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Gauzy Strip: Julian Schnabel’s “Miral”

Gauzy Strip: Julian Schnabel's "Miral"

“He starts with the image,” Jean-Luc Godard once said of Brian De Palma. Replace “image” with “sensation,” and you have Julian Schnabel. A rapacious, mercurial stylist, the painter-cum-filmmaker has over the years rarely hesitated to sacrifice storytelling coherence in favor of soaking in his characters’ vertiginous emotional states. Consider the plot of his 1996 debut, Basquiat, coming to a halt as the eponymous artist bicycles around the Lower East Side to the Psychedelic Furs’ “India,” as if floating on a cloud of marijuana smoke. Or the soundtrack switching from diegetic nightclub music to the lyrical orchestra swelling inside Reinaldos Arenas’s head as the Cuban poet loses himself in dance with a lover in Before Night Falls. Or the thoughts and emotions rushing through paralyzed Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, made palpable as glimpses of calving glaciers and throbs of old Georges Delerue scores in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In Miral, Schnabel’s fourth feature film, this pursuit of tangible sensory flashes leads the director to blur the edges of the screen in order to visualize a character’s intoxication as she steps out of a tavern. When the effect arbitrarily reappears a few scenes later to evoke not much of anything as the same character is sent to jail, however, we come to the grim realization that the haziness may be emanating less from the people on screen than from the self-besotted auteur behind the camera. Read Fernando F. Croce’s review of Miral.

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