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minor spoiler: great performance by Shelley and Donovan!
Watching Hal Hartley's Trust for the second time 15 years later is exhilarating and somewhat disappointing. The characters are contrived and overintellectualized, and the conflict between parent and child here doesn't ring true (it seems to have the usual bitterness of college sophomores). Also the gestures and dialogue are stagy and slightly pretentious. Never mind that; you're missing the point. The film is not aiming at realism; it's aiming at conveying the emotional turbulence of young adult struggling to break free from the orbit of their parents.
Plot and incident flow naturally and often end up in unexpected places. There's lots of surprises, many of them comic. The film is about throwing characters together and watching how they react. The moment where the girl messes up the kitchen makes you wonder, how will the father react? The dialogue (reminiscient of Stoppard or Mamet) is curt and enigmatic and challenging. And always entertaining. People are learning from one another and changing..possibly improving. The movie Trust is less about plot than a certain attitude toward life--how much trust should we place in family, friends, peers? People don't have secrets or histories; they have metaphysical complaints and frustrated dreams. Martin Donovan and Adrienne Shelly are not only young charismatic actors, they act and react with subtlety and focus. Yet both have chemistry with one another and manage to sustain this intensity without going too far (Kudos to Mr. Hartley for not aiming
for sympathy or making motives too transparent). Donovan seems adept at playing characters about to boil under, but manage to hold it in (He's at his best in the film Surviving Desire,).
Adrienne, that moment when you put on your glasses at the end was a great cinematic moment. Hopeful, assertive and maybe even cocky. Your fans will always have that moment to remember you by.
If you liked Trust, you'd also enjoy: Hartley's Surviving Desire (although it's more arty), Jill Sprecher's 13 Conversations about One Thing and her earlier film, Clockwatchers).
Sjaj u ocima (2003)
Imaginative, Literary Romantic Comedy--a first class effort
first-class effort by Radivoje Andric, a young Serb director about couples in love during the Yugoslav conflict. At times sentimental, the story and incidents are original, imaginative and the characters are great too. A Serb intellectual who lives a desolate life as a political refugee in Belgrade misses his girlfriend who has emigrated to America. He imagines that his girlfriend is with her to keep him company, and then he imagines a whole cast of people from his past to keep him company during his homeless wanderings through Belgrade. We're never quite sure of how deluded he is; does the girl really exist? Are they really engaged? Then he meets a girl-a real girl-not an imaginary one- who forces him to deal with his realities and make choices. This film-which took a long time to be made because of the Yugoslavia conflict-doesn't get bogged down in politics, but it shows the effects of these events on ordinary people. Too bad it couldn't have been released (for example) in 1999 to give Americans a glimpse of Yugoslavs as a people not merely as a patchwork of ethnic tribes at war with one another. The settings and situations are bleak, but the people are charming, a mixture of the old-fashioned and hip. Don't miss the "computerized dating service" scenes and the matchmaker-they are great fun, if not a little sad. The female lead, Ivana Bolanca is charming and mysterious and vulnerable. Senad Alihodzic, the male lead is thoughtful, happy-go-lucky and bursting with poetry and optimism. I found myself wishing the scenes with imaginary characters could be shortened a bit, and that Ivan Bolanca's character could be fleshed out a bit-she too seemed like a mere romantic projection sometimes. Still, America needs more dreamers like Radivoje Andric to make movies.
Obchod na korze (1965)
admire the camera shots...and the editing
I'll skip over the story and the themes. Other commenters have said wonderful things about that.
Let's talk visuals.
I just have to say I was blown away by almost every single shot of the movie. The black and white color looks gorgeous, and the indoor shots have lots of shadows and texture. The outdoor shots seem overexposed, brilliant, artificial and almost unbearable. The criterion version just looks superlative.
Watch the dinner scene at the start where the man's brother in law is getting drunk with Tony. They are yelling, and having a time, and the camera dives/sweeps/rapidly turns around and falls. It conveys the dizzying nature of the conversation. The outdoor scenes in the first half of the movie have lots of bustle and activity, with lots of turns and shifts of perspective. People will remember the historical themes, but please don't overlook the amazing cinematography (which rightfully doesn't call attention to itself but enhances the emotional impact of every scene). In one scene (where Person X hits Person Y), camera conveys the claustrophobic, almost paranoiac perspective of Person X and sets the rest of the action up. We just knew what was going to happen next here.
The dream sequences/surreal effects were modest and didn't seem too fantastic; they were small enough for a small man overtaken with fear.
Kicking Bird (2005)
it's the boy's story, not the coach's!
Lowbudget but high quality film about a talented runner in a troubled household who is recruited by the high school coach to run competitively. This film had a lot of things going for it: a great cast, interesting characters and an unobtrusive style (after the first 10 minutes, I forgot I was watching a movie because I was already in the movie). Scenes in school/hanging out and at parties captured the highs and lows of teenage life pretty well, as well as their dysfunctional families. But the bad guys lacked subtlety. The grandfather nearly always was nasty and ferocious; the bully just teased the main character even though he was on the same track team (which after a certain point I find hard to believe). I accept that these characters were flawed and even dangerous, but they didn't have to be that way every moment of the film.
SPOILER ALERT: I appreciated how the protagonist and the coach were more complex charactersnot entirely bad, not entirely good, but one thing stuck out. In one scene, the coach is revealed to have a sexual thing with a student (spied on by the protag's sidekick). We really didn't have to see this; it would have been more effective to present this information indirectly through rumors rather than to show a scene. (That would have given the coach's character even more ambiguity). The real problem with the end is the moral superiority of the protag at the end in his speech to the coach. Yes, it was a sign that the protagonist had grown (I bought that completely), but it turned the coach into the 100% bad guy (when clearly the coach had done a lot of good for the protag). Sexual peccadilloes notwithstanding, I really don't care terribly much that the coach had entirely self-serving motives for helping the boy. (I actually preferred to have the coach's character to be more ambiguous). The key moment in the film is when the audience sees that the protagonist had gotten past the coach's plans and has taken the initiative to map his own life (even when it runs against the direction his mentor has mapped for him). That first act of confident assertion is the moment when we see that the protagonist will manage all right, regardless of the troubles at home. The fact that the coach is a self-interested scumbag (in comparison) is just not that important to the boy's story.