September/October 2017 Capsules

It’s all too fitting that Clueless at once hews closely to and sets itself entirely apart from the standard template of the American teen comedy. In outline it conforms, as girl tries to meet boy before realizing she’s loved another all the while, but Heckerling’s skill is such that it never feels remotely formulaic or inorganic to the development of Cher as both character and ideal. This is owed in small part to the stylistic devices (blatant voiceover, atypical stirrings of music) but the key factor is the surroundings, literally and figuratively sunny. Every character both does and doesn’t fit in with the Beverly Hills setting, which is an all-inclusive, ultimately deeply loving and caring environment. There is never the hint that things will go dreadfully wrong for any character, and that makes the whole thing sing.


As with most films, I kept going back to various works this reminded me of – Edward Yang in approach, To Live in rough thematic scope, and even Twin Peaks: The Return in editing and screenplay structure – but this is really a thoroughly surprising, immensely affecting work, in the way it mirrors the rhythms of everyday life. Duration helps with this of course, but even more key seems to be the structure of the scenes. This isn’t the realm of the memory film, where the events feel as if they are being recalled from a distant vantage point, but there is a similar weightlessness here, of time slipping away with each passing day in the way in which many events that are alluded to become elided or barely touched on before the next “non-event” occurs. Everything and nothing feels important in this decade-long span. In this context, the extended long shots and pans feel like the only logical way in which to film this, rendering each space with a tactility and sense of grounding that achieves a perfect, empathetic distance.

Ashes of Time [Redux]
Hadn’t gone in knowing about the various differences between the original and redux versions, and thus I’m wondering just how much of the pixelated smear that defines so much of Ashes of Time comes from Wong’s tinkering. Regardless, this is maybe shot-for-shot the most stunning looking film I’ve ever seen, radically reinventing itself and adapting with the utmost fluidity to each scenario and season. The main setting is the desert, but the smallest glances at another place, whether shown in hallucination or vision, sear themselves into the mind just as strikingly. Narratively, events sort themselves out in time, but the emotions and ruminations remain crystal clear from the very moment of their emergence, remaining ephemeral, haunting, yet transporting to the last.