Directed by Gavin O'ConnorUnited States | 2011
Part of the movie’s brilliance is the way it gives hints of backstory without resorting to flashbacks or long speeches about specific things that happened to the Conlons earlier on. This is a story about aftershocks, and the screenwriters keenly observe the splintering effect that alcoholism can have on the relationships between fathers and sons and siblings. Paddy is so reviled by his boys that it’s hard to imagine the broken-down old man as being a monster; we get a glimpse of that later, in a scene that’s surprising in both its setup and resolution. By the time Brendan enters round five of the climactic match, we feel both the weight of his reluctance to take down the feral beast Tommy has become and the need to provide for his new family; it’s a devil’s bargain whose outcome is not a cheerful ending, but the beginning of a much tougher journey.
Directed by Sogo IshiiJapan | 1982
Burst City, and Ishii’s work in general, is merely dystopian, weird and vaguely high tech; the film doesn’t broach topics such as cybernetics, artificial intelligence or, indeed, any topics at all. There’s virtually no sophistry to be gleaned from its frames. Burst City is a guttural scream at an abyss. This is a very different kind of science fiction, yet in some ways definitive for its genre as it would go on to have a large, unheralded influence on the course of Japanese filmmaking, cyberpunk as a distinct aesthetic and the punk ethos as an artistic point of departure. This film exhales nihilistic rage and exudes carnality, its formal qualities so thoroughly intermingled with its fiction it easily paralyzes and subsumes the viewer into its future hell. This is a film of noise and speed, tantalizingly blinkered, not the staid philosophic formalism of a Ridley Scott actioner.
Directed by Eric RohmerFrance | 1967
Adrien’s hyper-articulate, context-heavy narration guides the dramatic action and offers an additional layer through which to scrutinize the discontinuities between thought and behavior, principle and impulse. Rohmer’s leading males are so self-assured, so certain that they are following the proper path, that it’s easy to fall into a trap in which they appear righteous and sympathetic. Yet as much as Adrien frames Haydée’s day-to-day behavior as manipulative, as if she’s playing a game with his emotions by sleeping around with Daniel and others, it’s really Adrien who’s the weasel, feigning affection and then slipping away with the exacting care of a great dictator.
Directed by Nicholas RayFrance, United States | 1957
The action scenes are grisly, unromanticized and terse, brutal slashes of explosions and shrapnel that have no glorifying outcome, only death. Even the early raid on the Nazi headquarters, the only out-and-out action setpiece of the movie, is too blistering (yet still classically shot) to be all that rousing, and the shot of a soldier busting a portrait of Hitler seems more a show of childish impudence than a victorious gesture. Throughout the film, the action filmmaking quotes, directly and indirectly, the same training exercises seen at the beginning of the film, making war into a sick game. Ray frames numerous shots to maintain suspense while robbing the film of its potentially inspirational power, his framing always emphasizing the isolation of the commandos instead of overpowering dedication and conviction.
Directed by Nicholas RayUnited States | 1954
Her appearance is silent, but it might as well have been accompanied by a lightning strike and peal of thunder, so dynamic and convention-upturning is Crawford’s presence. Her tacit, masculine strength instantly awes the men conversing about her down below. Speaking to the titular character who just rode into town at Vienna’s invitation, one of the locals meekly confides, “Never seen a woman who was more of a man. She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I’m not.” Crawford immediately establishes Vienna’s liberated, aggressive demeanor, her wide eyes bulging with a combination of of authority, power and a lust she knows she can satisfy at any moment.