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Critiques (page 2 of 5)


Screen Comments/Leaf Screenings

Ready Player One (S. Spielberg, 2018)

Depuis quelques années, le cinéma de science fiction occidental semble bégayer.
Alternant prequel, reboot et cross-over, il revisite les mythes puissants apparus dans la seconde moitié du XXième siècle. Les héros de Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner viennent à chaque nouvel épisode hanter une génération qui a de moins en moins en commun avec celle qui les a inventés. Avec Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg érige cet art de la répétition au statut de manifeste, célébrant une pop culture riche et colorée, que s’est pleinement appropriée la génération des années 2045.

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HOSTILES

HOSTILES

The war experience and its dehumanizing impact on human life, mind, and soul
Like Dunkirk, but through the story of the Frontier and its genocidal history—individual and collective.

Following suit on a number of recent movies: an invitation to uphold Love over any other possible or tempting way of “being in the world”.

Realism with an epic scope.
Conjuring other Westerns, with some generic rewriting.
Narrating possibilities for wrong to turn around and do right
Pushing the borders of Manichean scripts
Exploring the frontiers of good encroaching on a legacy of evil.

Mercy and forgiveness
Sacrifice and surrender
Gothic haunting and punishment and retribution.
Emotions and the call of duty
The individual and the collective: how to map the contours of agency in such a territory?

The different protagonists of the Western myth:
The Federal government (faraway: how to send orders, how to establish and maintain a rule of law)
The Indian tribes (rivalries between them too)
The US army
The conquest of the land
The reservations
The trappers
The outlaws who appropriate the land returned to the Indians by the US government
The open spaces
The raggedness of the land
The constant sense of danger

With some unusual ones:
Women as activists, denouncing the inhuman treatment of the Indians
Julius Caesar as a source of inspiration for Captain Joseph Blocker, a devoted reader of his memoirs.

And an unusual closure:
The hero getting on a train. Moving back East (Chicago) and not heading into the Western sun.

Of note, the following touches and sketches:
Fear and anguish (the woman in hiding trying not to let out a single cry)
Terror and horror
Awareness and denial
Grief and mourning
Resilience and oblivion.
Amnesia and indifference?
Trauma and wound
Revenge and the vicious circle of violence
Treachery and trust
A bond created by the common sharing of loss and sorrow: the Indian family’s compassion for the woman who has lost her three children and husband.
The giving and accepting of the blouse: a form of healing.

The different soldiers emblematizing different postures toward war:
The young French soldier, unprepared and incongruous
The seasoned officer, hardened by the business of war, yet set in motion by the question of the West Point graduate: “how did you feel the first time you killed a man?”
The West Point star: engaged and committed; yet armed with (only) a bookish understanding of war.

US history: the former soldiers of the Confederacy side by side with former Union soldiers
The common cause of the genocide.
Henry and changing racial relationships,
Joseph’s admiration and loyalty: “I would choose you over and over again”.

Joseph’s kindness towards Rosalie Quaid as a way to redeem himself? To find some regeneration in upholding that one life he can cater to in remembrance of all the lives he took as part of his ‘job’?
Yet, the addictive urge to do violence: slicing the throat of the man instead of shooting him. A form of visceral savagery acquired over the years: can it ever be exorcized? The gaze of the child and woman changes everything. He becomes aware of his cruelty.

A man, a woman, a child: some nuclear family? Different broken pieces communing as some anamnesis of the legacy of the Frontier: the retired soldier, the widow, the Indian orphan.

A happy ending?
Can happiness be found beyond the painful memories, the emotional casualties and the respective losses (team mates and friends, family, parents and relatives)?

This Western closing in an unusual way indeed, the (formulaic) sun inferred from the suggested script rising above some space off stage.

From SUNRISE
A Poem by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it—
an idea, or the world.

(…)

What is the name
Of the deep breath I would take over and over
For all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

THE DISASTER ARTIST

THE DISASTER ARTIST

“I am not interested in the theme of a story but in its meaning… all the elements in the story contribute to its meaning” Flannery O’Connor

Three protagonists on a stage:
Friendship
Dreams
Reality

A stage where some parable about Love is performed beyond the staging of a true story
Friendship and the disinterested gift of love
Cinema and the “labor of love”, in Martin Scorsese’s image
Passion in its many guises and roles,
Masks and metaphors.

The size and scope of our aspirations, and their possible collapse.

What creates a bond?
What’s in a pact? In a promise—given and fulfilled?
Sharing a vision
Loyalty to a person, loyalty to oneself.

Yet, the inevitable and ineluctable constraints and limitations of every person.

The secret around Tommy:
The mystery that each of us holds?
How to tell our story?
What do the facts of our life (birthplace, age, income) narrate about ourselves/about us?

No biographical data can pay tribute to what we are. Have. Make. Do.
And sometimes miss. Or achieve.

Love:
Possessiveness and loss
How to keep the right distance?
How to have compassion yet speak in truth?

Devotion to one’s trade and talent
“As actors, even a bad day on the set is better that a good day outside the set because we do what we love to do”
Commitment and engagement—-total and unflagging.

How to communicate one’s dream and desire?
A project turned on its head
A reminder of Scorsese’s journey with Taxi Driver.
The inevitable gap between the creator’s intention and the reception of the work.
As Greg tries to convey to Tommy, success it IS for the movie, even if it is NOT the kind of success intended by Tommy.
Letting go of one’s individual control, surrendering to the collective mythmaking.
The possible misunderstanding and the sense of possibility inherent to these very misunderstandings.

A hall of mirrors:
Greg and Tommy, David and James Franco
Actors and actresses playing their own roles

The twin-end of the movie:
-The divided screen sequence (a reminder of Franco’s ambitious adaptation of As I Lay Dying) juxtaposing the ‘reality’ of the factual background behind the script (the original movie The Room) and its screen adaptation (Franco’s staging and filming of it)

-After the end credits, a pause, and then an added sequence, like an afterthought:
Tommy with another Greg-like character
Repeating the pattern
A way for the film to broaden its scope
Some opening up of the particulars of the story covered by the script (revisiting the making of a now cult movie)

Referential play and visual games
An artist at work—with or without (the) disaster(s)

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

THE SHAPE OF WATER

THE SHAPE OF WATER

 

“Mais quand, malgré la souffrance, un désir est murmuré, il suffit qu’un autre l’entende pour la brise reprenne  flamme”                  Boris Cyrulnik, Le murmure des fantômes

 

 

A story of resilience of some sort

A story about listening and being heard

A fairy tale and a political parable

A film crossing generic lines

Characters moving across boundaries

Love as frontier, not border.

 

The sacrifice (killing) of a being to research

The blinding effect of assumptions or denials

The silencing of minorities and other ‘Others’

The ruthless treatment of humans turned machines (the role of institutions and other places of power in the overall dehumanizing of people turned into ‘agents’ indeed)

Yet the silence of the disenfranchised (because of their race, gender, class and age or handicap) speaks louder than words

 

In our Posthuman context there is more to the “happy ending” than first meets the eye:

A tribute to the force of our humanity

Whitmanian songs of compassion, understanding and healing:

Leaves of water, We celebrate ourselves.

 

The Meliès-like quality of a “trip to the moon”

The magic and wonder that cinema enacts and triggers and invites.

Some happy resolution for the characters

Some sense of closure for the viewers.
Yet we might imagine an alternative narrative for the  movie

The way La La Land proposed one last year: the uncanny lovers’ story could take place on earth (in our world) and not in water (the world of fantasy, or any place that is not our world).

And the shape of a dream beyond

If only we decided to take the time to share an egg, a piece of music, or a dance.

In an unlikely place, with an unlikely friend, in our likely world.

 

« Il n’est pas fou de vouloir vivre et d’entendre au fond du gouffre un léger souffle qui murmure que nous attend, comme un soleil impensable, le bonheur »     Boris Cyrulnik,   Le murmure des fantômes

 

Marie Liénard-Yeterian

LADY BIRD

LADY BIRD

 

What’s in a name? The name given by your parents (what you inherit: the common name Christine, shared by other women) and the name you create and give yourself (Lady Bird, shared by no one)

Reimagining yourself, creating a different origin and identity: illusion or empowering narrative?

 

(The reader of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction revisits “Good Country People” and its story of Joy/Ulga’s own journey at self-discovery, with the occasional blindness, self-delusion, and pride: lessons to be learned, as painful as they might be, as necessary as they are sometimes… and suggested new departures… beyond what the text narrates but evokes in some off-stage space, tragic and theatrical… or not)

 

Teenage life, with its ups and downs, misunderstandings and understandings.

Communities, imagined or real.

Belonging

Being rejected or accepted. Rejecting and accepting.

The ‘true’ friends as opposed to the ‘mock’ friends who use you

Kyle’s carelessness as opposed to Danny’s kindness.

 

The rites and rituals of passage, prom or no prom.

Love given, taken back, and recovered,

And attention.

Love and attention: “maybe the same thing”, as the nun indicates.

Self-esteem

Hope and aspirations

The gift of compassion

Welcoming the Other in who he is/as he is:

The gay boyfriend turned foe, and friend again.

 

Theater and dance as ways to try out other identities, build self-confidence, And introduce creativity in one’s life.

Dreams of material success,

The intricacies of femininity,

The proper dresses, cheap or not,

The performance(s) for oneself and others.

Parental love, understood or not

Parental love, received or not.

The way others see your parents, appreciate and love them. Praise them. See in them things you have not (yet) seen.

The sense of rejection that the mother feels with her daughter’s departure

Yet the child’s departure is no comment on what a mother has given the child, just a normal aspiration.

For better or for worse. There is no telling. Just the dynamic of life, the unpredictable work of time and space.

The mother: as a family figure, and as a professional, counseling the priest.

Both catering to the needs of others in need of love and trust and hope.

The sense of shame attached to poverty

The silent battle with depression (the father, the priest), loving despite one’s suffering

Or because of it.

 

Moving to the big city

Yet remembering home: Sacramento, and its beautiful sights.

The pride of driving around, feeling empowered by the intimate knowledge of the landscape combined with the newly-acquired knowledge of driving the car.

 

The encounter at the party as wake up call from the world of rural (childhood/teenage) fantasies to urban (college life/adult) reality.

Getting drunk: tasting pleasure combined with danger

The hospital scene: facing the little boy who has lost an eye. Like him, she is partly blind. But unlike him, she can make use of her eye(s) if she wants to.

 

The epistolary quality of the phone call, part of an on-going exchange.

An answer left in the air,

Like so many of our conversations and attempts to reach out.

Messages left unanswered, out of indifference, boredom or negligence.

 

Will the “Lady” find her Prince? Charming or not…

Will the “Bird” take her flight?

 

 

Marie Liénard-Yeterian

 

Phantom Thread

PHANTOM THREAD

 

The crude world of There Will be Blood is replaced by the polished context of London, its good manners and social rituals.

A no less harsh reality, in certain ways

A wilderness of another kind.

Other obsessions and destructive streaks

Other phantoms

Other threads uniting the protagonists

Weaving and unraveling/raveling out the pattern

 

On the London stage as opposed to the Southern California arena

Another interesting triangle: Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril

And his model and lover (then wife) Alma, the outsider.

Manipulation and power anew.

The decorum of the manners and customs, the violence of the secret passions

The oppressive and stifling mood of the Victorian era against the backdrop of the 1950’s

Jealousy and longings; sighs and whispers.

The breakfast ritual enacting the denial of the material reality

Chewing, eating, drinking

Feeding on earthly food

Disturbing the willful erasure of the bodily needs.

The interlude of the New Year’s Eve Party

And its carnival of other masks and metaphors.

 

The narrative structure:

The flashback frame, hardly noticed at first

Then the movie plot catches up with the beginning

Before proceeding to an ending that is hardly satisfying

And leaves open the question of the confessional mode with the young doctor

 

Fairy tale innuendos, and intertextual resonances with stories such as “The Oval Portrait” or The Portrait of Dorian Gray

The artist (painter or dressmaker) and his sitter.

With a twist:

The muse reveals (like a photographic film exposed to light) the real personality of the apparently successful and confident ‘master’.

The elaborate designs of the dresses

And their complex making,

The androgynous figure of the sister,

A loved and lost mother,

The reversible roles in the family pattern

Alma as an occasional surrogate mother.

 

A wound and a secret weakness suddenly exposed.

The motif of the poison scene, an exchange of gazes

The mutual understanding and acceptance of death

The passion, the co-dependency.

Surrendering to her power

In near death he finds love,

The hovering ghost of the lost mother,

The physical ailment revealing the ailment afflicting the soul

Tormenting the memory and the heart

 

The theatrical and staged dimension of the visual effects

The pictorial editing and tight framing

Close-ups betraying the sensuality of the touch,

Some eroticism hardly kept in check under the professional gesture

The lingering hand on a beautiful fabric

The cutting and putting into shapes

The torn or stained material.

An elaborate choreography of gazes and moves,

And footsteps on endless flight of stairs.

 

Revisiting the gothic script

The notion of a curse

The sewing of a note in the lining: NEVER CURSED

The blend of the supernatural and the real

The universe of the Bronte sisters and Daphne du Maurier

Wuthering Heights, and its tale of passion across class lines

But also, more hauntingly,

Rebecca and its tale of murder and jealousy

The power of mysterious and strong women

Cyril/Mrs Danvers

Reynold’s mother/Rebecca

The staircase of the London home/Hallways and recesses in Manderley

A psychological and emotional chase.

 

The flirtation with bodily death against immortality through art

The surprising doubling effects

Strengths and weaknesses

And unexpected designs

With, or without, the thread and its phantom.

 

Et quand il est à s’en mourir

Au dernier moment de la cendre

La guitare entre dans la chambre

Le feu reprend par le chant sombre

Aragon, Le fou d’Elsa

 

 

Marie Liénard-Yeterian

 

 

FILM GALORE: OF CHOICE AND OTHER HUMAN PREDICAMENTS

FILM GALORE:

                         Of Choice and Other Human Predicaments

 

15.17 TO PARIS, THE POST, MOLLY’S GAME, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, DOWNSIZING

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BLADE RUNNER 2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049

 

 

The movie is, first and foremost, a visual experience.

Emblematic urban landscape and pouring rain. A significant conjuring up of the first movie screen experience.

 

The visuals are pervaded by our current tastes for alternative reality/realities

Ubiquitous holograms and virtual images superimposed on to the real world

 

A taste for “good scenes”

Interesting and intriguing backdrops: a palace, Deckard’s home or simply the street.

 

Even the landscape of disasters is endowed with a magic quality…

 

The soundtrack is haunting:

The dissonance of the world at hand can be HEARD …

The snow and rain are the only surviving natural elements that are palpable.

The noise of the brew on the stove: eerie in its normalcy, its ordinariness

Everything else looks so alien and strange

Uncanny, yet, in a weird way.

 

Some central question (s)

The real and the virtual

The virtual is presented as a part of the characters’ real world (K’s girlfriend)

Enter The question of a real birth

Again, the question of memories: memories lived by someone or made up

“Yes, these memories have been lived by someone”

The wooden horse as sign of a lost world—a lost time (childhood, with the putative natural birth) and a lost space (nature).

The tree, of course, stands for a genealogical line, calling forth the question of filiations—legitimate or not. Incongruous questions, perhaps, in such a world.

Can the Replicant inscribe himself/herself in a human family/history?

“You are not made, you are born” says the girlfriend who insists on giving (him) a name.

 

His hesitation : did he really live this or does he believe he did?

Enter Memory and identity

The threshold ushering a self-delusion

(Maybe, maybe not)

He has constructed a narrative—a point of origin anchored in a “real’ family (Replicant or partially human…no closure on this point in the wake of the first movie)

A Platonic subtext? we perceive only shadows of the real.

 

Little nods to the early viewer, a different sense of recognition:

The origami

Rachel (without the green eyes): she is (has become) just a shadow, an illusion.

Little concessions to the passing of time and practicing of other SF spaces.

 

Feeling of displacement /unbalance created by the constant intrusion of holograms and their staged dramas (Elvis, Marilyn and company)

Giving shape and contours to our inner theatre, yet they remain as immaterial and fleeting and evanescent.

 

The linearity of time is disturbed along with linearity of space.

We hop from one setting to another without any sense of traveling and transitioning into…

Music and images from another time recur and create another form of haunting.

(Derrida’s specters)

A series of tableaux morphing a dreamscape. With an occasional nightmare.

We have to establish the connections.

Video game aesthetics and cinematic experience

The female body on screen

Desire—with new forms of “streetcars” and naming.

How cinema and reality intersect

Their constant crosspollination

 

A blend of high tech science and gimmicks (little flying objects)

And ubiquitous desires

The ability to scan and record reality, to probe into it with the eye without moving close to the object.

Proximity and distance

Drone like weapons.

 

The dog: the faithful companion. In reality as in the virtual world. At least, let’s hope so.

 

A leave-taking?

Temporary or final?

Depending on whether the next 25 years are—(perhaps) (also)—transitory or final.

 

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

 

 

WONDER WHEEL

WONDER WHEEL

 

The movie opens on a summer day on Coney Island.

Fun is fair, fair is fun

(Foul is fair, fair is foul)

The image of the wheel—seen in the opening shot and at the end, and suggested throughout—casts a shadow over the sandy beach.

The wheel of life is turning, mistakes are repeated, patterns come and go. Recur.

The tragic side of the human condition beyond the fun dimension of Coney Island

The sense of unraveling

Resilience and endurance.

With a bit of cynicism, perhaps.

 

Mickey’s gift to Ginny: A play by Eugene O’Neill

Some dirge is heard, as in Long Day’s Journey into Night.

And in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Woody Allen returns to the world of theatre

And conjures up the character of Blanche Dubois previously explored in Blue Jasmine.

Beyond the kaleisdoscopic glitter of intertextual references

The movie is structured and filmed like a play

Witty and quick dialogue

A sense of entrapment

A series of tableaux

A narrator who is both a voice over and a protagonist

The voice over feeling like an artificial intrusion

Like soliloquies at the theatre.

Characters storm in and out of rooms that feel like a set on a stage— “circumstances” that the actors have to inhabit, following the lead of the Method. Prop-like objects come and go

Lines are uttered

The protagonists become larger than the filmic script

“High galaxies over a fear of falling” in Arthur Miller’s image.

 

Yearnings and longings

Aspirations and dreams

Women trapped in bad marriages

Carolina and her violent gangster husband

Ginny and her alcoholic husband Humpty

The son Richie setting things on fire

Addicted to a sense of danger and collapse

Blanche’s scream “fire, fire” can be heard very distinctly now

A symptom of the paroxysm of feelings and emotions

Human life on the edge.

Some intuition of the violence done to women: Humpty threatening and tender, tender and threatening, in another move of the wheel turning.

The wheel bringing back Carolina’s past

Snatching her and lifting her out of sight

Again.

Women and love

The watch as the pathetic excess of unrequited infatuation,

The lavish expenditure of passion—felt and lost.

The wheel keeps turning, life goes on:

Stanley Kowalski resumes his poker game

Humpty will go fishing

 

Ginny’s common points with Mary Tyrone and Blanche Dubois:

A Janus-faced personality: beautiful and loving, bitter and cynical

A first love, the quest to retrieve that happiness, an inability to heal

Aloofness and withdrawal

Longing for a past that can no longer be

Lies and conceits

Memories and nostalgia

Addiction

Performing and imagining: escaping

Mary and her wedding-dress

Blanche and her “mardi-gras outfit”

All three haunted by aging and the passing of time.

 

 

The fun party-like atmosphere of Coney Island and the Ferris wheel:

The wonder that carnival and circus bring to our existence.

The glitter and shine.

The gilded space of the American dream

Lifting you up, bringing you high

Until the (inevitable) turn of the wheel brings you right down.

 

Inner dreams and longings beyond food and domesticity

The woman under the work outfit.

A momentary escape

The upcoming storm

A lifeguard that offers no protection

In the end.

A beach and footprints erased by unavoidable waves

Human happiness: fleeting and temporary,

The fragile and vulnerable dimension of any human endeavor.

 

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

 

 

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – TUTORS AND TYROS

First:
A phone conversation with Leo before I could see the movie:
“It is not what SW fans expect
It is doing/starting something else
It is about transmission and the relationships between generations”

Then:
A comment by a friend:
“It is amazingly good”

I was prepared—for the best

And I got the best

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