Film Review of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

There are so many layers to Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. The film encompasses the story of beginnings and ends. Imaginably, the arrival of a beginning and the arrival of an end. Among all of the consuming and scathing qualities of this film, what stupifies is the dissection of language. A mode of expression, since the dawn of time, that remains innocent and yet so misunderstood.

The scope of science fiction films is so vast that it expands knowledge to a point where you’re in awe of its elegance and accuracy. While such films confine themselves to a thematic structure, a prescribed set of values, it’s overflowing with philanthropic ideas. Arrival is a legend among them. Denis Villeneuve’s other films – Incendies, Enemy, Prisoners – share a common denominator: knowledge and knowing.

Arrival’s chilling alien-invasion parable tells time in a frantic and apprehensive narrative. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t spoil the film. It’s how the film sets the tone right from the start. You anticipate the emptiness, the silence, and the obscurity of the atmosphere. This is the perfect portrayal of the director’s conception of the film. Due to its vague intellectual strides in language interpretation, the film is artistically-fenced. It muddles past, present, and future and, as a result, perceives time as being deceitful and apathetic.

The film ostracizes the ‘forwardness’ of existence. Why you do what you do? And “if you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?” Amy Adams transcends the role of Dr. Louise Banks, she’s enigmatic in the way she encapsulates her character’s loneliness, angst, and memories. The director’s vision – revealed in profound sound and vision – defies the linear storytelling experience of any sci-fi film. It’s so immersive and restless that you feel it in vibrations.

Film Review of Claire Denis’s High Life

You pardon your journey for a destination; conceiving of no other means to live life entirely. But what does any destination entail? A boundary, perhaps, of reassuring one’s unsettled and undisguised self that their life is leading up to something concrete – that it must – or else what’s the point in living?

High Life is a quiet and immeasurably confined sci-fi film. It questions the naked aspect of human nature. What remains when nothing else does? The film’s language speaks of a time that is altruistically detached, impulse-driven, uncertain, copious yet restrained. It acutely embraces man’s most innate experiences. Narrating a story of birth and death and all the knowable and unknowable gradations that take place in between.

High Life does not perpetuate the progression of humanity as it is. It does not convey hope as one might expect to wake up from a nightmare. The relief that you feel, the receding pulse, the abating sweat once you realize reality is not supposed to be as stifling and stagnant as a bad dream. The film has a kaleidoscopic effect. It equates to inflated uneasiness, a catalyst to what, for men and women, belies suffering, unhappiness, and loneliness.

The film inures one to prepare for a new, tactile dimension to desire and distaste. Surpassing the boundaries of hedonistic pleasures. And questioning the certainty, the effectiveness of a traditional, and supposedly inadequate, society. What remains when nothing else does? What is it that you cannot escape? When all is destructible – nations, religion, politics – which criterion defines you? The answer lies in those sunken and desolate corridors of High Life. And the floating world that inhabits it in the middle of nowhere – where even time is its slave.

Film Review of Mary Harron’s American Psycho

An identity in crisis is no longer a personal phenomenon. It’s a sympathetic dilemma, sure but one that includes a person as well as the external world. The trick of possessing an ‘identity’ is that it lets you believe that you are its sole proprietor. The truth is that it’s anyone but you. The certainty of identity is, in itself, an illusion. The concept doesn’t exist unless it’s validated by others who believe in that very same fantasy.

Enduring the image of you remains undisputed. However, when someone else acknowledges your identity; crowning you with an ensemble that they think is more fitting and understandable – things start to become messy. American Psycho, through the lens of a powerful, rich, handsome man, Patrick Bateman, is not psychotic at all.

Patrick Bateman’s possessions are his set of values, his morality, his tools of conduct. An emphasis on the male facial products, at the start of the film, feels too rigid, too consequential. 
However, the scene soon paves the way to a soliloquy. This, for me, nullifies the importance of those very beauty products. You hear this next, “There’s an idea of a Patrick Bateman. Some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me. Only an entity… something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can sense our lifestyles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.”

American Psycho mocks the superficiality of Patrick Bateman’s identity. The symbolic envy of business cards, the absurd appointments in supposedly elusive restaurants, the unsettling apathy; this forms the motif of the film. The film is blood-thirsty but it deviates away from the stereotype of a murderer. Bateman’s mania is rushed, impulsive, and careless. Besides the chainsaw or the ax, there’s also a scene where his phallus seems to be a symbolic choice for a weapon. It’s not how he kills that makes this film gripping. It’s the anonymity of his character; an identity that hides in plain sight.

Film Review of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite

I felt no hesitation when I booked my tickets for this film; my first foreign film on the big screen. Be that as it may, this, in fact, was my third time watching Parasite.

The film follows a chain of command. It’s an immediate setting, a disparaging, a binding atmosphere shrouded in eccentric and gasping possessions. And then some. Bong has thoughtfully crafted his characters, their dialogue, and the spaces that contain them. The term ‘parasite’ for a film this tragic yet amusing is cryptic. It permeates the plot and one’s comprehension of it.

Bong’s other film Snowpiercer, created a horizontal pecking order. A spectacular schism of sight, sound, and sensation. In Parasite, the vertical – high to low dimensions – create a strange, icky, and tentacled feeling. No matter how grotesque and unrelenting this may be to see, it’s a source. A source that contains and feeds everything else. As precious and indispensable as a seed is to the plant and a brush to the painting.

Conveying the differences in lifestyle, conduct, perhaps even morality, through Parasite’s stunning architectural lens, Parasite is unconventional. It’s done in unconventional strokes but the picture is quite ordinary and relatable. You have an objective perspective dividing the rich from the poor and the in-betweeners. And to make this possible, Parasite’s symmetry is built from the ground up. It’s artistic, intimate, and infiltrating.

The rich house – with its floors, glass walls, perfectly-sculpted furniture, and a geometric emphasis on space is the perfect dissection of a condescendingly cadenced life. The poor house – with its half-basement blends into its own stationery construct. It’s soft, disheveled, and raw. And there’s always the camera taking you back and forth these two lives. The swift, eye-beholding radiance of it all, the naivety, foolishness, the unmistakable captivity. It’s all ensconced in this “metaphorical” and provoking film.

Film Review of Gaspar Noè’s Enter the Void

Watching Enter the Void was more cinematic than cinema. The film is set in a dimension that transcends form. It’s eternally ensconced in perpetual movement. It’s uncomfortable, gritty, and hallucinatory. It’s everything that ticks nerves into a cold sweat. The film is made up of many rules: elements that define a space only to see it get swallowed up. The place where this destruction all winds up is the Void. It’s bitter and incandescent.

Would I watch this film in a theatre in complete darkness in one sitting? Sure. Only because I’ve already seen it. My second experience of Enter the Void would perhaps be less disturbed and frustrated than my first. To tell the truth, I had to take a break from watching the film halfway through. It was a true test of my empathetic being. I vehemently detested and resisted watching the film after the first quantum leap into the lives of Oscar and Linda. I wound up the film after months of consciously staying away from it.

Gaspar Noe’s take on a “psychedelic tour of life” is rare. A review online critiqued it as being “neck-deep in social nihilism, drowning in the worst of human nature” and “a nearly three-hour dissociation of living, dying, and repeating, all from an atheistic view.” I’m no movie expert. So defining the grains of this film is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, for myself. Because watching the film, as a sentient and impermanent blip in a more celestial view of things, felt more than enough.

This out-of-reality experience, reincarnation, and a malignant perspective of one’s spirit feels rather positive than negative in the film. The aesthetics and sci-fi feeling is unforgettable. I close my eyes and still view the world in an epileptic and cosmic way. It’s an effect that scales life’s point of view when questioned about death.

Film Review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread

In everything we do, love is constant; love for something abstract that may guide or misguide the tide of life. And in hope that we have command over these unsettling currents ourselves, we give in to love’s problematic and sentient needs. Phantom Thread explores how inadequate and wounded this kind of love can be.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s perception of Reynolds and Cyril Woodcock is interpreted through the intervention of Reynolds’s muse, Alma Elson. The film is set in a meditative and fleeting atmosphere. And the house they live in remains unchanged throughout. Figures enter and exit the home resembling humans but perhaps aren’t; the menders of the broken, the sculptors of perfection.

The dress designer that couldn’t have been played so eloquently by anyone other than Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a personality so crisp yet deeply connected to the air he breathes. In his living of the character is his reading of the transient and persistent force of nature; copious in capacity and expansive and all-consuming in essence.

Maybe the film set in time occupies no time at all. No conscious movement of wind, matter, and being. The softness of every frame is a silhouette against the natural beauty of light. Every object the light touches – every inch of fabric, perhaps a grain of dust floating in the air – represents the uncertainty of life. What is adorned often disappears; you cannot run your hands over the same piece of fabric twice and feel its brilliance knock over you. So is it a mystery why love, as is, still exists?

Euphoria (2019) – Sam Levinson

First off, to describe the core of this TV series as plainly as a “group of high school students who grapple with issues of drugs, sex, and violence” is not even cutting it. It definitely deserves a better introduction on all streaming sites and IMDB.

From start to finish, every second, every transition, is heavy with unimaginable confrontations. And of all kinds including mental, emotional, visceral, and carnal. This show incarnates the essence of conscience as it is best defined by the turmoil it causes in one’s psyche. Euphoria is gratifying, disturbing, and intrepid in its making.

The characters – Rue, Jules, Fezco, and Cassie being some of my favorites, build a sense of acute awareness for the world they’re living in. They’re in it, there’s no escape, and no reason why one should escape.

The show is salvaged by its brutal renderings in a way that feels as if you’re the one experiencing it. The gripping cinematography and the courageous soundtrack respond more to the inner voices of the characters. It’s the version of a story society wants you to pretend to forget. The addiction, the betrayal, the bullying, the body-shaming, the insecurities, and concocted sexuality.

It’s a fable of truths – a string of hard truths – plucked out one by one from a system too cruel, selfish, and monumental to bring to a screeching halt. The aftermath is a twisted show that defines the undefinable with its trembling honesty.

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) – Alain Resnais

A mysterious film that redefines the intimacies of visual storytelling. Hiroshima Mon Amour is the first time a film has had a deep melancholic impact on my understanding of time. The film blends into its dire past, ill-fated present, and uncertain future. It instills in the viewer indescribable spontaneity to experience the unstudied moments of life.

The kind of curiosity that hesitates to step out of its shadow and play with the light. You can feel this game of shadow and light as you watch the film. Its poetic capacity lies in its execution. But its soul is in the way the director, Alain Resnais, has realized the scope of the story, its characters, and its philosophy.

Hiroshima Mon Amour remains, to this day, a reminder of the scarred footprints of time abandoned after the winds of war have passed. The cinematography is rememberable. Some scenes in the film, subtle and visceral, reveal the vulnerability of a historic phenomenon. While the others are charged with intellectual and temperamental vigor.

It’s a film that yearns, remembers, and celebrates its singularity. It stops the flow of time. Sharpens your presence through the lives of its characters. And allows its viewers complete scrutiny and soul-searching as instances of death, survival, and memorabilia are meditated upon.

Roma (2018) – Alfonso Cuaron

It’s fracturable enough to feel emotions. The tide of which unravels slowly until a deep sense of grief envelops us. Now imagine what it would be like to exteriorize that withdrawal from reality. What manifests is a colorful and enigmatic film about all forms of rejection in society and inconsolable bearings.

Roma is about women with a touch of soul-crushing humane contradictions. The kind that questions motherhood as much as it does upbringing. Lives that shoulder the weight of an uncertain and restless history wrapped in nuances that are difficult to go on with. But life goes on.

The film is deeply imaginative and characteristic. Shot in black-and-white, Alfonso Cuaron, being the film’s director, writer, cinematographer, and editor, has understood the fragility of the setting against the ruggedness of its characters.

The true mark of filmmaking is when you can glimpse and meditate on one’s depth through the most ordinary acts of the story. Like scrubbing the floor, standing under the shower, kissing a loved one goodnight, or even looking for someone in a crowd. Every filmmaker knows this but only a few are able to employ it and make it unnoticeably real. Films like Roma, Capernaum, The Lunchbox, Wong Kar-Wai’s films are some of them.

Film Review of Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color

There’s stillness in being true to oneself. To hold on to an identity, rough around the edges, but always ensconced in a shifting state. Like the different forms of water: solid for courage, liquid for metamorphosis, and vapor for life. Consider Blue Is the Warmest Color an ode to the senses.

It’s about love, being in love, finding and losing the entity that is your “self” in the act of loving. The film is honest, poetic, and soul-searching. The film creates its own rhythm on which it oscillates between the continuous flowing of time and the vulnerability of feeling. What you see, as a result, is a language so intense, sensual, and transitory. You don’t want to let go.

The film is brimming with symbolic sorcery. The oysters, rapturous intimacy, insecure friendships, domesticity, appetite for food, one’s occupation. Each reveals in it a language that couldn’t have been told or understood better in words. The film contains within it a vulnerable, soothing quality. Its narration feels real and otherworldly. And yet, what you see is ripe with the many definitions of love. Revealing to our kindred souls, the faces of a self so nonphysical and infinite that to define them is as naive as to define the color of air.