Few films sprawl like Hansen-Løve’s latest, which spans twenty years, surveying the landscape of garage, techno, and house music, bumping into the likes of Daft Punk. It’s a film that is packed with an incredibly energy, specifically through music, but what is critical about this idea is that the energy is attached to that music. It would be far more frivolous and forgetful were the energy to simply exist as the de facto atmosphere of the film, but Hansen-Løve understands the power of music in a singular manner. In one scene, Paul will be at a party or DJ-ing one, the music and the party’s attendants both turned up. She’ll cut to another scene after the party, and immediately there’s a sense of loss and melancholy. The energy doesn’t just dissipate, it disappears. The deflation of energy in a film is a dangerous thing to attempt and often regarded as a weakness, but since the film is very much about Paul and his connection to music, it’s crucial to understand that that is his escape. The film even names the second of its two “parts” “Lost in Music”. It understands that this escapism and submersion into one’s passion as a way to avoid life is a double-edged sword, only workable and usable up to a certain point before it becomes a risk itself.
Seymour Bernstein might very well be the sweetest man alive. I’ve never met him, but Seymour: An Introduction, Ethan Hawke’s new documentary that chronicles a recent three-year period of Bernstein’s life, radiates with vibrant life, and creates the feeling that Bernstein is in the room with you. It depicts the man as a soft-spoken, endearing, genuine person who’s as genuinely passionate about life as he is music. He looks with glistening eyes into the camera, his features gentle and faded and the edges of the frame opaque, and talks with us, not at us. There’s something inexplicably beautiful about the way he gazes longingly into the camera, his eyes at once sharp yet soft, comfortably penetrative. He speaks softly, and the room seems to grow quiet around him, adjusting to his volume.
The art and the artist are undoubtedly strange bedfellows, and while there is a vast ocean to explore in terms of this relationship, the tempestuousness rarely ever seems to get its time on screen. This is no different for Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini – a biopic about the last days of Pier Paolo Pasolini – where several times the idea is talked about, even spoken about with the same kind of verve that one would use to discuss the lurid sexual details that are illustrated on-screen, but that push and pull is not actually articulated on-screen. Pasolini was certainly a complex man, a Jack-of-all-trades in the art world, and Ferrara does an excellent job talking about this – his role in politics, his poetry, his novels, and, of course, his films – but the director spends little time showing us that influence. The biopic of an artist, I believe, begs the question of that relationship and that influence. “It’s either I kill myself or I do it,” he says about making movies. Though the film is certainly honorific, it’s not completely explorative.
For those who already have a low opinion of humanity, The Look of Silence will do little to alleviate your misanthropy. It’s a gorgeously-crafted documentary, and it will likely resonate with people of at least decent moral standing, but it depicts humanity at its worst and offers no hope at the end. A unnervingly tranquil depiction of men as monsters, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film attempts to confront the leaders of the 1960s Indonesian Genocide, a one-sided civil war that resulted in the deaths of over one million people. The killers admit to nothing, of course, and the elected officials (“elected”)write off the genocide as “politics.” Children are programmed to think that those who were murdered deserved it: they were communists, Godless heathens, sinners. Victims’ families don’t dare address the decades-long suppression of truth because subversives are still killed in Indonesia today. It’s 2014, and the populace has been lulled into a startling state of delusion. The film, beauteous and depressing in equal measure, feels like a slowly swelling minor chord sustained for 99 minutes, with no crescendo needed.
For those unfamiliar with the work of South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo, his movies typically go something like this: some demotic people get together and drink a lot, and they talk about their menial lives and discuss the profundities of nothing in particular, and in between those moments nothing happens. Sometimes there’s a dog. And it’s hysterical.