All posts filed under: American Independent Cinema

THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR (Dir. Ivan Dixon, 1973, US) – ‘You have just played out the American dream…now, we’re gonna turn it into a nightmare’

The high point of Blaxploitation political radicalism is commonly signposted with Melvin Van Peebles groundbreaking film – ‘Sweetback’. When considering the limitations of Blaxploitation cinema, the seminal nature of Peebles film should in no way exclusively act as the definitive reference point for the radicalism of the era or black cinema. Released in 1973, The Spook who sat by the door falls under the auspice of Blaxploitation but the political reality with which it dealt, that of black militancy and anti establishment ideology, is an aspect that most films avoided in fear of commercial alienation and criticism from the white establishment. The claim that Blaxploitation offered new ways of representing what it meant to be black in America seems like another liberal oversight considering how many of these films perpetuated a fantasy urban image of a black anti-hero. Many of these so called Blaxploitation films did little to further the political cause of the black communities in America as many of the films were financed by the major studios in a deliberate and premature attempt …

LITTLE MEN (Dir. Ira Sachs, 2016, US) – The organic whole

Harmony is an art but many films struggle to balance all the different filmic elements into a synchronic, syncretic whole, and one that does not feel maudlin, laboured or exact. But cinema or filmmakers are never expected to be harmonious in their overall paradigmatic design yet in many respects an over abundance of visual and narrative beautification that often plagues mainstream cinema(s) globally seems unappreciative of the lost art of humanist cinema – Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Roberto Rossellini form a post war collective. Humanist cinema has often been dismissed as critical contrivance, a suitably ignoble denigration of an aesthetic, thematic concealment. If we were to judge the viability of humanist cinema right now through the prism of contemporary film criticism then it would probably be far less argumentative and anodyne to say the work of Ken Loach and The Dardennes have continually kept alive this very notion, although one in direct conflict with the knotty corpus of ontological debates. In his work on Roberto Rossellini Peter Brunette uses a film review by …

FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach, 2012, US) – New Wave Intertexts

‘I know when to go out. And when to stay in’, sings Bowie on ‘Modern Love’, the opening track to his 1983 album ‘Let’s Dance’. Bowie’s music disputably transcends context but a song like Modern Love educes nostalgia for the 1980’s occasioning the dissolution of time and space in Frances Ha. Although this film is not contingent in temporal affirmation, the negation to contextualise New York as a contemporary topography signifies an intertext to Woody Allen’s patina of romanticism in films such as Manhattan and Annie Hall. What matters is the city, not the time in which it is set. The same principle applies to Frances Ha, thereby conjuring Frances (Greta Gerwig) into a ball of schizophrenic energy. Her neurosis, an unfolding existentialist crisis, adjudicates her ‘undatable’ status. Director Noah Baumbach first worked with Gerwig in his mid life crisis feature Greenberg starring Ben Stiller. Frances Ha sees Gerwig in the leading role, and in virtually every scene, but also as a co-writer on what is a semi autobiographical script (this fact seems certain when …

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Dir. Derek Cianfrance, 2012, US) – Eclipse of the Son [Spoilers ahead!]

I’m still convinced that as Ryan Gosling gets older he’s going to eventually look like Jimmy Stewart; it’s that curvature of his elongated face and dewy eyes. Much has been made of Gosling’s performance in this latest feature from director Derek Cianfrance and it is suggestive to the film. Gosling is a performer who is superb at conveying emotions through effective uses of silence. In fact, Gosling would be perfect in both a western by Sergio Leone as a gunslinger and a shadowy gangster in any Melville’s polar films. In other words, the less dialogue for Gosling, the better. This was proven by a near wordless performance as The Driver in Refn’s 2011 Drive. Gosling takes a similar approach in The Place Beyond The Pines, playing a disaffected and incorporeal young man who finds it insufferable to make a concrete connection between his responsibilities as a father and the demands of adulthood. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt driver, who gets his thrills from entertaining crowds of enthusiasts at a travelling funfair. Luke is a …