Jul 2, 2017

3 x Capsule Review (Echoes of Silence / Macadam Stories / The Bad Batch)

Echoes of Silence (Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1967)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Swinging in the rhythm of smooth jazz, bluegrass and classical music, Echoes of Silence provides a raw, offbeat, Nouvelle Vague-ish portrait of anti-mod twentysomethings in unglamourized New York. Beautifully shot on 16mm Bolex Camera and edited rather 'haphazardly', in a way which suggests youthful irreverence, it appears as an early prototype of a Remodernist film, eschewing dialogue and fully embracing 'un photo-roman' approach in several sequences. Its grainy B&W imagery reflects the melancholy of lonely and longing outcasts all played with aching, unforced honesty by non-professionals. Goldman dismisses traditional narrative in favor of the lyrical one (supported by hand-painted title cards) to create the cinematic equivalent of a beatnik poem.

Macadam Stories / Asphalte (Samuel Benchetrit, 2015)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The attention-grabbing Isabelle Huppert stars as a washed-out actress, Jeanne Meyer (an allusion to Jeanne Moreau, perhaps?), in arguably one of the most charming ensemble cast dramedies ever to hit the screen. Her partner is the young, yet talented Jules Benchetrit as the boy next door Charly with whom she forges an unexpected friendship in one of the three subtle narrative threads woven around a decrepit residential building in the French suburbs.

The other two stories involve Michael Pitt as a NASA astronaut, John McKenzie, who mistakenly ends up in the cozy residence of a hyper-kind Algerian immigrant, Madame Hamida (the brilliant Tassadit Mandi), as well as Gustave Kervern (of Avida fame) as the party pooper neighbor Sterkowitz who falls for Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's reserved night shift nurse. All of the six thespians display an easygoing rapport, imbuing the protagonists with remarkable nuances, as Benchetrit's screenplay shines with gentle ironies, deadpan poignancy and heartfelt meanings.

The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

To paraphrase the title of Ana Lily Amirpour's love-or-hate affair debut - a model-like, double-amputee girl, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse, sweet and feisty), walks through the desert of the dystopian States mostly alone during sunbaked days and cool nights. She is labeled as one of the 'Bad Batch' people split into two clans - buffed cannibals of 'The Bridge' and junkhead ravers of 'Comfort' - and there is no place she can call home.

Virtually forced to choose between an enigmatic anthropophagist boss with artist's soul, Miami Man (the physically imposing Jason Momoa), and a sex-cult leader who looks like a 70s porn artist (well, it figures), The Dream (Keanu Reeves, reinventing his image), Arlen seems to be grounded in twisted, obfuscated, unforgiving reality built upon pop-culture references and (intentionally?) on the nose 'symbolism'. There is a certain sarcasm in her muddled tale which is told (and not to mention trolled) through some impressive visuals with the dialogue kept to a minimum. Oh, and that unrecognizable Jim Carrey cameo is a blast!

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