Nicholas Rombes’ Art Film Roundup


Speaking of Egypt. The Yacobean Building (2006), directed by Marwan Hamed. The film shifts stunningly and beautifully between hard-core melodrama, sadness, and comedy. There are, eerily, some scenes that seem to predict the uprising against Mubarek.

If you missed Animal Kingdom (dir. David Michôd, 2010) last year in the theaters, it’s available now on DVD. I think it’s the best film from last year. Try to watch it on a big screen, with good sound. It’s engulfing. There is a stanza from a Larry Levis poem, “The Poet at Seventeen,” that is somehow linked to the movie in the imagination in ways that are impossible to account for, impossible to justify:

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind
Of solitude the world usually allows
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

I’ve posted two clips on Youtube. Poor quality, but still. Check them out before they get taken down. The first shows the shooting that starts the whole dark drama in motion. The second shows one of the most quietly psychopathic characters (Andrew Cody, played by Ben Mendelsohn) ever to grace the screen as he watches his nephew’s girlfriend sleeping.

Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992) is bolder than Manhattan (1979), and almost as good as his richest film, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Its visual, handheld, improv style hearkens back to the great John Cassavetes movies of the 1950s and 60s, and anticipates Lars Von Trier’s Dogme 95 movement. In this opening scene, there are two great jump cuts, at 20 seconds and at 40 seconds. After Judy Davis and Sydney Pollock enter, at around 1:08, the rest of the scene is one long messy, glorious, unbroken take lasting over three minutes:

And finally, Christopher Nolan has only made a few missteps as a director, and one of them his remake of Insomnia (1997), a Norwegian detective film directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg. The original features Stellan Skarsgård as a detective so morally compromised that he reminds us of . . . ourselves. Here are three frames as the detective drives a high-school friend of the victim to the crime scene. He’s obviously distracted.

Nicholas Rombes can be found here. More from this author →