Brattle Theatre Film Notes Posts

February 6, 2018 / / Main Slate

Justin LaLiberty

The year of 1995 was esoteric for fans of genre cinema with a variety of sub-genres and trends brought to a boiling point: the buddy movie (Bad Boys, Money Train, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Tommy Boy, Friday, Top Dog), the revisionist western (The Quick and the Dead, Wild Bill, Dead Man), neo-noir (Se7en, Heat, Devil In a Blue Dress, Kiss of Death, Jade, Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead) all got their due but the most singular, and eerily prescient, sub-genre trend was the cyber thriller.

February 5, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Greg Mucci

It is not a series of legible images or a black screen that opens A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s operatic adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ classic dystopian novel; but an overlay of colors. First a burning red fills the screen, a color often evoking associations with rage, danger and power. It raises one’s blood pressure, accelerates the heart rate and elicits erotic feelings. Then the image flips to a deep blue, generating the opposite effects of red: calm, truth, and sincerity. It cuts back to red before resting on Alex, (played by Malcolm McDowell), a delinquent who chooses a life of crime. His dangerous yet youthful beauty is as contradictory as the interplay of colors. Already this display of colors provokes emotional conflicts. But the music that plays against these emotions just might fuel them, as our film opens against English composer Henry Purcell’s 1695 Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, reimagined for synthesizer by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos. In bringing her own specific flourish to classical composers such as Purcell, Beethoven, and Rozzini, Carlos works at distorting the films use of music in order to manipulate the way in which we engage and interact, ultimately controlling our free will through a marriage of sights and sounds.

January 29, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Selin Sevinc

Hopes and dreams are a significant part of who we are as human beings. Peter Bogdanovich’s Depression era comedy/road movie Paper Moon artfully reflects that human need for dreaming. Ryan O’Neil’s Moses Pray and Tatum O’Neil’s Addie make a pair that brightens the sullen backdrop with their determined expectation of good things to come. Addie’s cunning ideas and sharp attitude are just what Moses needs to survive the hopelessness that surrounds them. Despite the comedic buddy-movie sensibility of the film, Paper Moon focuses our attention time and again on the melancholy symbolism of a paper moon the duo delicately balances on as they go through their adventures.

January 15, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Tessa Brook Bahoosh

Beneath a frozen pond, fish swim slowly, their image distorted through the ice. In a seemingly infinite swimming pool, a young woman pounds against the floor tiles, seeking escape. A glass of milk goes mottled with red as blood drips into its center.

January 12, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Hannah Kinney-Kobre

The life of the writer does not particularly lend itself to being dramatized on film. The solitary act of writing is not a very cinematic event, and to incorporate the written works themselves is a difficult and fraught task. A limp voiceover or spontaneous reading can easily feel obligatory or out of place. But A Quiet Passion manages to avoid these traps. The film covers the life of poet Emily Dickinson, from her first rebellious spat with evangelism at school to her inevitable death. And as far as biopics go, it is an anomaly. The film is arranged into little vignettes that can be best described as movements of sort; this musical metaphor is also apt for the way the film uses Dickinson’s poetry: interspersed through the film, read aloud by Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) and weaving in and out of the film like part of the soundtrack. Director Terence Davies in an interview rightfully noted, “The poems […] have to act as music.”

January 11, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

By Victoria Large

Director James Mangold’s Logan is rightly celebrated for bringing the superhero genre down to earth in the best possible way; the film is grounded in situations and characters – and, yes, acts of violence – that feel achingly real. Throughout, Mangold makes space for intimate moments that resonate, such as when Logan swigs alcohol alone while bandaging a hand that should have already healed, or an aged Charles Xavier tends a makeshift garden, or Logan’s daughter Laura stares wide-eyed out of a car window at a glittering city, the likes of which she’s never seen before. Indeed, one of the film’s most poignant scenes is both intimate and relatively quiet, though it begins with Logan snarling and growling himself awake from a nightmare.

January 9, 2018 / / Main Slate

by Chase Sui Wonders

The Beguiled directed by Sofia Coppola opens in an enveloping fog as the camera crawls through the gnarled and mossed branches of what is meant to be a Civil War period Virginian landscape. Despite the haze of the fog, the colors and textures retain a rich fairytale-like quality. As we move through the dense wood, we hear the eerie high-pitched tune of a little girl singing as she gathers a basket of mushrooms. The camera trails behind her ominously. She knows she has strayed too far from home when suddenly a critically wounded enemy soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) emerges from behind a tree begging her for medical care. Following this reveal, it seems that one of the most conventionally frightful moments in the film has already passed. Indeed, Coppola builds the suspense of her film with a much slower burn than what is expected from a more traditional Hollywood Horror with over-the-top shocks. As soon as the opening sequence, she conjures fear in the audience through an unsettling atmosphere ripe with quiet suspense without relying on jump scares to do the emotional legwork.

January 9, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Tessa Brook Bahoosh

Long a fan of director Sean Baker, the existence of The Florida Project took me by surprise. I wasn’t surprised to love it, or to find it exquisitely intimate and compassionate, but it is a true mental shift to accept we live in a world in which Sean Baker films have a budget. Baker has spent most of his career making films on a shoestring, which he then manages to pull a mile. In terms of making the absolute most of what he has been given, The Florida Project is no exception. It’s a beautiful film that deals in contradictions: quiet and loud, brassy and sensitive, painful and lovely to watch. Baker is already well practiced in toeing the line between drama and comedy, as demonstrated through his previous films, particularly 2015’s Tangerine. Instead of erecting humor and melancholy as two separate poles which one may oscillate between, Baker finds the comedic within the dramatic, compromising neither. Thus, he provides a unique illustration of how films can engage with overlapping emotions that are conventionally considered contradictory, and ultimately produce deeply resonant and truthful stories.

January 8, 2018 / / Special Pages

Editor’s note: On December 16, 2017, we had some special young guests among our audience for our annual screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. They are the high-school students from the Film Club at Boston Collegiate Charter School. We were very excited to have them as part of this Brattle holiday tradition, so we asked if they could send us their thoughts on the movie and the movie-going experience at a theatre like the Brattle. Victoria got back to us. We love her fresh take on this particular movie as well as the concept of “Christmas movies,” so we want to share this with you.

Yangqiao Lu
Editor of Film Notes

By Victoria Wawryszuk

It’s that time of year again! Time for hot chocolate by the fire, building snowmen, hosting extravagant parties, and waiting for Santa to come down the chimney!

Of course, no one finds this their reality, as the majority of movies over romanticize Christmas. Most people know the type: the cheesy Hallmark Channel movie about some overly decorated suburban town with that one person who left, who then comes back to fall in love with his or her high school sweetheart. It might as well achieve its Christmas designation with some sage advice from a mall Santa. There are also over joyous Christmas movies like Elf, where I am left queasy with Christmas spirit after the opening scene and stuck with the image of Will Ferrell in tights burned into my retinas. Then there’s the classic tale of Ralphie pining for a ‘Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle’ in A Christmas Story, another holiday classic reminding me of simpler times when the most stressful moment in life was getting a “triple-dog-dare” from friends, whether that person was born in the 40s, 70s, or 2000s, like myself.

January 6, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

By Chase Sui Wonders

Without the pomp of a grandiose opening shot, we are placed dead center in the fray of film Good Time, directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. Stark fluorescent light floods the frame as a psychiatrist clinically interrogates Nick (played by Benny Safdie.) Nick is mentally disabled, and before he can make sense of the pain triggered by the psychiatrist’s pointed questions, his brother Connie (played by Robert Pattinson) bursts through the door.