Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
Already have an account? Log in here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
No user info supplied.
It's easy to throw around superlatives like "riveting" when referring to films that provoke a significant response from a viewer, but it's not at all excessive to refer to Woman in the Dunes as such. Although the bulk of the film takes place in a hole, Teshigahara manages to find an incredible amount of visually stunning images in the supremely limited environment, these images supported by a great, unsettling score that plays up the film's science-fiction elements.
Woman in the Dunes is, first and foremost, a simple and powerful indictment of systemic inequality, the premise involving a woman trapped in a hole, endlessly shoveling sand for the sake of the larger system a perfect encapsulation of what it's like to live at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. No matter how hard she tries, she can't climb up the loose walls of sand. If she doesn't keep working, her house will be buried by it. When a man is added to the mix, the oppression of women also comes into play. The two live together in the dirt, clinging to one another out of desperation, and begin to believe that they belong where they are, their work providing them with a purpose. Their "superiors" give them just enough to survive, as well as opiates like alcohol and cigarettes to keep them complacent. They use them as a source of amusement as well as a source of income. Although the pair gains a further understanding of their environment that makes living bearable, escape is almost never possible. While it's certainly possible to read these developments as a commentary on the futility of human existence, it proves much more rewarding to view the film as a social satire instead; either way, it's an undeniable masterpiece.
Though not as dreamlike as one might expect coming from someone like Buñuel, Belle de Jour is a deeply intelligent, deliberately bizarre look at sexual repression and class structures. Buñuel attributes Séverine's subconscious desires to her upbringing and the rigid social mores cultivated by religious institutions. Though she lives a relatively perfect, upperclass life, she wants something else sexually, something indicative of the ways in which society teaches men and women how to behave and how to perceive each other. Her life at the brothel is an independent entity that satisfies that need, her clients revealing quite a bit about what Buñuel is trying to say about what men and woman have been taught to want. Men want children or sex dolls or subservient slaves that they can abuse and control; Séverine wants to be abused. Buñuel doesn't single out these desires as natural so much as he makes clear that they are learned, decidedly unnatural. The decision to merge reality and her dreamworld is an intelligent one as well, and makes for one of the best portrayals of the almost precognitive nature of dreams I've ever seen.
Babette's Feast focuses on a little town made up of devout Christians who believe in simplicity and regimens. Two sisters meet luxurious men, fall in love, but don't act on their feelings. A woman named Babette comes to town, living with them for many years before revealing herself to be a world-famous cook who makes them a meal as a gift. The town learns to overcome their petty squabbles after eating, for life is worth living and their troubles mean nothing in that context. This is a sweet, simple story and the film comes across as the same. The old ladies are adorable in their staid routines involving mushy bread and prayer, the scenery is beautiful, and the subtle commentary on absolution and balance is wise.
It's easy to see why Pope Francis is so taken by Babette's Feast given his propensity for mixing the old with the new (albeit certainly not perfectly). The film espouses this sentiment exactly, piousness never shamed and gluttony never condemned, because life isn't complete without either. I'm not at all religious, but this simple message resonated anyway.
Brief Encounter is perfect. It's heartbreaking in its honesty, a true representation of what it's like to be in love. Laura and Alec are two trains going different directions, and their time together during the overlap in their respective journeys is a lovely little encapsulation of why human beings love one another and how cruel it is to live a life where it's taken away. It's so perfect, in fact, that it's really not right that such a masterpiece should be discussed in the context of another, but since I watched this film due to its relation to Carol, I nevertheless spent quite a bit of its runtime thinking about the thematic choices Haynes made when he decided to incorporate brief elements from this film in his own and will do so anyway.
Brief Encounter is not a subtle film because it doesn't have to be. There is no subtext, as the entirety of the story is communicated through Laura's inner monologue, thoughts and feelings laid out along with the plot. When first considering the inclusion of this film's beginning/end structure, I briefly entertained the notion that this was a mistake, a reimagining of a straight story used to communicate a gay one to an audience and a regressive bit of "gay via straight signifiers" filmmaking that limits so much of queer cinema. I quickly decided that that was idiotic and moved on.
It's obvious that, by deliberately choosing to reference this film, Haynes wanted to make clear the difference between gay modes of communication and straight ones, pointing to the similarities of the two couples' situations (forbidden love) while ultimately revealing that though society forces straight people into rigid structures that prevent them from attaining happiness, it does so to an unbelievable degree for queer people. This is true to the point that we have been forced to create happiness in the midst of oppression, subtle looks and touches communicating what we can't say out loud, each little signal an act of rebellious defiance against a system that hates us. Haynes is a postmodern director, and so he made his film the way he did to make a specific point: Carol incorporates bits of Brief Encounter in order to proclaim its own emancipation, to state that it will refuse to compromise for the sake of straight people, to show that we have to hide twice as hard as any straight couple, to make clear that we will always survive even when society criminalizes our very existence.
Both films are masterpieces, but for entirely different reasons, Brief Encounter specifically for the reasons stated previously. Carol, on the other hand, is perfect because it adds a level to what its predecessor was trying to say, taking the universal text of what came before and making it queer. That little act of bold defiance is one that might not have ever been done before, making the film just as vital as the work it echoes because ultimately, we're just as important as those that would like to snuff out our own brand of love.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is a work about the act of creating art while simultaneously striving to become it oneself. Yukio Mishima's career seemed to be one rumination on the same subject after another, youth and beauty and a longing for an imperialist past driving his artistic process throughout his life until his final act that serves as both a culmination of this ideology and an indictment of its inherent flaws. Schrader's approach is unpredictable, heavily-stylized sets serving as the environment for the stagings of his works, these precursive adaptations allowing for insights into Mishima's life in ways that the standard forms of conveyance wouldn't. These make up a majority of the film, each bizarre and intriguing in their own ways and allowing for a clear endpoint in the inevitable denouement that results in a clean, satisfying structure. The art direction is gorgeous, as is Glass' score, the work an excellent product of Schrader's extremely hit-or-miss career that more than likely serves as his opus.