Cover art for criterion edition of Celine and Julie Go Boating. Abstract painting using multiple types of paint depicts both main characters sitting and smiling with their feet playfully in the air. Text says title and "Directed by Jacques Rivette"

Celine and Julie Go Boating

Celine and Julie Go Boating

Jacques Rivette’s three hour, elliptical fantasy follows two strange women who meet and share an unspoken spiritual connection. As they move within the other’s orbit, sometimes swapping identities, a perplexing backstory unfolds involving a parallel reality, a mysterious abandoned mansion, and a troubled family. That’s about all that can be said of the film, which deliberately confounds and misdirects. Literary elements such as Alice in Wonderland and the work of Marcel Proust are frequently alluded to, intermingling codified fantasy images with a scrambled sense of time and place. At its core is an uncanny, absorbing puzzle, a hook to keep you invested even in light of the film’s languorous pace and challenging lack of explanation. To appreciate it, a good amount of patience and mental clarity is required, as the film itself plays out as the troubled dream of a restless mind. Those willing to invest in this conceit will be rewarded by intriguing references to literature, art, and the occult, a uniquely mystical atmosphere, and the ultimate oneiric exercise in identity, memory, and the cyclical nature of time. Celine and Julie Go Boating doesn’t so much demystify the vague but nagging questions at the corners of our perception—the intangibility of memory and identity, the fundamental mystery of existence, of time and reality and our role in it—but rather portrays the experience of pondering these conundrums in a playful but intellectually serious manner. An epic of the latter part of the French New Wave and of art house in general, fans of Jodorowsky, Lynch, and Godard are urged to see it if they have not already.

Poster for Crestone, depicted as three segments of torn pictures stacked on top of one another. Top shows the partially obscured faces and tattooed chests of two of the film's subjects, the middle shows a mountain range with the title over it in luminescent font, and the third shows a different subject in the film taking a picture with his cellphone in the middle of some dunes.

Crestone

Crestone

One of the best movies to play at True/False in Columbia, MO in 2020, the pandemic robbed it of a showing at South by Southwest and greater exposure elsewhere. Vinegar Syndrome, a majority cult and exploitation boutique DVD/BluRay distributor, has partnered with Utopia Distribution (distributor of indie darlings like Shiva Baby and Mickey and the Bear) to give us a proper release of this short but rich gem of a documentary. While the library now has it, I also bought a copy for myself, if that’s any indication of how strongly I vouch for it. In the movie, director Marnie Hertzler films the daily life of her old high school friends, a group of SoundCloud rappers who have formed a commune in the desert town of Crestone, Colorado, led by the pseudonymous Champloo Sloppy. Isolated from the rest of society, the scraggly gang live out a ceaseless, cannabis-fueled staycation, where video games, drone cameras, baloney sandwiches, and cave exploring doesn’t stop the creeping ennui of directionless living from eventually taking hold.

While a participant in the lives of her friends, Hertzler’s camera also inevitably places her at a distance that results in her eventual isolation. Through this distance, the film gains just the right amount of clarity to stage highly astute perceptions of the rappers and the generational cohort they belong to. While half-serious and shambolic, the rappers’ way of living constitutes a radical economic experiment, one in which an alternative to capitalist, work-based society is tested for sustainability. While the project’s aim has merit, this particular group struggles to succeed due to a lack of a coherent replacement for capitalism. The film consequently illustrates the great potential for a more radical and economically progressive society while also highlighting its shortcomings. These shortcomings also form a part of the movie’s function as a portrait of the millennial generation, particularly its challenges. Sloppy and his gang represent a hyperbolic, high-concentrate distillation of the Millennial and Gen Z experience— their tendency towards collaboration, creativity, the questioning of the nature of truth, and a reassessment of the value of work and the individual in light of a seriously limiting economy. What inhibits the subjects of this documentary, other than a lack of organization, is a lack of capital and an uncertain future. Recession, job shortages, unaffordable housing, and climate change all subtly inform their situation. An image in the movie that perfectly captures this theme is of a twenty-something nomad, shown earlier in the film receiving food from the commune, peddling his self-made motor bike uphill while brush fires burn around him. Crestone is well worth your time, but those seeking an adequate summary need only picture that image, which is far more emblematic than a mere synopsis.

Flashback

“After a chance encounter with a man forgotten from his youth, Fred literally and metaphorically journeys into his past.”

Influence

“A documentary that follows Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geopolitical spin-doctoring.”

The Nest

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

“A wealthy, Nigerian-American teen is pulled over by police, shot to death and immediately awakens, reliving the same day over and over, trapped in a terrifying time loop – forced to confront difficult truths about his life and himself.”

Poster for To the Ends of the Earth. A mirrored image of a Japanese woman (the main character) lying upside down in a red dress with flowers on it against a red, middle eastern textile background. Has the title and name of director (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) in large white typeface.

To the Ends of the Earth

To the Ends of the Earth

Kiyoshi Kurosawa may be best known for his offbeat horror films Cure and Pulse, in addition to other genre-bending works. To the Ends of the Earth completely abandons those already loose constraints in favor of a hard-to-pin down drama about culture, identity, and work, themes that both intersect and form a kind of nesting doll structure. Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) is the host of a Japanese travelogue series currently shooting in Uzbekistan. On camera she is cheerful, embodying the stereotypically cute and childlike Japanese host, but off camera she is subdued and self-conscious, seemingly in a constant state of detachment and low-grade exhaustion. She questions the point of her work and the role she is filling for others. In some sense she feels fulfilled as a journalist because of the variety of experiences her career provides while also being alienated by the demands of a job that feel out of her control. When filming her show, the dynamics of gender illuminate ongoing constraints in various aspects of professional and civil life. Her image seems more important than her essence when it comes to media representation, which can be plainly seen to be male dominated behind the camera, her crew consisting entirely of men. Additonally, the traditional Uzbek culture often puts her at odds with locals and government in scenes that range from awkard to threatening. Overall, her conflicting presence and disorientation highlights the sense of disconnection between cultures and classes despite our best efforts at globalization and equity (the film was commissioned as a celebration of diplomatic relations between Japan and Uzbekistan, which began after Word War II). But in the midst of this somewhat academic backdrop is a subtle but compelling story of Yoko as an individual. The broader cultural commentary never dominates the human story going on in the film, and in fact is predicated on the empathy we have for Yoko as a sensitive dreamer with mixed aspirations. She provides a sense of connection and relatability that pulls the viewer through the larger cultural narrative Kurosawa wants us to ponder after the film is over.

The Twentieth Century

“Determined to become the leader of the Dominion of Canada, a young W.L. Mackenzie King rises to power.”

The World to Come

“Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.”

Nic Champion is a Customer Service Associate and Reference Librarian at the Kirkwood Public Library, and he moonlights as a film critic for online publications. Among his favorite filmmakers are Bong Joon-ho, Buster Keaton, and Todd Solondz. In addition to film, Nic's other interests include reading authors such as Jon Ronson and Haruki Murakami, discovering new music, and researching any topic that catches his curiosity.