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PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:46 pm 
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Forum favorite :: kogonada is currently filming his feature debut. Can't say I fault his cast or location.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:55 pm 
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Looking forward to more great insights within the film on this topic: "Father taught me that architecture is the human condition. Walls hold us up, but they also keep us separated."


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:13 am 
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Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:34 am
Location: Portland, OR
I know Kogonada is mostly a punchline on this forum, and I haven't really watched his video essays so I'm not going to dispute that reputation because for all I know it might be well-deserved, but I can say I really enjoyed his directorial debut, Columbus. It's exactly the kind of slow, quiet film I'm already likely to warm up to, but it's also got some unexpected charms up its sleeves, largely due to its setting and its cast. Kogonada seems really inspired by the architecture, not just filming the buildings really well, but using their inspiration to frame his scenes with really elegant and mathematically precise compositions. Sometimes characters look like they're being plugged into geometric equations larger than themselves, but interestingly this seems to happen more often in scenes with less interesting architecture (e.g., ordinary houses and hotel rooms). When filmed with modernist buildings, characters actually seem to have more of a place and greater purpose for being there, even if they look lost or alone, which is thematically important for the film. Every location, really, seems to be filmed in a very distinctive way—I'd be happy to see more films that aren't about architecture put this kind of care into the way different buildings and rooms and structures affect the people who inhabit them.

The film really succeeds, though, because of its two leads. I was a little wary of Haley Lu Richardson's acting at first, but she unfolds her personality gradually and very naturally over the course of the movie, adding more and more nuances as her character opens up to John Cho's. As for Cho himself, if there was any justice in this country he'd be a bonafide A-list movie star—even in the relatively low-key performance he gives here, he exudes the kind of gravitas and charisma that could carry the whole film if it needed to. He's also really "classically" sexy—dignified and debonair in a way that it seems few male leads of his generation are. At one point while watching I actually thought of comments Domino (I think?) once made in regards to Jauja, that Viggo Mortensen's presence in that film was a good example of how casting good, known actors with established screen presence could lend some weight to the slow, subdued style of filmmaking now common in international "arthouse" fare. While I enjoy this style of filmmaking already, I think Columbus would serve as another excellent example of his point, though I would never say with any confidence that he would actually like it. (And apologies if I'm putting words in your mouth, Domino!)

As a couple reviews have mentioned, the film does perhaps teeter on the brink of being too self-aware, but I don't think it ever tips over. I mostly enjoyed the way the dialogue sometimes seemed to be defending/analysing/criticizing the film—it seemed like it was being done as a light joke as often as it was being done in earnest. Here, too, the casting helps: Rory Culkin delivers an enthusiastic rant/rave about attention & interest that seems like it ought to come off stilted and overly academic, except that Rory Culkin seems like exactly the kind of over-educated oddball fresh out of college who would actually hold forth like this in real life. At the same time, I can easily imagine this being the point at which viewers who already know and hate Kogonada are lost forever!

I have just one minor reservation about the film, and it's technically a spoiler so I'll hide it, but I don't think this is the kind of film where knowing how the plot unfolds will ruin much.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I'm still not sure how I feel about the film being somewhat coy about what exactly happens between the two of them when she spends the night in his hotel room. Nothing that happens subsequent to that scene suggests there was anything sexual, but the very presence of vagueness on that point seems like a distraction when nothing else in the plot hinges on it. At the same time, I did enjoy how that whole sequence seemed to be building toward a climax that it then refused to deliver, so my feelings about this are still evolving.


OK, two reservations: I'm tired of the sort of airy background music (by Hammock, in this case) that Kogonada employs here. Long, sustained, quiet dreamy synth chords with some tinkling bells in the distance. It's thankfully sparse and never offensive—though it did complicate my enjoyment of what was otherwise one of my very favorite moments—but the film would have worked just as well with no music, and might have worked even better with music that actually had something to say. As it is, it seems like it's only there to fill empty space on the soundtrack and sooth & comfort audience members who might get agitated by the languid pacing.


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 Post subject: Re: The Films of 2017
PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
I also very much enjoyed Columbus. In some ways (but only some), it reminded me of my favorite movie of last year (i.e. Paterson). I thought the performances were uniformly excellent -- and the use of architecture was wonderful. I can't say the music bothered me (or thrilled me) -- perhaps he was using it as aural wallpaper -- like Ozu did. It felt a bit more abstract than Paterson (or Ozu or Kore'eda), but both my wife and I found it quite satisfying and interesting.

Note: Our family regularly passed by Columbus, Indiana (on the interstate) on our travels (during 1990-1997) between Atlanta and Chicago -- but we never even stopped there for lunch (much less explored the architecture).


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 Post subject: Re: The Films of 2017
PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:55 am 

Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 6:40 pm
Kirkinson wrote:
I have just one minor reservation about the film, and it's technically a spoiler so I'll hide it, but I don't think this is the kind of film where knowing how the plot unfolds will ruin much.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I'm still not sure how I feel about the film being somewhat coy about what exactly happens between the two of them when she spends the night in his hotel room. Nothing that happens subsequent to that scene suggests there was anything sexual, but the very presence of vagueness on that point seems like a distraction when nothing else in the plot hinges on it. At the same time, I did enjoy how that whole sequence seemed to be building toward a climax that it then refused to deliver, so my feelings about this are still evolving.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
That sequence of the two sneaking into high school on a reverse tracking shot followed by a hard cut to a forward tracking shot of the hotel hallway seems like an explicit quote of a similar shot and edit from Ozu's Early Summer, where Noriko & her friend are about catch a glimpse of the older suitor and then the film switches to hallway shot of Noriko's home. In the latter, Ozu is playfully teasing the audience by upending expectations, yet the abstract quality of that hallway shot lingers. Kogonoda seems to be playfully teasing us too, but this time, there might be a causal relationship between the shots: that whatever happened at the high school led back to the hotel room.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:05 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
[Reveal] Spoiler:
That sneaking-into-the-high-school shot also echoed a bit of Linda Linda Linda. ;-)


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