Daily Archives: January 26, 2007

Inland Empire

From the Chicago Reader (January 26, 2007). — J.R.

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David Lynch’s first digital video is his best and most experimental feature since Eraserhead (1978). Shot piecemeal over at least a year and without a script, this 179-minute meditation builds on Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) as a sinister and critical portrait of Hollywood. But it resists any narrative paraphrase, with several overlapping premises rather than a single consecutive plot. Laura Dern plays an actress who’s been cast in a new feature, as well as a battered housewife and a hooker; there are also Polish characters and a sitcom with giant rabbits in human clothes. The visual qualities include impressionistic soft-focus colors, expressionistic lighting, and disquietingly huge close-ups. With Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Karolina Gruszka, Harry Dean Stanton, and Grace Zabriskie. In English and subtitled Polish. R. (JR)

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The Take

Made by the couple Avi Lewis (director) and Naomi Klein (writer), this 2004 documentary chronicles how laid-off workers in Argentina took over some 200 closed factories and started them up again as leaderless co-ops, with every worker receiving the same salary. The filmmakers aren’t blind to some of the contradictions and anomalies of this movement–they interview one co-op worker who’d recently voted for the neoconservative Carlos Menem, which is a bit like an American union worker supporting Bush–but they’re primarily interested in the story’s potential as an inspirational object lesson for the rest of the world. (Klein’s best-selling account of the antiglobalization movement, No Logo, has a similarly positive and almost festive air in spots.) In English and subtitled Spanish. (JR)… Read more »

Smokin’ Aces

A Las Vegas entertainer (Jeremy Piven) decides to snitch on the mob and as a result lots of people try to kill him. Based on this outing, writer-director Joe Carnahan (Narc) can’t tell a story worth a damnespecially not a complicated mishmash like this one. But given the advanced case of Quentin Tarantino syndrome on display, he’s obviously hoping that a sufficient number of baroque mutilations, tortures, and corpse disposals with lots of fancy-tough dialogue and elaborate deaths that we’re encouraged to applaud will carry us over the rough and empty spots. He even has the chutzpah to claim some sort of moral agenda at the end, but designer butchery is what dominates throughout. With Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman, Ray Liotta, and Alicia Keys. R, 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Wave: New Experimental Films From China

These films and videos are as all over the map as China itself, and not just because curator Li Zhenhua has drawn works from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. In contrast to the mainly propagandistic hymns to industrialization of early Soviet cinema, these chronicles of disorienting changes are full of ambivalence and skepticism. From the musical deconstruction of TV newscasters in 8GG’s News Dance to the kinky surrealism of Cao Fei’s Burners, and the eclectic inventiveness of Yang Fudong’s Backyard-Hey! Sun Is Rising to the weird, unattractive puppet animation of Zhou Xiaohu’s Beautiful Cloud, the sole common trait here seems to be aggressiveness. The only things resembling tone poems are a few stray intervals in the otherwise frenetic San Yuan Li, a 40-minute documentary in black-and-white ‘Scope by a dozen artists about the rapid urban development around Guangzhou. In Mandarin with subtitles. 88 min. (JR)… Read more »

Romantico

Mark Becker’s 2005 documentary focuses on Carmelo Muñiz Sanchez, a 57-year-old mariachi player who returns to his family in Salvatierra, Mexico, after struggling as an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco. It’s old-fashioned in many respects: Becker shot it in 16-millimeter and Super-16 over three and a half years, and Muñiz Sanchez tells much of the story himself in voice-over. Regrettably Becker seems more interested in what’s typical about his protagonist than in what’s exceptional, so this proves to be fairly dull. I was amused by the fact that Muñiz Sanchez and his musical partner call themselves a trio because it’s more commercial, but when the film follows his other jobs (working at a car wash in the U.S., running a pushcart in Mexico) it seems to aim for the generic. 80 min.… Read more »