JOKI (Jarmo Lampela, 2001)

I do not particularly care for narrative films, those that “tell a story” visually; I rarely see a point to them or a point to liking them. I find such films enormously constrained and inarticulate, drawing viewers’ attention to plot and characters to mask the fact that there is little or no thematic development about. […]

THE MUSIC ROOM (Satyajit Ray, 1958)

As credits roll, the opening shot of Jalsaghar, Satyajit Ray’s study of fading Bengal aristocracy, social self-delusion, and pride, mesmerizes. In a pitch-dark room, only a heavy, ornate, grandiose chandelier is visible. The thing sways, like an erratic pendulum. The camera approaches gradually, until the gleaming fixture fills the screen. A dissolve replaces the image […]

MALA NOCHE (Gus Van Sant, 1985)

The negotiable but irreconcilable gap dividing us: Mala Noche, Gus Van Sant’s first full-length film, stakes out this signature theme of his (see my piece on My Own Private Idaho), giving it a masterful rendering. A work of great clarity and particularity, and one of the greatest American films ever, Mala Noche achieves its core […]

KEDMA (Amos Gitaï, 2002)

Visionary epic poetry rather than historical reconstruction, Kedma opens on a naked woman, about to make love, onboard an overcrowded boat transporting European Jews to Palestine a few days prior to the modern State of Israel’s birth. Amos Gitaï’s bashed/celebrated film is among Israeli cinema’s highest attainments.      Gitaï contrasts the teeming humanity of the “illegal […]