The Double Life of Véronique (1991, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski) – A film that continues to challenge and provoke. Struck this time around by the very immanent nature of Kieslowski’s transcendence. Zizek thinks Kieslowski finds “God” a cosmic sadist (to use C.S. Lewis’ term), a rather mean child who toys with his creation for his own entertainment. Then Zizek goes on to perform neo-Lacanian analysis of Kieslowski’s own life (not his person, mind you; his life history), which renders his film theory very theoretical indeed. To boil down this film to something so dismissively simple seems quite unfair. The filmmaker here certainly toys with the notion that the Divine may not be purely gracious, but Kieslowski seems rather to suggest that it’s humanity’s idols that are vacant of grace and sovereignty, not the Great Other Himself. So the film constructs false gods in order to tear them down. On the other hand, the film also ends on a distinctly terrestrial note. For being so transcendent in nature, Kieslowski is a man of the earth.
12 Monkeys (1995, dir. Terry Gilliam) – A wild ride, and one that deserves more than it typically gets. Having not seen a ton of feature-length adaptations of short films by different filmmakers, it’s probably not worth much to say that this is one of the best of that variety. Here, though, the colors, the lenses, the sets, the shots, and the music create something superbly surreal. What the film says about reality and sanity hearkens back to Gillian’s earlier Brazil, this time tapping into something more quintessentially “Nineties” in all of its end-of-the-millennium paranoia. Just when you think you’ve honed in on who the truly “insane” are, you’re thrown a curve ball. The crazy revolutionaries are too crazy really to be crazy. It may be the scientists, the professors, the intellectuals that are truly mad. Undoubtedly.
Somewhere (2010, dir. Sofia Coppola) – The grand prize at Venice? Unanimously voted? What else was showing at Venice? As Wife observed, this film reminds one of Maeby’s classic line in Arrested Development when it’s inadvertently suggested that she end a film with two characters walking across the ocean: “No, deep is good. People are going to say, ‘What the hell just happened? I better say I like it,’ because nobody wants to seem stupid.” Being one of those who appreciated Lost In Translation and even Marie Antoinette, perhaps we can state with some degree of credit that Somewhere seems to go out of its way to be “arthouse,” begging even lovers of Terrence Malick and Wes Anderson to use the big “P” word (pretentious) in describing Sofia’s latest. Yes, it’s wandering, fluid, elusive, exploratory; and not explanatory, straightforward, or all that structured. The point being made is not a difficult one, but the film presents it as difficult. This is essentially the definition of the “P” word.
Akira (1988, dir. Katsuhiro Otomo) – Animated dystopia at its best, probably, but who watches much of it? Seems like such a time warp into the 80s, not to mention a space warp into Japan. Put those two together and you get something so huge and ideologically influential (not to mention aesthetically) that there are probably countless dissertations out there on the subject. The myth at the narrative’s center is easily the most interesting aspect of the film. After years of waiting for their god to resurrect, they stumble into the definitively postmodern fact that god is dead and guys with money have just been perpetuating the image of his existence for all this time.
Fanboys (2009, dir. Kyle Newman) – By geeks, for geeks, via geeks. A flatly objective satire on Star Wars followers would have equated them, ultimately, with Star Trek nerds. Instead, Fanboys, despite utilizing William Shatner himself, shamelessly betrays its preference for all things Lucas. This makes the project all the more endearing, and is probably exactly what led Shatner to agree to it (recall his infamous SNL rant). Those behind and in front of the camera are perfectly tuned into the confused sexuality of these tools, which not only disarms the films critics but gives the film’s social awkwardness that special ingredient of self-consciousness.
Galaxy Quest (1999, dir. Dean Parisot) – Actually watched this one the night before the aforementioned. As a former Trekker/Trekkie/whatever-they-want-to-be-called-these-days, Galaxy Quest really is the Star Trek equivalent of Fanboys. It is the equivalent in the sense that Trek people really are a more social crowd: gathering at conventions and submerging themselves in team heroism, too busy to flip their noses at Star Wars people. (Arguably, they know that Roddenberry could no more take down Lucas than the Gorn could take down Kirk.) Made for an older crowd than Fanboys, Galaxy Quest is a bit more laid back and takes even its satire less seriously than the former.
Of the 6 movies you’ve mentioned and briefly spoken about, I’ve seen just 2 – Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, and Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, while I’ve also got hold of 12 Monkeys, so the count shall increase to 3 soon.
I agree with your summation of the melancholic, evocative & philosophical film by Kiewslowski – it seemed to me less a film and more a deeply mournful poetry. As for Somewhere, I’d lie on the other side of the fence. Though I wouldn’t call it a great film, but I quite liked it.
Lets see on which side of the fence I stand as regards to 12 Monkeys. 🙂
I look forward to your thoughts on 12 Monkeys. Not sure I know of anyone who doesn’t like it at some level. There’s plenty there for analysis, which is also convenient. Since you have an affinity for Kieslowski, I hope you’ll see Malick’s The Tree of Life asap. He’s received Kieslowski’s torch and added his own unique fuel to the fire.
I’ve only seen half of these (12 Monkeys, Veronique, Somewhere). I’m not sure if I fully comprehended Kieslowski and his intentions, but the handheld camera work as to die for.
And after seeing 12 Monkeys on cable in parts when I was a child, I finally saw it in its entirety on the big screen. Despite the occasional histrionics, It’s like an homage to Vertigo and somehow surpasses that gem.
Wow, “surpasses”? I respect such a bold claim. Of course, we haven’t acknowledged Chris Marker’s film La Jetee, on which 12 Monkeys was based. It’s short and viewable online, I believe. Offers some helpful narrative context.
As for Veronique, I expounded on this one at greater length elsewhere on the blog. (Should be a link to it in the “Films” section to the right.) Am convinced that it’s Kieslowski’s most formally experimental work and a wonderful companion piece to the subsequent Blue.
You probably don’t need to bother with Fanboys or Galaxy Quest. Akira might be interesting, though.
It’s a bold statement and I stand by it. It took my like two repeat viewings of Vertigo for me not to sleep through Scotty stalking Madeleine.
I was watching Alien Resurrection in a rep theatre as part of a friend/critic’s series about bad movies that print critics like. I told one of the critics that Sigourney Weaver hasn’t been good since The Ice Storm and he corrected me and told me to go drop anything I was doing and watch Galaxy Quest. For my lazy actressology I will watch it for that, but not today.
It took some warming up, but I kind of thought Somewhere was good. A picture of the guys life.