Francois Truffaut
Exploring John Cassavetes: Shadows

Exploring John Cassavetes: Shadows

The godfather of independent cinema and one of the titans of forwarding film as a means of artistic expression, John Cassavetes is a filmmaker, I'm sorry to say, I'm just now diving into. I have been intrigued by the way in which Cassavetes went about his art, acting in films as a means to finance his own and remain independent from the studio system and every creative restriction that brings. Working as few filmmakers have the chance to, Cassavetes was able to take as long as he wanted with each of his films, shooting, editing, and reshooting until he was fully satisfied with the final product. I suppose being involved continuously in another film project coupled with the intimidation to begin watching his work; it's taken me much longer embark on a journey through Cassavetes filmography than I would have liked. In October of last year, I unreservedly fell in love with Brain De Palma's 1978 film THE FURY, and as odd as that bridge is, that film is what pushed me into seeing, at long last, the work made by Cassavetes.

Exploring Michael Haneke: Amour

Exploring Michael Haneke: Amour

With an incredible opening that calls to mind the closing shot of Cache, Michael Haneke begins his 2012 film, Amour by placing his camera on an audience as they prepare then start to listen to a piano concert. Showing the crowd as they settle into their seats then watch the performance, Haneke allows his subjects to blend into the crowd without calling attention to them. Masterfully, we are shown everyone without focusing on anyone. This beautiful humanist opening seems to communicate to the audience that we all live our existences, yet, experience the world among a collection of people that are also living individual lives. A brilliant bit of foreshadowing to his most overtly humanist film, Michael Haneke also informs the audience from the opening shot that the movie we are watching is one focused on the act of observation. Not only do we begin the journey by observing, we then continue observing our subjects, observing their life, age, and union.

Exploring Michael Haneke: Funny Games (1997)

Exploring Michael Haneke: Funny Games (1997)

In August of 2011, my mind freshly broadened from my first undergraduate film class, I chose to dive into the filmography of Michael Haneke. — Funny Games, the 1997 feature film from auteur Michael Haneke, is perhaps an odd entry point to his filmography, but the experience is one that had such a tremendous impact that I vowed to see more of his work. It took me seven years, but this Michael Haneke retrospective I've recently recommitted to is one that has turned into a favorite project. No doubt a difficult watch, Funny Games depicts the story of two violence-obsessed teenagers who begin a sadistic torture and murder rampage through an upscale vacation haven. The boys, who call themselves Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch) are seemingly educated and well-mannered young men making their turn to violence even more of a shock. The polite, controlled essence of the pair makes their descent to madness even more jarring. Haneke expertly subverts the audience's expectations by presenting his killers in crisp white clothes and donning smiles instead of scowls and raggedy garments. The audience, presented with such a contradiction of our own expectations is forced to examine our ideas of how violence is expected to look.

Exploring Michael Haneke: The White Ribbon

Exploring Michael Haneke: The White Ribbon

The first of Michael Haneke's two Cannes Palme d'Or awards was for his 2009 film, The White Ribbon. — Haneke's two and a half hour black and white German film with no musical score may seem like an odd entry point to such critical acclaim, but The White Ribbon offers a probing commentary of authoritarian regimes, questions the idea of origination of malevolence, and examines the relationships between stifled parents and their children in a way only Michael Haneke can. Haneke delves beneath the facade of cordiality in a German village just before WWI. When a series of evil deeds begin to occur, the town is forced into suspicion of one another while trying to secure the uniformity enjoyed in the town. Haneke reveals, as he removes layers throughout the film, that these behaviors and occurrences don't exclusively belong to a foregone era. In the time since WWI, evil still happens and oftentimes we can not discern its origins nor is there always a clear indication that such evil exists beneath such a formal cordial society. A silent opening and credit sequence sets the tone for what is to come, a startling raw depiction of real life beneath the surface level human interactions. Forever interested in human behavior and the idiosyncrasies of emotion, Haneke tells the story of the events that took place in this village through the narration of a teacher in the town who admits that his recollection may or may not be completely factual. Delving beyond the veneer of society to bring broad philosophical concepts to daily human existence is a strength of Haneke's and one expertly exacted in The White Ribbon.

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling continues the subject's undying search for truth

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling continues the subject's undying search for truth

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling is an invitation into the mind and heart of one of the most innovative and brilliant comedians to ever live. — Whether you know Garry Shandling from his standup comedy, his brilliant masterpiece in deconstruction, It's Garry Shandling's Show, his groundbreaking examination of ego and interpersonal relationships, The Larry Sanders Show, or even if you don't know of Garry Shandling at all, the documentary detailing the life and rise of the comic is essential viewing for the human experience. As the title would suggest, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling shares entries from Shandling's personal journals, in his own handwriting, accentuated by his constant search for truth often pursued through meditation and reflection. This documentary provides a fascinating glimpse into the complicated private thoughts of a most human and restless individual. Shandling seemed to never be truly satisfied, even at the peak of his career, because there were still so many questions left unanswered. For those who exist on a higher plane, like Garry did, peaks are often only seen as the precursor to life's valleys and a reminder that happiness doesn't last forever. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, directed and produced by Judd Apatow who calls Garry "(for 25 years) the most important mentor that I had", lovingly highlights Garry's comedy brilliance, his deep introspective mind, and the demons that plagued him through all of it. Unlike many documentaries about a subject who has passed away, Apatow never paints Shandling as a perfect individual, but rather, details Shandling's highs and lows while seeming to bridge together fragments of each to make a whole yet prematurely-ended picture of a life. The loving detail and care Apatow has clearly put into this exceptional tribute to his friend and mentor is a gift to each person in the audience. He illustrates how true Garry was to his path and allows his quest to be an inspiration to the millions of people who were never fortunate enough to know him. In the documentary's trailer, Apatow voices that, despite being close to him, Shandling was also a mystery to him. Throughout the documentary, Apatow seems to be searching, just as Garry was searching, to gain a deeper insight into the enigma that Garry Shandling was. The result is an incredibly moving tribute and an immensely illuminating experience.

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