Elbert Ventura on Into the Wild
Released on the fiftieth anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Into the Wild is of a proud tradition. Like its hero, the movie is uniquely American, and its palpable affection for the landscape—both geographic and cultural—can make your heart swell. Penn and cinematographer Eric Gautier (who is, in a word, awesome) see the environment through Chris’s awed eyes, weaving a tapestry of fields, rivers, deserts, and mountains that make tangible Chris’s conviction that the “freedom and simple beauty” of the road are too good to pass up. The soulful landscape shots recall those of Terrence Malick, but even more reminiscent of Penn’s onetime director (on The Thin Red Line) are the transcendentalist perspective and the poetic montage.
Emily Condon on The Jane Austen Book Club
Harold Bloom once captured something essential about Austen’s achievement when he suggested that, despite its traditionally happy ending, Persuasion always leaves the reader with a palpable sense of sadness. Such sadness, he suggests, emerges from the novel’s overall “somberness.” That quality, which runs throughout all of Austen’s books, is what so many of the myriad modern interpretations of Austen sorely lack, and The Jane Austen Book Club is no exception.
Michael Koresky on The Man of My Life
Ebbing and flowing on the buzz of one all-night conversation, French director Zabou Breitman’s The Man of My Life sketches the blossoming relationship between two fortysomething men: the happily married Frederic and his unattached, gay neighbor Hugo. And though occasionally its strength is sapped by heavy-handed symbolic gestures, The Man of My Life is a surprisingly unsentimental take on somewhat dubious character types. Just when it seems like Breitman’s made another case study in how much the free-spirited homo can teach the sheltered hetero, the director actually manages to free her two main men from the burden of most cliches.