Lyrical to a fault, its tone leaving little room for more than distant engagement (although it does try). One would expect something more visceral from that title, but instead whatever emotional turmoil there was kept bubbling; a loaded gun that never fires, so to speak. Nichols does have an eye, though, which is probably why people are excited. Shot by shot he way outdoes GUMMO in evoking southern angst, but an unwillingness to push into more exciting places, in favor of safer artier structure, refuses any claims to greatness. Minor, but accomplished.
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“What if you’ve already lived your happiest moment?”—Johnny, “Naked”
The Grace on Campus posterboard
tells me all is forgiven, and I wish
I could tell it the same.
There’s just something atrocious about it,
probably the font.
in a fireplace, and warn someone else,
about what is forgiven;
I for one see the hill under me,
the glowing wheat of sunlight, lasers
massaged over my back—and this thought
lightens my feet over the pavement,
until I sink. And drown.
Clearly, you have nothing to give
and I nothing to receive.
Drunk on blood (water, iron) this life
doesn’t seem quite so awful
as the next.
lauragood asked: I enjoyed your review of "In the City of Sylvia" (En la ciudad de sylvia). Well written, friend
Thanks! It’s been a long time since I saw it but I imagine I feel about the same way still.
Charming—like Hong Sang-soo but with looser structural ambition and more outright jokes. Probably the funniest movie I’ve seen in some time. Gerwig kills it, and the restlessness of her character speaks to me. The pride, too.
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So close to being a masterpiece, full of surprises that leap out of lethargy like epiphany—a tourist’s film, but a homesick one, out of place out of time, intimate and ever distant. The only serious caveat I have are the last five minutes; not that I object to the idea that the two could ever wind up together—in a way, their personalities exactly deserve each other, Bergman in constant misinterpretation of the dead, Sanders in constant misinterpretation of the living. No, their winding up together seems plausible on a schematic level, but schematic levels are often so shallow. The film got so close to true emotion, so close to transcending its largely formal pleasures, especially in that graveyard scene, where Bergman’s breaks down and the score lifts… that it just seems a shame that the final religious procession rung hollow, for a very noticeable reason: Sanders is simply too much of an asshole. In the end the very sympathetic Bergman had to cowtow to the very unsympathetic Sanders, and the magic breaks.
But let’s walk back to see why despite it all this is a great movie: its humanity, its humor, its surprising foresight. All of Antonioni can be prefigured here: the moody disconnect from the environment (made clear by a shocking first cut: from a view that seems to be the driver’s, only to see that the gazes don’t match up), the sudden and unexplained emotional rupture, the obsession with dead or dying beauty. Bergman’s museum scenes are key: she sees the living in statues of great men but only the dead in the common folk catacombs; and when confronted with the dead wholly preserved, it’s a painful reminder of what remains of her marriage. Politically, this is incredibly sharp: the tragic realization that one might not die a great man, but a pitiful soul, adopted by future romantics of the dead…it sums up bourgeois fear as basically a fear of others, a guard against community. Emotionally, it’s about as appropriate a rendering of intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) solitude as can be, as if stuck in a caste system entirely too in love with the past.
One small little tidbit that amused me: that the characters are named Joyce—it kept in my mind The Dead throughout the movie, and I think it’s perhaps coincidental, but the movie is almost like an Italian rendering of that story, Saunders as Gabriel, of course. I don’t adore The Dead, but I find it a helpful comparison: Rossellini greatly increases the woman’s role in the relationship, at the expense of sympathy for the man, yet at their conclusions Rossellini suddenly tries to equalize them. I find a problematic conclusion on that front; yet from the communal angle the film’s ending seems to fit into the scheme. Perhaps it’s a case of the characters rebelling against their plot, to ambiguous results; oh well, because save those last five minutes I have unreserved love for this distanced embrace of home.
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