“A Ghost Story” Ponders Time, Legacy, and the Meaning of Loss

Writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a contemplative tone poem on the vast expanses of time, captured in a single relationship between two people.  As the two main characters reach a turning point about where they are going to live, a car accident removes one of them from the equation – except that it doesn’t. After the body is identified and the sheet pulled back, the body erects itself, walks out of the morgue, and starts observing.

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Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” – A Most Ambitious Fantasy

The fourth entry in Plot and Theme’s year-long look at the filmography of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out all entries here.


Introduction

In 1962, Stanley Kubrick adapted the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita for his sixth feature film.  Though published only 7 years earlier, Nabokov’s novel was already reaching the status of a classic work due to its controversial subject matter, witty wordplay, and themes of erotic fantasy, hebephilia, and sexual predation.  Working with Nabokov on the screenplay, Kubrick’s adaptation faithfully recreates the key aspects of the novel, capturing the sexuality, irony, and tragedy of a man who lusts after a prepubescent girl.

Still shackled by the Hayes Code, Lolita was thought to be unfilmable, and the director himself later expressed that had he known how severe the censors were going to be, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to adapt Lolita.  Fortunately, he did.

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“Slow West” – A Sparse Shakespearean Western Film

John Maclean’s sparse Western film strikes a gorgeous balance between the untamed beauty and the cold indifference of the American frontier.  The characters are drawn broadly and have archetypal motivations, the sense of humor is dry and dark, and the ultimate tone of the story is tragic.  Slow West takes care to unveil its secrets with a practiced pacing, and always knows when to kick up the excitement or introduce some weirdness to keep the spectator’s attention.  Though the film clocks in at under 90 minutes, it boasts the full package of powerful performances, spectacular cinematography, and a patient slow-burn story that will leave any film fan enthralled.

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“Manchester by the Sea” Devastates through Inescapable Tragedy

“But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather”

— Fantine, Les Miserables

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is a gut-punch of a film dressed up in the doldrums of everyday life.  On the surface, the plot is universal and relatable:  a man returns back to his hometown on account of the sudden death of his older brother, and must make the arrangements and look after his nephew in the aftermath.  There is surprising wit and humor in the story, heavily sarcastic and ball-busting, and it helps to offset at least some of the sadness.  Because a darker and sadder mystery bubbles up through off-hand comments, whispers, and flashbacks.  This non-linear storytelling method is used intelligently and sparingly, and suffices to wrench maximal emotional devastation from the audience.  The result is a wonderful but sad film that can count itself as one of the best of the year.

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