Tag Archives: New York

H. (Sundance 2015)

4 Feb

Artsy. Wierd. Pretentious. Experimental. Cryptic.

Whatever labels you throw at it, the 2015 Sundance film H. is a hard one to tackle. Equal parts romance, sci-fi, relationship drama, and visual poetry, H. tells the story of two couples whose lives slowly start to intersect into each others’ in conjunction with the passing of some celestial object from space.  The first characters we encounter are Helen and Roy (played by Robin Bartlett and  Julian Gamble respectively), an aging couple from Troy, New York. Helen likes to purchase life-like baby dolls and treat them like real newborn (or as she calls them “reborn” babies, which includes pretending to put them to bed, feeding, and burping them. Roy likes fishing. There is another woman named Helen (Rebecca Dayan), but she is in her 8th month of pregnancy and is into artistic photography along with her husband Alex (Will Janowitz). Both couples seem to innocently carry on with their lives until a mysterious something (natural disaster? meteor? space aliens?) causes the city to go into chaos, triggering a domino effect that weaves in and out of the city.

Featuring some fantastic imagery from this year’s festival (rivaled only perhaps by Lubezki’s work in Last Days in the Desert and the stunning visual palette from The Witch), H. was designed and experienced as a bold visceral journey. Along the way are various cryptic messages referencing the great Greek drama The Iliad. H.‘s music is also intensely compelling. If you haven’t already associated the beautiful cello and piano piece Arvo Part with great cinema after watching There Will Be Bloodyou will now; almost every scene in H. has some variation of the intense melody.

The story itself is pretty inaccessible – most of the audience’s understanding (or lack thereof) comes from subtle visual references – but H. is really a must see because of it’s ability to exhibit and celebrate a truly unique flavor of film. The tone of this thing washed right over me from the start and I was completely entranced by it’s hypnotic spell. In an age where most films feel the need to explain everything to the point of redundancy, it’s incredibly refreshing to see something trying so hard to be ambiguous. H. does feel a little like an amatuer student production at some points, but I absolutely think filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh have a solid future ahead of them. Its lack of a concrete explanation (or any explanation at all) for the events on-screen will surely leave some viewers frustrated, but H. is a bold execution in ambient, atmospheric filmmaking and deserves to be seen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.12.25 PM

 

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Enemy (2014), Under The Skin (2014), Upstream Color (2013) 

Check out the trailer below:

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

15 Jun

The Squid and the Whale is the third film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, who has mostly been known for his collaborations with fellow filmmaker Wes Anderson.  Like Anderson’s films, The Squid and the Whale is a dark comedy of sorts but one with a truly unique and cynical outlook on divorce, sexuality and family life.  What makes this film so great is the superb writing.  The characters are multilayerd and complex, brought to life by an amazing cast (Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Laura Linney, Owen Kline, William Baldwin and Anna Paquin), and the story is rich and engaging. The film’s unique style, production design and soundtrack creates a vivid image of a moving New York during the 1980’s and the editing is fast paced, which constantly keeps the audience on-edge.

The way this film builds tension is incredible. What starts out as a seemingly simple premise quickly escalates into an unpredictable and deeply-moving drama that reaches an emotionally human core.  I was surprised at how much I laughed during this movie considering how terribly depressing it really is. The film is also loaded with carefully-placed subtleties that give new insights into the characters, making repeated viewings a must.  Independent film really doesn’t get much better than this.

 

rating 9/10

Similar to: Synecdoche New York, Blue Valentine, Happiness

Frances Ha (2013)

2 Jun

HBO’s hit series GIRLS is known its intimate look at life through the lens of four aspiring young intellectual women living in 21st century New York. Frances Ha, a film by Noah Baumbach, goes down that same path, giving us a taste of the complicated and multilayered world of today’s youth.

Baumbach (mostly known for his masterpiece The Squid and the Whale and occasional collaborations with Wes Anderson), directs his films with such a pinpoint precision that gives his characters room to walk and breath. Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the film, is incredible as the leading lady Frances, and it becomes so hard not to fall in love despite her character flaws.

Yes, the comparisons to GIRLS are unavoidable (both even feature upcoming actor Adam Driver), but Frances Ha sticks out as being more memorable because of its moving pureness and unique energy. Lena Dunham would be proud.

7/10 stars

Similar to: Tiny Furniture, Breathless, Silver Linings Playbook