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Sundays at Videotheque

Videotheque in South Pasadena, CA was my film school post-college. Even though I live far away now, I still make it out almost every Sunday to check out movies that I have no luck finding online, for money or otherwise. In this ongoing series, I will give my brief impressions about my rentals from the past week.

Still Life (2006) dir. Jia Zhangke, starring Zhao Tao, Zhou Lan, Han Sanming

If Jia isn’t the representative filmmaker of modern China, then he should be. All of his films seem to capture modern Chinese society in both its glory and its downfalls. In this film, Jia focuses on the people on the fringes of society. The city for the first half of the movie is scheduled to be flooded and the main means of employment for its inhabitants seems to be tearing down their home. There are many tableaux of people and the beautiful desolation of the city that make for one strangely moving and reflective picture of this specific time and unusual place.

Exotica (1994) dir. Atom Egoyan, starring Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Don McKellar, Mia Kirshner

Everything I had seen about this movie (trailers, posters) was misleading. Rather than a titillating softcore thriller, it is an extremely sad tale of loneliness with everyone acting at their most neutral, no crazy over-the-top performances here. We think we know the creepy perverts that populate this film, and in a sense we do, but Egoyan dares us to sympathize with them and see that their obsessions and their lifestyles come from somewhere, often from trauma.

A Moment of Innocence (1996) dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, starring Mirhadi Tayebi, Ammar Tafti Deghdan, Maryam Mohadamini

In a strange way, this reminds of the conceit of The Girl with a Pearl Earring in that the film is essentially how an artist got to one image (the image on the poster and also the title of the film in Farsi - Bread and Flower pot). It is an involving, confounding meta narrative about filmmaking as well as a slice of life film that shows just how endlessly inventive and malleable film especially when it comments on itself. A film that is in the grand tradition of F for Fake and its kissing cousin Close-Up, in which Makhmalbaf is also a major part of himself.

In Praise of Love (2001) dir. Jean-Luc Godard, starring Bruno Putzulu, Cecile Camp, Jean Davy

I’ll give it to Godard for always trying to keep things fresh and challenge our very notions of cinema, especially narrative cinema, but this film is thuddingly boring and not compelling in the least for me.

Regular Lovers (2005) dir. Philippe Garrel, starring Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme

I think Garrel got a lot better with his recent films that are considerably shorter and consequently tighter in focus. In fact, the second half of this film is a lot better in my opinion when it focuses mainly on the titular couple. This is when Garrel’s trademark exploration of the complexities of human relationships really kicks in and it is when he really shines.

 

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