Nicholas Jarecki cut his teeth working in documentaries, the same genre in which his brothers, Andrew and Eugene made their first and best-known marks. Andrew broke into narrative filmmaking last year with the lackluster Ryan Gosling-starring All Good Things, and now Nicholas follows his brother into fiction with Arbitrage. Taking its name from a financial practice that may only be familiar to econ majors and those who spend a lot of time watching CNBC, the film isn’t quite as dry as that title might suggest. The financial misdeeds of its primary character, played by Richard Gere, might be the spark for the plot, but there’s also a murder, a cover-up, and a police investigation led by Tim Roth, as well as Gere’s character’s difficulties keeping the details of his failing empire from his wife (Susan Sarandon) and CFO daughter (current indie darling Brit Marling). Early reviews have been largely positive, especially regarding Gere’s ability to garner sympathy for a hustling Wall Street one-percenter.
Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the directors of the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp, turn their cameras on Ewing’s home city of Detroit for a poetic state-of-the-city film that showcases the indomitable spirit of its people, even as the ravages of the economy and the departure of much of the auto industry attempt to grind them down. Grady and Ewing don’t try to get into great policy detail about the road that has led the city to its dire situation, nor do they offer up solutions; this is documentary as observational portraiture. As such, they follow a diverse handful of Detroiters over a period of time, as they explore the ruins of the once booming city and attempt to adjust their lives to the stark realities of the present and the uncertainties of the future. The film is inspiring thanks to the unflagging spirit of its subjects, but also doesn’t shy away from the harsh and often depressing realities of modern Detroit.
For more about the film, be sure to check out yesterday’s interview with Grady, the co-director and a Washington native.
Ron Fricke, the director of the sumptuous, almost entirely visual documentaries Chronos (1985) and Baraka (1992), returns after a nearly 20-year hiatus with Samsara, a project that has been in production for five years and was shot all over the world, on five continents and in 25 countries. The film is a visual world tour that shows us the wonders of both the natural world and of industrialization, presented without comment and filmed in (though not screened in) the rich, sharp format of 70-millimeter film. These are the sort of films you go to see not for what they’re about, but rather for how they can dazzle you with radiant imagery that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater.
The National Gallery of Art just finished its retrospective celebrating the 100th year since Michelangelo Antonioni’s birth, and in collaboration with them, the AFI is offering a brief addendum to that series featuring Antonioni’s only three English-language films. The first of those, 1966’s Blow-Up, became one of the decade-defining films of the 1960s. The film stars David Hemmings as a London fashion photographer who snaps more than he bargained for when he takes pictures of two lovers in a park and comes to believe he may have evidence of a murder on his hands, though his image, when blown up, is indistinct.
The film is probably one of Antonioni’s most accessible, even though it would be a mistake to characterize it as anything approaching a traditional narrative. It’s still self-aware enough to be off-putting to many audiences, but that didn’t stop it from being a pretty big success upon release. The celebrity cameos, glamorous fashion-world setting, and copious amounts of model nudity, including the first instances of full-frontal to ever appear in a British feature, probably didn’t hurt.
trailer. Tonight and
at the AFI. The remainder of the
continues through next week with screenings of
The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson, on Saturday and Tuesday.
Czech director Gustav Machatý was no stranger to controversy, as he was one of the first directors to include visual representations of sex in a film that wasn’t geared toward purely prurient interests. That film is the director’s more well known 1933 feature, Ecstasy, which featured Hedy Lamarr (before she made the move from European silents to Golden Age sex symbol) appearing in an unsual-for-the-time nude scene as well as simulating an orgasm on camera. But four years before that, Machatý was already testing the limits of the era with the slightly more experimental Erotikon, a story about the seduction of a small-town girl by a suave city slicker stuck in her town temporarily. Machatý uses a few nice visual tricks to suggest what goes on between the two without ever showing anything quite as scandalous as he’d get to in later films. The National Gallery presents the film this weekend in one of its Ciné-Concerts, with live musical accompaniment from Ben Model on piano.