TRIPLE BILL – Above & Beyond

Above & Beyond

All film lovers have days when they want to just watch films, and if they wake up early enough, they can watch three. Just as it’s nice to make mixtapes (or playlists for the young and/or unpretentious) of your favorite music, I find it fun to create fantasy billings, where all of the films are linked in some way. So here is the start of a series called ‘Triple Bill’!

This first Triple Bill pulls no punches, and shows ambitious pieces that are designed to give a sense of the scope of life, the universe and everything, above beyond the experience of the individual. Sometimes this effect is sought by focussing entirely on the individual’s quest, others by removing them from the frame and replacing them with sounds and images, stirring up primal feelings of awe and wonder. We begin with a narrative piece and end with something more abstract, while a recent work neatly plugs the gap in-between.

I’ll not to say that these pieces are without their individual flaws, but each is truly ambitious and deserves a watch. This billing would be a film marathon of almost unparalleled intensity and self reflection. Either that or you’d just get bored, down a can of Monster and go on a Neveldine/Taylor marathon as a re-balancing exercise! Either way it’s an adventure :)

1: The Fountain

The Fountain - An ambitious piece with a wonderful score.

The Fountain – An ambitious piece with a wonderful score.

The Fountain took a critical pounding in its day, but I admire the narrative scale, and find the tale of devotion at the heart of it incredibly moving. Aranofsky’s third feature is his most ambitious, and though it’s not 100% successful, the use of three parallel stories spread across thousands of years is inspiring. A man searches for the Tree Of Life in the past, finds it in the present, and carries it to the end of time in the future. Yes: it is pompous, but it has a certain charm if you give it a chance. My favorite Aronofsky film, in case you were wondering, is The Wrestler — by far the most down-to-earth piece he’s ever made — but still, I have plenty of time for this slightly broken treasure. The soundtrack is easily in my top 5.

+ A beautiful score by Clint Mansell.

+ The scale, ambition and emotional weight of the story are great.

- The performances sometimes work against the piece.

- Rewards temporary suspension of your pomposity detector.

2: The Tree Of Life

Tree Of Life - Beautiful cinematography that revels in nature.

Tree Of Life – Beautiful cinematography revels in nature.

Carrying on the with our theme of stories that span the eons, Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life covers a period from the dawn of time itself to the present day. It’s a long piece, most of which unfolds sometime in the late fifties, in a form of extended flashback. Our present-day disenchanted busineess type (Sean Penn) searches his soul and his past for the touch of God and the meaning behind it all. The narrative relies heavily on exposition to drive it on, while emotive imagery and dreamlike footage of the dawn of creation unfurl with ponderous grace. It takes some watching. Emmanuel Lubezki deserves enormous credit for providing the bulk of the enjoyment, using natural light as a plaything, and deifying nature in the process. The feeling of reminisce that takes hold is quite something, but you’ll need to give it a chance.

+ Indescribably beautiful cinemtography, courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezki.

+ A quite unique cinematic journey that makes the viewer look within for meaning.

- A little too long.

- Dodgy CG dinosaurs. Yep.

3: Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi - intense and wonderful watching that will make you reflect.

Koyaanisqatsi – intense and wonderful watching that will make you reflect.

Completing this bill’s journey from epic narrative to pure imagery and music, Koyaanisqaysi takes us from the beginning of tribal civilisation to the dawn of the digital age. Though it’s ostensibly the first part of a trilogy, the other two parts are best ignored. Phillip Glass’s eerie, arpeggiated soundtrack mesmerises the viewer, as we watch the world coalesce from the forming of rock to the birth of cities. Some unsettling parallels are found in our own architecture: the grids of our cities are presented as silicon patterns, the pathways of digital slaves. Watching the disembodied engine of an Atlas rocket fall from the sky is a powerful sight in itself, but it’s never so moving or helpless as when accompanied by Glass’s drones.

+ A dazzling, hypnotic and absorbing work of art.

+ Glass’s finest soundtrack, IMO.

- Will leave you feeling somewhat dazed and misanthropic.

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