First, one must read Andy Rector. Pedro Costa's Juventude em marcha / Colossal Youth finally made it to New York--I've waited years to see a film by Costa! What a perplexing, very beautiful film. Maybe I can say more after some more thought. Note, however, that the characters gaze off-screen, like Ford's characters, where they look into history (for lost loves & dreams, and at destruction, at misery, at television screens). There's a beautiful and awkward scene where the "protagonist," Ventura, and one of his daughters sit and describe what they see on the wall across from them.
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There are many exquisite things in Pan's Labyrinth, certainly one of the better mainstream films I have seen from the last few years. (Vague spoilers follow, so reader beware!) Let me voice a quibble first: I am uncomfortable with the use in commercial-left cinema (it also happened to a much worse extent, I thought, in V for Vendetta) whereby the hero(ine) must "prove" herself by flirting with the enemy ideology, i.e., fascism. In Pan's Labyrinth, our dear Ofelia has to listen to the Faun and do as he says. The parallel is drawn between blind obedience to the Faun and the fascist Capitan both; but whereas we come to hate the fascist (in fact we should hate him from the first frame), the Faun's authoritarianism remains curiously unexamined. Ofelia's resistance proves to be the "right choice," but not only is it at great cost, it's also divorced from a larger critique of the Faun's demands for obedience throughout the entire film, not just as a third & final "test" for poor Ofelia. (I'm not too bothered by the fact that this film posits utopia as a supernatural monarchy, which seems like an obviously distant [faerie] enough fictive operation to be harmless.) So I left the theater this evening feeling that, unless I myself am missing something, the film's command of its moral universe is a bit flawed. That's the Bad; there's a lot of Good in Pan's Labyrinth though, too. I like the fact that it kept a certain dialogue with film/cultural history (e.g., Un Chien andalou; The Wizard of Oz; possibly also even the absent-father anti-fascist anger of Fernando Arrabal and his Pan-ic Movement). I love the lush, very saturated photography. I admire the fact that this film makes fascists its villains, and not purely generic ones either--it situates patriarchy, misogyny, warmongering, irrational father-worship, and inhuman "efficiency" upon the specter of fascism, ripe for critique.
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The next few weekends will be big ones for cinema: Rivette's Out 1, probably some Kiarostami (including perhaps the man in person), possibly some Tarr if I can fit any in, new stuff by Oshii & the Straubs, an older one by Aldrich (Twilight's Last Gleaming) ... March, in fact, is a ridiculous month for New York cinephiles, not so much for the rarity of its screenings but for the sheer greatness of its two concurrent director retrospectives (Imamura @ BAM, Kiarostami @ MoMA) and the string of major films showing at the Alliance Francaise.