‘Till Madness Do Us Part

2019-01-31T21:48:37+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

‘Til Madness Do Us Part Director/Wang Bing Watched on MUBI Rating  4.5/5   Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing’s singular gaze in 'Til Madness Do Us Part is fueled not only by his humanism by also by a style that could be called relentless patience. His camera locks on to one man and refuses to let go for 15, 20, 25 minutes; and then, as if satisfied or exhausted, finds another man to follow for yet another extended streak, then another, and another. The fact that all of these men are mentally ill and confined to a single claustrophobic floor of a grim institution in Yunnan, China only intensifies Wang’s commitment to his punishing approach. His presence behind the camera, while never revealed except for the very occasional stare into the lens from his subjects, becomes just as fascinating as the monotonous rantings and repetitive behaviors of the inmates. The effect is both radical and hard to pin down: you are watching his act of watching, waiting to feel either repelled by the onscreen actions, or guilty for complicity in the documentary cliché of exploitation. The fact that repugnance, complicity or guilt never actually arrives, and that Wang does not suggest for a single frame that he is abusing his access, compels you to keep watching, even if it takes you a few days to get through the film (at almost four hours long, I needed two viewing sessions; his latest, Dead Souls, clocks in at 495 minutes). Wang was apparently denied access to film at a mental [...]


2019-01-30T18:00:30+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Hal Director/Amy Scott Watched on Amazon Prime Rating  3/5 Amy Scott’s Hal suffers from the same pro forma banalities as most other celebrity or “troubled artist” documentaries. It is both overly produced and under imagined. Nothing within the film’s style, structure or point-of-view attempts to emulate or pay aesthetic respect to the actual artist it profiles, in this case Hal Ashby, the supremely talented director of The Last Detail, Shampoo, Coming Home, and Bound For Glory, among other films. Hal charges out of the gate with a rapidly edited montage of clips, talking heads, reenactments, and the introduction of actor Ben Foster’s voice as the “voice of Hal” in a few regrettably cheesy scenes of hands clacking away at a typewriter (he was a writer, see?). I was ready to turn it off after 10 minutes. I simply couldn’t stand to suffer through another slapdash cash-and-carry of a filmmaker’s reputation like I’d witnessed in Tony Zierra’s hideous Filmworker, a movie that, through no fault of either the protagonist Leon Vitali or the work of the late Stanley Kubrick, made it seem as if they were both participating in a circa-1999 desktop documentary. Unlike Filmworker, which I shuttered after a half-hour, I decided to stick this one out. Thankfully, director Scott had access to actual voice recordings of Ashby which, when paired with Foster’s intense readings of angry letters and passionate notes that Ashby sent to studio hacks and adoring friends, respectively, the portrait that emerges is of a man who may have been the last social [...]

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