Early in Fast Five, charismatic Han (Sung Kang) arrives in Rio de Janeiro, recruited Ocean’s Eleven-style to play a role in an elaborate heist. Though fans of the series will no doubt be delighted to see him, they may be perplexed when they recall that he met an unambiguous death in previous installment The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. His persistence is a mystery, like that of the generally heavy-handed and lead-footed franchise itself.
Doubling is a paradigmatic trope in cinema, at every stratum from the technical doubling of apparatus and human perception, to the doubling of the worlds that exist on each side of the screen. It is ever with us.
Some thirty years ago, in “Dream of the Wise Child”, Ann Douglas noted that a considerable swath of commercial literature from the 1970s was given over to the repeated but often ignored proposition that children are not innocents so much as malign creatures, intransigently evil.
This completes three years of the column; it seems like a good time to run the film backward, to retrace the process of composition, more or less: to lay bare the mechanism, as the Russian formalists liked to say, and to make the operations visible as operations.
By common account, Avatar asks the great question of contemporary art, the one hip-hop has been asking unfailingly for some time: will we put up with a creepy worldview just because the sensuals are cool?
“You know how I got the money, when I was starting out? Here. Not here, but a place like it, in the Sprawl. Joke, to start with, ‘cause once they plant the cut-out chip, it seems like free money. Wake up sore, sometimes, but that’s it. Renting the goods, is all. You aren’t in, when it’s all happening. House has software for whatever a customer wants to pay for …”
The two parts of Che are doomed to be shown separately after the initial “Special Roadshow” opening, but they rightly comprise one movie. This is not to suggest that Soderbergh is experimenting with temporal aesthetics; he lives on Hollywood time, and at four hours plus, Che isn’t visionary, it’s long.
Attending film festivals involves a kind of ideological whiplash even more intense than does being a regular cinemagoer, if only because the contradictions are more compressed in space and time. The New York Film Festival’s promotional trailer, shown before every screening, says it all.
It is surely worth remarking that new movies by Wong Karwai and Hou Hsiao-hsien, China’s two leading auteurs, were released stateside on the same April weekend. The remark that springs to mind is: where’s China?
I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007) is an entrancing movie. Cate Blanchett is a fine actor. As one of the six Dylans—“Jude Quinn,” the star at his shimmering, recalcitrant zenith—Blanchett hazards a daring performance, peaking in the Fellini-dreaming encounter with David Cross’s Allen Ginsberg.