Saturday, June 27, 2009

second impressions

It's late. A film that immediately registers as familiar catches your eye as you're flipping through, but it's a film that upon first viewing was dreadful, overreaching, off putting, or just plain obnoxious. But then something clicks. You stop and you continue watching and new layers begin to reveal themselves and all of a sudden you're watching a new film that leaves you with the most hyperbolic of excited and satisfied feelings. But wait, wasn't that the movie you saw five years ago and hated? When a film and its tacit viewer meet again after the initial film viewing experience, a rare spark of re-discovery can occur in which the film can take on a new, more impactful meaning. Phillip Lopate wrote an interesting piece in this month's issue of Film Comment about how over the course of time our strongly held negative opinions of a particular film can evolve into a place of cinematic joy upon second or thirty-second viewing of a film. Noted critics wrote complementary mini-essays on films they initially wrote off and have since re-considered to exhibit shades of greatness. Here are five films that when I first saw them I was either bored to tears or thought they were silly and pretentious:

The Graduate, 1967
directed by Mike Nichols
The first time I saw "The Graduate" was around 1998 when I was obsessed with watching the American Film Institutes's 100 Best Films of all time list. I thought it was dated, impenetrable, and dull. I was 14, what did I know? I watched it not too long ago and was taken with its wit, its perfect direction, and its prescient take on lost youth who aren't quite sure whether they want to be conventional adults (i.e., their parents, every young person's worst nightmare but inevitable model for adulthood) or content with remaining idly adrift until they find their bliss. A movie of its time, but classic and gave way to a new definition of the film hero, "The Graduate" remains a masterpiece of American cinema.

The Shining, 1980
directed by Stanley Kubrick
Somehow I manage to avoid this horror classic until I was in my twenties. I saw it on the big screen with my mom at a Kubrick revival a couple summers ago. Perhaps it was the effusive mood of the captive audience, but I thought it was especially cold for a Kubrick film and oddly boring. I saw it again in a film class in college and was immediately hooked into its bizarre spookiness. Jack Nicholson gives a performance unlike any film he's every done. He's genuinely possessed in a tour de force that can only be the result of the notoriously rigorous directing method of Kubrick. Shelly DuVall is never better in her unglamorous role of the wife avoiding being murdered by her crazed husband. Eerie imagery and the tight suspense elevate Steven King to a high art hybrid where the psychological and the horror meet, once again proving Kubrick's masterful and twisted touch on genre.

American Psycho, 2000
directed by Mary Harron
I think I was one of two people who saw this in theaters. The other being Eric from Gold Digger. We bought tickets to "Viva Rock Vegas" to sneak into the controversial Bret Easton Ellis adaptation because we weren't old enough to purchase rated R tickets. We both thought it was stupid and almost walked out. I've seen it on it television a bunch of times since its original release and watched it on YouTube not long ago and found it to be amusing, biting, and a great vehicle for Christian Bale. The strangely assembled cast that includes Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, and Willem Dafoe, wonderfully embody bottomed out 80's Manhattan milieu. It couldn't be more relevant these days and perhaps it was too ahead of its time to be appreciated. I'm certain anyone who saw "Viva Rock Vegas" probably felt the same as well.

The Virgin Suicides, 1999
directed by Sofia Coppola
I remember I couldn't convince anyone to see this movie with me when it originally came out. I rented it when it finally came out on DVD and wondered who could relate to such feigned, unsympathetic material. It made me reticent to see "Lost In Translation", but thank goodness I didn't let my poor judgment effect my decision because I fell in love with that film and as a result, re-watched "The Virgin Suicides" and saw what Coppola was building towards. She has a knack, unlike most her contemporaries, for capturing moods, the air in a room, and the indescribable feeling of loneliness in a relationship. Kathleen Turner is devastating in a role most forget, Josh Hartnett is wonderfully cast as the dopey BMOC, and Kirsten Dunst received her breakthrough as the burgeoning, but doomed sexpot Lux Lisbon. Breathtaking and nostalgic, Coppola's debut film is an excellent tale of suburbia malaise.

Last Year at Marienbad, 1961
directed by Alain Resnais
I can't think of a more frustrating movie to try to love. I tried watching Alain Resnais' trip of a movie four times and fell asleep within the first ten minutes on each viewing. The fifth time I watched it on my computer with my headphones and by the film's end I felt punched in the throat. Having the film's disorienting dialogue poured directly into my ears and to have the screen to up close to my face put me in a trance-like stance. That's an apt way to describe watching Resnais' poetically astounding film. Sexy, hypnotic, and wholly original in its cinematic language, "Last Year at Marienbad" is a polemic take down on lust and memory.
L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961)

Friday, June 26, 2009


Spring/Summer 2010

Easy, without pretense, sublime. Something to look forward to next spring...

tribute: mj

That's how you wear a fucking tuxedo. Thanks Michael for doing you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

tribute: lucien ballard

"The Party"
directed by Blake Edwards, 1968

"The Killing"
directed by Stanley Kurbick, 1956

"Junior Bonner"
directed by Sam Peckinpah, 1972

These three films could not be more disparate formally or narratively, but in their exact detail and the careful framing of their specific worlds, the visionary eye of cinematographer Lucien Ballard reveals a connective tissue that binds them together in his impressive body of work. I watched Sam Peckinpah's "Junior Bonner" recently and I was blown away at not only Peckinpah's ability to make a movie about tough guys and the American West without a single gun shot in the whole film, but the film's absorbing visual palette. The richness of a small Arizona town as seen through the lens of Ballard's realistic and mood-induced cinematography becomes emblematic of an idyllic and yet dying America. Rodeos, patriotic parades, and mountains of cowboy hats seem ancient and somehow integral to the survival of the film's characters. Without out their outdated idea of America, where would they be and more importantly, who would they be? Ballard's eye guides us in that ambiguous direction.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

dancer in the dark

"At Home He's Tourist"
Gang of Four
Does anyone know of any good summer concert series?

three the hard way

"Le Combat Dans L'Ile"

directed by Alain Cavalier
Once again, proof that all you need for a film is a gun, a girl, and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

“he was bad, he was trouble and he was beautiful.”

"Let's Get Lost"
directed by Bruce Weber

Thanks to an ever so beneficent resource, I gave my dad a DVD copy of Bruce Weber's "Let's Get Lost" for Father's Day. I hope he enjoys it as much as I enjoy watching the trailer.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


"Zabriskie Point"
directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Available at, $14.99

Why did no one tell me this finally got released on DVD???????

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

legs, legs, legs

Dear Chloe,
I like yo steez.


call me

I think this card would cause Bateman to sweat. I'm officially a grown ass man.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the quiet belgian

Photography by Alex Salinas
for Veronique Branquinho

Sadly, another designer bites the dust. It wasn't until recently that I came to appreciate Veronique Branquinho. I always thought she was too esoteric or too..tortured Belgian artist, but her Spring 09 show seemed to capture that feeling of a light ocean mist against your face while digging your toes on a sandy beach. It's practically summer and isn't that exactly what we want our clothes to make us feel like?