This is Wim Wenders’ documentary/celebration/eulogy of the late dance choreographer Pina Bausch. The majority of the film consists of her dance numbers, performed by the members of her dance company. The best moments are when Wenders allows the performances to continue forward uninterrupted. At certain points, his approach to filming the dances reminded me of the way Jonathan Demme shoots his concert films, with little in the way of excess cutting or obnoxious camera movements. Unfortunately, Wenders too often breaks the rhythm by inserting interviewers from the dancers. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the dancers had anything truly interesting to say, but most of the time they just ramble on about how much they loved Pina Bausch and her enigmatic ways. It’s the kind of material that would be right at home in the DVD supplemental features, but feels too redundant in the context of the film. Everything important to be expressed about Pina Bausch and her artistic vision comes through in the dances. Of course, I say all this, but the truth is there’s really only so much interpretive dancing I can actually take seriously. Some of the routines are genuinely spine-tingling, while others are merely eye-rolling. That’s more of a personal criticism though, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone with any kind of interest in the subject matter. 6/10.
The Bourne Legacy
Watching this film is like watching a television series that’s unwilling to call it quits after its main star has left. The only reasons it’s still around are so the remaining cast and crew can continue picking up regular paychecks, and to cash in on a well-established name. Think of Steve Carell leaving The Office, or Zach Braff leaving Scrubs, or Rob Morrow leaving Northern Exposure (yes, I just dropped a Northern Exposure reference). Once the stars all left these shows, the overall quality of the material dropped considerably, if it hadn’t dropped already. The Bourne franchise is now facing a similar problem, and my general feeling anytime this happens, whether it’s in film, television, or music, is that it’s better to burn out than to fade away. I would be less critical towards this film’s existence if it brought anything new to the table, but sadly this isn’t the case. If you’ve seen any of the previous Bourne films, you essentially know what to expect here. There’s the needlessly-complicated spy jargon, the abandoned spy fighting back against his former employers, and the endless chase sequences where our hero averts the watching eyes of men in computer rooms. The only big difference is the main star, with Jeremy Renner replacing Matt Damon. Renner does a workmanlike job, just as he’s done in all his recent films, but he lacks the charisma and vulnerability that Damon brought to his roles. Say what you will about Matt Damon, but his presence is sorely missed here. It doesn’t help that the film keeps on reminding us of Jason Bourne, in a half-hearted effort to tie this new film back to the events of before. In the end, the film never does enough to make you forget that it’s just a transparent cash grab, and my guess is that it won’t be long before it’s completely forgotten and we can all go back to viewing the Bourne films as a trilogy. 4/10.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
It’s tough to watch this film without thinking of The Age Of Innocence. That’s not exactly a fair criticism, seeing as how this film came before that one, but as a story about an illicit love affair that threatens to destroy the reputation of both involved parties, this 1981 film really does pale in comparison to Scorcese’s masterwork. Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep turn in reliably strong performances, but as a whole, the film didn’t work for me. Still, the reasons why that is are quite interesting. I haven’t read the novel on which the film is based, but supposedly it was at one point considered unfilmable. To suggest some of the complexities of the original text, the filmmakers choose to structure the narrative as two separate but parallel stories, one that shows a modern affair between two actors, and one that shows the actual film they are making, which also involves an affair. This “film within a film” idea is nice in theory, but I never felt any kind of connection between the two parallel stories. There needed to be a greater emphasis on the actual making of the film within the film. Instead, the two stories end up separated; even though the principal characters in each story are played by the same actors, there’s hardly ever any indication between the two stories that they are the same people and that any of the modern issues are being addressed as they act in a period setting. There’s plenty of material here that is admirable, but the use of the parallel story structure ends up coming across as a gimmick, and the film suffers as a result of it. 5/10.
Indie Game: The Movie
In the last few years, I’ve become much more selective with the games I purchase. Part of the reason for this may be an extended time now where I’ve had little income to invest, but I think a larger reason is that I’ve become bored with many of the high-profile, big-budget releases. There was span of a couple years when I was a Call Of Duty multiplayer addict, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that picking up subsequent entries was essentially like paying extra for the exact same experience as before. This applies to other game franchises as well. I realized just how soulless these experiences are, and it wasn’t long before the act of playing them left me with an empty feeling. For me, the really impressive and memorable games of the past few years have come almost exclusively from the independent community, games such as Braid, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Journey. So Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary about the creators of these independent games, is right up my alley. Over the course of the film, the viewer meets four game designers, one already successful, the other three devoted to completing their work. As someone who has both played and loved all of these games already, the tension as to whether or not these game creators would find success was admittedly somewhat muted. The interest in the film comes from the clear passion the designers have towards their work, the exasperation you feel when they struggle, and the eventual elation you feel when they ultimately succeed. It’s the personal, emotional connection that I’m drawn towards when playing these games, and seeing this film further reinforces my overall appreciation for them. 8/10.