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The Trip (#110 of 4)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: The Look of Silence, The Face of an Angel, & Miss Julie

For all its acuity and innovation, The Act of Killing always risked emphasizing its groundbreaking method—crafting a psychological profile of two Indonesian mass murderers by making them reenact their crimes—at the expense of its most critical message: that the killers profiled in the doc were not only free men, but celebrated heroes in a country still run by people who, shortly after a 1965 military coup, helped murder somewhere between 500,000 and a million Indonesians accused of being communists. With the equally brilliant The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer risks no such misplaced focus.

New York Film Festival 2011: Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel</em>

For a film that reveres the down-and-dirty independent filmmaking ethos that legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman exemplified, it’s ironic that the talking-heads interviews in Alex Stapleton’s documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel feel so self-conscious. Where did Stapleton get his ideas about framing shots, The King’s Speech? Interview subjects—including Corman himself—are often pushed to the sides of cinematographer Patrick Simpson’s frames, with lots of negative space to look at; it’s as purposeless and distracting as all those stupidly arty shots cinematographer Danny Cohen pulled off in last year’s very un-Corman-like Oscar-winner (unless Simpson really, genuinely thought he was doing something original and, well, “rebellious”). And what’s up with Stapleton’s decision to go to the French electronic-pop duo Air, of all people, for the film’s odd score?

But I would imagine no one goes to a documentary like Corman’s World expecting cinematic interest. We go expecting, if not necessarily insights into the man himself or his work, at least a good overview of his life and legacy. For the most part, that’s basically what we get here. From his younger days starting out as a script reader at 20th Century Fox, to his frustration at getting no credit for his successful script revisions for 1950’s The Gunfighter, which him to leave Fox to produce and direct films for American International Pictures, to his eventual founding of New World Pictures and its eventual flameout as Jaws and Star Wars changed Hollywood forever, Corman’s World briskly—as briskly as Corman made movies—hits the highlights of his career.

Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok

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Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok
Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok

The Tribeca Film Festival allowed this frequent New York festivalgoer a chance to see three genuinely surprising features quite unlike each other, except that they’re three pop experiments that flit around their genres’ boundaries (music doc, food doc/road film, and porn/musical) and are all quietly unforgettable.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye: a rock doc as avant-garde love story (previously discussed here).

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: Miral, The Trip, Boxing Gym, & Amigo

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Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Miral</em>, <em>The Trip</em>, <em>Boxing Gym</em>, & <em>Amigo</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Miral</em>, <em>The Trip</em>, <em>Boxing Gym</em>, & <em>Amigo</em>

Miral: In an early passage, the owner of a Jerusalem home for orphans is asked if she’s ever been married. “No. But I have 2,000 daughters.” The line is right out of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and, accordingly, Julian Schnabel’s multi-generational sprawler seldom ventures beyond that level of old-studio, spell-it-out earnestness. Chronicling the Palestinian cause from 1947 to 1994 as a mosaic of female solidarity and sorrow, it follows a thread started by Hiam Abbass’s compassionate matriarch and picked up by Yasmine Al Massri’s damaged odalisque and Ruba Blal’s nurse-turned-bomb-planter. Regrettably, the main torch bearer is an increasingly politicized schoolgirl who, as played by Frieda Pinto, creates a vacuum at the center of the screen. Scarcely known for the searching intellectual rigor this story cries for, Schnabel here also stumbles as a mercurial imagesmith, applying his usual stylistic flourishes (canted camera angles, solarized hues, Tom Waits dirges) to the narrative like smeary paint on glass. Paving the road to hell (or is it the Academy Awards?) with good intentions, it’s a middlebrow stew of distracting star cameos, stilted speechifying, and, in a particularly unwise move that bluntly calls attention to its deficiencies as a political-humanistic tract, references to The Battle of Algiers.