Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity just isn’t the same on television. One might say this works to its detriment — “story is king,” I was reminded in film school as a professor lamented its bells & whistles — but if an artistic experience is designed for a specific environment, should it not be given the benefit of doubt? The enveloping sound of Cuarón’s 2013 space-thriller is dread-inducing, a precursor to the pulsating rebirth of hope within the heart of infinite darkness; in an age when even ostensibly “good” blockbusters feel produced by committee, Gravity was one of the last times a film simply had to be experienced in a cinema, in that it could not be experienced the same way outside it. It’s fitting, then, that Cuarón’s own Roma belongs in that sparsely populated category, albeit for different reasons.
Roma is a Netflix release, yes, but if the streaming giant’s theatrical rollout finds its way to your vicinity, you owe yourself the unique experience of sitting down in a seat in order to walk through someone else’s memory. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard or seen.
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It can be tough to take the Coen Brothers at their word – after all, the duo claims (seemingly in jest) that they never read Homer’s The Odyssey despite basing O Brother, Where Art Thou? on it. But if they were forthright about the origins of their latest work, the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, then it serves as a kind of career compendium. They wrote the film’s first segment, a comedic musical western, decades ago when their work had a more overtly comical bent. They wrote the final segment, on the other hand, just before starting production on the film in order to put an adequate bow on the project.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs functions like a greatest hits album for the Coens, though somehow with songs we’ve never heard before. It spans and encompasses the many styles of filmmaking they mastered over decades behind the camera. Their expert wielding of tone and mood has rarely been so evident as it is within each yarn they tell, all from a book of stories complete with color plates. Read More »
The Other Side of the Wind is finally complete — or rather “complete.” Nominally. The final film by the great Orson Welles (assuming The Deep never sees the light of day) begins with a title card explaining that this version, restored by the folks at Netflix, exists as “an attempt to honor and complete” Welles’ original vision, the key word being “attempt.” With so much footage left un-shot and unedited during its original production, no version of the film today can feel truly whole. And yet, despite its haphazard meandering, The Other Side of the Wind, in the form it will now be known, is a fascinating meta-textual artifact on the very piecing together of art and intention. Read More »