Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Jim Jarmusch”

Paterson

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 1st January 2017

5 stars, Rated M, 118 mins

I’m not the first to rave about Jim Jarmusch’s latest love story, but I’ll tell you why I think it’s sending critics into paroxysms of gratitude and appreciation. Paterson feels like just the antidote we need as 2016 draws the curtain on its decimation of beloved musicians and actors, and its worldwide natural disasters, and is a welcome respite from the cynicism induced by recent months of political absurdity (politicking so absurd that if they made a movie of it, people would accuse it of being unrealistic).

Paterson is named for the titular character as well as the city in New Jersey in which the story is set.  Played by Adam Driver (the indie darling who crossed over into the Star Wars universe to win plaudits as Kylo Ren), he is a gentle-natured chap who gets walked by his pet bulldog; the epitome of the working man, driving buses by day and enjoying a pint of an evening. Less typically, Paterson writes poetry in his lunch breaks, before returning to his sweetly kooky girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani) whose unconditional support for his extra-curricular creative leanings is immensely touching.

paterson

Director Jarmusch is reportedly uncomfortable shooting sex scenes, so there’s a novel pleasure in watching an understated love affair on screen that eschews carnal simulation for companionable conversations and loving gestures like helping to pack freshly-baked cupcakes for market. Even if Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive made romance more melodramatic (with captivating performances from Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, how could it not?), he has a knack for making the audience care about his characters as much as they patently do each other.

The other joy in Jarmusch’s work is in the details. Amidst scenes of well-observed dialogue, the camera cuts away to sneakered feet dangling on a bus, and photo frames of a character’s past life. Our unlikely protagonist encounters ordinary people who bring his quotidian life unexpected meaning. A carload of street-talkin’, white homeboys warn Paterson unthreateningly about the dangers of getting “dog-jacked”. He takes inspiration from a 12-year old poet. Throughout, Jarmusch’s quiet observations entrance the eye and hook you into the world his characters inhabit. Even when Paterson’s best “work story” is about a bus breaking down, we hang on his every word.

Simultaneously making me want to cry without ever giving me cause, watching Paterson is as soothing as reading a great book while sipping a fine ale on a leisurely afternoon.

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Only Lovers Left Alive

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th April 2014

Having closed last year’s International Film Festival, audiences should be grateful for another chance to catch one of the most sumptuous, intoxicating and yes, possibly self-indulgent love stories of modern cinema. Under the pen and direction of indie darling Jim Jarmusch, this exceptionally romantic tale of two creatures of the night negotiating the travails of a long distance relationship is so much more than a “vampire movie”.

Wait, come back – Twilight this definitely ain’t. Rather, Jarmusch has penned an adult’s fantasy of (quite literally) eternal love which eschews fight scenes with werewolves and a nauseating threesome in order to cram in as many clever literary and cultural references as is possible in two hours. With a top-notch cast (ice queen Tilda Swinton thaws into an incredibly warm wife to Tom Hiddleston’s mopey musician Adam) and a witty, laugh-out-loud script (pretentious? Oui!), Lovers is like a delicious cinematic liqueur.

The titular lovers travel between Michigan and Morocco, lugging classic tomes and a history’s worth of musical instruments, her light to his dark in both costume and nature. They are the epitome of cool, languorous in their dealings with the world and one another in a way which makes viewing the film strangely relaxing. Even when Mia Wasikowska appears as the delightfully trouble-making sister, they all make being a vampire look such fun.

Swinton is typically excellent, but Hiddleston (best known as Loki from Thor) is simply glorious as the suicidal musician who despairs at how humanity behaves. Supported by amusing performances by John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe (his whinings about Shakespeare giving a clever slant to history as we know it) and Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin as a rock ‘n’ roller who attends to Adam’s every need, the small cast is a universal delight.

If anything, it’s all a bit too lovely to look at, and you wish the camera would stop panning for a moment so you can take in all the production detail. In-jokes abound, with the lovers effortless in their delivery of cutesy dialogue and loving bon mots. Some may find it meandering but for viewers with the patience for the scenic route (and some esoteric musical sequences), the rewards are considerable.

I think it’s all over – final musings on the NZFF 2013

This post first appeared on Watt to Watch at http://www.stuff.co.nz on 4th August 2013

As I write, the seven venues that have hosted the Auckland film festival should hopefully be packed as keen locals get their final fix of this year’s best arthouse fare. The rush of the last fortnight ended for me last night on something of an ambivalent low, but not before I’d seen three of my overall festival highlights.

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As hoped, Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing delivered in spades. Assembling a terrific cast of quasi-familiar faces at his Santa Monica home, he shot the film over 12 days, evidenced in the pace and energy appropriate for one of the Bard’s best comedies. A tale of two sets of lovers, the story doesn’t need repeating here but what matters is that Whedon retains the original language (with imperceptible abridgement) and every single performance is so good you not only know exactly what’s going on in the action but you capture every joke. And boy is it funny. Shot in black and white, the film is a laugh-out-loud delight from go to whoa. Imperative viewing for anyone with a heart and the merest scraping of a wit.

Ernest & Celestine was my only animated outing this year, and the Cannes 2012 film was also an absolute treat. In French (but subtitled of course), Ernest the hungry bear encounters Celestine the kindly mouse, and their unorthodox (and outlawed) friendship gets them in and out of all sorts of scrapes as it enriches both their lives. The drawing is exquisite, appropriately “old-school” in its rendering of a French town where both species live in peaceably separate communities. My seven year old companion loved it, and having spent a good while counting some of the 450 elephants in the Civic Theatre afterwards, I think she’ll be asking to come back next year.

Ernest & Celestine

Solid films both but by their nature and subject matter less charming were the excellent Romanian film Child’s Pose and Ulrich Seidl’s PARADISE: Hope.

Having avoided seeing Seidl’s Love film at Cannes last year because I didn’t think I was up for his brutal truths about the pain of the world, I was ambivalent about seeing PARADISE: Hope this year. And while I gather this one is less grim than his previous two PARADISE films, Seidl’s conclusion to the trilogy still expertly instils a feeling of unease and distaste.

13-year old Melanie joins a group of kids at Diet Camp, and while there is plenty of footage of the youngsters doing hapless star jumps and striding through the rain with ski poles, it’s the after hours teenage shenanigans and the natural hormonal instincts of youth that interest Seidl the most. Just as his Love story followed plump, middle-aged sex tourists in Africa, here the scent of potential sex permeates the whole movie. Seidl’s cleverness (or masterful manipulation, if you prefer) is his ability to take his characters right to the precipice of unwelcome behaviour but never quite have them jump off. The sense of audience unease is palpable, but it’s not like you leave the cinema heaving a sigh of relief. Disquieting, certainly, and while narratively a bit unsatisfying, perhaps it’s better he stopped where he did…

Child's Pose

Similarly gritty, Child’s Pose showcases an exceptional performance from Luminita Gheorghiu as Cornelia, a bourgeois Budapest mother whose love for her son moves her to incredible lengths to protect his future after he is charged with killing a child. The 34-year old son, by comparison, is a devastating mix of immature, ungrateful and vicious. The story arc and dialogue is painfully realistic, and though it’s not (nor meant to be) a “fun” watch, Child’s Pose is a great film.

The festival’s closing night film was Jim Jarmusch’s luscious Only Lovers Left Alive. I could never be said to actually like Tilda Swinton, but the English actress has been blowing me away for decades, with every performance from the transgendered Orlando to her sweaty-armpitted lawyer in Michael Clayton. Here she plays Eve to Tom Hiddleston’s Adam, two lovers of the night whose dark ways are made considerably less creepy or clichéd by the fact their life story crosses several centuries.

Nevermind Swinton is 20 years older than Hiddleston – their love-match is touching and deeply romantic and full of wit. The kooky cast includes John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe, who laments his best work was appropriated by that damn Shakespeare; Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s naughty little sister; and Jeffrey Wright (there’s a nod to Wright’s breakout film role as Jean-Michel Basquiat in Eve’s choice of travel reading). Jarmusch has crafted a hilarious, exotic, delicious film that is a fitting close to this extremely fine festival.

On a closing note, a few recommendations for those in other centres who are still planning their NZIFF time. My favourite films (not quite in order of ecstasy): Antarctica: A Year on Ice; Which Way is the Front Line from Here?; Omar; What Maisie Knew; The Selfish Giant; Utu – Redux; A Hijacking; Only Lovers Left Alive; Much Ado About Nothing; Gideon’s Army; Dial M for Murder.

I hope that helps you to narrow your choices down!

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