Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Movies

As of late, I have been thinking about the rhetorical strategy of "new literature"- the idea that somehow past forms have failed us, and new solutions need to be devised. I am not sure of the efficacy of the thinking, not sure how many of the elements thought to be discardable are in fact crucial. Still I apply the idea to film, cinema, as the median quality of narrative film craft seems to be diminishing. Luckily in the past week I saw two new films that excited in their strangeness.

The first was Upstream Color, which won me over by its insisting on engaging with its visual language, told in short scenes and disconnected dialogue. Something that doesn't give the mind room to wander, that the viewer needs to put together "what is happening" at every moment, and divine an interpretation, some sort of thematic resonance. For my part, I viewed two separate characters as being one character and interpreted something much darker than was intended, initial scenes of rough content lingering into later acts' beauty. Watching it I thought about comics like Dash Shaw's Bodyworld and the Alan Moore Swamp Thing, and movies like Saul Bass' Phase IV.

Computer Chess, on the other hand, I was on its frequency from the jump, it felt like. Its story was parseable, initially posing as a faux-documentary about an interesting milieu, filled with interesting characters, and then going on to feel more like a novel, as it introduced elements separate from it initially presumed to be about, introduced loose ends, and grew into a totality. The characterizations, the performances by non-actors, felt true: The way socially-awkward men interact with the sole female in a male milieu. The way nerds jockey for social capital, competing according to their own codes of what constitutes coolness. Meanwhile, strangeness, a horror, at the edges, connected to the questions the characters bring up as challenges to one another but in some truer sense avoid asking. The period setting doesn't give way to jokes, only one wink to the future that the audience knows is coming, that is in keeping with its thematic thrust. I loved it.