September was yet another low film count month. I did manage to see a few pretty damn good contemporary films, watched all of Joshua Marston, as well as hit an all time classic.
In order of viewing:
- Hell or High Water
- The Searchers
- Complete Unknown
- Maria Full of Grace
- The Forgiveness of Blood
Ordering these is really hard this month. I have to put The Searchers first because of it’s social influence, though I didn’t love the movie.
- The Searchers – 4
- Indignation – 4.5
- Complete Unknown – 4.5
- Maria Full of Grace – 4.5
- Equity – 4
- Hell or High Water – 4
- The Forgiveness of Blood – 3.5
I wasn’t planning on doing a director study on Joshua Marston, but I think I’m going to do that as soon as I finish writing about September. With only 3 feature films under his belt (but a lot of television directing), I was surprised with how much Complete Unknown grabbed me. Sincerity is apparent in all his films. Each one of the features are very different but have similar themes of others trying to get out of their current situations. I highly recommend watching through his work.
I’m not really sure why I decided to watch The Searchers in September, but it comes up a lot in discussion of film, so I pulled the trigger. Let’s start off by saying that this film is absolutely stunning. The landscapes that John Ford capture are incredible. The film plays out extremely unevenly though. I understand the importance of John Wayne’s character and his performance, as well as the importance of the film’s social commentary, but damn this thing is long and chocked full of corny jokes and a terribly boring love story. I know it inspired so much, but I can’t help but think that I have no desire to see it again. As always, I’m probably wrong, but I’m not sure I would recommend watching this whole film. I’m starting Scorsese’s filmography in August, so it’s a good thing to have watched as it’s referenced a lot in his work.
Indignation surprised me. From the trailer I thought it would end up being contrived, but it ended up hitting me hard. This is the first feature film from James Schamus, who has an incredibly prolific list of producer credits to his name. Seriously, Google this dude. I’m not sure if this film was cheap in the way it grabbed me or not, but I don’t think I care. It’s a coming of age story about a confused intellectual atheist who goes to a Catholic college in the 1950s. The film is a great companion piece to Scorsese’s work, as it deals with religious dogma and navigating unreasonable views of women as objects of purity and grace. The film also ends in violence and shifted focus to the woman in the story. The biggest praise I have for the film is the way it doesn’t blink when dealing with the intensity and awkward nature of early sexual experiences. Indignation is uncomfortable to watch at times. The writing and acting is sharp, which is one of the main reasons the film can allow for its uncomfortable moments. The score seems basic, but is extremely affective when it is called on. Watch this film.
Equity and Hell or High Water left me feeling about the same. They were well executed, but didn’t do enough for me.
Meera Menon has the potential to be a powerhouse director. Equity is only her second feature film, but she has been involved heavily in film and television since she was a young girl and she obviously has sensibility. First of all, I really enjoyed watching this film. That being said, it definitely had its moments of being heavy handed and the plot was relatively uninteresting and predictable. I want more female written and directed movies, especially in a genre like the finical thrillers, in which we seldom see any female character that isn’t a love interest. This film tells us to be okay with a woman who likes to to make money. Even if that assertion is yelled, I think this film is a definite watch.
Hell or High Water is modern western. It takes shots at banking and racism (I think) while showing both the positive and negative side to what masculinity can mean. Our main character has made a lot of mistakes, but he only wants the best for his family. The other main character has made even more mistakes, but he has his reasons. The sherif is a man that will be lost when he is finely forced to retire because his identity is defined by his work. These men are all failed by the stereotype of masculinity that is perpetrated by westerns and the desperate living of southern poverty. Of course, this all has to lead to violence as the only meaningful conclusion. The film is well shot (the opening and ending shots are great) and well acted. I enjoyed the film, but it somehow left me wanting more.
I’m also happy to have a month with some strong contemporary work. I’m waiting for something decent from the main stream as all the contemporary film I saw in September was at the Moxie.