Articles by Praveen Rathinavelu
November 7, 2008
Wong Kar-Wai may be the most unjustly categorized filmmaker alive: it’s easy to see his movies as little more than small, dizzying portraits of love, loss, and romance — as mood pieces.
October 17, 2008
Almost a year ago, I reviewed Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding: a film about a damaged and grotesquely self-involved woman, Margot, returning to her childhood home to attend her sister’s wedding. The family collapses and rebuilds over the course of film, with Margot always at its center. At a cursory glance, Jonathan Demme’s new film, Rachel Getting Married, is the exact same story.
September 12, 2008
At the center of Claude Chabrol’s A Girl Cut in Two is the kind of pulpy love triangle that the tabloids dream of: a nymphet-like TV weather-girl is caught between a nationally revered literary figure (decades older) and a volatile, dashing heir to a pharmaceutical company fortune. The conflict ends very, very badly.
August 29, 2008
Mad Men is a show that thinks very highly of itself. Its creator and writer, Matthew Weiner, was a writer and executive producer of The Sopranos, and Mad Men totes a self-importance that could give some the impression that it’s powerful and innovative HBO drama, like The Sopranos or The Wire. It’s not, but judging by the hype its second season has gotten, a lot of people seem to be convinced it is.
August 25, 2008
More than those of probably any other working director, Woody Allen’s films are released with the paralyzing burden of expectation. Woody Allen is supposed to be, without exception, funny. The expectations extend further; his films must carry a sense of humor that fits with the public perception of Allen himself: anal, narcissistic, self-deprecating. When Allen releases films that don’t really fit this mold, people tend to freak out.
July 9, 2008
Ye Lou’s Summer Palace chronicles the collective rise and fall of a generation of Chinese youth: it lumbers through its nearly two-and-a-half hours on the back of a young woman, Yu Hong (played by Lei Hao), from her dense, passionate college years to the bleak, depleted years of adulthood that follow.
June 6, 2008
The first installation in Chantal Akerman’s new exhibition in the List Visual Arts Center presents an imposing blockade of television screens: placed in triptychs throughout the room, one has to weave and sidestep between the televisions to get through.
April 11, 2008
In Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon, the balloon in question seems to drift into every corner of a melancholy-tinged Paris; it drags through a quiet skyline and is glazed onto the side of a building, it sits within oil paintings and computer screens. Most prominently, the balloon occupies an unspoken space in a small network of Parisian lives: it sparks their perception and weighs on their memory.
March 7, 2008
Jhumpa Lahiri isn’t the sort of writer who shies away from her heritage. Her writing is replete with details of the Indian-American experience, peppered with references to Raj Kapoor and salwar kameez, because she writes about what she knows. But to say that her stories are primarily about an ethnic-American experience seems to severely limit the scope of Lahiri’s writing. Her stories aren’t about immigrant families, but families in general. On March 4th, in front of a crowd that was spilling out of 32-123, Lahiri reinforced this resistance to the labels that frequently hamper writers such as her. She offered the audience a writing style that is crisp, discerning, and instantly recognizable to anyone who has struggled to reconcile generations and cultures, but also, parents and children.
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February 15, 2008
These days, even when its subject is abortion, it’s hard for a film to be genuinely affecting, or even feel new. But Cristian Mungiu’s astonishing “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” insists on confronting abortion with a kind of honesty and force that will leave even the most hardened viewer a little dazed. And yet it would be too easy, and unfair, to label 4 months as simply an “abortion movie”; it would have been easy (and probably even successful) for Mungiu to construct the kind of gritty, mildly simplistic abortion movie most of us expect. But 4 months extends itself beyond any of these expectations and attempts something much more ambitious: to represent a harrowing day in the life of a Romanian college student in a way shatters the separation between film and viewer, and provides us with life, in its truest sense. It succeeds and it feels very, very new.