By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
MORE PERSISTENCE OF VISION
How about the contents of Spirited Away's River God? Not the contents of his stomach but of the gelatinous, greasy mass that passes for his body. A viscous, galumphing visitor to a bathhouse in the spirit world, the R.G. resembles a giant Shmoo in an African tribal mask, a walking oil slick that is also a demon of appetite, an icon of unappeasable hunger who has devoured everything in sight. The heroine, Sen, does a waterlogged Androcles number on a shard of metal protruding from the R.G.'s side, and it all comes gushing and tumbling out. Hayao Miyazaki's animated images are so evocative you can almost smell them. Not that you'd want to.
In September, at a screening of Invincible, Werner Herzog's first narrative feature in years, Herzog admitted with resignation that the audience for his movies is dwindling. In one scene, Herzog cuts to thousands of bright-red crabs heading to the ocean, blanketing a seaside landscape and moving inexorably toward their destination over a set of train tracks, even as a massive locomotive bears down slowly upon them. It's classic Herzog, a stunning illustration of nature's indomitable will, but in this instance it plays also as an elegiac acknowledgment of the filmmaker's own inability to fight that will, and be anything other than what he is, even in the face of obliteration.
The sepulchral hush of a Valley dawn is shattered by a vehicle careening and flipping down an abandoned street. But the accident is forgotten with the arrival of an airport shuttle that lowers its mechanical steps and deposits a mysterious harmonium at the feet of Adam Sandler, attired inexplicably in a bright blue suit. The baffling and sublime opening to Paul Thomas Anderson's hilarious, alienating and romantic Punch-Drunk Love is almost transcendent enough to excuse Sandler's other 2002 efforts — starring in Mr. Deeds and Eight Crazy Nights, and producing The Master of Disguise and The Hot Chick. Almost.
In Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which documents the musicians — a.k.a. the Funk Brothers — behind our greatest pop label, race stands in the shadows, as it does in much of the Motown sound. In casual chat, guest performer Me'shell Ndegéocello asks bassist Bob Babbitt if he ever felt tension as a white musician in a primarily black environment. He considers for a moment, starts to answer, then breaks down, eyes clouded in tears of remembrance and joy. The moment is naive and tender and transcendent, everything about America that Trent Lott has labored to destroy.
The subtle brilliance of Tsai Ming-liang's What Time Is It There?is apparent from the opening shots of the film. But it isn't until the final scene that the director's deft balancing of grief, angst, loneliness and yearning flowers to breathtaking effect. Framed symmetrically, with a gigantic Ferris wheel in the center, evenly spaced light posts on each side, and a figure moving steadily inward to a vortex of converging lines, the shot shows us the moving wheels of time, and you know — in this pure, mysterious equilibrium — that everything's going to be okay.
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