ALL THE VERMEERS IN NEW YORK (Jon Jost, 1990)

Antonioni visually informs Jon Jost’s city portrait, which finds New York (God help it!) resembling L.A.: a sleek, cold surface beneath which apoplexy bubbles and erupts. Where is Woody’s Manhattan (1979), city of jazz and wistful romance?
     Only a museum’s Vermeer exhibit allows a humanistic respite from “business as usual”: gallery owners exploiting artists; Wall Street, the machinations of one of whose brokers we follow. Into this capitalistic realm enters mysterious beauty: a plain girl, really, who, contrary to the broker’s insistence, doesn’t really resemble the girl in the Vermeer painting they both are entranced by; but to him, desperate for her soft air, she draws out his last chants for a slow dance.
     His cage rattles. The door opens. But it is she who escapes. What is left for him now? Abandonment and lonely death, it turns out, also are “business as usual.”
     Tonally resembling Eric Rohmer’s work (from which it borrows a dreamily feminine Emmanuèlle Chaulet), Jost’s brief flirtation with above-ground cinema is satirical and ironic.

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