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Vincent Gallo (#110 of 8)

Sundance Film Festival 2012: 2 Days in New York and For a Good Time, Call…

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Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>2 Days in New York</em> and <em>For a Good Time, Call…</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>2 Days in New York</em> and <em>For a Good Time, Call…</em>

When it comes to Julie Delpy, the key question remains the old Barbra Streisand one. Namely, how much of her can you take in one sitting? A dedicated movie-polymath, effortlessly bilingual and scooping the best of both Old and New World, Delpy resembles a bizarre version of Miranda July: Instead of celebrating lonely quirks of a self-centered sensibility, she throws herself (and the viewer) into a comic vortex of agitated, super-busy scenes of noisy familial squabbles and cerebral lovers’ quarrels, which seems a projection of her own coyly humane view of life.

Her new movie is a sequel to 2 Days in Paris, in which she played a fabulously promiscuous European chick to Adam Goldberg’s perpetually shocked American straight man. Five years have passed, and Goldberg is no longer in the picture: Delpy’s character, Marion, is now living in New York with a new partner, Mingus (Chris Rock), and two children—one of hers and one of his. As befits a typical New York couple, Mingus is a radio-show host (and a Village Voice reporter, no less), while Marion prepares to open a debut photo exhibition, frankly examining her previous sexual relationships and involving a public act of a (literal) “selling of her soul” to an anonymous buyer.

A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel

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A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel
A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel

I know Alex Ross Perry from the movies, from seeing him at repertory screenings in New York. Before I had even met Alex, I heard a rumor that he had made Out 1 T-shirts to commemorate the “I was there” experience of that rare, 13-hour film’s U.S. premiere. Who was this kid? Oftentimes I’ve been at screenings with just five people in the audience: Alex, a notable critic, a DP (who shot Alex’s films) and a publicist/programmer (who has a cameo in Alex’s latest film). It was rewarding, then, to see his second film The Color Wheel and see that the lessons from all those films had sunk in. Alex made a film that feels like films he seeks out—idiosyncratic and perfectly flawed, and awaiting discovery. I spoke with Alex about his film, and then asked him to make a list of some of his most memorable moviegoing experiences.

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: Meek’s Cutoff, Promises Written in Water, & Kaboom

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Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Meek’s Cutoff</em>, <em>Promises Written in Water</em>, & <em>Kaboom</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Meek’s Cutoff</em>, <em>Promises Written in Water</em>, & <em>Kaboom</em>

Meek’s Cutoff: In a festival crammed with terrains trudged, crossed, and variously endured, Kelly Reichardt’s wondrous 19th-century road movie had the most arresting use of landscapes. Full of parched diagonals and framed in a boxy, horizon-chopping Academy ratio, the Oregon vistas here are half Wyeth prairie, half lunar surface, and wholly the kind of transfixing American void into which the director’s outsiders lose themselves. Said outsiders are members of an ox wagon train circa 1845, three families who have lost their way from the Oregon Trail thanks to Meek (Bruce Greenwood), a blowhard trail guide who brags and misjudges like a combination of Buffalo Bill and Dick Cheney. “We’re not lost. We’re just finding our way,” he insists, though, as tensions rise in the group following the capture of an inscrutable Cayuse Indian (Rod Rondeaux), his machinations are increasingly challenged by the plain-spoken skepticism of Michelle Williams’s tough pioneer wife. The story of a fragile community stranded in the desert by a fear-mongering charlatan could have been settled for facile political allegory, yet Reichardt is after something more uncanny and mysterious. Filmed with a rapt severity worthy of Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of the Wooden Clogs, hers is a horror-western where the minimalist subtly grows into the hallucinatory.

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: Potiche, Essential Killing, & Cave of Forgotten Dreams

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Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Potiche</em>, <em>Essential Killing</em>, & <em>Cave of Forgotten Dreams</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>Potiche</em>, <em>Essential Killing</em>, & <em>Cave of Forgotten Dreams</em>

Potiche: More like Pastiche. Back in kitschy-feminist 8 Women mode, François Ozon channels Jacques Demy (pink umbrellas and all) for this plush hymn to the fabulosity of all things Catherine Deneuve. The campy tone is set in the opening sequence, as French cinema’s knowing empress is introduced in a jogging tracksuit and tasteful curlers, cooing at fawns and winking at squirrels. It’s 1977 and she plays the docile wife of a right-wing, openly unfaithful industrialist (Fabrice Luchini). When her husband is hospitalized after a clash with striking workers, she dons her best pearls and furs and heads out to run the factory with her adult children, reactionary Papa’s girl Judith Godrèche and queer-eyed artist Jeremy Renier. Though larded with lines like “Paternalism is dead” and “The personal is political,” Ozon’s romp is less interested in charting a bourgeois wife’s private revolution than in doting on feathery coifs, split-screens, and geometric wallpaper. Deneuve does plenty of elegantly funny swanning, and works up iconic poignancy with Gérard Depardieu (as her unionist-turned-mayor ex-lover). It feels churlish to carp when a star is having so much fun, though I wish the material didn’t play like a Gallic remake of Mamma Mia!

The Conversations: Trouble Every Day

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The Conversations: Trouble Every Day
The Conversations: Trouble Every Day

Ed Howard: Claire Denis has always been a fascinating and elusive director, making strange, ambiguous movies where meanings are inscribed between the lines, in images and charged silences rather than in the minimal dialogue. Trouble Every Day is quite possibly her most challenging and unsettling film, both utterly typical of her approach—quiet, patiently paced, enigmatic in its characterization and plotting—and yet also a true outlier in her career. For one thing, in terms of genre it’s a horror film, and one of the reasons I was interested in talking about it with you, Jason, is that you’ve previously expressed a general disinterest in horror as a genre. Of course, this is not a genre that one would have intuitively attributed to Denis based on the films she made before (1999’s Billy Budd parable Beau travail) and after (2002’s poetic ode to a one-night stand, Vendredi soir). And her approach to horror is very unusual and idiosyncratic, even though she does eventually deliver enough gore and viscera to sate even the most jaded Saw franchise junkie.

As Andrew O’Hehir described it, “Watching Trouble Every Day, at least if you don’t know what’s coming, is like biting into what looks like a juicy, delicious plum on a hot summer day and coming away with your mouth full of rotten pulp and living worms.” That’s a lurid image, and an appropriate one for a movie whose own most potent, unforgettable images are also gustatory. That Salon review was from the film’s original US release in 2002, and it’s possible that anyone seeing the film for the first time now has more of an idea about what’s coming. So before rewatching the film for this conversation, I had wondered if some of the impact of Denis’ film came from the element of surprise, from being taken unaware by the film’s bloody sexual horror.

However, upon revisiting it I found myself as entranced as ever by its haunting imagery and slow build-up, and as repulsed and affected by its shocking outbursts of violence. I’m curious, though, since you hadn’t seen the film before, both how much you knew about it beforehand and what your initial (visceral) reaction was.

Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day

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Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>
Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>

Trouble Every Day aches with spiritual dread. Using the iconography of vampire films to illustrate religious fervor, co-writer/director Claire Denis also shows reverence to the medium of film, particularly to the purity of silent movies. There’s almost no dialogue, and what little there is feels like it takes place within the half-heard context of a dream. An early scene on an airplane features Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) en route to Paris for his honeymoon, his comfort and security literally in midair. He politely excuses himself to the bathroom, stares blankly into the void, and remembers or envisions a murderess, or maybe a dying girl, covered in blood. There’s no sense of shock to the image, but there’s an unsettling fascination with the textures of wet skin and dried blood. The context isn’t so much violence as repressed indulgence. Josh Hartnett may have gone 40 Days and 40 Nights without twenty-something sex or self-gratification, but Gallo’s angst-ridden version of Lent is the perilous and hellish adult version.