The heist film is a tried and true formula for genre moviemaking. There’s no denying the simple pleasures of watching a team of “who’s who” stars work together to either steal their way to wealth and luxury…or perhaps get punished for it. Steve McQueen’s sprawling Chicago-set crime saga, Widows, follows in the footsteps of the classic heist films, the Heats and Dog Day Afternoons of the world, and forges its path with a mixture of social commentary and an examination of our obsessions with tales of teamwork and thievery.
The countdown continues…again!
The Final Countdown!!!
The countdown continues…again!
The countdown continues!
Anyone who says there weren’t many good films this year is either lying or they simply don’t go to the movies that often. I can’t help the former but for the latter I’ve curated my recommendations for 2015’s best movies. Many films were excellent this year – my initial list of possibilities numbered over 60 – but these were the movies of the year that I think offer that perfect mix of “new & exciting” and accessible to general viewers. This list spans megabudget spectacle to microbudget indie, strange foreign pictures and more but perhaps like 2013, this year encapsulated the range of what cinema can offer.
Without further ado, the countdown:
The films of Argentinian director Gaspar Noé (Irréversible, I Stand Alone, Enter the Void) are obsessed with the intertwining of “authenticity” and “artifice” and thus: every scene of pain or desire is purposefully made overlong to leave the impression that they leave no stone unturned. Noé is a filmmaker who pushes audiences uncomfortably deeper into moments that are usually reduced to a suggestion or glimpse if they are not censored altogether. Some call him a “pornographer,” others consider him a “provocateur” – but whatever merits his work may or may not have, he is at the very least a challenging artist if only for the discussions his films provoke. Perhaps the most famous example from his work is the 12-minute-long rape scene in the middle of his dizzying revenge flick Irréversible; which used such scene to deal with the entire nature of consequence by contextualizing all the problems of the male-id “lizard-brain” thinking. Love is the title of Noé’s interesting-yet-difficult to see/unsee film, which opens with a man and a woman explicitly performing an unsimulated sex act to careening violin music (the film earns its X-rating immediately). Of course Love will undoubtedly be referred to as “that 2015 unsimulated sex movie,” a type of film that has been equally derided as taboo and praised as transgressive in the history of cinema. The modern “art house sex” movie has been a staple of festivals and young film fans and recent examples include the digitally inserted (i.e. computer animated) porn star genitals in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac; Vincent Gallo receiving oral sex from Chloë Sevigny in Brown Bunny; and the body-double orgy in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. However, in the case of Love, does dabbling in taboo inherently make for worthwhile art or are we merely content to guise up pornographic indulgence with “artful” posturing? Where does art end and porn begin or are they intertwined beyond distinction? Likewise, which is more authentic: “lust” or “love”? Continue reading What Gaspar Noé Talks About When He Talks About “Love”
The Assassin is the first foray, by the legendary Taiwanese art-film director Hou Hsiao-Hsien (Millennium Mambo, Three Times, Café Lumière, Flight of the Red Balloon) into the “Wuxia” (aka “martial hero”) genre, conceived in the Far East by China and popularized globally by films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero. And yet the film almost serves as an antithetical rebuttal to the genre. The Assassin achieves the ethereal and sought after cinematic sublime that very few filmmakers are capable reaching, but it doesn’t make much traditional sense. Hou could make a great martial arts epic if he wanted to, but he’s after more rarefied game in this remarkable and challenging film. Shu Qi (The Transporter) plays a mysterious female assassin whose heart and soul gets in the way of her deadly art. Her journey is instead used by Hou to directly confront Taiwanese and Chinese myth, landscape, and genre conventions head-on. It has few and fleeting bursts of lightning-fast swordplay and balletic combat that interrupt long, still stretches of misty moonlit landscapes and follow a pure literary style more interested in soul-searching and interpersonal drama amid political maneuvering. The detailed period costumes and art direction make the film extraordinarily beautiful to watch (it’s one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen), but the refinement may weigh against it for fans hungering after spectacular kung fu. The plot and characters are also hard to follow due to the substantially opaque narrative ambiguity from which to reap the riches off like a more poetically-inclined mind. The Assassin is a martial arts movie for philosophers, scholars, poets, painters, sculptors, artists, gourmands, and other hard-core sensualists. Fans of martial arts movies will probably hate it through no fault of their own. The Assasin is for those who wish to expand their movie palette beyond traditional “entertainment.” Continue reading “The Assassin” is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Anti-Action Masterpiece