House Logo
Explore categories +

Two Lovers (#110 of 6)

New York Film Festival 2013: Her Review

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Her</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Her</em> Review

A man falls in love with an operating system. Sounds like the makings of a biting satire on the supposed lack of human connection in the digital age. But one of the most surprising things about Spike Jonze’s new film, Her, is in how it steadfastly refuses to see this predicament from the cynical perspective one might expect. Plenty of ink has been spilled by now about the ways in which technology has had the effect of isolating people from one another even as some of those forms of technology—like Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media—have promised otherwise. With Her, it’s as if Jonze said at the outset of the film’s conception, “cynicism’s easy,” and decided not only to take the central romance at least halfway seriously, but to dare to suggest that there may actually be some legitimate validity in falling in love with artificial intelligence.

Cannes Film Festival 2013: The Immigrant Review

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Immigrant</em> Review
Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Immigrant</em> Review

The Immigrant is the film James Gray has been working toward his entire career. He’s established a unique reputation over 20 years and four features. His first three films (Little Odessa, The Yards, We Own the Night) dealt largely with a world of criminal activity and frayed family bonds, often times between brothers. Two Lovers followed soon after, betraying the first signs of Gray’s thematic maturation. A simple love triangle rendered equal parts beautiful and devastating, the film was both vital and transitional for the filmmaker. His latest, the intimately focused, epically scaled period piece The Immigrant, is, finally, his masterpiece, a classical melodrama of high ambition and fulfilled promise.

Venice Film Festival 2012: The Master

Comments Comments (...)

Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Master</em>
Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Master</em>

Power, ambition, sex, religion, daddy issues—themes that have obsessed Paul Thomas Anderson throughout his patchy but compelling career. You’ll find them all here and more in The Master, a feverish snapshot of America at the dawn of the ’50s, war fresh in its mind. Anderson’s dazzling feature is also, notoriously, a thinly veiled portrait of the birth of Z-grade science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard’s celebrity-endorsed religion, though less barbed than you might expect.

Credit for this nuanced approach should go to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who imbues title character Lancaster Dodd with a large dollop of avuncular charm. One gets the impression that “The Cause,” Dodd’s teachings that claim to have the potential to cure cancer and bring about world peace, is simply an outlandish bit of mischief that’s gotten out of hand, a petty confidence racket that requires increasingly flamboyant lies as his followers multiply.

The film opens like a playful Beau Travail. WWII is nearing its end and on a golden South Pacific beach members of the U.S. Navy lark in the blue surf like they’re in an Old Spice commercial. One of these sailors, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, gaunt, loose-limbed, in Two Lovers form), stands out from the wholesome crowd. Freddie is pure id, a volatile ball of bodily functions and uncontrollable urges. After entertaining his buddies by miming a sex act with an anatomically correct female sand sculpture, he wades knee-deep into the drink to jerk off. This is as close to contentment as we’ll see Freddie for the rest of the film.

Problem Solution Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

Comments Comments (...)

Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray
Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

James Gray has achieved a small measure of success in the American film industry, and yet he remains elusive. He’s critically lauded, but he’s not a figure centrally discussed in the context of the independent or studio-film landscapes. He works with big stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Gwyneth Paltrow, but years pass before he’s able to get projects off the ground. He’s a darling of the Cannes Film Festival, but is a niche flavor in the already niche world of cinephilia. He’s often labeled a “classicist,” but he has more in common with the post-classical mode of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. So, what the hell is James Gray, anyway?

That’s the question Paris-based Hollywood Reporter critic and Gray enthusiast Jordan Mintzer attempts to answer in his new book, James Gray. Comprised of interviews with Gray and his collaborators, along with storyboards, annotated script pages, production stills, and frame grabs, Mintzer’s volume is the first full-length study of Gray in any language. It is, unfortunately, only being published in France. But fear not: Synecdoche has released a bilingual edition that can be purchased on their website for a cool $65 USD.

What emerges most saliently from Mintzer’s interviews is Gray’s commitment to the idea of problem solution in creating his style. Gray is no proverbial Hitchcock, dreaming an ironclad vision of his films that then must be laid out to the letter. (“I don’t believe in vision. I think vision is overrated,” says Gray.) Instead, Gray’s style remains fluid and open to the necessary conditions of the production itself. A famous example concerns Little Odessa being set in the wintertime. “…It was written for the summer, with all the laundry lines during the final shootout,” Gray says. “But you have to make the movie when you get the money, so I made it then…I realized that the snow looked amazing, that it was something you couldn’t really reproduce. So I decided we should go shoot outside whenever it was snowing.” Anyone who’s seen Little Odessa knows that the deep melancholy of its characters’ struggles finds a rather apt metaphor in the falling, whipping snow that fills many gorgeous widescreen compositions.

A Perspective on Aughts Culture

Comments Comments (...)

A Perspective on Aughts Culture
A Perspective on Aughts Culture

I haven’t seen David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive since it was released in theaters in 2001, but I saw it twice on the big screen then, and I remember it vividly. There are some dead ends in the narrative, and these dead ends are what people seize on when they criticize the film, but there are scenes and moments in Mulholland Drive that strike me as classic: Naomi Watts’s audition setpiece, where we realize that her character is a fine actress, or maybe just dreams of herself as a fine actress. The rapture of the sex scene Watts shares with Laura Harring. The impatient look on an aged Ann Miller’s face as she stares at Watts at a party near the end. Most of all, though, I remember the face and the voice of Rebekah Del Rio as she sings Roy Orbison’s hit “Crying” a cappella, in Spanish, her voice soaring out from some deep place within her and lingering in the air like a taunt of emotional defiance. I’m not sure how Mulholland Drive would look to me now that this decade is ending, but I thought at the time that it was the best film I had seen that had been made after the year of my birth, 1977, which saw the unfortunate debut of Star Wars.

Lichman & Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Episode 13 Part 1, “Lisa ’Fucking’ Schwarzbaum waits for no man at Cannes” with Glenn Kenny & Karina Longworth

Comments Comments (...)

Lichman & Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Episode 13 Part 1, “Lisa ’Fucking’ Schwarzbaum waits for no man at Cannes” with Glenn Kenny & Karina Longworth
Lichman & Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Episode 13 Part 1, “Lisa ’Fucking’ Schwarzbaum waits for no man at Cannes” with Glenn Kenny & Karina Longworth

Hello and welcome to one of our more epic episodes, which just happens to be lucky number 13.

Our chat wound up being split into three parts for a variety of reasons: drinking, rounds, shots, glass boots filled with viscous liquid. And then there was even discussion about something having to do with films.

I kid, but part one—in which your valued hirsute co-host is found—revolves around the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the continuing discussion of James Gray’s Two Lovers, the pitfalls of staying at a fest like Cannes, and just what the heck all those press badges mean!

Of course, Vadim and myself have only been to Cannes if you count the time we got so hopped up on Aqua Velvas that we accosted Keith Gessen and his prick Harper’s Associate Editor friend outside of Odessa. And maybe it was more an unintentional harassment. I mean, Vadim and me are from THE SCARY INTERNET after all.

So we got two real experts: Karina Longworth (Spout) and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running, formerly of a Downhill Film Magazine that is Nothing without Glenn but thinks lazy top 10 lists are notable) to come dish on the most famous festival this side of the Atlantic. In fact, the dishing went on for so long that the co-host with the least social tact (me) had to depart to wish his good friend a fond farewell back to the city of angels. So we split episode 13 into three parts!

Part One: this one!

Part Two: the next one!

Part Three: A SURPRISE!! (involving something to do with Roman Polanski.)

So we thank Glenn and Karina for stopping by. Join us next time for episode 14 when we’re joined by Michael Tully (not the pole jumper) and James M. Johnston (director, vegan and the FIRST advertiser for the podcast) as we discuss what is THE HAPPENING.

As always, if you see Vadim or myself at the bar, buy us a drink! Or come to Greenpoint and buy me a drink at the Boulevard Tavern. I’m not picky. John Lichman