Brattle Theatre Film Notes Posts

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.

January 5, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Benjamin Sunday

For a film that features kidnapping, impalement, and nonconsensual brain surgery, it’s striking that the most uncomfortable scene in Jordan Peele’s Get Out is that of a racially awkward garden party. As a special guest of the white host Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is singled out and forced to tolerate Armitage’s peers while they openly fetishize his race. The one exception to this behavior is Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer who ignores Washington’s ethnicity while praising the younger man’s pictures of urban life. Hudson’s compliments identify him as an ally who recognizes Washington for his creativity instead of his color, making it that much more surprising when Hudson pays Armitage to transplant his brain into Washington’s body and steal the artist’s “eye.” Instead of elevating him out of the second class, Washington’s gift only invites his victimization by a man who sees the black artist as a talent, but not as an equal.

December 22, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Leo Racicot

I never lose interest in the work of my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. His films hold up under repeated scrutiny. They feel as fresh on the fifteenth viewing as they do on the first. As I have written elsewhere, Hitchcock’s smaller efforts are superior to the greatest efforts of other directors. The might be said of Woody Allen’s work. Both directors became such masters of their craft that they could elevate even an apparently minor story to the realm of the sublime.

December 18, 2017 / / Scene Analysis

By Michael Roberson

It’s the key moment in any romantic comedy: The Meet Cute, the moment when the two romantic leads first have their chance meeting and hit it off. Comedy legend Preston Sturgess certainly directed his share, but in this case, he lets female lead Barbara Stanwyck – whom he wrote this role specifically for—do some directing of her own.

December 17, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Matt Hannigan

In many instances a film is like a con. It wants to hook you, it wants to make you personally invested in the outcome, and it wants you to walk away with a smile on your face and slightly less in your wallet. If the endeavor is a success, there will always be enough to suggest that the artist—the film artist or the con artist—knows a truth that you do not. If the endeavor is unsuccessful, the feeling of being cheated will linger and frustrate.

December 16, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Tessa Mediano

I was first introduced to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in my junior year of high school, when it was required viewing for my American Studies class. Despite my initial aversion to watching it, an old-timey hokey western to my 16-year-old mind, I grew to appreciate this film’s stature as an analogy and representation of American history, for this film grapples with two American archetypes that have immensely influenced how Americans are culturally perceived: the rugged cowboy and the idealistic reformer. These two figures, portrayed by John Wayne and James Stewart, respectively, clash repeatedly in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and the film convincingly challenges the viewer through the complexity of their dynamic. While the film clearly endorses the reformer’s stress on education and law as positive agents of change in the West, ultimately it is through an act of violence and deceit that progress comes to the western town of Shinbone, suggesting that the path forward is not always straight and narrow.

December 12, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Christian Gay

With 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick presented audiences in 1968 with an impressive and expansive interstellar future. Following a haunting origin story, wherein a black monolith appears to a group of prehistoric apes, Kubrick transports viewers to an exotic outer-space world where scientists have unearthed the monolith on the Earth’s moon. After another leap in time, we are brought aboard the spaceship Discovery during its “half-a-billion mile journey” to Jupiter.

December 11, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Michael Roberson

Ask someone to describe Dario Argento’s Suspiria, and the first thing they mention will likely be the colors. Suspiria’s film print was one of the last to be struck in the Technicolor imbibation process (also used by The Wizard of Oz, another famously colorful film about witches),

December 10, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Larry Cherkasov

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is an uplifting film only insofar as it ends on an upswing for its hero, summing up a treatise against self-destruction. Even though Frank Capra’s Christmas classic is moral allegory, class conflict suffuses it, resulting in a less-than-cheerful socioeconomic conclusion underlying its wonderful, Christmassy closing: that money can force American citizens to their knees at the expense of faith and self-confidence. Frank Capra lionizes the entrepreneurial main character, George Bailey (James Stewart), into the protector of the American Dream and gladiator of the “battle of Bedford Falls” so that he may knock him down several notches and watch him writhe. This narrative progression is not so much sadism on the part of the director as portraiture. Frank Capra uses George Bailey’s story as a case study for class relations in America, portraying the difficulty of attaining the American Dream when the Mr. Potters of the country are actively out to get the average American. The Dream haunts as a Christmas Ghost in this rightly canonized Capricorn picture.

December 9, 2017 / / Scene Analysis

By Larry Cherkasov

Slow, plodding xylophone mallets pace the viewer’s heartbeat as Suzy Bannion makes her way into the frame, shrouded in black, face bouncing off yellow light, mascara projecting her eyeball out of the celluloid. With bated breath, she spies on a witch’s coven performing the rites of its leader, the yet-unseen Helena Markos, queen witch of the hellish Tanz Dance Academy. Because her peers have already met unlucky fates, she remains an attractive victim—horror movie precedent does not excuse a protagonist from impending death. Dario Argento stretches the suspense, loosely protecting Bannion with curtain as she watches her potential murder unfold, replete with unheimlich doppelgangers, blood-streaked Nosferatus, and reptilian skin piercings. Suspiria boasts impressive pacing because there are no jump scares, just dread until it happens.