hitchcock, horror...drive

On the surface, Drive is a fairly straight forward neo noir thriller. It’s about a heist gone
wrong, unrequited love and the violent underbelly of Los Angeles. Like many classical noir films,
the city of LA operates as a character within the film. There is perhaps a small debt owed to
Michael Mann here in the minimalist landscapes where the city vacillates between an abstraction in
the background and an ontological space we are acutely aware of. Drive is a film that is in dialogue
with itself. It is not pastiche or even simply homage, but something with more depth that emerges as
a reflection on genre and a meditation on the discourse of film itself.

 

 

A lot of directors have made this kind of film. Tarrantino in particular jumps out as someone
who is interested in making films for cinephiles. A lot of us enjoyed the overt references to film
theory in Inglorious Basterds. But where Tarantino employs a bloodbath of violence to disrupt the
narrative and invoke an awareness of the constructedness of the film apparatus, Nicolas Winding
Refn's
evocation of the language of film is more sustained and operates on a level that is subtly
woven into the narrative rather than a disruption or even extension of it. Where Tarantino’s films
feel like they want to show off what he knows, Drive lets the theory take a back seat. It’s there
informing the story in an important way, but as subtext.

more...

film crit roundup

over the years since leaving college and becoming a working professional, i've stopped frequenting libraries. it's not something i'm proud of because libraries are some of the most wonderful inspiring spaces around. wandering deep into the bookstacks always gave me this strange feeling of isolation and privacy cocooned within a public space. there is no algorithm that can mirror the feeling of walking over to a shelf and then browsing its length and randomly finding other interesting books. the dewey decimal system really does rule.

 

but location, modernity and a busy lifestyle have for me supplanted the library with amazoning. it's not the same thing. one doesn't get lost in a database in quite the same way. but there is a specific pleasure to be found in browsing a vast array of books in your pajamas at 1am in the morning when you decide you just really need to find out what the new umberto eco novel is all about. and then wirelessly downloading it to your kindle in mere moments? pretty sweet.

 

in addition to the physical action of browsing, i also find myself missing being able to cull through back issues of journals. as a student, this was perhaps where the most golden nuggets of information could be found. but again, the internet offers some recourse. it seems many of the best journals for film have a degree of online access. additionally, there are strictly new online resources of varying depth and scope. Here's a hitlist of my favorites:

 

traditional film journals:

http://screen.oxfordjournals.org/content/current
http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/journals/jvlt.html
http://cameraobscura.dukejournals.org/
http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/

online blogs offering thoughtful criticism, theory and the virtual cinematheque experience:

http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/
http://mubi.com/notebook/
http://www.cinefamily.org/
http://www.criterion.com/

design oriented approaches to looking at films:

http://www.artofthetitle.com/
http://moviebarcode.tumblr.com/

 

101 ++

 

i came across this article in the new york times today and found myself fondly remembering my own first encounter with david bordwell's seminal "film art" in my intro to film class back in the day. anyone who's dabbled in film classes will no doubt be familiar with it. what i didn't know is that the well known scholar and academic is retired but still busily entrenched in the world of film appreciation and runs a blog on his musings. considering he is very much part of the film establishment, i just find it really cool that he still writes in a way that is accessible and shows his love for movies. manohla dargis agrees and mentions her own disenfranchisement with the sort of high theory of feminism, psychoanalysis and academia which one discovers after the university can seem at odds with simply writing about and enjoying movies. in many ways this is the age old tension that exists between the academy and the business world. reconciling the two can be tough. as such learning about film, it's history, tropes and ultimately deconstructing it is the double edged sword that through the learned process of extreme criticism can lead students to destroy the thing they love.

bordwell's enthusiasm is refreshing to read about, especially as i myself have taken the last several years to recover from a sort of post traumatic film school syndrome- that cynical psychological stance that renders you unable to get excited about movies or ever even thinking about getting involved in making another one. bordwell however seems to have held on to that love of movies. his knowledge seems to spur his interests rather than strangle them. which is neat.

 

photo by manohla dargis for the new york times