This Week In Cinema: November 10-16, 2013

window water baby moving

I’m trained to deliver babies, doesn’t mean I want to!

A lot of movies and very little run time,

Invocation Of My Demon Brother (1969, Kenneth Anger, United States Of America) ***

Sound comes at the viewer in droning waves, repetition manages to seep the sound into the skin of the viewer. The tome that is Invocation Of My Demon Brother exists as a drone. A hum in the background that makes its way to the forefront and overpowers the imagery on screen. Witchcraft and Satanism have nothing on the never ending droning sound, and by the time the film is over all that exists is the drone, a sound not soon to be forgotten.

Go! Go! Go! (1964, Marie Menken, United States Of America) **

Time flies by, people dissolve into ants, and had the subject matter not been New York I would have been more interested. The technical hyperactivity is alluring at first, but the more of New York that I see in fast forward the more the film loses me. IT’s tough to be engaged when the subject matter doesn’t interest you. To be honest there’s really not much wrong with Go! Go! Go!, but the subject left me cold. In a movie about the life of a city cold is not something I should be feeling, but such is the case with me and New York.

Eaux D’artifice (1953, Kenneth Anger, United States Of America) ***

Water flows freely, but it’s not just water, it’s the product of sexual climax. A woman strolls around the water, but she’s not just a woman, she’s the sexual instrument the water needs to flow. Water and woman meet, and they become one, but they aren’t just one, they are the sexual act brought to life. Kenneth Anger’s fascination with sex and the inability of American audiences to come to grips with sex is on full display in his visual treatise on the free flowing nature of sex.

Dom (1959, Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica, Poland) ***

Images try to escape the screen as they also try to escape from one another. Life is the ultimate goal, the end game that will bring closure to the quest for freedom. The images don’t last though, they repeat, they struggle for life, but they always leave the screen and are denied their freedom and the ability to find life. The fracturing of the images, the way they skitter across the screen, it all speaks to the paltry resonance of life, the inability to make a mark, the eternal quest for the freedom of life.

Window Water Baby Moving (1962, Stan Brakhage, United States Of America) ****

The water is calm, it is serenity. It is the precursor to the chaotic life that is to come. Yet, it’s returned to again and again. It is serenity after all, and no matter how chaotic life may get that serenity will always exist because that water exists. Love is also present, love between two people that is now made into love between three people. Love brought about this third person, and love has documented the arrival of this third person and the union that allowed this third person to come to be. Stan Brakhage films, and he films, and he makes stark points with beautiful romanticism and poetry. The best I’ve seen from Mr. Brakhage, and by this point that’s saying something.

When It Rains (1995, Charles Burnett, United States Of America) **

Banality in the service of film, but just how much banality can one person take? The problem with When It Rains is that the overall message is not one I feel is justified or presented in a manner I found appealing. The lady owed rent, that’s the way life goes. The journey to find her rent is visually unappealing and fails to truly delve into the solidarity theme. A rather large miss this one is, except for the music, the jazz score is really swell.

Joyeux Noël (2005, Christian Carion, Belgium/France/Germany/Norway/Romania/United Kingdom) ***

I thought I was in for a bumpy ride during the beginning of Joyeux Noël. Then the film settled down and it’s naturalistic portrayal of these soldiers, and one female singer, and their similarities and lack of differences won me over. Unfortunately the end of the film had to come and that’s when the director worked against all he had accomplished after the rocky start. Christian Carion didn’t trust his audience to understand the message of the film so he added in three sequences that suffocated me with the message of his film. I didn’t need those scenes, the theme/message of the film was deftly handled in the middle portion. I enjoyed Joyeux Noël, but only for its middle section.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story Of American Superheroines (2012, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, United States Of America) **1/2

Another example of an interesting subject matter that is let down by an inadequate documentary. This jumps all over the place far too much, so much so that at times it loses sight of Wonder Woman for stretches of time. The title is also misleading as this gets into other American superheroines for maybe about five minutes total. I feel that the shortness of the documentary works against the subject matter greatly. All the ideas presented are half formed and ill explored, and when a great idea is broached upon it’s just as quickly moved away from. I’d like to see this topic be given the just time and filmmaking it deserves.

Imaginary Witness: Hollywood And The Holocaust (2004, Daniel Anker, United States Of America) ***1/2

At first I was concerned that this documentary was going to be full of talking heads who didn’t understand the idea of subtlety and allegory. As the second half rolled around my fears were allayed as some of the newly introduced personalities started talking about Hollywood confronting Nazism without doing so directly. From that point on Imaginary Witness: Hollywood And The Holocaust played out as a well done back and forth documentary. It gave a thorough history of American film and Nazism, but it also went into the artistic side of making films about historical tragedy. Most of all the subject matter was interesting and it was presented in a fashion where it remained interesting throughout.

This Is The End (2013, Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, United States Of America) **1/2

A tale of two movies, or a tale of a movie forgetting how to be funny. The first forty minutes of This Is The End are very, very funny. The final hour is painfully unfunny. It’s not that the film stops trying to be funny, up until the very end it’s still trying to be funny and failing miserably. There were some slight touches on faith (although this was heavy more than slight) and friendship, but they never really went anywhere meaningful. During the first forty minutes of This Is The End I thought it was going to be a movie I loved. By the time the film ended I was happy it was over, and that’s how a potentially great movie turned into a disappointing experience.

Wrap-Up:

In a week filled with a lot of short films it’s apropos that the best film is a short film. It’s taken a long time, but Stan Brakhage finally breaks through. Window Water Baby Moving is a master work of a film, and it easily takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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