OUT OF AFRICA BY WAY OF NEW YORK

Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILMCAREER

Restless City
Andrew Dosunmu
2011

John Anderson, discussing this director’s film Mother of George in the New York Times, describes Dosunmu’s framing as “unorthodox.”  I have not seen Mother of George, but in his earlier film Restless City the framing  seems to me arty or careless.  And I don’t know what Nicholas Rapold (also NYT) means by “elegant, wide-screen compositions.”   Here Dosunmu and Bradford Young, photographer, are so in love with the close-up that we regularly get faces without eyes, only part of a nose, or a mouth missing the lower lip.  Close-ups have been in trouble, of course, since the first film in CinemaScope, and today’s conventional wide screen is totally unsuitable for what Dosunmu apparently seeks to do with faces.  He also favors long corridors with lots of perspective and focused or out-of-focus geometric lines , especially the outlines of windows and doorways.  I have to wonder if I am failing to grasp his framing intentions  —  as, for years, I misunderstood Godard’s.

Djibril, the young African immigrant living in New York who is our center of interest,  tells us that music is his passion, but we never see any evidence of that.  His real devotion is to his white helmet and his scooter.  Sy Alassane as Djibril has a remarkable face but it shows us little as the director keeps his emotions at a distance from us.  Sky Grey as Trini gives so total a picture of a woman bored that she is boring.  She cannot even sound interested or interesting when she asks, “Do you want to fuck?”  I again ask myself if I am being dense.  Is this the point?

As friend Sisi, Danai Gurira gives the best performance, and from very limited written resources.

Given how removed we stay from all the characters, the devastating ending is surprisingly effective.

I see all the vivid color that other reviewers note, but I do not understand what it expresses.  I feel lacking in knowledge of the civilization and culture from which Dosunmu and his characters spring.  I may have misread him and those characters and the effect on them of a transplanted life in New York.

Readers please respond.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE

Movies are everywhere, especially in good books.

FROM Graham Greene’s Dr. Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party

(Jones and his wife are wondering which of their friends have souls.
They get to Richard Deane, internationally famous film star and
hopeless alcoholic.)

“Richard Deane?””No. Definitely not. No
soul. I’m told he has copies of all his old films and he plays them
over every night to himself. He has no time even to read the books
of the films. He’s satisfied with himself. If you have a soul you
can’t be satisfied.”

Jones’ wife has died, and he has failed to kill himself. A half pint
of whiskey at one swallow has not done the job. What next?  “After work I didn’t
kill myself but went to the first cinema on the way home and sat for
an hour before a soft porn film.”  (Simon & Schuster, 1980)

NEXT FRIDAY POST April 24
Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

 

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