Summer usually means the release of films that do not challenge in the air conditioned multiplex world of movie consumption. However, have no fear, the complex and challenging films will continue to pop up like an oasis in a desert full of inanity.
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY dir Alison Klayman
Art world bad boy and Chinese Government provoker, Ai WeiWei is well- known to the public. He has had an ability to grab media headlines that underscore how the Western press and Governments today see China as a clash between Mao’s revolution and the seduction of free market capitalism. Ai WeiWei, a master trickster and beleaguered artist has managed to catapult his career and fortune while being targeted for tax evasion by the Chinese government, been beaten, put under house arrest and silenced from direct internet use. Is Ai WeiWei a tax evader, a newly rich Chinese artist, a victim of censorship , a twitter activist or simply a successful manipulation of Me Me are the question AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY rises unconsciously.
First-time director Alison Klayman has taken a fascinating look at WeiWei in his modern Shanghai mansion and art studio. Klayman fails to answer the most significant political East meets West questions and seems at times unable to distance herself from his artful media manipulation. That said though, she has made a must see documentary which does show you Wei Wei centered in his larger than life persona. Dramatic in his ability to manufacture art provocation across the globe while remaining in residence in China, he becomes a symbol of freedom of speech in resistance to the modern day Chinese government obsessed with surveillance and public image as it takes its public place in the world market place. Charlatan or shaman, Warhol or P/T. Barnum, visionary or appropriator, the spectacle of Wei Wei life as represented is an authentic, political and artistic statement.
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY opens a window to what has been censored and will leave the viewer partially bewildered and fully engaged. Something no Chinese documentary film maker would have been allowed to do.
THE IMPOSTER: dir Bart Layton
Secretly, most people at one point or another want to become someone else. Few actually accomplish the fantasy. THE IMPOSTER tells a true story of a young Spanish man who did reinvent himself. Director Layton, with a Hitchcock-like touch, succeeds in making a documentary narrative that twists and turns enough to give one vertigo. The film is based on the disappearance of a Texas boy while on vacation with his family in Spain and seemingly lost forever with the nightmare implications of what may have happened to him always alive in the dreams of his family. THE IMPOSTER reveals how a person who shows up in a phone booth on a very rainy night and convinces the Spanish police he is the lost boy succeeds. Despite not looking like the blond youth, speaking with a Spanish accent and being older, he manages to elude discovery by the US diplomatic authorities and shows up in Texas to be embraced by the family whose joy blinds then to what should have been obvious. However, little by little they wonder who is this person who says he is the missing boy. THE IMPOSTER plays like both a mindful detective story and a whodunit with enjoyable, sophisticated plot twist. THE IMPOSTER is an insight on how memory and emotions can trump reality.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD dir Benh Zeitlin
Grand Prize winner at Sundance 2012 and deservedly so, Benh Zeitlin’s BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is the most unusual and exciting independent film I have seen in years. Set in the back bayou’s of New Orleans during the beginning of the Hurricane Katrina, Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar’s script tells the story of poor people who have formed a mixed race community off of the grid of ordinary life in New Orleans. This community’s resistance to the necessary evacuation process and the disruption of their world is the backdrop to a father – daughter saga that undermines any distancing the lifestyle of subjects may evocate. Cast with real people, Zeitlin has been able to capture with integrity the humanity and complexity of these characters. One break out discovery is Quvenzhané Wallis who plays the daughter being separated from her dying dad. Wallis was six when the film was shot and has all the charisma and spunk of a black Shirley Temple. With a Maya Duren filter on the mystery of the unknown, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is beautiful to look at and unusually insightful to those parts of the American populace that never get seen unless sensationalized in mainstream America.
July and August is dump time for studios and distributors for stupid films that appeal to the dumb and dumber people who will sit in an air conditioned theater and watch just about anything to stay cool.
YOUR SISTER’S ‘S SISTER dir Lynn Shelton
CurrentlyLynn Shelton is the post-modern cinema pin up queen and film maker of choice of the queer academics and “oh-so-hip-and-transgressively-heterosexual-crowd” or if you prefer the “don’t-call-me-a-lesbian-or-gay-man-just-because-I-occasionally-when -younger-had-homo-sex-for- fun. Please-call-me “bi”-even-thought-my-heart-belongs-to-my-significant-other-of -the-opposite sex”. Talk about mistress of orientation appropriation!
Shelton made her mark with indie hit HUMPDAY where two 30-something, straight men decide to enter a video contest sponsored by the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger. Wanting to win, they decide to make a gay porn video starring themselves. They attempt to appropriate gay male erotic desire and fantasy but guess what, they can’t do it. Now if in fact Shelton had not played safe and had her characters actually have sex despite it been ghettoized a “ gay movie,” it would have been truly transgressive. The audience found it hilarious. Shelton had re-branded homophobia in a trendy “queer” aesthetics way.
Now, Shelton is back to doing to lesbians what she did to gay men. She trivializes their relationships, identity and commitments. Here in MY SISTER’S ‘S SISTER, a lesbian, after a fight with her girlfriend, winds up at her sister’s cabin in the woods upset and vulnerable. In walks a straight man, a friend of her sister, who thinks the cabin is empty to “comfort” and solve her problems. She makes clear to him that she is a lesbian and that only turns him on more. I am sure you have heard the old joke about what does a lesbian need most? Answer: a real man to have sex with her. So Ms. Acceptable Transgression Shelton has updated that old joke and put it into post-modern drag and this time has first rate actors Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt and Mark Duplass to play her narrative game.
A la theThe Kids Are Alright,the lesbian can not resist the soft seduction of the white bread guy.; for laughs sake, Shelton has her get pregnant as a result. How funny is that? Playing on the current obsession of assimilated lesbians to have babies as a subtext, Shelton again makes central how the straight characters and audience will react. Yes, I have heard laughter reverberate in those hipster screenings and yes, I have read aging male critics wanting to prove they are hip to today’s post-homosexuality academic drivel rush to endorse in a way they did not endorse Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Me? I turned red and gagged!
(c) Jim Fouratt ReelDealMovies NYC June 24 2012
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