Phases of Matter is not interested in the hospital as a site of sickness. Tortum’s documentary is concerned with workers—the human element that can transform the moribund into a “festive” feeling—following the daily doings of surgeons, nurses, janitors, dieners, students, and professors.
The chaos of the moment feels aptly reflected and deeply felt in both a Bogdanovich slapstick classic from the seventies and a Hammer horrror gem from the sixties.
This column will not simply be about great films we saw in theaters, but about films on which are imprinted the mental traces of the past, of the ineffable experiences of seeing them at a certain point in our personal histories.
In this ongoing column, one writer will send another a new piece of writing about a film they have been watching and pondering over, in the hopes that this will prompt a connection to a different film the other has been watching or is inspired to rewatch.
Reichardt’s hushed visual approach animates the movie into something more contemplative than its sweet, humorous screenplay might indicate. In her films, characters tend to look at things and think. A diegetic bird squaw might fill the silence, or a plucky banjo. In those moments, the object gazed upon becomes imbued with meaning.
The basic premise trades in the kind of casual absurdism that’s by now expected of Porumboiu. More surprising is the fact that The Whistlers plays much like a standard policier—a relatively by-the-book offering from a director who has distinguished himself by a willingness to throw out the manual.
Malick’s filmmaking, especially here and in everything after, strikes me as a way of using the cinematic form to piece together a visual approximation of a world made unknowable by our own perceptions, our own human limitations.
To survive means one has to keep surviving, to bear the anguish of what in some ways can never be escaped, until one can do it no longer. Surviving is what we see mother and daughter doing for each other in No Home Movie, though it also pains and consumes them.
There is no privilege accorded to one state of being over another. All of these figures exist within the same frame of Apichatpong’s cinema. And, importantly, to his characters, all are equals.