The Five Obstructions
dir. Leth, von Trier
Opens Fri Aug 27
The Five Obstructions' premise sounds pretentious: filmmaker Lars von Trier gets together with his idol, filmmaker Jorgen Leth, and instructs Leth to remake one of his first films, The Perfect Human, under all sorts of haphazard conditions. For example, von Trier tells Leth he must remake the film with only 12 frames, shooting in a country he's never been to. Leth creates something amazing. So von Trier makes him remake the film again, but then tells Leth he must "reveal himself" by playing the main character. And so on.
Von Trier's "obstructing" is more complicated than that, but part of the film's pull is seeing what challenges he gives Leth and how Leth interprets von Trier's demands. The film could have become mired in its own haughty concept, but fortunately, Leth comes across as a beautiful man who creates amazing films.
The Five Obstructions dazzles by showing both the relationship between von Trier and Leth and the spectacular films the two men make together. Von Trier is a master at tugging at the heartstrings, and even in this film geek collaboration, he doesn't let us down. When the tables are turned and von Trier volunteers to remake The Perfect Human himself, the result is an emotional homage to a great man--which, ultimately, is a fitting description of what The Five Obstructions is as a whole. KATIE SHIMER
Orwell Rolls In His Grave
Opens Fri Aug 27
The Clinton Street Theater has been on a quite a streak lately, encouraging examination of media with Outfoxed and Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire. Yet another Clinton Street-hosted challenge is Orwell Rolls in His Grave, a glorified lecture on corporate control of the news media. Orwell provokes viewers to consider how mainstream knowledge of public events is distorted by the ideological agendas of large companies and their government bedfellows.
The documentary presents interviews with media authorities from corporate, political, and academic spheres, all of whom comment upon civil de-politicization and media bias. Imposed throughout is a heavy-handed parallel between American society and that of Orwell's 1984: an eerie, melodramatic score accompanies a relentless storm of statistics about suspicious media behavior; loaded words like "spin," "forget," and "self-censorship" flash across the screen; a narrator even reads suggestive descriptions of Orwell's visionary dystopia.
Which is fine, but Orwell's biggest problem is its meandering laziness. The film attempts to condemn media control in American politics, and it has solid points and good research. But merely presenting a parade of outrageous facts does little to accomplish what one hopes would be Orwell's intention--forwarding actual reformation on an individual or larger level. Aside from some solid assertions and simplistic rabble rousing, Orwell's barrage of statistics falls flat. EVAN JAMES
Opens Fri Aug 27
In October of 1974, 28-year-old director Steven Spielberg was freaked. His movie about a giant shark terrorizing a quiet New England community had tripled its initial budget, his shooting schedule had careened out of control, and his mechanical shark kept malfunctioning.
Time would prove that Spielberg had little to worry about, however; the following summer, Jaws would become the highest-grossing film in history.
Nearly 30 years later, Jaws is still the unequaled blockbuster template. But what makes Jaws so special?
The answer lies not in Jaws' rep, but in its substance--it's an old-fashioned adventure story of man vs. beast, with Moby Dick overtones, captivating characters, intense action, and humor. But ultimately, it's how well Spielberg handles the fear of the unknown that gives Jaws its powerful kick. For most of the film, Spielberg teases us with little more than shadows, these darkly subtle nudges forcing us to bring our personal fears--of monsters, the depths of the ocean, being eaten alive--into the darkened theater.
Don't miss this revival of Jaws. Seeing the film as it was meant to be seen--on the big screen, with a new 35mm print--makes one realize just what an important film Jaws is, and only on the big screen does the uncanny film wield its full, ominous power. MICHAEL SVOBODA