Film Socialisme — Review

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1_Star

by Ken B.

I, like many, regard Jean-Luc Godard as an authority on cinema, and for good reason. A filmmaker for over 50 years, his early work gives us some of the building blocks of contemporary filmmaking, as did his French New Wave colleagues. That is why I’m especially angry at Film Socialisme, his latest feature effort. It is among the most inconsequentially time wasting, pretentious, and pointless movies I have ever seen. Had someone like Godard not have been involved, I imagine it would have no supporters at all, instead of the devoted few that exist. But there are supporters, so more power to them, I guess. Or most of them. More on that later.

Film Socialisme is a film without a plot – on purpose. It is divided into three acts, or “symphonies”, one on a cruise ship, one on land featuring a family, and one simply detailing the various wonders of the world. Most scenes within said movements are unrelated to each other. Dialogue is nearly entirely in French, and is compensated with three word subtitles following a line, “Navajo English”, Godard calls it (either he’s referencing the World War II Native American code talkers, or the way they talk in old Westerns. Both are equally viable, but I have a feeling that it’s probably not even either of the two). (Example: what I’ve written in this paragraph so far might be: “noplot     foreign     three”, or something to that effect. Words are frequently combined, hence “noplot”.) Based on the subtitles, most of the conversations are about Europe, race, history, heritage, war, and politics (hence: “socialisme/socialism”). There is nothing I want more than for a fluent French speaker to watch this and tell me what the freaking thing was about.

There are some profound moments to be seen – a softly spoken conversation with “Pathetique” by Beethoven tinkering in the background on a piano is one that sticks in my head, but everything else is an incoherent (on purpose) mess (on purpose), alienating the stupid Americans (on purpose). And you have to give Godard at least minimal credit on the camera – the segments on a cruise ship are parts grainy closed-circuit video, high definition digital video, and some godforsaken footage, grainy and abrasive, shot on a bad cell phone. The first part of the film has a documentary vibe to it, where the dissolution of independence is found by herds of tourists flocking off to every pandering subject and pastime.

A refrain among some defenders of Film Socialisme is that the very objective of the film is up to the viewer, and those who dismiss it are conformist and follow the masses, like the above mentioned tourists. If anything, the tourists represent them, the aggressive Godard admirers – those trying to sway anyone who comes to an individual opinion on things like this, attempting to pull them over to their side and living out a scene on a dance floor, where 5 year olds run around following the lights. Their very argument is hypocritical, telling them what they are supposed to experience after saying that everyone will experience something different. Think Godard wouldn’t alienate his own obsessive-level devotees? It’s gotten to the point where I wouldn’t put anything past him. It’s not hypocritical on my part to point them out; I have nothing against those who like the movie in general, but the behavior of a select few must be condemned.

A review should read as a personal reflection and record of what the reviewer felt while examining the work critiqued, and in writing this, I convey the message that I felt the work of an aging man, while rightfully complaining about the things I believe he was complaining about, doing so in a wasteful and inaccessible way. This is a one star review, yet I still call for you to watch it if you are interested, and draw your own conclusions. I won’t deny that’s what it was made for.

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The Social Network – Review

TheSocialNetworkcap2 3-5Star

by Ken B.

DISCLAIMER: The most uptight of readers might claim there’s a spoiler in this review. I object. This story is based on real events and properties.

The Social Network is one of those rare biopics where the primary subject was (and still is, at the time of this writing) under the age of 30. David Fincher’s 2010 film is considered by metacritic.com to be the most honored film of the year, having the highest score of a 2010 release on their site (95 / 100, based on 42 reviews). The obvious question in a review written nearly three years after the fact is whether the movie holds up all that praise. The answer is mixed. The cinematography is intriguing, the acting is brilliant, and the screenplay is fantastic. But what is its impact? It may be a snapshot of its era, but is it a good one? It’s worth noting that the individuals for which the film was derived have expressed criticism over a lack of authenticity in both the script and the book of which it’s based (“The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich). This is understandable, but so is fabricating the events for the sake of interest. Artistic liberty is permitted, take use of it!

A global phenomenon like Facebook is interesting on its own merits, but a story on its origins, no matter how fictional, can lead to some exterior thoughts on the viewer. But the basis still stands. Mark Zuckerberg, or at least a semi-factual version of Mark Zuckerberg (JESSE EISENBERG) is a Harvard student in the Fall of 2003. He’s socially awkward and talks fast (possibly because this movie is written by Aaron Sorkin). He has little luck in the dating department. “Dating you is like dating a StairMaster”, complains one girl, Erica (ROONEY MARA). That date ends unsuccessfully, and Zuckerberg, a few beers later, builds a website by hacking the facebooks of all the different houses in Harvard. He calls it “facemash”, and users are instructed to compare two female students, and click on the one they consider more attractive. The outcome of this lands Mark six months of academic probation, but not before racking up thousands of page views in a matter of hours. This wraps him into offers to build a website from twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (ARMIE HAMMER, both of them), tentatively known as The Harvard Connection. After Mark forms a similar website, he is wrapped in a massive legal battle.

We know the outcome. Facebook will become an international website with over a billion users worldwide, and will be successful to the point of being more recognizable than the word it’s based on. However, the term “social network” is still more relatable to websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. instead of the movie which uses the term. This does not mean that momentum has not yet taken off – the film was released in 2010, after all, it just means that the brand and thoughts have used up already. Or, the more obvious indicator, not a billion people have seen The Social Network yet.

The visual appeal of The Social Network casts a hazy image in the first scenes, slowly become more and more clear as the film continues. It’s similar to the mood of the characters. At its start, Mark is being rejected on a date. At the end, Facebook is fully functional and growing quick (one million users is still considered monumental, however). Of course, it’s no easy road to get there. Filmed on Red One, it’s said that two of the four cameras used were lent to the project by Steven Soderbergh. I don’t really have a point for that, I just thought that was interesting. The Red Cameras are an appealing brand. It’s always nice to admire their style, allowing crisp and clear images up to 4K resolution (however, this is only noticeable on theater screens).

When your screenplay is written by the man who created The West Wing, you can be guaranteed quick dialogue with characters wittier than people (or characters) in real life. Aaron Sorkin creates something desperately engaging, sucking you in from the start. We’ve been granted with a cast than can read it off with ease. As Mark’s estranged friend, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew Garfield gives proof that he has an extraordinary career in the coming years (The Amazing Spider-Man two years later helped him become a full mainstream entity). And Justin Timberlake’s performance as Napster’s Sean Parker creates some fun irony in the fact.

For all the powerful technical aspects, this is Harvard where the first half of the film is set. And it’s cold. And when it’s cold, you can see people’s breath. In this movie, the breath looks digital, and unfortunately, it’s quite obvious. Compared to the strength of everything else, it’s kind of a nit-picking error.

If someone came up to me and said “The Social Network is a great movie,” I would wholeheartedly agree. If someone came up to me and said, “The Social Network is the greatest movie ever!”, I would assume that they have not really seen that many movies. I haven’t seen enough 2010 releases to consider this the cream of the crop, but we certainly haven’t seen a lot of these recently – a strong dramatic piece, complete with sentimentality and professionalism.

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