Chasing Trane

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Chasing Trane

Directed by John Scheinfeld

USA, 2016

HOME, 10 January 2018

Chasing Trane

It happens to everyone, John Coltrane, me and you too. We will run out of time.

People listen to Coltrane and think, naturally enough, this is a great artist. They learn about his life and it is clear, as well, that he is a good man, a noble soul.

It is an excellent documentary, this one, giving you a clear sense of his life and times. Growing up poor in the South, where he came from a family of church ministers. Discovering music as a boy. Playing in a navy band during World War Two. Joining Dizzy Gillespie’s band but being booted out because of his drug use. Then being part of Miles Davis’ outfit, yet growing out of it, changing, changing, slowly finding his way. And that’s John Coltrane in essence: a pilgrim soul. Stumbling sometimes, yet always searching, forging his own path. His art a byproduct of that spiritual search, A Love Supreme above all.

In the end, he ran out of time. It happens to everyone: it happened to him, it will happen to me and you too. We will run out of time.

A very fine film.

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Jupiter’s Moon

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Jupiter’s Moon

Directed by Kornél Mundruczó

UK, 2017

HOME, 11 January 2018

Jupiter’s Moon

There is a moon of Jupiter that contains water and may support life: it is called Europe.

That is what we are told at the start, then we are plunged at once into the real Europe, the Hungarian border where a young Syrian migrant, Aryan, is shot and discovers that he can fly. He meets a Svengali figure, a doctor who moonlights as a people trafficker, who decides to market him as an angel to credulous rich patients in need of a wonder-cure.

The film is full of incident and event, but whether it amounts to anything substantial, I am none to sure. Probably not, then. Why has the migrant angel been called ‘Aryan’?, that’s one question. Another is, why there is a sort of Karl May poster (as we know, Hitler’s favourite novelist) in the bar where the diabolical doctor drinks? Provocation, most likely.

Not terribly impressed by this one.

 

The Last Seduction

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The Last Seduction

Directed by John Dahl

USA, 1994

HOME, 10 January 2018

The Last Seduction

This is a terrific neo-noir rollercoaster, the beautiful Linda Fiorentino as Bridget, a brazen femme fatale with a heart of, well, maybe uranium. Something dangerous and high-risk, anyway.

Bridget cajoles and manipulates, sweet-talks and scolds the men aroiund her in an effortless fashion. She swiftly brings them to heel.

Just think, though: if she had given herself a different false name when on the run, all those unpleasant complications could have been avoided. Moral: if you want to cover your tracks, change or modify your habits as well. Habits, particularly habits of thought, are a dead giveaway.

Anyway, this is top class entertainment.

 

Mountain

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Mountain

Directed by Jennifer Peedom

Australia, 2017

HOME, 11 January 2018
Mountain

Willem Dafoe speaks Robert Macfarlane’s words, fine elocution doing due justice to fine prose, as you look at myriad mountains majestic and imposing, with classical music – mainly Beethoven, Vivaldi and Part – piping up at pertinent points.

It is a gorgeous film to experience, to look at and listen to, and altogether an intriguing meditation on mountains and what they mean to us, what they were, are and have become. While they spell challenge and danger still, and involve a fair amount of adventure and risk for people who live in a society that has become too staid and safe, yet they have been altered too. Look at all that infrastructure designed to support skiers, to accommodate their wants. Consider how nature has been controlled and cosmeticized, tamed and managed here as elsewhere.

A telling comment comes when Dafoe says of Everest: ‘This isn’t mountain climbing, it is queuing.’ If challenge is commoditized, it has to be achievable, else where is the customer satisfaction? And so experience slowly morphs into something false.

I like mountains, though in truth my encounters are by no means on the strenuous side. Usually, I take a train or cable car to the top and walk about, enjoying the crisp air and scenic views before popping into the café (there is always a café close by in Austria, whether on Schneeberg or Raxalpe) for a goulash or a radler or an ice cream.

This is a cogent, reflective, well-argued essay and a beautiful film.

Rey

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Rey

Directed by Niles Atallah

Chile, 2017

HOME, 11 January 2018

Rey

We are told the story of a Frenchman, a certain Orélie-Antoine de Tounens, who travels to South America to unite the indiginous Indian tribes and become their king.

It comes across as a strange story, something like The Heart of Darkness as reimagined by Raymond Roussel, say, but the account given here is apparently true. In Atallah’s vivid telling the the story becomes symbolist, fragmentary, resistant to reason and explanation, open to contradiction, ultimately mysterious.

A perfect gem of a film.

The Disaster Artist

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The Disaster Artist

Directed by James Franco

USA, 1988

HOME, 20 December 2017
The Disaster Artist

This very good film relates how a very bad film came into being.

More than that, mind, it is the story of a an unlikely friendship, an alliance that endured. The seed of their union was sown in an acting class, Greg talented but timid, Tommy oddball and brave. You could see how Greg might grow in confidence then come to desert Tommy, taking the side of the vicious world. How he might come to the realisation that his friend was absurd, pathetic, impossible to cope with (aren’t all friends like this?). But he didn’t, he chose a path of acceptance instead. He chose to love him (neither man is gay).

It is like Ed Wood, that Johnny Depp film, in subject matter and with a complementary consolation: to be a bad artist, even that, is still something.

A very satisfying film.

Far North

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Far North

Directed by Sam Shepard

USA, 1988

HOME, 20 December 2017

Far North

The late Sam Shepard made this American drama, which is sort of a reimagining of King Lear.

Charles Durning is the Lear figure, injured by a malevolent (or so he maintains) horse, which puts him in a hospital bed. Jessica Lange and Tess Harper are the ungrateful daughters, fussing about whether to shoot the offending beast (as their father commands) or let it off lightly. And fighting to defend the skimpy honour and weather-worn virtue of the family’s youngest, Harper’s headstrong daughter, played by Patricia Arquette.

He leaves hospital, Durning, weaving out of the city onto the railroad tracks, steadily threading a path through the woods, then hoping to make it on home. But already the world has passed him by. He has been sold a lie. The solid earth beneath his feet is wind-swept dust.

Far North chugs along nicely as a film but is by no means a classic.

Menashe

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Menashe

Directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein

USA, 2017

HOME, 21 December 2017
Menashe

There is novelty to this beautiful film, in that it is set within a Hasidic community.

But actually it is a familiar, albeit still touching story about a father and son. As Menashe is a widower, his son lives with his uncle’s (Menashe’s late wife’s brother’s) family. The boy is unhappy: it is a strict household. So too is Menashe, to be apart from the boy is terrible, yet as a single parent he cannot cope with his son alone.

At the end we see a man walking with purpose, determined to change his life – and perhaps he will. There is a young woman who may need him; his son certainly does.

Human Flow

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Human Flow

Directed by Ai Weiwei

Germany, 2017

HOME, 21 December 2017

The Eyes of My Mother

In this over-long, over-polemical documentary we are given a portrait of the artist as a beautiful soul.

Now the artist jokes with a young man, pretending to swap passports. Now he comforts a sobbing woman. Always, he listens sympathetically to many migrants’ stories; they take selfies with him.

The film takes a look at migration in many places around the world (though not China) but the emphasis is on Europe. It has a simple message: people have always migrated, it is natural for human beings to do so. Therefore governments that make attempts to control their sovereign territory, that erect borders and employ soldiers to control them are inhuman and evil. All impediments to migration should be removed. Because everyone in Human Flow argues for this, including people from the UN whose shambolic government in Libya drives much of the current migration into Italy, it surely must be right.

It is a long film, its length a sign of its worthiness, not its worth.

Shot Caller

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Shot Caller

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

USA, 2017

HOME, 21 December 2017

Shot Caller

This crime drama has an authentic, hard-boiled quality yet it is somehow fantastical as well: a heady combination.

The main character, carrying the moniker of Money (a brilliant central performance by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is a guy released from prison who immediately involves himself in setting up an arms deal. A straight Joe before conviction, he is now a gang member and cannot rejoin his old life with a wife and son. The gang owns him.

There is an attempt on his life and he learns that those around him cannot be trusted. Everywhere he finds a precarious world, convincingly depicted, always on the edge of violence.

It is in the prison gang, led by a brute called The Beast, where the film veers into fantastical territory. Here it resembled and evoked an episode of 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s epic graphic tapestry (mind, this is not entirely a bad thing).

A compelling film.