Friday, 10 February 2017

Crisp Criticism - "Fences", "Fifty Shades Darker", "20th Century Women", "Cameraperson"

Julien Faddoul

Fences *

In 1950s Pittsburgh, a frustrated African-American father struggles with the constraints of poverty, racism, and his own inner demons as he tries to raise a family.
Well-acted but frustratingly stagey adaptation of a great play. Wilson, in adapting his own play, makes no attempt to translate his cadenced and rather expositional dialogue for a medium that can convey more with less. Washington’s direction doesn’t help either, as his obvious priority is loyalty to the source material. The result plays less like a grand piece of symbolism on family and responsibility and more like a television soap opera.

d – Denzel Washington
w – August Wilson   (Based on the Play by August Wilson)
ph – Charlotte Bruus Christensen
pd – David Gropman
m – Marcelo Zarvos
ed – Hughes Winbourne
cos – Sharen Davis

p – Scott Rudin, Todd Black, Denzel Washington

Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson


Fifty Shades Darker

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her.
Hilariously stupid sequel with no discernible goal outside of compiling as many shots as possible of actors fluttering their eyes.

d – James Foley
w – Niall Leonard   (Based on the Novel by E.L. James)
ph – John Schwartzman
pd – Nelson Coates
m – Danny Elfman
ed – Richard Francis-Bruce
cos – Shay Cunliffe

p – Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, E.L. James, Marcus Viscidi

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Rita Ora, Victor Rasuk


20th Century Women ***

Three women explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s, as seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy.
Witty, rhythmic coming-of-age comedy with a great deal of ruminative thought. Superbly written and acted, it captures its laissez-faire age and its disaffected inhabitants with a kind of liberating humanity.

wd – Mike Mills
ph – Sean Porter
pd – Chris Jones
m – Roger Neill
ed – Leslie Jones
cos – Jennifer Johnson

p – Megan Ellison, Anne Carey, Youree Henley

Cast: Annette Bening, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, Alia Shawkat, Thea Gill, Alison Elliott


Cameraperson ****

Kirsten Johnson, a memoir. As the opening card explains: “For the past 25 years I’ve worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still”.
Sheer beauty: Johnson, in juxtaposing so many different kinds of pieces of footage, clinches together two forms of non-fiction cinema that are rarely seen within such proximity – the advocacy doc and the cinematographic diary. The result is breathtaking, not only because every piece is either moving or hilarious or provocative in itself, but also because everything is about context, and experiencing it through the cinema’s guidance changes all meaning. One gets the sense of such a rich life, and perhaps a distressing one. And although much of the film depicts the destructive acts many people are capable of, its lasting sensation is one of compassion. Or, to paraphrase Jean-Luc Godard, it is a great lie that reveals the great truth. But as a film, it is one of the purist pieces of cinema one could witness.

d – Kirsten Johnson
ph – Kirsten Johnson
ed – Nels Bangerter

p – Kirsten Johnson, Marilyn Ness

Cast: Kirsten Johnson

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