimentalism and emotional manipulation.
Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory have produced a film that simultaneously analyzes and dramatizes issues of sexuality, religious identity, and, once again, privilege and yet without straining against its clearly marked narrative boundaries.
If Hong is indeed the best that we have got, there is something troubling about this fact. For it should detract nothing from the integrity of his body of work to say that, when taken altogether, it is a quintessential expression of a cinema of disappointment and diminished expectations.
What has not changed, despite the shift into genre, is the commitment to helping us sympathize with damaged, alienating (and alienated) people. In his films we might feel the discomfort of self-recognition from these characters, while in all but the finest horror films, their predicament is usually reduced to a motive for a reign of bloody terror.
An occasional tin ear for old-guy dialogue suggests Linklater might still be more comfortable with the casual-philosophical badinage of those a decade or more his junior, but the 12-year gestation gives the film the distance crucial to its angry, sad, but, in hindsight, wise perspective on the early Iraq War years.
Gerwig evokes that specifically senior-year feeling of the rapid approach of adulthood through a swift editing style, offering a dynamic rhythm that conjures the sense of finite time she has with family and friends, a patchwork of energetic montages propelling Christine and the story forward.