Toy Story 4
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Maybe their starkest, grittiest film. Not sure yet what to say about its religiosity (this is something Iâve only recently begun thinking about in connection with their work), although the Christ imagery in the vocation school was pretty clear. Olivier was wonderfully played, and, as in Rosetta (another Dardenne movie with a single, central character), the camera has a fascinating relationship with him. Of course it moves when he moves etc, but beyond that thereâs more going on. Olivierâs back is frequently emphasized, also his expressionless faceâ¦ I recall an early scene where Olivier nervously stops in to speak with his manager about Francisâ appointment, and the camera almost acts in his place, slinking through the door, quickly panning over to the manager, and then retreating, as if in embaressment. Fantastically developed claustrophobic atmosphere, and, as in all of their other films, a stomach-turning overarching feeling of hard desperation. They have a knack for finding deathliness in objectsâ¦ here itâs the stacks of woodâ¦ in Rosetta and LâEnfant itâs cold waterâ¦ They also have a talent for coaxing great performances out of young people. Might also think on carpentry as a metaphor and the significance of objects in the movie (mirrors, Olivierâs belt, the matching tool boxes). As in Bressonâs films (am I contributing to âthe problemâ bringing up Bresson like every other critic whoâs commented on the Dardennes?), everything is physicalizedâ¦ movementâs are deliberate and thereâs an acute âin the nowâ sense of time. Having seen three of their films before, I wasnât surprised when the credits rolled during the post-climax silence between Olivier and Francis. I love that their films always end wordlessly, often with two humans reduced to very basic, very pitiful statesâ¦ just staring at each other and wondering how to rebuild and move on.
Even better than 'Il Posto'... Comes a hair closer to distilling the medium to pure lyricism. Olmi's attention to salt-of-the-earth-type characters makes him almost the yin to Antonioni's yang. What another reviewer said about the film's being a "logical progression of neorealism" is I think spot-on; Olmi all but evacuates the genre of its melodramatic elements so as to recover its potential for poetry. So immersive and rewarding.
To the reviewer who considered 'The Party and the Guest''s allegorical content too simplistic: its simplicity is its virtue. Nemec purposefully resists overt association of the subject matter with the film's historical moment, creating an elasticity that allows more for timelessness than timeliness. That Nemec crafted a tale of mutually-accomodating masters and slaves AT ALL was audacious enough in an era of tight political censorship of cinema, and really the tale told here is as old as time, and therefore merited the relatively ahistorical execution. I think the principal appeal of the film is its latent hilarity... The quotidian presentation of the content creates a credulity and complacency in the viewer that isn't really eroded until the audience "snaps out" of their stupor and realizes just what's happened over the very easy 70 minutes of this concise gem (probably this happens at different moments for different viewers -- I started cognizing things when the intellectual shouldered the rifle without batting an eye). 'The Party and the Guests' may not be as thorny a provocation as a film like Bunuel's 'Exterminating Angel' (and depending on one's sensibility this could be to the film's credit or discredit), but it has extraordinary conceptual staying power and an eccentric charm that really make it worth a viewing.