Month: October 2015

Dailies: Film Folk and the Folks in Film

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Well, folks… We haven’t “chatted” for a while—you know, that imaginary scenario where I blather on and pretend there’s an audience? You can tell this is a more informal post: I’ve used the word “folks.” Do you mind, terribly? I hope not. I mean, I include myself in there with the “folks.” Why? Because we’re all just regular people, “just folks,” or “simple, unaffected, unsophisticated, or open-hearted people”?

Hell, no! I’d like to think that “folks” could be both sophisticated and “open-hearted.” So, that’s my contribution to redefining that word. (more…)

“King over all that is proud”: Nature vs the Humans in the Films of Andrey Zvyagintsev (PART ONE)

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This is PART ONE of a three-part feature. See my previous post for the full Introduction.

*WARNING*: Because this essay is concerned with how specific recurring themes/images relate to the development of a film’s narrative arc, it necessarily contains plot spoilers.

The Return

In many of his films, Andrey Zvyagintsev situates human beings as sometimes fragile, sometimes powerful forces in nature. Leviathan is only the latest film to explore this motif. Both The Return and Elena examine the struggle of an individual against an oppressive larger system, though the human-made structures turn out to be no match for “irreversible” Nature.

The Return‘s opening shot of the sunken boat—echoed in Leviathan—is paired with a follow-up scene of young Ivan (Ivan Fyodorovich Dobronravov), clinging fearfully to the railing of what looks like a makeshift lighthouse, from which the older boys are diving into the ocean. Though the implication is that some humans are just not strong enough to withstand elemental forces, the outcome of the film urges us not to make exceptions.


“King over all that is proud”: Nature vs the Humans in the Films of Andrey Zvyagintsev (Introduction)


Andrey Zvyagintsev has four feature films to date: The Return (2003), The Banishment (2007), Elena (2011), and Leviathan (2014). The most recent of these was first released in Russia in May 2014, and in the West in February 2015; so, as far as anniversaries go, I’m either too late or too early. But, no matter: Zvyagintsev is establishing himself as one of the most important filmmakers in contemporary Russian cinema, and his films (especially his older ones) deserve another look.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: A Monochromatic Western-Noir-Horror


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) is the brilliant debut of Ana Lily Amirpour, who wrote and directed the film. We might call it an “Eastern,” given the story’s setting in an Iranian town. But the film’s themes and actual setting (Taft, California) give it a deliberate Western flavour. So, an eastern western, which makes for a productive tension—the sort that we find in Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Perspolis (2000), which, like Amirpour’s film, is in black and white.