When the film festival programmer herself introduces the film as “frustrating” and “resists interpretation,” well, consider yourself warned. And while I usually relish a fun mindbender of a film, there’s little pleasure (at least right now) to be derived from this exercise, especially since one is teased — constantly — with the possibility that some form of coherence is just a few minutes away, just another plot twist around the corner. (The images are indeed beautiful — the wintry French landscape, the colored ribbons at the christening of a Korean ship, the purple sky behind Tahitian coconut trees — and so is the music, by Stuart Staples from the Tindersticks.)
One night last week a mysterious woman gave me a DVD. “This is really creepy,” she said as she slipped the disc into my hands. Almost with trepidation, I watched it the next evening, steeling myself for the weirdness to come.
Saw Ramona Diaz’s Imelda with Barb last night, and my head is still reeling. It is a fine, fine documentary, and I am glad that there will be a theatrical release in the U.S. at some point this year; more people should see it (though a DVD is apparently coming out in 2005).
The film’s chief virtue — and there are many, from Grace Nono’s soundtrack to the careful editing (more about this in a second) — is the fact that Diaz lets Imelda talk on and on. We are treated to what seems like a severely delusional Imelda, completely in denial of reality — or so we are led to think.
David Lynch’s latest mindscramble of a movie, Lost Highway, starts off quite unlike the rest of the film: there’s a jittery shot of headlights zooming into the darkness of a two-lane blacktop, while an equally twitchy jungle-ified David Bowie sings on the soundtrack. Then the film switches into negative gear for its brilliant first half, an exploration of light and shadow and the chill of domesticity. Bill Pullman is the musician, Patricia Arquette is his wife, and someone’s been inside their house; at least the videotapes, which keep popping up on their doorstep every morning with the paper, say so. But it’s the visual and aural style that’s the showcase here: a barely audible hum fills the gaping silences (there’s hardly any dialogue), so much that a whisper sounds like a scream. The hallway in the couple’s Southern California home is a literal black hole, absent of light, into which Pullman disappears. (And you thought Seven was barely lit.) Everything, including their sex, is performed in this 2001-like somnolent state — a perfect metaphor for the sleepwalking in their relationship.
Donnie Brasco is a tragedy, and the opening credits alone tell us this: the keening violins, the somber blank-and white photography, the close-up of Al Pacino’s eyes. It’s a far cry from films like Pulp Fiction, which mined similar territory by focusing on a gang of criminal lowlifes. But one of the funnier scenes in Mike Newell’s excellent film comes just after a particularly brutal beating, Scorsese-style (people kicking someone on the ground, just like De Niro always does): we see Pacino trying to hammer a parking meter open, trying to get at the quarters. But they’re not just a bunch of amateur robbers; they’re part of the Mob, after all, which means we get to kick around meatier themes like honesty and betrayal and honor, et cetera. (I guess Newell did explore similar themes in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but I’m moving off track here.)