Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

Review written by Andrés Rosende.

There are not many big Hollywood directors whose work I’m always impatient and excited to see. Christopher Nolan is one of those directors. The only thing I knew about Interstellar before walking into an impressive IMAX theater was that Steven Spielberg – Zeus in that Olympus of directors I’ve worshipped since I was a kid – had worked on it for a while, which only made the film more appealing to me.

When I came out, three hours later, I did it with a big smile on my face, feeling Interstellar was not only a stunning film of epic proportions but also an art piece that dares to ask big important questions about life, survival, love and time.

When I got home, I decided to read what people were saying about the film and, to my surprise, the reviews were not only mixed but most of the time talked about a different film. That reminded me of when I was in film school and a writer would present an idea for a story in class. The first reaction was not to understand what that writer wanted to do and help him achieve that but to take his idea to create a completely different film with it. “Yeah, I guess that is an interesting idea but I’m making a horror film here and not a political drama.” I feel with Interstellar critics have done the same thing. Some of them were expecting a very cerebral, metaphysical movie, closer to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Others said it was too cold and were expecting a Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Too much scientific talk; too much Dylan Thomas; too ambitious, etc. Well, Interstellar is neither Kubrick nor Spielberg but that doesn’t mean it is not deep or emotional.

In a distant future, Earth is dying. Men were too greedy and exhausted its resources. There is no place for technology or science, only farming. Dust storms cover everything and the last crops of corn are dying. Starvation or suffocation will be the only destiny of the human race unless they find another inhabitable planet where they can start over. But time is of the essence. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey proving 2013 was just the beginning of a new career), a NASA pilot and an engineer working as a farmer, will lead the expedition that can save the human race. By accepting this mission he has to leave his children behind, a decision that will torment him forever. And because, following Einstein’s theories, time is relative and an hour in a distant planet could be 23 years on Earth, Cooper’s children’s lives will slip through his fingers like water. In one of the best scenes in the film, Cooper sits in front of a screen to listen to the messages his son has left for over 20 years. In that touching moment, a superb McConaughey is able to portray regret, loss, happiness, despair and guilt, but also hope.

Time is something that Nolan worries about and this is not the first time he’s explored its compression and dilation (2010′s Inception). I don’t need to understand the scientific talk and the Relativity Theory to understand that time is relative. Nor does anyone else. Don’t the hands of your watch move very slow the week before a first date? Don’t you count the minutes to get out of a boring class? On the other hand, haven’t you come back home after a year abroad to notice your parents are older or your niece is suddenly talking and wonder where were you? Haven’t you looked back to see that 5 years or 10 years just went by? That our lives will be over in the blink of an eye? Like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says, we are prisoners of time. At least, here on Earth.

The other idea that seems to throw people off is that love is a big part of the scientific solution to a very complex equation that could eventually save us. At the same time, when we talk about leaving a better planet to our children or when we talk about the survival of the species, what are we talking about if not the people we love? I personally could care less about some genetic material that could create human life on another planet. I care about my family and my friends, the people I love. And it’s Cooper’s love for his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain) that brings us to the most amazing and visually striking scene in the film: a three-dimensional representation of the fourth dimension, time, in which Cooper can access a specific location simultaneously at all possible times. This is how he is able to travel in time to deliver a message to his daughter.

Besides its thematic ambition, Interstellar is also a film of a scale we rarely see anymore. The beautiful imagery that Nolan creates (please go see it in IMAX 70 mm. if you can) and its relationship with sound is one of the most cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. On top of that, the film has powerful performances; analogue and hipper realistic visual effects; amazing robots… and Hans Zimmer’s best score since The Lion King and Gladiator.

In the final twist of Interstellar we learn that those “beings” that helped humans understand how to escape Earth were none other than the humans of the future. As if Nolan was a humanist from the Renaissance believing in Protagoras’s statement of “men are the measure of all things,” he seems to believe that if we ask the big questions, if we explore and wonder, we can accomplish anything. And that is a beautiful way of seeing the world.

“Do not go gentle into that good night / Old age should burn and rage at close of day/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas)

Andrés Rosende is an LA based writer and director. He holds an MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University. His films have played at festivals around the globe including Cannes, Sitges, Cleveland and South by Southwest, winning more than 40 international awards.

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

The Wound and The Gift, directed by Linda Hoaglund

Last weekend saw the 5th annual DOC NYC film festival in Manhattan fill the IFC Center, Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas and the SVA Theater with more than 130 films and events. Among the unusual highlights was Linda Hoaglund’s beautifully-crafted The Wound and The Gift. Focusing on a handful of sanctuaries for animals that have been abused, neglected, are in danger of being put down or facing extinction, this 80-minute documentary makes a subtle case for animals giving back to their caregivers as much as they receive. Stunningly lensed by cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, the film provides brief portraits of several natural reserves dedicated to animals ranging from wolfdogs (wolves bred with dogs) to circus animals referred to as “surplus” by their owners to white cranes in Japan that stand five feet tall and were facing extinction before being saved by villagers, themselves struggling for their existence. Ending with the cranes in Japan was a nice touch by Hoaglund as throughout the film she weaves an animated Japanese fairy tale narrated by Vanessa Redgrave about a wounded crane being saved by a poor peasant and attempting to give back to the peasant, hence the film’s title.

Although the fable and its accompanying vivid animation from illustrator Victo Ngai (http://victo-ngai.com/) adds an enjoyable element of fantasy and folklore, it’s the moments between the animals and the humans in the very real world that are most memorable and often powerful, though to Hoaglund’s credit she never hits the viewer over the head with pronouncements. But she certainly leads them to inevitable conclusions, surely including the realization that any individual who would breed dogs with wolves in a selfish attempt to create a “wild” domestic pet (that will become unmanageable once it reaches maturity) is not only foolish but harmful to the balance between humans and animals. What happens to these innocent creatures when they show their natural inclination for independence? They are generally shot, disposed of like some misguided minor experiment. Such manipulation of animals is in direct contrast to the trust and reciprocal nature of the relationship that can exist between humans and animals, whether it’s dogs or cats in the comfort of our homes or an adult tiger or lion saved from an abusive circus owner.

Perhaps the most arresting segment in the film focuses on a ranch for old race horses where prison inmates with an aptitude for it are given the opportunity to learn about caring for the horses, potentially gaining a skill they can use to find employment upon release. More to the point, working with the horses allows them to regain a sense of purpose and a place in the world outside the prison walls. Just as the inmates may otherwise be treated as expendable, the animals have a place on this planet and an awareness of themselves, though their communication comes in a language people must work to comprehend. Ultimately, The Wound and The Gift serves as a reminder that we are not the only inhabitants of this planet but as the dominant species we owe something to the other occupants, if only in hopes of living on a more compassionate plane of existence.

Visit the film’s website and watch the trailer: http://www.thewoundandthegift.com/

Learn about DOC NYC: http://www.docnyc.net/

Review written by Mike Fishman

Mike Fishman has an M.A. in Film from American University, has worked for ICM, IFP, Tribeca Film Institute, Hamptons International Film Festival and the Columbia University Film Program, and developed the website, IndependentFilmNow.

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Trigger, starring Courtney Birk and Ashleigh Coffelt

Film synopsis: Trigger is an experimental film about a woman in the midst of a relapse where wakes up disoriented on the beach, while her caretaker searches to find her before it’s too late.

Watch: https://vimeo.com/111705906

From Courtney Birk: Ashleigh Coffelt and I have been making experimental short films for about a year now. After two full length features, and 15 shorts later we are now sponsored and have moved over to California to continue making our dream happen. I always told myself that I could be anything that I wanted to be, but never did I think that an independent filmmaker would be in the mix somewhere. I have finally found my passion. I just hope that everyone who watches this short appreciates it as much as I do.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

10,000 KM, directed by Carlos Marqués-Marcet, written by Carlos Marqués-Marcet and Clara Roquet

The AFI Film Festival always brings a breeze of fresh air to the movie landscape in Los Angeles. Among the many outstanding films at the festival, I loved Carlos Marqués-Marcet’s opera prima 10,000 KM (Long Distance). With a special award for its acting duo at SXSW and swiping the top prizes at the Malaga Film Festival in Spain, this moving film will be one of the most remembered indies of 2014 and a strong candidate for the Spanish Academy Awards.

10,000 KM is not another love story. It is a love story for the age of globalization and social media dependence. Alex and Sergio live happy in Barcelona. He is a teacher; she is an artist. They are in love and planning to have a baby. Life is simple. Life is good. Until she receives an unexpected artistic residence in Los Angeles. Can their relationship survive a year 10,000 km apart?

Carlos Marqués-Marcet takes us on this emotional journey with a pulse we rarely see in first-time directors. And that is clear from the first frame of the film to the last. The movie opens with a 20-minute long take –a continuous shot that captures the action without cutting- and usually the stamp a director wants to be remembered by. From the famous opening of Orson Wells’ Touch of Evil to the ones in Robert Altman’s The Player, Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and Alfoso Cuarón’s Children of Men and Gravity, long takes are shots meant for critics to discuss and point out. But why are long takes so interesting? Well, usually because of its technical complexity and beautiful choreography. But sometimes, something else lies underneath these virtuoso shots.

Let’s take, for example, one of my all time favorites: Scorsese’s Goodfellas. In it Ray Liotta introduces Lorraine Bracco to his world at the Copacabana. The reason I love that shot so much is because of how well it works in the context of that particular story. Henry (Liotta) seduces Karen (Bracco) by showing off his connections, his wealth and his power through a beautifully designed choreography that takes us from outside of the club to a front table inside, going through the back entrance and labyrinth kitchen. At the same time Scorsese seduces his audience with an “oh my God, look how good I am at this” kind of shot. It’s the perfect symbiosis of form and content.

In 10,000 KM, Marqués-Marcet does something similar. The happy, solid couple is introduced to us with a solid one shot that takes us from them making love in bed, to brushing their teeth, to eating breakfast. As if we were watching a play, the complicity between the incredible performers Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer, unfolds organically and in real time in front of our eyes. Again, form and content together.

After that, the film will take a u-turn. The rest of the scenes will be very fragmented, like Alex and Sergio’s relationship. Through text messages, e-mails, Facebook updates, Google Maps and, especially through Skype calls, we follow the conversations of the couple as distance, like water penetrating rock, slowly erodes their relationship. And when we get to the final (and strongest) shot of the film, we are led to turn our eyes inward, to our own experiences to ask ourselves about the decisions we’ve made in our relationships, because distance is not only a spatial measurement.

Besides the mentioned aesthetic qualities of the film, its greatest asset is the touching performance by both of its protagonist. What could have been a claustrophobic and even boring film becomes a beautiful, intense and bittersweet portrait of love in the digital era. Produced by Lastor Media and LA-based LA Panda Productions, 10,000 KM will hit the theaters January from Broad Green Pictures.

View the trailer for 10,000 KM here: https://vimeo.com/88695931

Review written by Andres Rosende

Andres Rosende is an LA based writer and director. He holds an MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University. His films have played at festivals around the globe including Cannes, Sitges, Cleveland and South by Southwest, winning more than 40 international awards.

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

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