Film, What We Watched

What We Watched: 08/16/14

Mother

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This week I moved into a new place to gear up for school starting soon; in other words, I didn’t have the chance to watch much. However, in addition to a few of Robin Williams’ films, which I talked about in our commemoration of the late and brilliant comic, I was able to round out Bong Joon-Ho’s filmography and catch the last of his widely-available films that I hadn’t seen, Mother. Although it shares the most similarity with Memories of Murder, Joon-Ho’s 2003 thriller and only other straight-up crime genre, Mother deals with elements that appear in some form or the other in almost all of his films, particularly parental duty, mental illness, and memory. After her mentally challenged son is arrested on faulty evidence for the murder of a schoolgirl, the mother in question goes to extreme lengths to exonerate- and protect- her boy. It’s probably the slowest burn of all of Bong Joon-Ho’s films, but still deftly paced and gorgeously composed in such a way that doesn’t call to much attention to itself. As proved by his more straight-up genre films, The Host and this year’s Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho can more than handle quick action and complex set-pieces, but as Mother proves, he’s equally comfortable taking a longer look at his subject matter. – Nathan Smith

Rushmore

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I love many of Wes Anderson’s movies, and while I tend to prefer his more recent films (Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel are up there for me, as is 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), his sophomore effort Rushmore just might be my favorite. Anderson somehow manages to pull of the high-wire act of loading the film with quirk and comedy and still recognizing that some of the main characters – especially ambitious young protagonist Max Fischer, played wonderfully by Jason Schwartzman in his first film role – are total assholes, which allows for Schwartzman and Bill Murray to bounce off each other vibrantly and results in clever quips and a prank war, and also in some emotional resonance around these damaged characters. Best Wes Anderson movie ever, man. – Jack Evans

Upstream Color

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One of last year’s best movies, Upstream Color is almost the total opposite of Primer – the former has minimal dialogue, stunning cinematography, and what turns out to be a fairly non-convoluted storyline – but they both could have been made only by Shane Carruth. Though Upstream Color is a much more emotional film than the hard sci-fi of his debut, both films show an inclination toward using fantastical scenarios to show how intrinsically we as humans are connected to the world around us, and both make viewers work to make sense of the details rather than lay them out neatly. Upstream Color is a movie about struggling and coping with depression, abuse, loss, and confusion, but it’s also about love, survival, and nature, both the human kind and the outdoors kind. In Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character says that the play he’s directing is “not a play just about death. It’s about everything: dating, birth, death, life, family… all that.” In 90 minutes, Upstream Color covers all of that and more, never less than profoundly. – Jack Evans

Yi Yi

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I’ve had a DVD copy of Edward Yang’s 2000 film Yi Yi borrowed from Nathan for months, but it took me a long time to get around to watching it, for many reasons: its length (nearly three hours); the seemingly heavy subject matter; my inexperience with Asian cinema. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The event upon which Yi Yi turns is a sad one, but the film itself isn’t overbearing – while there are moments filled with depression, pain, and heartache, there are also celebrations of life new and old, and of love first and reclaimed. It’s also remarkably consistent, a heavily entertaining slice-of-life that never dulls despite its long run-time and that culminates with a moment of pure, crushing beauty. – Jack Evans

 

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