Your Week in Streaming: Movies About Movies by Hong Sang-soo and Jim McBride

Your Week in Streaming: Movies About Movies by Hong Sang-soo and Jim McBride

This week, I take a look at two under-seen movies about movies now on VOD. Both boast a heightened self-awareness and a director interested in commenting on the medium. Of course, films
like Truffaut’s “Night and Day,” Godard’s “Contempt” and
Fellini’s “8 ½” are the crowning achievements of this meta genre, but
more great examples have followed by young and passionate directors who want to make some kind of aesthetic sense of their movie madness.

You’re never
meant to forget that writer-director Hong Sang-soo‘s “In Another Country” (MUBI) is a
movie, because it is actually three movies, all starring Isabelle Huppert, with
subtle details that appear in each vignette, like an umbrella or a broken bottle
on the beach, to suggest some sort of connectivity. This delicate, ephemeral
feature is from Hong, the Korean auteur who never
sleeps. Typically he churns our two or three films in a given year, and they
all concern literate film-loving people with a wealth of cultural capital who stay
up late talking over pints of beer and cigarettes. There is some of that in
“In Another Country,” but this is also Hong’s chance to play with the
possibilities of cinema, bankrupt its conventions and essentially direct a film
three different ways.

All smart, highbrow directors eventually come
to Isabelle Huppert, the doyenne of the international art film, who plays three
women at various stages of existential and romantic crises. In the first
segment, she plays a film director location scouting a seaside resort in South
Korea (who some say is inspired by Claire Denis); in the next, she’s the bored
wife of a businessman on a jaunt with her Korean lover; and in the third,
Huppert is a divorced housewife looking for a getaway.

The frame story surrounding this airy, charming triptych is that of
young Korean woman with family issues of her own who is drafting ideas for a
screenplay. These are her sketches. And so “In Another Country”
allows us to see that creative process reenacted, as Hong remakes and rewrites
a movie thrice over, and finally allowing each to settle into a pleasant,
satisfying whole.

A completely different movie about movies, “David Holzman’s Diary” is the crude cinema verite equivalent of the Selfie. In Jim McBride‘s film (now on Fandor) a sociopathic cinephile (L.M. Kit Carson) , after a breakup, wants to make a
movie of his life and unpack the artistic demons in his head. The
film-within-the-film poses as a documentary but is actually more a
mockumentary. Its raffish energy and coarse 16mm look evoke mumblecore as shot
and edited by Dziga Vertov.

David’s love of movies puts a real strain on
his personal relationships. In one of many naked confessions where he faces the
camera, David admits that he pursued his ex-girlfriend Penny, a dissolute
model, because she looked like a character in a Visconti film. Their split has
left him emotionally wrecked and wracked with self-doubt. 

So in making a film, he becomes a voyeur of his
own life, while also spying on neighbors, assaulting pedestrians with his
camera in hopes of capturing life as it happens, unspooling and unpacking
everything in his head but with no idea how to put it into a form. It’s messy,
like life, but “David Holzman’s Diary” has a human element often
missing from this kind of hip, experimental cinema.

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