Review: Deeply-felt film essay ‘In the Intense Now’ observes the fire of revolution


A rich, immersive contemplation of the emotional battery life of revolutions, Brazilian filmmaker João Moreira Salles’ remarkable, deeply felt essay film “In the Intense Now” examines 1968’s turbulence in four countries through the prism of what its amateur documentarians filmed.

Spurred by curiously ecstatic travel footage his aesthetic-driven mother shot in 1966 of a Mao-saturated China she found vital and beautiful rather than politically antagonistic, Salles examines archival footage of the student protests in France, the Soviet invasion following Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring, and his own childhood split between France and an increasingly militarized Brazil. (Salles’ brother is filmmaker Walter Salles.)

His interest is twofold: what filmmakers chose to record and what the images show, sometimes unwittingly. Psychologically, Salles, who narrates in the hushed tones of a mournful detective, finds something inexorably meaningful and powerfully human in the spark and ecstatic burn of revolutionary fervor — the dispossessed heard, the powerful knocked back — even as countermeasures ensure the reactive pullback toward ordinary, unheroic existence.


The combination of archival bounty with Salles’ touching analysis has a hypnotic effect, serving up the past plus reflection, garnished with a resonant melancholy about the ebb and flow of uprisings. Through it all, Salles shows abiding respect for these forgotten and anonymous chroniclers of the momentous, whether captured in ecstasy, obliviousness, fear or wounded resignation. It brought to mind Stephen Sondheim’s exquisite lyrics from “Someone In a Tree” about witnessing history: “I’m a fragment of the day/If I weren’t who’s to say/Things would happen here the way/That they happened here?”


‘In the Intense Now’

In Portuguese, French and Czech with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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