The Driver: Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson

patersonThe first of many poems we encounter in the new Jim Jarmusch film involves an ode to matches. “So sober and furious and stubbornly ready to burst into flame,” goes a line of verse, lovingly describing the title character’s attachment to his favourite Ohio Blue Tips. It could just as easily be applied to a certain strand of the filmmaker’s work. Rekindling the rhythm of his trademark fringe-dwellers in movies like Dead Man and Ghost Dog, Jarmusch has delivered a consummately satisfying piece that’s also deceptively gentle—beneath the sweetly droll surface there’s a restless energy, maybe even a quiet fury, ready to catch fire at any moment. Continue reading

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More: Disney’s Through the Looking Glass

alicelookingglass.jpgBy any measure of prevailing “taste,” Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland appears to have been widely disliked—except by more than a billion dollars worth of global ticket buyers, presumably, and thus Disney shareholders, who weren’t about to let such trifles as critical opinion get in the way of a belated sequel. Yet where the rote Wonderland was at least sprinkled with moments of Burton’s distinctive personality, replacement director James Bobin’s gruesomely bland Through the Looking Glass both compounds the flaws of its predecessor and offers precisely none of the residual weirdness. It’s actually a surprise this isn’t a straight-to-video Disney sequel. Continue reading

A Fright at the Opera: Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins

florenceMidway through Florence Foster Jenkins, Stephen Frears’ new film about the eponymous socialite with delusions of opera grandeur, an elderly theatre patron offers her appreciation of the notoriously tone-deaf singer: “I don’t hear very well,” she croaks, “but I just think that madam is magical.” It’d be easy to accuse Frears of cynically pitching his film at the same kind of undiscerning senior citizen audience, a market that’s served him well with The Queen and Philomena and is apparently now so lucrative that it’s being fed two riffs on Jenkins’ life in the space of as many weeks. Yet despite featuring a running gag about potato salad, Frears’ film is smart enough to operate as its own in-built critique. Ostensibly a toothless celebration of so-bad-it’s-good art, it also quietly interrogates the audience’s relationship to the product—who’s to say what’s good or bad, the movie contends, and if the audience is enjoying it, does it really matter? Continue reading