Thursday, February 03, 2011

Discovery #7

Beach House - Teen Dream (2010)

Pure bliss. Beach House is Sunday morning laid back lifestyle personified. We all have an idealized place of comfort that we conjure into our mind when we imagine the most perfect place on the Earth. For some of us that image is one of ghostly beaches, white sand spreading off in the distance, no one around, the emptiness existing only for you. Or amongst a thick crop of pine trees spreading across the mountainside, snow on the ground, a fire built up in the hearth, warming every aspect of your existence. Or in the penthouse suite overlooking a cityscape, the night sky reaching out with its twinkling fingers to touch a lush dream, the cold crisp air lifting you up to even greater heights. Or the glassy reflection of a lake just off the porch, lemonade and ice in your hand and the buzz of nature in your ears, the heat shimmering with liquid vision. Or the sweating night of a loft in the midst of New Orleans, jazzy beats floating in the open window, whiskey burgeoning in your blood causing the rush of the dark hazy ambiance to fill your veins and give into the lounging affair. All of them as idyllic as possible, the dream of perfection, so hard to discover. Teen Dream takes us there, wallows in that place we've all come to know in our hearts.

A Prophet - Jacques Audiard (2009)

We've all seen this movie: young, petty thief goes into prison with nothing and comes out in the end a criminal mastermind. It's a classic movie formula that has been used and abused until the end of time. I'm sure that this film will not be the last one to explore the genre but it may be the last one that you ever need to see again. Jacques Audiard has become a well-respected name in France and that says a lot about the quality of filmmmaking. He's always been incredibly nuanced with his cinematic storytelling and his films come across as intelligent and real. That's because he wishes to reveal the true heart of his characters and the lives that they lead rather than pandering to a simple-minded audience that yearns to shut off their brains for two hours. He tackles the prison system with his fifth film and it's a world of terror and influence and jealousy and commerce and guilt and injustice. It takes a master to show all of the inherent flaws and prejudice that engulfs the prison industrial complex without getting bogged down in that type of narrative. A Prophet is ultimately about an individual who learns how to become a smarter criminal and with a strange bit of luck and mysticism discovers a way to the top of the food chain. Sure, it's an indictment but it doesn't come across as preachy. Instead we are witness to a beautiful and brutal depiction of our westernized form of punishment.

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