{Guest Post} [Film: After Life, Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998]

The Wonder of Life:

How Hirokazu Koreeda Uses Narrative Techniques to Control his Audience’s Perceptions in After Life

 

(The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of After Life, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film. – The Gemsbok)

 

After Life movie poster - Hirokazu Koreeda - restricted narration, subjectivity, objectivity

Introduction:

The meaning of existence, the value of time, and the nature of life after death are explored in countless forms of cultural production, ranging from novels to advertisements; however, one unique Japanese film called After Life takes its audience into the realm between life and afterlife.

Slated for a one week deadline, twenty-two dead clients are in search of a single memory to carry into eternity while caseworkers reproduce each unique experience onto film. By manipulating the audience’s range and depth of knowledge, director Hirokazu Koreeda successfully enlists mainly restricted and subjective narration to construct the narrative structure of After Life.

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{Guest Post} [Film: After Life, Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998]

The Wonder of Life:

How Hirokazu Koreeda Uses Narrative Techniques to Control his Audience’s Perceptions in After Life

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Vivien Le

[Film: Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972]
Humanism and Pessimism in Space:

How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Turns an Unnerving Premise into an Intimate Film

 

Introduction:

Andrei Tarkovsky Sketch by M.R.P. - Solaris - technology, emotion

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Back in January, I wrote an article for this series advocating the watching of movies in languages besides English, taking up Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In as a prime example of value that would be lost by limiting your viewing via language. This is a topic I would like to revisit today, with my endorsement of a film that really needs no endorsing: the classic Russian science-fiction film Solaris, co-written and directed by auteur Andrei Tarkovsky.

Just four years after American science-fiction cinema was forever altered by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky also released a methodically paced, over-two-hours, thoughtful movie concerning technology, space travel, extraterrestrial life, and the limits of human understanding. But where Kubrick made a film that foregrounded topics and questions related to technological and intellectual development beyond earth, Tarkovsky instead imbued Solaris with a primary focus on human grief, guilt, and connection beyond earth.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Solaris, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972]
Humanism and Pessimism in Space:

How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Turns an Unnerving Premise into an Intimate Film

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, 1950]
Conflated Requiems:

The Flawless, Eery Use of the Protagonist Narrator in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

 

Gloria Swanson Sketch by M.R.P. - Sunest Boulevard - Billy Wilder - narrator

Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

This article is essentially a recommendation (without qualifying remarks) of a film that really needs no introduction: Sunset Boulevard. But because I’m in the business of writing things that might interest or entertain you, I am going to approach this recommendation from the following angle: Sunset Boulevard represents one of the best uses of a protagonist narrator in the past hundred years of film.

Using the protagonist as a narrator is a tactic that is abundantly present in the noir genre from which Sunset Boulevard derives many of its tropes. But this technique has varying degrees of success. Most people can name at least one use of the protagonist narrator that probably did not turn out quite like the director envisioned it (a reasonably modern example is Harrison Ford’s narration in Blade Runner, which was entirely removed from the director’s cut and final cut of the film).

When its exposition is not overbearing and obvious, the narrator’s voice can be an inoffensive tool to transition from scene to scene. What sets Sunset Boulevard so far ahead, however, is its use of the narrator (Joe Gillis, portrayed by William Holden) to support the thematic content of the film.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Sunset Boulevard, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, 1950]
Conflated Requiems:

The Flawless, Eery Use of the Protagonist Narrator in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

was last modified: March 28th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Funny Games, Michael Haneke, 1997]
Unfamiliar Slasher:

How Michael Haneke’s Funny Games Wonderfully Accomplishes the Opposite of Haneke’s Goal

 

Introduction:

Michael Haneke Sketch by M.R.P. - Funny Games - violence, fiction, reality, media

Sketch by M.R.P.

I should start by saying this: unlike nearly every other American film critic, I like Michael Haneke’s movie Funny GamesFunny Games - Michael Haneke - violence, fiction, reality, media. But if you’ve seen either version of the film and you’re ready to get up in arms because you found it patronizing, as did Anthony Lane, or tendentious, as did Mark Kermode, don’t fret. I would probably agree with those complaints as well, if it were not for the fact that, unlike those reviewers, I disagree completely with Michael Haneke’s interpretation of his film.

If you’re reading this article for a recommendation, then I ought to state right at the outset that there are few movie watchers to whom I would recommend Funny Games. It is a purposefully brutal, broadly cynical, and largely humorless tale about unmotivated murder. I recommend Funny Games only to those who already enjoy unconventional horror movies, and to those with an academic or foreign flair to their taste in films.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Funny Games, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (either version, as, unlike with some other movies I have covered, the English-language remake of Funny GamesFunny Games - Michael Haneke - violence, fiction, reality, media—also by Haneke—is nearly as good as the original).

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[Film: Funny Games, Michael Haneke, 1997]
Unfamiliar Slasher:

How Michael Haneke’s Funny Games Wonderfully Accomplishes the Opposite of Haneke’s Goal

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

 

Hail, Caesar! movie poster - Coen Brothers - marketing, trailers, themes

Introduction:

There is perhaps no other team in Hollywood so consistently reamed in reviews for misconceptions about their films resulting from their own advertising as are Ethan and Joel Coen. It happened with Intolerable Cruelty; it happened with Burn After Reading; it happened with Inside Llewyn Davis; and now it is happening with Hail, Caesar! as well. Whoever is in charge of marketing these movies is doing a comically bad job.

For the most part, the error is clear: The Coens’ nuanced dark comedies and comedic dramas keep being marketed as flat, uncontroversial, plain old comedies. In my personal opinion, the movie of theirs that was most affected by this disconnect between the total levity of the marketing and the deadpan satire of the film is Burn After Reading. But that’s water under the bridge by now, so instead I would like to spend this article saying exactly what Hail, Caesar! is, and exactly what Hail, Caesar! is not.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Hail Caesar!, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski