A brave independent film
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 05/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The presence of Vermeer in the art has always been powerful and many times neglected. His works seem to have a weird enchantment in all the viewers inside and outside the painting craft. The delicate equilibrium in the form and the sumptuous employment of the light and shadow seduce inmediatly the soul, the eye and the spirit. Salvador Dali, for instance, stated in a conference that Vermeer was his favorite painter. And it's interesting to remark how film makers so distant in styles as Greenaway (A zed an two noughts) and Riddley Scott (Blade runner), have shown Vermeers's paintings as admirable narrative devices in their respective scripts, as clever clues.
The premise made by this talented independent director -Jon Jost-is setting in New York (Metropolitan Musseum) a young artist Frenchwoman and a stockbroker who meet in front of a Vermeer painting as a smart raising relationship.
The european style (Wenders, Altman, Losey, Antonioni and Rohmer among the closest authors)developed by Jost, allows explore several issues, such as the mercenary underworld in art dealing, the hipocrisy beneath the surface, and above all the perceptions contrasts about how the art is considered as just another more market object.
Francis Coppola told in 1981 in an interview, this bitter thought: "Ïf anybody thought that the art was just a wrench of market, then you could buy a Picasso, to cut it in two parts and sell both parts as if those of them were two Picassos".
This is a very unusual movie, carefully filmed and cleverly directed.
If you are a Vermeer admirer (as I do) and even you don't , you should not miss this movie. I recommend to read a remarkable essay about Vermeer written by Marcel Brion."
John Jost's most "professional" film is an ideal intro to a
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 10/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film begins with a static shot of the tops of buildings, turrets and spires, an unnamed city that looks old and European but eventually turns out to be Manhattan. Three young, pretty female roommates in a big apartment, one an aspiring actress, another a singer, the third involved in the art world. There's some cutesy, inconsequential dialogue; we are struck right away with the director's command of image, sound (particularly off-screen) and his exquisitely put together sets. Soon we move to an art gallery setting, a young man in a leather jacket arguing angrily with a dealer who is trying to sell his work -- will he be the protagonist? The film in its first couple of reels doesn't give us any answers here; the man leaves with a wealthy patron and potential buyer, but we don't follow them and move on instead to another a brief scene set in the financial world, as a broker or buyer of some kind (Stephen Lack) alternates between shouting about business and some kind of personal issues on the phone. Close on the heels of this scene, we enter another segment of the art world, as one of the roommates - aspiring French actress and student Anna (Emmanuelle Chaulet) is seen perusing the old masters - chiefly Rembrandt and Vermeer - at what turns out to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is in turn perused by our stockbroker, who hands her a note at which point she leaves.
This is the scene that introduces the spectacular and fairly indescribable avant-jazz/classical score by Jon English, one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard, and it also seems to introduce the rest of the film as we will now focus on these characters, and on the difficult lives they lead while being surrounded by and comforted by all the great art - photography, painting, music and architecture - that suffuses the film. An awkward scene in which Anna pretends to not speak English and is accompanied by her roommate Felicity (Grace Philips) as pretend-translator meets Mark (Lack) at a restaurant seems distancing and off-putting, and it seems very uncertain as to whether these two can -or should- meet again. There's also a very subtle and only briefly stated minor theme here about "home" and what it means; Mark is clearly Canadian and Anna French, and neither seems to really be comfortable - in Mark's case, with his profession and his inner life, in Anna's with America and perhaps her career.
Is Mark some kind of creepy stalker? Is Anna a naive innocent, or is she planning on using the wealthy stockbroker for his money? The film never really answers these questions thoroughly, never really gets at what makes Mark so unhappy, why he even more than any of the characters actually working in the arts seems so attracted to beauty and culture; instead it peers obliquely in a few long scenes at the intersections, contemplating and watching, never telling. There is a gorgeous lengthy, probing tracking shot that traces an irregular path through the columns in the portico of the Met that seems to exist just to remind us of how beautiful, how stately and granitic art in the form of architecture can be, while the human beings are utterly frail and often incapable of ever reaching the transcendence in their own lives that they can in fact reach on canvas, in strings and percussion, in marble.
I don't want to spoil the rather surprising ending, but I will add that what blew my mind even more than the finish of the film itself was learning that the entire film was improvised - on camera. Completely improvised; Jost says that he didn't have a story at all, really except that it had to involve art (a prerequisite of his funding), and he had the last shot in his head from the beginning. I found that out courtesy of his own website, where you can learn much more about this great but completely unknown American independent filmmaker, and buy some of his otherwise inaccessible films.
I'd only seen one Jost film before, FRAMEUP (1993) which had both the single most irritating character I've ever seen in a film and one of the most powerful and devastating endings I've experienced. On the basis of my memory of that film and this masterpiece, I definitely must see more. ALL THE VERMEERS had the widest release of any of Jost's films and is actually readily available, and for its aesthetic pleasures alone - the beauty of the score which verges from neo-baroque to post-Ornette Coleman atonal free jazz, the beauty of the female cast and Chaulet in particular, the sumptuous art and sets, and the striking photography (in 35MM, as far as I know Jost's first in the format) I recommend this to anyone even remotely adventurous. It is certainly "slow" by most people's standards, but if your taste runs to European or Asian cinema, or "arthouse" fare in general, you'll be more prepared for what you're getting into I think.
This DVD is a pretty big improvement over the VHS, picture-wise, though it doesn't offer a lot in the way of extras; I haven't listened to the concert suite arranged from the wonderful music yet."
Not as bad as claimed
Andres C. Salama | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 07/15/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not the disaster some of the other reviews suggest. It is slow, and it is quite pretentious, but if you get into the rhythm of it, it is a worthwhile movie. Jost is no Eric Rohmer (even if the actress here played the lead role in "Boyfriends and Girlfriends"), but this film, set in Manhattan amidst both the art and high finance world (and with a Vermeer painting appearing predominantly, for no apparent reason), ends up being a quietly beautiful effort."