Indie Focus: A talent emerges in ‘Spring Blossom’
Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
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This week 13 movie studios came together at a gathering titled “The Big Screen Is Back” meant to spur the return of audiences to theaters. As Ryan Faughnder reported, Arnold Schwarzenegger, J.J. Abrams and Jason Blum were among those leading the charge.
After some 14 months when streaming essentially owned the entertainment business, Abrams spoke to why theatrical moviegoing remains important.
“The relationship with the TV is you’re the parent and the TV is the child,” Abrams said. “It’s in your house. It’s smaller than you, you can turn it off, change it and control it.
“When you go to the movies, you’re the child and it’s the parent,” he said. “You look up to it. It controls you and it is taking you where it wants to take you. I think we all want to be kids again.”
The event nevertheless came at a time when the landscape of Hollywood is rapidly evolving. In a blockbuster deal, AT&T will spin off the entertainment assets of WarnerMedia to Discovery, presumably creating a new streaming powerhouse.
Meanwhile, Amazon is said to be in talks to purchase MGM, the venerable studio behind the James Bond franchise.
Here in L.A., the New Beverly Cinema announced it would reopen June 1 with owner Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Also on the schedule for June is Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” a double bill of John Waters’ “Female Trouble” and “Desperate Living,” and a new 35-millimeter print of Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” I will definitely be checking out.
The American Cinematheque will resume programming at the Aero Theatre on June 10. On the schedule is a program of films in 70-millimeter, including “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Tenet,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Vertigo,” “Phantom Thread,” “Inherent Vice” and “Malcolm X.” As the Egyptian Theater is being renovated until sometime in 2022, the Cinematheque will also begin programming at the Los Feliz 3 sometime in July.
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The French film “Spring Blossom” is written and directed by and stars 19-year-old Suzanne Lindon. In the film, Lindon plays Suzanne, a teenager who engages in a flirtatious, chaste relationship with Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), a 35-year-old actor. It is playing at Laemmle Royale and Acropolis Cinema at the Lumiere Music Hall.
For The Times, Katie Walsh wrote, “Lindon’s youth is remarkable, because her point of view on the experience of the teenage girl is so immediate. But such a confident and self-assured debut would be remarkable for a filmmaker of any age, as ‘Spring Blossom’ is a finely wrought, sensitively felt and artistically bold work. … Her perspective in the genre of teen coming-of-age films is crucial for this reason; she’s also in league with a new generation of French female filmmakers using cinema to reckon with a culture of romanticizing or sexualizing teenage girls who aren’t equipped to handle the complexities of adult relationships. Lindon proves they are more than ready to add their own voices and experiences to the cultural narrative.”
For the New York Times, Beatrice Loayza wrote, “The movie owes a debt to naturalistic coming-of-age dramas by French directors like Maurice Pialat, but Lindon’s interpretation of that work occasionally feels like a pastiche. At the same time, she rejects the trope of the angsty teenager, capturing adolescent alienation with buoyancy and subtle whimsy. ... Crucially, Suzanne is not a hopeless romantic. She falls for the idea of adulthood that Raphaël embodies, and realizes rather abruptly — well before things get messy — the impossibility of their love. Lindon stages an intentional anticlimax that feels confusingly abrupt and unconvincing. Yet her point is well taken: that the desires of young people are as fickle and ephemeral as flowers in full bloom.”
For the Guardian, Steve Rose wrote, “From the outside, their relationship skirts the boundaries between schoolgirl crush and sexual exploitation, but these complications are not really the story’s concern. Predominantly seen from Suzanne’s point of view, it is something more intimate, hesitant and innocent — and less cliched. … Lindon lets her story unfold in simple, natural strokes, aside from a few key moments where the couple’s movements morph into coordinated, choreographed dance moves. Where some might praise an Eric Rohmer-style lightness of touch, others might see a certain slightness. And at barely 70 minutes, this is a fleeting affair in every sense. Perhaps that’s the point.”
Originally released in 1969 and directed by Jacques Deray from a script co-written with Jean-Claude Carrière, “La Piscine” has been rereleased in a new restoration. In the film, a couple, Jean-Paul (Alain Delon) and Marianne (Romy Schneider), are on holiday at a villa near St. Tropez when their friend Harry (Maurice Ronet) unexpectedly arrives with a daughter, Penelope (Jane Birkin), they did not even know he had. Remade by Luca Guadagnino as “A Bigger Splash,” this summer kickoff of beauty and intrigue is playing at the Laemmle Monica, Laemmle Town Center and Laemmle Glendale.
For The Times, Robert Abele wrote, “It’s two hours of beautiful people in tantalizing states of undress and unease that might just have you practicing your most chic mysterious chaise longue poses ahead of your next swim party. … Then again, one can expect the bracing slap of air on skin after emerging from the pleasures of a deep-end dive, which makes ‘La Piscine’ and the celluloid-rich revival of its choreography of bodies and behavior more than just a superficial basking in the textures and temporalities of desire.”
For the New York Times, Glenn Kenny wrote, “Pretty people behaving poorly in beautiful settings is something we don’t see as much of in cinema as we used to. This is a master class in the subgenre, and one of unusual depth. … Once Jean-Paul and Marianne are exiled from their metaphorical Eden, they remain fully clothed for the rest of the picture, and the movie’s color palette becomes more autumnal. Nifty nuances such as these make ‘La Piscine’ a film experience both pleasurable and discomfiting.”
Written and directed by Michel Franco, “New Order” won the second-place Silver Lion when it premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival. Set in Mexico City in the near future, a wealthy family prepares for a society wedding as protests rock the city and eventually come to their door. The movie is in general release where theaters are open.
For The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “The lesson we’re meant to take away from ‘New Order’ is that all the people onscreen — rich or poor, left or right, civilian or military — are irredeemable and fundamentally interchangeable, and that each of them (and by extension, us) has a cog-like role to play in an inexorable cycle of dehumanization, slaughter and abuse. Franco pursues this nihilistic thesis with a single-mindedness that one might call rigorous if it didn’t also feel so lazy. With icy composure but also palpable excitement, he steers us through blocked-off streets, corpse-strewn plazas and eventually past the gates of a prison where inmates are greeted with a friendly ‘Welcome to hell, a—holes!’ Rarely have I heard a director speak more directly to his audience.”
For the Playlist, Carlos Aguilar wrote, “Though undeniably a hard watch, ‘New Order’ provides an uncompromising canvas for Franco’s filmmaking prowess to stretch thematically and in sheer magnitude (thousands of extras, an ensemble cast, a direct political statement about his homeland). Harsh as the truths he is dealing with here are, maybe the bluntness transformed into the near-future narrative will finally make those who refuse to acknowledge such perennial problems be forced to confront them. … A brilliantly unflinching look at a society built on extreme disparities that reads more like an omen than a far-fetched fantasy, ‘New Order’ repeatedly subverts any hope [of] redemption. It guts you with the worst of human nature, like Franco often does, but within a larger sociopolitical scale, and for that, it’s utterly unshakable. “
For the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote, “With elegant camera movements and sharp, emphatic editing, Franco constructs a world that feels only slightly futuristic. The Mexico City of ‘New Order’ is but a nanosecond removed from the chaos and moral decay that ensues from obscene wealth disparities, cynicism and graft within the police and military, the privatization of basics such as safety and medical care, and the corrosion of human empathy. … The word ‘tragedy’ is often overused. Throughout this taut, ruthlessly propulsive thriller, that’s the word that comes to mind, in its most classical, grievously fatalistic sense.”
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