In their annual series spotlighting up and coming directors, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is celebrating two of this year’s most buzzed-about minimalist directors, the husband-wife team of “Treeless Mountain”‘s So Yong Kim and “The Exploding Girl”‘s Bradley Rust Gray. The series will feature the directors’ works this week and will screen three of their biggest influences, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Rosetta,” Tsai Ming-liang’s “Rebels of the Neon God,” and Wong Kar-wai’s “Happy Together.”
In an indieWIRE interview with the couple at the Berlin fest earlier this year, the two talked about their work relationship, “‘I definitely see it as we’ve made four films,’ Gray explained, looking at his wife while their young daughter played nearby. ‘There is a definite continuous arc, our styles are very similar. I wouldn’t work on something if So didn’t like the idea.’ ‘I get a lot of out his films and ideas,’ concurred Kim, referring to her husband’s work. The two reiterated that they are inspired by the work of their spouse. ‘I think we are learning from each other,’ Gray added.”
Calling the couple the “Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne of Brooklyn-based independent filmmakers,” the Village Voice‘s Melissa Anderson continues, “Kim, who was born in Pusan and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12, has admitted to certain autobiographical elements in both her films…Where Kim’s work is informed by autobiography, Gray’s is shaped by unwavering empathy.”
Tonight, “The Exploding Girl” will screen at BAM. Calling the film a “small-scale, effective character study,” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Neil Young describes the film, “Focus is four-square on 20ish university-student Ivy (Kazan), as she idles away her long vacation back at home with seldom seen dance teacher mom (Maryann Urbano). Ivy’s lukewarm-at-best relationship with fellow student Greg (Franklin Pipp) is turning decidedly tepid, just as she’s re-examining her feelings towards longtime best bud Al (Mark Rendall). Adding further complications — and compromising her independence — is Ivy’s epilepsy, kept in check via medication.” Karina Longworth‘s Spoutblog review concludes, “In the end, the title is by far the most explosive element (pun intended) of this beautifully restrained film.” Slant Magazine‘s Bill Weber nearly runs out of words taking apart the film, “Exasperating for its mundane narrative of youthful non-courtship camouflaged by Manhattan street-video naturalism, The Exploding Girl occasionally suggests mumblecore with less improvisation and heaps of undergrad preciousness in place of snarky irony.”
Tomorrow at BAM, Gotham Award-nominee “Treeless Mountain” will have three screenings. Identifying Kim as “one of the best independent American filmmakers around,” the San Francisco Chronicle‘s G. Allen Johnson sums up the film, “two girls, ages 6 and 4, are dumped off at their Big Aunt’s house in a small Korean town by their mother, who is off to look for the boyfriend who abandoned her. Mom tells her children that every day Big Aunt will put a coin in their piggy bank, and when it is full, she’ll be back. The bank is full, worth about five bucks it seems, but mom is nowhere around. Big Aunt is an alcoholic and paying less and less attention, so the girls strike out on their own, piggybank in hand, looking for their mother.” Ella Taylor of the LA Times observes that the film “lacks the freshness and surprise of “In Between Days,” and it’s hard not to feel emotionally hijacked by the well-worn iconography of pathos.” New York Magazine‘s David Edelstein calls the film, “delicate, wrenching, occasionally vexing.”
Earlier this week, Gray’s “Salt” and Kim’s “In Between Days” had screenings. For more information on the film series, check out the BAM website.