Saturday, August 6, 2016

Compounding My Mifftake

Being 17: Andre Techine makes a respectable return to the material that animated his best known film (Wild Reeds). It's not as complex as that earlier, better work - the tangled knots of love triangles and fluid sexualities are reduced to two boys who learn that fighting is no substitute for fucking - but it does gain the fluid, tracking camera of The Girl on the Train which lends it a measure of anxious energy. It also speaks well of the film that its nods to contemporary hot button topics feel more like parts of characters' daily lives than talking points. Despite this the territory it covers feels over-familiar; perhaps it's time for the coming-of-age genre to grow up.

The Ball at the Anjo House: A part of me suspects that this film's fame in its day and its comparative contemporary obscurity speaks to its now dated now-ness: at every opportunity it hammers home its theme of the aristocracy's fading star. That said it is far from the stodgy work it first appears to be. The Ball slowly ramps up as the evening progresses climaxing in anguished outbursts, suicide attempts and a riot of dutch angles. Unfortunately the actors don't quite sell the melodrama. Setsuko Hara anchors the film in what is apparently a typical dutiful, wise daughter role (I confess I've only seen four films in which she appears) and Masayuki Mori is suitably louche as the dissolute older brother but others over-egg their performances and turn anguish into camp.

Certain Women: A common theme of secure, well-off individuals failing their more needy, precarious acquaintances unites three otherwise disparate stories of small town America. As usual Reichardt achieves sympathetic performances and nuanced interactions. It's a pity then that so much of Certain Women seems to climax in a shrug. This is no more true than of the middle story in which the initial ending of a younger woman's uneasy relationship with an elderly man ending uneasily is in no way complicated by the (already foreshadowed) ultimate success of her material project.

Cosmos: There's a great deal of pleasure to be had at first. I delighted in Genet masticating his dialogue as though every syllable was a piece of gristle, Libereau pulling off a delightful Chaplin impression and the assigning of peculiar ways of speaking to every character. Unfortunately the quirks are repeated ad nauseam until they shred the nerves and the rapid paced verbal gymnastics never let up for a breather. Ultimately the effect is akin to a piece of music played at an unvarying fortissimo for two long hours.