Buster Keaton, Chris Marker & More: My Films of the Week #25

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week. (Also, Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!)

 

Whip It!
dir. Drew Barrymore
2009, USA

Cinephile! I’m totally surprised by this one. A coming of age drama about ladies who kick ass. It could have done with some editorial tightening. But this flick quietly subverts the clichés of the genre and is a downright ball. Is Drew the first of the Barrymore dynasty to rock behind the camera? That’s a question that would require further cinephile browsing. Onward. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Sunday in Peking
dir. Chris Marker
1956, France

Cinephile! I don’t let people who haven’t been to a place make any comment about it like they know what they are talking about. Chris Marker went to Peking in the mid-’50s and found it a colorful, delightful, fascinating place. Overturning the idea that Communist societies are sad and dull. Whether this was real or not is relatively unimportant. This is the poetry of the world he saw there. And it’s glorious! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

The Assistant
dir. Kitty Green
2019, USA

Cinephile! This is a compelling watch in so many ways, beyond whatever literal observation about the film industry you may read into it. The world is full of horrible men doing horrible manly things and expecting the world to run in a way that keeps manly men on top. Jane, the lead character of this film represents a hope for the future. As for the style of The Assistant, it couldn’t help but remind me of Jeanne Dielman by Chantal Ackerman. Quiet but intense. Cinephile, Kitty Green is a talent and force to be reckoned with. She also wrote the screenplay and edited the film. I’ll be keeping an eye on her in the future! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

A Reckless Rover
dir. C.N. David
1918, USA

Cinephile! Don’t be fooled by what you see. This film is one of the few surviving Ebony Comedies produced by the Ebony Film Corporation. This was a production company financed by whites that was eventually “canceled” by black protests. Why? Because throughout its short lifespan, it had black performers portraying every type of racist stereotype you could think of. A Reckless Rover even takes a shot at Asians. And, as a bonus, you can spot the poster of a D.W. Griffith film at the very end of the movie. Sam Robinson might have been a comedy star in a parallel universe. Sparse moments of creativity are not enough to make this a less uncomfortable watch. Cinephile, I’m sure you’ll agree. ⭐⭐

 

Backyard Village
dir. Marteinn Thorsson
2021, Iceland

A touching, quietly profound Icelandic drama about human connection. The chemistry between the two leads makes it seem all the more genuine. The white, spectacular Icelandic setting lends it a type of meditative timelessness, which is obviously enriching. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Africa
dir. Oren Gerner
2019, Israel

An apparently simple, yet quietly profound film about a middle-class male coming to terms with aging. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Cops
dir. Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline
1922, USA

CINEPHILE! This isn’t one of Buster Keaton’s most brilliantly constructed two-reelers I have ever seen. It is also the culmination of his cop gags. The fact that he so prominently targeted the police force may have contributed to his popularity among avant-garde artists all over the world at the beginning of the 20th century. He was definitely a rebellious soul! Aside from the laughs and the energetic pace of “Cops,” this two-reeler is chock full of witty and ingenious references to current, bizarre trivia, including a certain “goats gland” doctor, that reveal Keaton was very aware of the madness of the world around him! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Air Conditioner
dir. Fradique
2020, Angola

How exciting! I don’t believe I have ever seen a film from Angola. It seems Fradique is among those trying to establish a burgeoning film scene there. One that has character and appeal to an international audience. This film is a beautiful satirical drama with tinges of surrealism. Some sets are beautifully constructed. The story itself is intriguing, largely revolving around a caretaker and the mystery of collapsing air conditioning units. It’s quite a trip. In fact, atmosphere and groove are quite important and dreamlike. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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