Fernando F. Croce
A visual poet with a penchant for knockabout brawling, an idealist who gravitated to tales of melancholic loss, a notorious tyrant who cultivated long friendships, a nineteenth-century sensibility revered by many a hardcore modernist: John Ford, as they say, contained multitudes.
Face originated as part of a program of cinematic projects commissioned by and filmed in the Louvre . . . virtually each shot is an autonomous set piece, not so much building blocks in a linear storyline as visual-aural objects whose splendor works to mitigate the pervasive mood of despair.
If The Wind Rises resembles Hollywood biopics like William Wellman’s Gallant Journey or John Ford’s The Long Gray Line in its decade-spanning structure and bittersweet tone, it is a singular showcase for the animation Miyazaki developed and perfected at Studio Ghibli.
No less than Merrick’s body and soul, his city is an entity at odds with itself. Graceful drawing rooms and soot-covered cobblestone streets, sparkling theaters and dank sweatshops: London may be on the cusp of the new century, but to Lynch this is still the land of Jekyll and Hyde.
Jam-packed with product labels and advertising slogans and clips from TV shows and movies, this is perhaps the Spielberg film most saturated with pop culture, as well as the one that most cannily illustrates the director’s ambivalence towards it.
I wouldn’t hesitate to trade all the dimensional novelties of the latest Pixar picture for the single moment here when the screen is tilted this way and that to rouse the eponymous ursine protagonist out of bed, a bit of play with the frame that’s right out of The Navigator.
The resulting superficies often jangle and tingle, but the film’s vision of adolescence as fairy-tale espionage remains tastefully hollow, with its young heroine’s storms of violence increasingly becoming as calculated as any of Shirley Temple’s tap dances of pouting and sniffling.
It wasn’t until I moved to San Jose, California, that I first became aware of the idea of a community of fellow film-lovers. Up to then, movie-watching even in the most packed theaters had struck me as an essentially solitary act; these were secluded moments of thrilling discovery savored but seldom shared.