Nicholas Rombes’ Art Film Roundup


Before the fiasco of the “rock musical” Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Julie Taymor worked in smaller savageries, especially Titus (1999), her adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

The movie was a bit of an easy target. It was released after Richard III (1995) with Ian McKellan, and Romeo + Juliet (1996) directed by Baz Luhrmann, both of which scrambled time and place and tone in ways that seemed to reflect the shallow, ahistorical excesses of postmodernism. But Titus, beneath its flamboyance, was something else altogether: a deeply felt meditation on the wages of violence, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Taymor’s decision to go completely over the top resulted in something unexpected—a movie with a deep, ember-like sadness at its core. “I’ll find a day to massacre them all.”

The Curve of Forgotten Things (directed by Todd Cole, 2011), starring Elle Fanning. And why not? Eight minutes that verges on the edge of something shimmering and great. Best watched on full-screen mode:

The film was made for Rodarte, and is the sort of document that mucks up distinctions between art and commerce, in the same way that David Lynch’s Dior commercial Lady Blue Shanghai (2010) does:

Even Jean-Luc Godard made a commercial for Schick aftershave, back in 1971, during his really heavy Marxist days:

Schick was owned by ultra-Conservative, capitalist extraordinaire Patrick Frawley. Does this matter, that Godard made a commercial to help sell products for a company whose profits supported political causes antithetical to his own? We are all complicit in these hypocrisies, small and large, as we use and consume objects each day whose sources in the global matrix are often obscure. If Godard made the commercial to help fund his more radical projects (perhaps Tout va bien, the following year?) then do the two projects cancel each other out? Is there some sort of ledger to keep track? Is it okay to denounce the enemy, and then collaborate with the enemy, as long as you can come up with some sort of intellectual rationalization for your actions?

Finally, three stills from the South Korean film Spider Forest (2004, directed by Song Il-gon). There are some films that stay lodged in the brain, in fragments, not because they are necessarily good, but because for a few moments here and there they achieve something that even your favorite films can’t achieve. I don’t know what to call this. Maybe a surplus-value of meaning that leaks out of the film in weird frames or in-between moments. These are not films that you can recommend to people, because they’re not good in the ways that we expect films to be good. Spider Forest is like that. It creaks along incoherently, and then becomes even more incoherent. It becomes a Looney Tunes of meaning, one door slamming shut and another door opening, at the same time.

Which is to say: thank God for films like Spider Forest.

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