Side by Side (2012)
Grade: B | 1st Viewing
Christopher Kenneally’s documentary Side by Side is made for a very specific kind of person – people just like me and a lot of Film Misery readers, I’m sure. The film analyzes Hollywood’s transition from film to digital with an in-depth look at the science behind the two forms of technology. Keanu Reeves acts as the film’s spokesperson and conducts interviews with dozens of filmmakers, actors, and cinematographers who are both pro-digital (David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh) and pro-film (Christopher Nolan, Wall Pfister).
With the film’s title being Side by Side, I was hoping there would be more of a direct debate between the pro-film and pro-digital camps. Instead the movie was more concerned with getting a case by case opinion from each of the interview subjects as to why they use their preferred method. The result is that the audience is not left with a winner or a loser between the two mediums, just the broad knowledge of what each filmmaker prefers. I had a very hard time taking Keanu Reeves seriously as the mouthpiece for the audience, especially when his haircut and facial hair changed with every interview he conducted. There was also not a single mention of frame rate, which seems like the topic du jour in the film/digital debate.
Despite these minor inadequacies, Side by Side remains a fascinating film that should be required viewing for film students and supplemental material for anybody who diagnoses themselves a movie buff.
The Snowtown Murders (2012)
Grade: B- | 1st Viewing
The narrative for this Australian horror movie unfolds with refreshing economy. Within the first few shots we learn everything we need to know about the central family – the mother sits at the unemployment office, her three sons linger outside; none of them speak, but they are exceptionally loyal. The movie then abruptly sucks us into one of the most depraved real-life murder mysteries in Australian history, with the film capturing each killing in shockingly graphic detail. Daniel Henshall is fantastic as serial killer John Bunting who uses protective paternal behavior to justify brutal murders. Lucas Pittaway is also quite good as the film’s impressionable young protagonist.
My one criticism about The Snowtown Murders is that it seems to be lacking an identifiable through line. Apart from the usual cautionary tale about avoiding bad men that all killer movies provide, Snowtown gives us characters that are intellectually and psychologically so far removed from the average person that it is hard to find a character with which to identify. Lots of blood is spilled and lots of depravity is reveled in, but one is left searching for the substance behind the death.
Andrei Rublev (1966)
Grade: A | 1st Viewing
My favorite cinematic discovery of 2012 has undoubtedly been the great Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky. His films take time to get into, but they are so jam-packed with symbolism and breathtaking imagery that I find myself pondering them for days after a viewing. The raid on Vladimir by the Tatars features some of the most fantastic tracking shots I have ever seen. Tarkovsky has his chorus of actors stretched out over an enormous space so the camera can float over their heads from point to point, painting a magnificent canvas of misery.
Andrei Rublev features Tarkovsky’s commentary on religion, student-mentor relationships, and greatness. My biggest takeaway, however, was the film’s examination on art. Before there was Mozart and Salieri there was Andrei Rublev and Kirill, two 15th Century icon painters with different levels of talent. Kirill uses quotes from other sources to describe his inspiration and as an artist he is the definition of hack. Rublev meanwhile cannot explain why he paints, but we see him find inspiration in every moment of life which features tragedy, comedy, and everything in between. Tarkovsky portrays his experience in a sequence of more beautiful images than Rublev ever produced.
It is impossible to encapsulate the greatness of Andrei Rublev in the brevity of a quick take, but it is certainly worthy of lengthy discussion.
What movies have you seen recently?