67 – 2001: A Space Odyssey

A classic returns to cinemas for its 50th anniversary and we receive it in rather a muted fashion. José’s never seen it on the big screen and Mike’s never seen it at all, so it’s an interesting experience for both, but both come away with reservations.

Much of the discussion revolves around context. 2001: A Space Odyssey was first released in 1968 and our repeated use of the phrase “of its time” becomes a coded criticism as much as an honest descriptor – the film simply doesn’t work today as well, or in the same ways, as it did half a century ago. We discuss its editing, novelty value, depiction of the future and technology and more, perhaps unfortunately but probably unavoidably never being able to escape the historical lens. It’s true to say that we’re both very glad we took the opportunity to see it, but both left feeling that while its influence is even more tangible than one could imagine and its legacy is not in question, its greatness is today a touch overstated.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

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66 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

We find much to mull over in Solo, which José finds the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back and Mike finds overlong and depressingly dull. Our discussions take in the merits and flaws of the film’s visual design, its relationship to the saga’s history and fans, Ron Howard’s earnestness, the way the film builds a lawless world to develop and reconfigure Han Solo, and how on Earth an $84m opening weekend is considered a flop. One thing’s for sure: Rush is a great film.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

65 – Tully

Charlize Theron stars in Tully, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s fourth collaboration as director and screenwriter, as a mother of two with a third on the way, heavily put upon and struggling financially and personally, who hires a nanny to help her out at night. We find room for both praise and criticism, José in particular singling out Reitman’s direction for his ire and Mike disappointed in the film’s ultimate treatment of its central female friendship, but keen to discuss its portrayal of stress and mental illness.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

64 – In the Intense Now

We turn once again to curated streaming service MUBI for João Moreira Salles’ essay film, In the Intense Now, which combines archival news footage with home and amateur film to explore brief but fiery sociopolitical moments with a first-person, personal tint. It looks at four events: May 68 in France, the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, the March of the One Hundred Thousand in Brazil, all of which took place in 1968, as well as the beginnings of China’s Cultural Revolution, entirely through tourist footage shot by the director’s mother of her holiday there in 1966.

The film is deeply thought-provoking and complex. We discuss the feelings with which it left us, its contrast of cultures and movements across different countries and classes, how its search for understanding of its era is preferable to and more accessible than simple nostalgia, its disappointed examination of how business found ways to insert itself into the counter-culture in order to commodify and sell it, and the way that May 68 lives in cultural memory in a way the film claims is unjustified. A major theme of the film, as the title evokes, is the fleeting nature of some of these uprisings (particularly May 68, its primary focus), and there’s a significant contrast between the positive way this period of revolution is remembered and the contemporaneous state of mind as the movements ended. The film is more melancholy than you might expect.

We also discuss Salles’ use of direct textual analysis of the images he shows, in his narration drawing specific attention to camera movement, editing and framing. He keenly provides his own interpretation of the images and in so doing not only deepens our understanding of them, but also indirectly encourages the audience to apply the same scrutiny to the images of today. It’s a film that provides insight into and tools for evaluating images to viewers that may never have considered it important or even possible. We also discuss the movements of today that the film evokes for us, including Occupy Wall Street and the Parkland protests, and the similarities and differences between them and those of 1968.

We don’t entirely believe that it’s perfect – by which Mike means he thinks it’s too long and self-indulgent towards the end – but it’s a fascinating and rich film, deserving of your time.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

63 – Custody

This week we go arthouse and discuss Xavier Legrand’s first feature, Custody (Jusqu’à la garde), though ‘arthouse’ perhaps only in the sense that it’s subtitled. In some ways, the film is shot in a realist style, halfway between British kitchen sink drama and the Dardennes’ more leisurely, microscopic style. The film revolves around a couple in the process of divorce battling for custody of their young son. The boy wants to stay with his mother. Has he been coached? Is his mind being poisoned against his father?

We discuss how the first section is basically an exposition of the law where the father is surrounded by women, how the film initially orchestrates the audience’s sympathy around the father, and how this changes as the film unfolds. Is the film a critique of male privilege? Why is it so unpleasant so watch? Is it material that television handles better? What’s the point of putting an audience through this type of experience? We both adore Denis Ménochet as the father but really praise the whole cast. José loved it; Mike did not. The conversation as to why this is so occupies much of the second half of the podcast.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

62 – 120 BPM

Jose has been obsessed with 120 BPM and was very keen to hear what Mike, who is much younger and not gay, thought of it. Is his obsession due to purely personal reasons – the film seems to reflect a part of his youth – or is the film actually as good as he thinks it is? Is it a niche film or does it have meanings and feelings to communicate to a broader audience? Is the movie really great or is just it something Jose’s particularly vulnerable to weeping at the mere thought of?

We talk about it in relation to Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, currently on at the Young Vic in London. We also discuss the film as ‘director-as-editor’ filmmaking. We agree that despite the film’s length – almost the same as Infinity War! – there’s not a moment we’d cut. We discuss the opening sequences, all meetings, political actions, and introductions of characters; we agree that the sex scene in the hospital is one of the best ever filmed. Sex and desire in the film is always on the table and we discuss how it takes on different meanings. We also touch on film form but always only as a way of understanding what the film shows in a historical context.

Luckily for Jose, Mike liked it and was not sorry he’d bullied him into seeing it.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

61 – Avengers: Infinity War

The first part of Marvel’s ending to the unendable story wallops us with two and a half hours of punching and planets. Mike is even more gullible than usual. Jose stays cynical and rightly so. The film leads to discussions on whether we can actually find themes in it, the leaps of faith necessary to buy into it, the way in which we can’t help but buy into the story logic in the way we talk about it, and the nature of even trying to talk about corporate assets this enormous. It all gets quite meta. Jose mentions the state of modern America again. We bring up Call Me by Your Name somehow.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.