My favorite art makes a point of leaving itself as wide open to endless interpretations, while still maintaining the audience’s interest. Specificity — particularly in regards to telling a clear, plot-guided story — tends to engage the masses more than abstract expressionism, but its possible meaning will be almost inherently-limited in return. Gaspar Noé compensates for this potential disinterest through evocation and provocation — attention-grabbers both, if there ever were any — not so much pushing the envelope as lighting it on fire. Climax ignites a sensory experience to ensure total immersion in the abstraction. How much you take to be symbolism, and what it all means, is entirely up to you. That’s true for all art (to varying degrees), but few revel in such terrain as gloriously as Gaspar. “No one hits like Gaspar / Matches wits like Gaspar / In a spitting match nobody spits like Gaspar!” Oooooooh: “Who has brains like Gaspar / Entertains like Gaspar / Who can make up these endless refrains like Gaspar?” OOOOOOOH: “No one fights like Gaspar / Douses lights like Gaspar / In a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaspar!” ONE MORE: “No one shoots like Gaspar / Makes those beauts like Gaspar / Then goes tromping around wearing boots like fucking Gaspar…”
Dear Documentaries, please stop using the lead-up to some sort of event/contest that subjects must prepare for as your structure’s SOP. Documentarians shouldn’t need such a conventional, transparent device to absorb the audience in whatever they’re recording. This structural simplicity defies Wrestle‘s otherwise complex wrestling (natch) with thorny issues through its delicate depictions of complicated relationships.
A documentary about the application process for the most prestigious film school in France. A cinéma-vérité mashup of Spellbound and American Idol that avoids the aforementioned SOP problem (SOPblem?) by replacing the hackneyed and hokey, talking-head puff-piece backstory profiles with an editing-fueled collection of conversations that explore the connection between evaluating art and evaluating other people. Analyzing people is art, and is an art in itself.
Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Vividly-evocative scenes of esoteric — and thus enigmatic — construction that document the toll of nurturing, containing, and detaining (in) the animal kingdom. The laws of nature vs. the enforced rules of proprietary law — or is it the enforced laws of proprietary rule? Cinéma-vérité (again!) so seamless, and so artfully expressed, that you’ll periodically mistake it for fiction.
Fighting with My Family
Character-driven Hollywood entertainment (remember when Hollywood could be synonymized with character-driven, and not character/universe-expanding?), a crowd-pleaser despite hewing — or, perhaps, because it hews — too closely to Hollywood’s sports movie formula. The relationships hit familiar emotional beats, but their execution is shaded enough as to probe more nuanced dimensions.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
When the title’s a spoiler…