Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

Posts Tagged ‘film’

27 October 2008: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

synecdoche-new-yorkThis really and truly was a rather bizarre movie. If you got it then you were among the elite who understand filmmaking of this caliber and if you didn’t get it, then it might have provided for water cooler conversation fodder for the following Monday. I enjoyed it but did have my moments of unabashed confusion and bewilderment. Also, only someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman could pull off something like this (see ‘Love Liza).

New University Newspaper: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 6 | Oct 27 2008

It seems as though with the release of “Synecdoche, New York,” the inevitable and long-awaited directorial debut from one of cinema’s most prominent writers has finally come to pass. Charlie Kaufman creates a world where he plays puppet master for not only the verbal level of character interaction, but for the film’s overall display as well. Kaufman’s work is enhanced by the truly all-star cast, which runs the gamut of Oscar worthies to independent film starlets. While the audience experiences the stellar script materializing before its eyes, the content does, however, veer off course as things wind down into overly symbolic and somewhat impractical referential gestures.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a small-time theater director whose life we enter as he fittingly premieres Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” at the neighborhood playhouse. His wife, Adele, played by Catherine Keener, is a painter of miniscule art and, like any Generation X suburban couple, husband and wife prescribe to marriage counseling. However, things run amuck in Caden’s life when Adele takes their 4-year-old daughter and her paintings to Berlin, pursuing her career and an alternative lifestyle.

In a series of encounters, Caden strikes out with buxom box-office babe Hazel (Samantha Morton) and is followed by a lanky and balding guy. Later, Sammy (Tom Noonan), creates a surrogate wife and daughter with his plays’ perpetual female lead, Claire (Michelle Williams), and takes part in a liaison with Tammy (Emily Watson) among other things. After a whirlwind of experiences, Caden realizes his mortality once his body’s automatic functions start shutting down, and he embarks on a life-long theater project funded by a MacArthur Fellowship.

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20 October 2008: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

120x160 I've loved you so longFor this film, I had the chance to sit in a round table interview format with the film’s director, Philippe Claudel, and lead actress, Kristen Scott Thomas. They were both a total joy to be around and made me love the film even more than I already did right after the screening.

New University Newspaper: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 5 | Oct 20 2008

There’s an unspoken desire in most of mankind to live a life of unconditional love and perpetual care. Parallel to that lies the fear of being utterly forgotten and ultimately ignored without reason. First-time film director Philippe Claudel delves into these underlying themes with “I’ve Loved You So Long.”

In a beautiful film about the unfaltering love between sisters and a family unit comprised of blood relatives, adopted children and colleagues-turned-stalwart friends, Claudel’s freshman effort is a true work of expressive art.

The film opens with Juliette, a woman teetering towards the start of middle age. In a desolate train station, the camera has no choice but to focus heavily and entirely on her, an empty shell of a human being. She mindlessly takes a cigarette to and from her face, the Pall Mall soft pack at her side, already a character staple. She looks dead in the eyes and entirely void of emotion. Her overall gait looks as though she has lost hope and has maintained existence through some sort of catatonic state for a long time. Not to mention she has just finished a 15-year stint in prison, and is now re-emerging into a society that had once judged and shunned her into oblivion.

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6 October 2008: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

nick-and-norahThis was a really fun film. Doing research I wondered why all my generation of pre-pubescent to young adults had Judy Blume and ‘Are You There God, It’s My Margaret?’ to quell our insatiable thirst for the knowledge of that uncharted plain called adulthood.

New University Newspaper: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 3 | Oct 06 2008

Love stories have narrative arcs that no doubt withstand the test of time. It’s for this reason, however, most feel that when they’ve heard one, they’ve heard them all. It’s rare that in this day and age, artistic media produces a love story with any inkling of originality. It’s probably what makes director Peter Sollett’s latest, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” such a breath of fresh air.

Nick is lovelorn and tormented by his ex-girlfriend, taking mental health days off from school and from his band mates. It’s finally a search for an elusive favorite band that takes him out of his house and onto the streets of New York with his friends.

It’s the sleepless journey of one night that packs in growing up, experiencing the importance of friendship and self discovery bringing Norah to Nick, and finally, Nick to Norah.

Michael Cera truly is the emerging generation’s prince charming. In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” he plays Nick, the bass-playing, quintessential teenager lost in emotional woes of love gone awry. Audiences across the board have grown to love his demeanor with his characterization in Sollett’s film being no exception.

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3 October 2008: Film Notes – Angel-A

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

angel-aFor the last of the three-part film history series, we went through modern filmmaking in a flash of a variety of genres, country-specific filmmaking and form spanning from Andy Warhol to video art. We had to sign up for “film notes” and in groups, write about a certain aspect of a particular film. Whether it be cinematography, editing, acting…whatever. I loved this film so much and was excited to participate in film notes for this Luc Besson masterpiece.

Film Notes: cinematography – camera movement, angles and lighting

Angel-A, Luc Besson, 2005

The use of various cinematographic techniques in Angel-A are very specific to the genre of filmmaking this particular film falls into, Cinéma du look. The camera movement throughout the environment of the Paris setting gets as much out of the city’s architectural beauty as possible. In order to accomplish this, the camera takes extreme long shots of the characters as they make their way throughout the city. Even when both Angel-A and André are static and are having intimate conversations, many of these moments are captured in establishing shot fashion. The camera sits far, far away and centers the two characters as small, arm flailing and gesticulating creatures in the middle of the frame. It is convenient, and probably purposefully done, that many of the events take place on the cobblestone, Parisian streets and amongst a mélange of key areas of French culture. From the train station to Sacré-Cœur to the ever-present Eiffel Tower, the film could pass as a tour video if not intended for greater and better things.

Another key area of cinematography employed by this Cinéma du look film is in the mode of camera angles, which is important because of the height difference between Angel-A and André. It may be somewhat ridiculous that Angel-A is so much taller than André but the camera angles that follow their interaction serve to establish a relationship for the two. In their first meeting and discussion, we have a high angle from Angel-A’s perspective as she’s talking to André and a low angle from André’s perspective when he’s talking to Angel-A. This establishes a hierarchical leveling between the two and is seen in how Angel-A is more capable of taking care of André’s problem than he is capable of taking care of them himself. When Angel-A forces André to admit that he loves himself in the mirror, the camera is dead steady on both of them, showing that she has come down to his level to assess him problem.

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2 September 2008: A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

vicky_cristina_barcelonaThis was a rather welcome little surprise from what I thought I would expect. The story was intriguing, the filmmaking was great and well, I couldn’t get the theme out of my head for weeks. Regardless, it was an excellent film and doubtless proof of what Woody Allen can do to and for his supporting actresses.

New University Newspaper: A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’

A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 35 | Sep 02 2008

There’s a reason why Woody Allen’s latest film’s title is a sole statement of the film’s lead characters and location. For a director who has made his life’s work an explicit form of storytelling, we should expect nothing less. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is no exception to this established mode of filmmaking.

The complexities of each character’s storyline cross paths by means of some philosophical rant about the meaning of this or that. All the while, the story arc remains intact, divergent through no tangent. Still, new elements are introduced, making things increasingly interesting as the story of two best friends spending their summer in Spain plays out.

The characters in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” struggle with problems and philosophical life-altering issues on their own separate planes of existence. The character of Vicky, played by UK-native Rebecca Hall, is the neurotic New Yorker and every bit as one-track minded and talkative as our lead male in “Annie Hall,” except that Hall executes the part extraordinarily well.

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2 June 2008: Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

roman_de_gareThis really was a very excellent film. For me, it was fun because it was in French but other than that, it was a thrilling, suspenseful and mysterious film that kept me guessing until the very end.

New University Newspaper: Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’

Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 31 | Jun 02 2008

With immense talent to share with a world of film patrons across the globe, French film director, writer, cinematographer and producer Claude Lelouch has been steadily creating masterful works since the early 1960s. Spearheading the success of his future projects was the extremely well-received “Un Homme Et Une Femme” for which Lelouch took home several major awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay.

Lelouch remains relentless and returns with another originally- crafted work with “Roman de Gare.” From beginning to end, the audience is left guessing as the turbulent life of each character unfolds throughout the expository demeanor of the film. Lelouch makes the film an amalgam of varying forms of art and places them together seamlessly.

“Roman de Gare” explores layers of reflexivity as stories and scenarios surrounding the main protagonist, Pierre Laclos (Dominique Pinon) turn out to be the subject of an explosive novel by a revered author. Whether he is a ghostwriter, a pedophilic murderer or a husband abandoning a stabilized life of security, Laclos is obviously the key that ties everyone together. Just how and by what means is uncertain and having that question answered is what leaves the audience gaping in suspense until the very end.

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26 May 2008: ‘Badlands’

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

badlandsThe review for this film, ‘Badlands,’ never came out on the day it was supposed to. It actually never came out at all. I didn’t find it in the paper come Monday morning and when I asked, apparently there was breaking news they had to cover and cut the least important piece. ‘Badlands’ was an old film – one of the films in the American Cinema series for the FVC – and the editor said he wasn’t there Sunday when they were putting it all together so it was out of his hands. Convenient. Regardless, here it is, all unedited and without a headline. It really was such a great film.

‘Badlands’

The Film and Video Center at UCI kicked off their last film series for the school year, New Hollywood Cinema, with Terrence Malick’s directorial debut of a feature film, “Badlands.” This 1973 film, starring the budding star, Charlie Sheen as Kit Carruthers and a daisy-fresh Sissy Spacek as Holly Sargis, broke genre boundaries in the already established and highly-revered Hollywood cinema scheme.

Thanks to a rise in young and independently thinking filmmakers fresh out of film school and highly influenced by French New Wave, films like “Badlands” brought new modes of cinematography, character development and narrative traditions like nothing the industry had seen before. Also referred to as the American New Wave, studios were releasing films the likes of “Easy Rider,” “The Graduate” and “Bonnie and Clyde” that spoke to the irreverent, counterculture youth of the 1960s.

Addressing a young audience in a film about young people, Malick’s premiere opus to the filmmaking world established his signature marks of naturalistic cinematography and the psyche of youth as prominent themes. Within New Hollywood Cinema, “Badlands” shined as critics marveled at Malick’s successful directorial and script writing accomplishment.

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19 May 2008: Jean-Luc Godard

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

breathlessThe FVC was just relentlessly amazing that quarter, especially for me when so much French New Wave swept through Thursdays nights in Humanities Instructional Building. They had a week of Jean-Luc Godard films and another writer reviewed “Bande à Part” while I reviewed “Breathless.”

New University Newspaper: Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard
by Abe Ahn and Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 29 | May 19 2008

“Breathless”

by Christina Nersesian

The Film and Video Center at UC Irvine has been steadily bringing some of the finest cinematic achievements to Orange County’s only weekly cinematheque for the past 10 years. Since the beginning of this past winter quarter, with film and media studies professor Lauren Steimer at the helm as FVC director, we’ve seen such marvels as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 film, “Notorious” in its original 35mm print. They’ve also taken part in the Latin American Film Festival at UCI, showcasing a full gamut of talent across the board of Latin American filmmakers through the FVC.

The beginning of May marked the start of one of its series, showcasing French Cinema in the ’60s. The series premiered with director Jacques Demy’s 1964 film, “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” the way it should be seen—in restored 35mm with a screaming color palette. The series closed with two films by influential French film director Jean-Luc Godard who, along with the workings of other French filmmakers of the ’50s and ’60s, unknowingly pioneered the French New Wave of filmmaking.

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31 March 2008: Pimpin’ Made Easy in ‘Palm’

Posted by Christina on March 19, 2009

Affiche IRINAThis was a rather interesting movie. Very well made with a heartbreakingly beautiful plotline.

New University Newspaper: Pimpin’ Made Easy in ‘Palm’

Pimpin’ Made Easy in ‘Palm’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 22 | Mar 31 2008

The rural areas of the greater United Kingdom never had secrets so dark. In director Sam Garbarski’s forthcoming film, “Irina Palm,” the small-time village folk have not only their families, bridge games and up-turned nosey smugness to worry about, but their secrets as well.

Maggie is a middle-aged woman whose family life is in the pit of despair as her only grandson suffers from an unexplained and unnamed illness. Bed-ridden, pale and sickly, her grandson’s only hope lies in new medical treatments a good 8,000 miles away in Australia. In a family already struggling for basics like bread, Maggie’s son and daughter-in-law scour banks and loan offices for money, to no avail.

In “Irina Palm,” we learn a hostess is not a delicious pastry nor is it a restaurant server. Desperate circumstances lead to desperate measures, and Maggie finds herself taking on the job of a euphemized hostess in the downtrodden muck of a sex club in London’s Soho. Men come in to dives for their five to six minutes in a glory hole and it turns out Maggie’s stage persona, Irina Palm, is the best in the business.

Having no skills but those which Mother Nature intended, Maggie throws herself into the world of making big bucks by feeding into one’s most basic and animalistic needs. In the process, she shows us what motherly love really is as she puts herself through hell for the payoff of what could possibly give her grandson a new lease at life.

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10 March 2008: Keepin’ It ‘Real-Time’ In ‘Cleo from 5-7’

Posted by Christina on March 19, 2009

cleofrom5to71_002The Film and Video Center (FVC) had a beautiful collection of films for the 2007/2008 school year. I jumped at nearly every chance to review the films that came through and did my best to see all of them, whether I reviewed them or not. Professor Lauren Steimer put together one of the greatest collection of films I could have ever experienced. One thing I do miss from UCI would definitely be the FVC.

New University Newspaper: Keepin’ It ‘Real-Time’ In ‘Cleo from 5-7’

Keepin’ It ‘Real-Time’ In ‘Cleo from 5-7’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 21 | Mar 10 2008

Just when you thought Irvine was one of those hopelessly boring towns void of any cultural character, out comes Orange County’s sole cinematheque from your very own UC Irvine. It is a time of transformation for the familiar classroom environment of the Humanities Instructional Building. Patrons find that once a week during the school-year quarters, its stadium seating is truly put to good use.

This quarter the Film and Video Center (FVC) is directed and run by Professor Lauren Steimer from the Department of Film and Media Studies. For her, screenings held by the FVC act as an extension to the world outside the classroom not only for students, but for community members as well. The FVC screenings are often times singular events within the Orange County area and with some programs, the entire country.

Last week the FVC screened ‘Cleo de 5 a 7,’ a film from 1962 by French director Agnes Varda whose focus on documentary realism in her films was clearly evident within the proposed fictive world of this particular film. The use of a ‘real-time’ edited narrative is indicative of this film as we follow a single character through two hours of her life.

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