As a film, Godzilla is perfectly adequate. But that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. It’s always disappointing when a breakthrough director like Gareth Edwards catches the eye of a big studio only to be hired for rote product. Big blockbusters like this tend to swallow filmmakers whole and render them more or less anonymous (see also: J.J. Abrams‘s Star Trek, Guillermo Del Toro‘s Pacific Rim). Edwards’s Monsters was a distinctive movie with real characters and story. His Godzilla is more expensive, but less of a movie. There’s nothing in it we haven’t seen a million times before.
Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
(2011, Not Rated, 106 min)
Writer-director Abbas Kiarostami seems to be playing a game in Certified Copy, but I don’t know the rules or objective. He opens very blatantly with a discussion of artistic authenticity: Is a reproduction of a masterpiece any less a masterpiece? Furthermore, isn’t the Mona Lisa simply a reproduction of the beauty of its subject, Lisa del Giocondo? Are we not all simply copies of our ancestors’ DNA? And so on. What follows is a story that calls into question reality, but although it’s intellectually intriguing, I found it dramatically and emotionally unsatisfying. How can we invest in characters when they’re just puppets of the director, subject to change on his whim, without any agency of their own. The question of whether they’re “authentic” or not, or whether a film can present anything authentic at all, seems besides the point, because the director’s coy, mercurial approach evades his own theme. If nothing seems real in the film, it’s not because nothing can ever seem real, but because the director goes out of his way to make everything seem false.
Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
(1993, R, 98 min)
★ ★ ★ ★
Juliette Binoche is the marvelous anchor of Blue, the first part of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. Her face is mysterious and full of emotion even when it seems still. She plays Julie, the wife of internationally renowned composer Patrice de Courcy, who dies in a car accident at the start of the film, along with their five-year-old daughter. Julie survives the accident, wants to kill herself, but can’t bring herself to.
Dir. Olivier Assayas
(2008, Not Rated, 102 min)
★ ★ ½
There are touching moments and meaningful connections in Olivier Assayas’s Summer Hours, which is nevertheless lackadaisical in its telling of the story of three French siblings who must decide how they will manage their inheritance after the death of their mother. In style and theme it reminded me of Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, which despite its universal adoration I just couldn’t connect with. I had the same trouble here.
Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
(NR) ★ ★
I am not well suited to review this film. When I watch a movie, I still expect it to be a movie and not an inert diorama about life that purports to contain the Meaning of It All. I do not mean to be unduly derisive of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon; I have no antipathy for it, only apathy. It floated across my screen for two hours, and I sat there attentively viewing it, distinctly aware that I couldn’t see inside of it. Like British filmmaker Mike Leigh, Hou wrote his film without dialogue, and collaborated with the actors to shape the characters and story, but I strain to identify any story at all, and its characters are undeveloped occupants of the cavernous narrative space.