New York Film Festival 2021
Selections from the 2021 New York Film Festival
What Do We See? operates like a kind of benevolent human magic: it splits our attention between two poles, one natural, the other personal, between the coherent order of the natural spectacle and the driving personality behind it.
Noe uses two cameras to capture all of their travails in intimate close-up, allowing us to see them both at once using split-screen. Such a formally rigorous approach tends to call attention to itself, naturally inviting questions of aesthetics and perception.
The filmmakers repeatedly return to one notable formal strategy: building up a link between two people across a given scene or shot, then punctuating it by cutting to a heretofore unseen observer. Most every image thus gets restated in terms of a previously unacknowledged perspective.
The neoliberal present demands a new mode of realism, adequate to those structures of control that are cloaked by economic and informational avenues utterly inaccessible to all but the highest echelons of technocratic power. Russo has employed formal devices to inscribe these otherwise invisible relationships.
Rrather than dole out character or narrative information too liberally in dialogue, Sugita uses editing and pacing, especially in exteriors, to help the viewer understand Sachi. Scenes without any clear narrative purpose tend to continue without any legible motivation for surprising lengths of time.
Part II builds on its predecessor in sophisticated ways. Hogg has said that the sequel can stand alone, and that may be true, but its almost noirish visual callbacks instill ghostly memories that, over time, transcend the ectoplasm of one person or film.
Even the title, in referring to a future project of the filmmaker rather than the screening that dominates its central plot, invites a broader consideration of its many digressions and the manner in which the political questions it raises are situated sociopolitically, culturally, and in terms of history and identity.
The relationship has clearly been weighing on Andrea, who continually refers to himself as homosexual, despite the physicality that Duras requires of him. Arlaud portrays him as constantly shrinking, folding in upon himself, his cigarette consumption his only action that feels furtive and alive.
Defining (and redefining) contemporary fascism may be a losing game, but identifying the destructive forces of moral conservatism remains as depressingly easy as ever. Another thing that remains vivid: the misogyny at the corrupt core of modern patriarchal life.