Retro Week In Cinema: September 12-18, 2013

black swan

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a fan of Giallo, because I am!

An interesting collection of movies this week,

Mothlight (1963, Stan Brakhage, United States Of America) ***

Interesting, no doubt, and maybe with more context of Stan Brackhage I’ll get more out of this. But, right now I simply found it visually interesting.

Begone Dull Care (1949, Evelyn Lambart & Norman McLaren, Canada) ****

Awesome, it is essentially a faster paced and tinier version of Fantasia. The big difference is in the pace though, and in how every single image that flashes across the screen is in tune with the music. A pure delight, both visually and in an auditory sense.

True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen, United States Of America) ***1/2

First tip, don’t ever go see this movie with a fiancee who happens to be a vet tech and a snake expert, because she will rip that sequence to shreds and make perfect sense while doing it. I understood the snake sequence from a thematic standpoint, but the complaints she brings against it are valid and speak to some more research needing to be done. Other than that, I pretty much loved this. It’s so desolate, the West feels like it consists of only our three main characters and any time another character enters the screen they feel like an invader, and that justifies the shoot first and ask questions later mentality of Cogburn. Hailee Steinfeld is the lead and she is amazing, but Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin all deliver fine work as well. It’s funny at times, poetic, dramatic, a picture of the West, and beautiful. But, I’m still struggling with the fact that it didn’t feel like a complete Coen brothers film for some reason, maybe future viewings will address this.

Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky, United States Of America) ****

The obvious parallel here is Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, but I think Perfect Blue explores the idea of the human psyche in general whereas Black Swan is all about the human psyche in terms of art and perfection. I slightly, very slightly prefer Perfect Blue, but Black Swan is a fabulous film. Natalie Portman’s performance is amazing, she puts the right amount of crazy into her performance so that up until the near end it’s still up in the air as to whether she is crazy or just a driven performer. As far as pictures on passion for your art go this is right up there with The Wrestler, but again slightly inferior. But, I’m saying inferior far too much, because this is a fantastic film, one that has made it into the bottom of my top 100. Exploration of the psyche, art, performance, the drive to be the best, the frailty of humankind and family relations, this movie packs a wallop.

I know a lot of people apparently had a problem with Vincent Cassel’s performance, but I thought he was really good, so what was everyone’s beef with him?

The Fighter (2010, David O. Russell, United States Of America) ***

I love Mickey Ward, he’s one of my favorite boxers of all time. Truth be told, I always knew when I boxed that I wasn’t fast enough to hang with most guys so I styled myself after Mr. Ward, hard shots to the body-head-body, and it always worked for me even in am MMA setting. But, the fact that I love Mr. Ward presents this films problem, it can’t decide on who the movie is a biopic for. It tries to focus on both Mickey and Dickie, and in doing so it loses some of its bite and become too much of a by the numbers biopic. But, it did engage me all the way through. Christian Bale is outstanding (it was a joy to see him finally act again after suffering through his terrible Christopher Nolan and Terminator Salvation performances), Mark Wahlberg is decent (although he is way too buff and clean to ever really be Mr. Ward), while Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are both their usually great selves. In the end though, I wanted a little more than by the numbers, and as far as representing your locale goes, I found this lacking next to something like The Town.

Wrap-Up:

Some pretty good movies, and two great ones that I happen to rank pretty closely together. In the end the horror nut in me prevails and Black Swan takes home retro movie of the week honors. I’ll be back next week with five more retro capsule reviews!

Cheers,
Bill

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