Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Cinema of Max Ophuls

It’s a source of daily frustration that the films of Max Ophuls are not more widely available, and BAM’s extensive retrospective comes like a long-awaited oasis of rare and incomparable cinema. At the moment, only Lola Montes (1955), Ophuls’ final film and only one in color, is available on DVD. The film is the perfect culmination of a career dedicated to illicit affairs and turbulent passions; tortured women caught between their desires and society’s strict mores; and a swirling, mobile camera that expresses life’s fatalistic merry-go-round unlike anyone else’s before or since.

Read my full review of The Cinema of Max Ophuls here at The L Magazine online.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Audience of One; Shotgun Stories; The Killer Within

With echoes of Faulkner, Shotgun Stories tells the story of a deep-seated feud between two different families — familes that shared the same father and who were raised to despise one another. After the father dies, both families’ sons become progressively vengeful and violent. Produced by David Gordon Green (George Washington), this is the debut of writer/director Jeff Nichols. He expresses the same poetic sensibility of his producer, yet distinguishes himself with an almost Viscontian sense of epic tragedy.

A father and professor of psychology at a local university, Bob Bechtel’s secret is that in 1955, he committed one of the earliest school shootings in America while at Swarthmore University: He killed one fellow student before turning himself in. Macky Alston’s perceptive direction does its best to break Bechtel’s seemingly impenetrable mask, which makes The Killer Within all the more compelling and unforgettable.

“In 1994, at age 40, Pastor Richard Gozowsky saw his first movie.” This title card provides the genesis for Michael Jacobs’ fascinating, infuriating and uncomfortably funny documentary Audience of One. Within one year, Gozowsky received a message from God — “I want you to be the Rolls Royce of filmmaking” — and began production on Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph, a biblical sci-fi epic described as “Star Wars meets The Ten Commandments.”

Read reviews of Michael Jacobs' Audience of One, Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories, and Macky Alston's The Killer Within here at The L Magazine online.

War/Dance (2007)

Husband-and-wife co-directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine artfully interweave politics, personal stories and performance, and all three areas of the film seem in perfect harmony as they inform and inspire one another. The competition story is neither too uplifting nor too detached from the film’s political consciousness: even the most optimistic moments are tinged with a perseverance that reflects a troubled past and an uncertain future.

Read my full review of War/Dance here at The L Magazine online.