Samantha Chater
I write about film and music, and sometimes other stuff. This is a convenient collection of a selection of my writing from the last few years.

I also have a photo blog here onfilum.tumblr.com
Sam’s Top Ten of 2013
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So I’m making my Top Ten, after the year is over, because I’m late and lazy, not because I had to see a bunch of things that I’m sure would make this Top Ten, and I’m sure there are many (Great Beauty, Gloria, In A World, maybe Wolf of Wall Street? etc), anyway I’ve decided that this Top Ten wouldn’t be what I thought THE BEST films of 2013 were, but instead the ten films I liked the best, that I saw in 2013, I’ve been a bit lax with release dates as I go to film festivals and for me films that haven’t “come out” count, and also for me Spring Breakers and Frances Ha count as 2012, and thats just how it is. So in no particular order, here they are .

The Lifeguard - Liz W. Garcia
Probably one of the titles on this list, that is unlikely to make anyone else’s Top 10 or Top 100 even. Perhaps here is where I re-enforce my caveat, that these are my favourite films of 2013, both out of the films that I saw, because I most definitely didn’t see everything. Also films that I connected with, and stayed with me for whatever reason. We all bring our own baggage to a film screening, mine currently seems to be a weakness for flicks centred on a second coming-of-age for the 30+. Ponderings on the seemingly arbitrary nature of “direction”, the empty grind of working, dating, eating, sleeping, drinking, worrying, investing, ad infintum. Feeling trapped by expectations, your friends, your parents, your own - so instead saying “Fuck it” and moving back home to try and be a teenager again, oh yes I love it all. Theres something more taboo than drugs, promiscuity et al at least for me, and thats bad choices. Kristen Bell makes a lot of them in this film, not huge ones, like kidnapping/robbery etc a la Pain and Gain, but enough that she hurts some people, enough to be a old-enough-to-know-better fuck up. She carries the film by playing her pitch perfectly, without taking it into schlocky territory. A supporting turn by perennial fave Martin Starr, who I never fail to cheer when he comes into a film. This is not a film about incredible people, this is a film about very ordinary people, doing very ordinary things, and I loved every minute of it.

Her - Spike Jonze

One of the more divisive films on the list, at least among my circles. There is a lot of bad words I’ve heard this film called - “masturbatory” and “uncinematic” being the most abrasive, and which I can actually understand. There are films when you can understand its weaknesses, see other peoples negative perceptions, understand their criticisms, but love it all the same - Her is one of those films. I’m not just saying it cause the female lead had my name too - I swear. Her is a film for anyone who’s been in love, who’ve struggled with love, who’ve been through a break up, who have dated people who’ve been through break ups - its a film for people who feel things acutely, its a film for people who think too much, who feel alone, who struggle to connect. It feels like a film for anyone in the 21st century really. Also the rude little game character is hilarious, Amy Adams is just a big cream puff in it, Joaquin Phoenix’s moustache is super distracting, and I don’t know what else to say, except Her made me feel all the feelings. C’est Tout.


Blue is the Warmest Colour - Abdellatif Kechiche

I wasn’t sure I even like Blue when I walked out of it. I saw it in a highly agitated state the first day of TIFF, it was 3 hours, which is a lot of time during Festival to demand attention, also I needed to pee for the last hour, TMI probably, but those things do affect your feelings about a film. However were that not the case, I don’t believe I would have felt the length as arduous, as I found the love story so engrossing. I understand the voyeurism of the shooting style, and I did feel like a bit of a peeping perv  during the sex scenes, but it also resulted in one of my favourite shots of the two girls in the park together, I described it to a friend of mine as an affectionate camera, and I’ll stand by that phrase. That scene flits into my mind all the time, the light, the shadow the pan, the closeness, all of it. It was one of my favourite shots of the year, and it still gives me tingles when I think about it. Also I find the whole aftermath of a break up and the process of moving on, fascinating, so Blue, scored big points for me there as well

Inside Llewyn Davis -  Joel and Ethan Coen 

I amazingly saw this film in Basel, Switzerland on Christmas day, where I played 17 Swiss Francs for the privilege and to a fairly full cinema considering the day. I loved the look of the film first off, the muted, washed out effect made the whole thing quite magical. Its been said a million times, but that cat, man, he was amazing, theres nothing really else to add but my own echo-ed endorsement, that cat can act! Carey Mulligan also had some killer withering lines that I’d like to imitate at one point in my life.

Overall though for me, what I’m grateful to the Coen brothers for with this film, is celebrating or at least taking a look at all the musicians (and all creative professions by extension) who try and fail. How many of them there, more now than ever I believe. The pressure to be “creative” specifically draw, paint, play music, design, act, make films, write etc, feels overwhelming sometimes. Of course not everybody can be a photographer, a singer, a playwright or whatever, theres just no way. Someone has to take out the garbage and “just exist” as Davis says in the film. Is it better to try and fail or just keep trying? I have no idea, but its an interesting question nonetheless.

We Are the Best - Lukas Moodyson

Lukas Moodyson’s return to the light, after the extreme darkness and suffering of his last few films, We Are The Best is a Moodyson film of Together era. He is a director with a real insight into the personality of girls, women, ladies whatever. His girl characters feel authentically real, as does his experience of youth. I could watch this film a hundred times, if I ever wanted one, this would be my feel-good-hit of 2013.

The Punk Singer - Sini Anderson

As much as she doesn’t seem to want it, and definitely doesn’t need it, its hard not to love Kathleen Hanna, this film is everything I wanted, and more. If you don’t already love Kathleen Hanna, this film will probably make it so.

12 O’Clock Boys - Lotfy Nathan

I saw this randomly at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival, when a friend had a spare ticket. An observational documentary about bike gangs in Baltimore. The films central characters are engrossing, as it focuses on a young boy, desperate to join the cities motorcycle gang the 12’Oclock Boys (because wheelies) and his family. It was such an engrossing and beautiful film, that celebrates the majesty in riding motorcycles very fast  - honestly some of the most stunning shots of the year. Hidden gem for me in 2013 if ever there was one.

Only Lovers Left Alive - Jim Jarmusch 

There is nothing that I don’t love about this film. Sometimes you see a film that feels like a missing part of your DNA, this for me was that film. Ostensibly its about Vampires, but that hardly seems like a real factor in the film. Everything in the production design was completely perfect, the film was also filled with a million magic moments, like a visit to Jack White’s house in Detroit, a quiet little dance scene between to long time lovers and a lot of great guitars. The only thing I would change would be Mia Wasikowska’s character, but its almost like she amplified the perfection of the rest of the film with her wrongness, perhaps harsh, but feels very true.

Ida - Paweł Pawlikowski

Sometimes great filmmaking is about restraint, and there seems no better example of this than Ida. Sparse, controlled, black and white and square format, everything about it felt absolutely essential, there is not fat on this film, its as tight as a drum, with a simple but achingly felt story that I’d rather not spoil here. Definitely worth tracking down and seeing in a quiet, dark room, preferably a cinema, duh.

Jodorosky’s Dune - Frank Pavich

I hadn’t read Dune when I first saw this film, and I’m afraid I still haven’t, and that has had very little impact on my enjoyment of this film. A brilliantly executed documentary about the making of a film that was never made, is so much more entertaining than I could ever describe here. I can quite honestly say I feel that I’ve seen Jodorsky’s Dune or as close as anyone has come. What a film it would have been. This film oozes personality and ideas, and was legitimately inspiring. An ode to grand ideas and imagination.

Honourable mentions -Kings of Summer, Blue Jasmine, The Grandmaster, Dallas Buyers Club, The To Do List, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Computer Chess, Like Someone in Love, Young and Beautiful and Side Effects.

The Essentials: Douglas Sirk

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: The Essentials: Douglas Sirk

Magnificent Obsession” (1954)
Based on the Lloyd C. Douglas novel of the same name, Sirk’s “Magnificent Obsession,” is one of the great tearjerkers of the 1950s. In his third film with Sirk, Rock Hudson, plays Bob Merrick, a rich caddish, playboy type, who in a reckless accident crashes his speedboat, and is resuscitated with equipment borrowed from the town saint Dr. Phillips. Phillips then suffers an attack of his own and dies while his equipment is being rushed back too late to save him. Changed by the unfortunate ramifications of his accident and resuscitation, Merrick is guided by an older intellectual and artist, Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger), who helps him in his mission to make things up to Dr. Phillips widow, Helen (played by Jane Wyman). On his quest for contrition there are many twists and turns, which are a touch soap opera-y (he accidentally blinds her, he then pretends to be someone else, then they fall in love and so on.) However Sirk’s aptitude for melodrama makes it all work and gives the high-stakes emotions a deeply accessible poignancy that will have the harshest cynic reaching for the tissues. The crisply-hued Technicolor only serves to make the mix of spirituality and sentimentality feel more heightened, while fantastic performances from both Hudson and Wyman also go a long way, and Wyman was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role. “Magnificent Obsession” was a box office hit for Sirk and Universal, and though it has been criticized for its hokeyness, there is no denying its importance and worth in Sirk’s canon.

20 Wedding Movies To Say “I Do” To

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: 20 Wedding Movies To Say “I Do” To

“Ceremony” (2011)
Ceremony,” Max Winkler's debut film, is a fast talking, slightly neurotic take on the wedding crasher sub-genre. With stylized and effective nods to both Whit Stillman and Wes Anderson, “Ceremony” has a lot going for it. Michael Angarano plays Sam, a wannabe children’s book author, who takes the anxious Marshall (Reece Thompson) on a weekend away on the pretense of rekindling their lapsed friendship. This turns out to be a ruse, as Sam quickly convinces his naive friend to crash the nearby wedding, which turns out to be that of his former lover Zoe (played by Uma Thurman), who he is determined to win back. Angarano and Thurman both put in strong performances, and as sort-of romantic leads, despite their height and age disparities, and pull off some convincing chemistry. “The New Girl" star Jake Johnson is effective as Zoe’s alcohol-soaked brother, who despite the somewhat one-note role, pulls the biggest laughs. The film also looks fantastic, from the crispy cinematography, to the perfectly covetable set dressing. The classic rock soundtrack never misses, with one of the standouts being Ezra Koenig's cover of Paul Simon's “Papa Hobo”. Winkler has created a group of characters that, while being flawed, are also quite sweet in their own way, which can also be said for the film itself, it doesn't always hit its marks, but it manages to charm nonetheless.

15 Great Films About Failing Relationships
Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: 15 Great Films About Failing Relationships
“Carnal Knowledge” (1971)
Oddly, “Carnal Knowledge" was marketed as a comedy upon release, but to this writer it’s more of an incisive drama of modern day struggles with sex, relationships and coming of age from resident romantic cynic and directorMike Nichols. The film follows a couple of college roommates, Jonathan and Sandy (Jack Nicholson andArt Garfunkel), who together obsess over their various sexual misadventures and eventual conquests. Sandy pursues the seemingly pure Susan (Candice Bergman) – who Jonathan secretly and simultaneously dates and beds (first no less). After college they go their separate ways, but while Sandy marries Susan, Jonathan pursues everything in a skirt, bedding a dozen odd girls a year – yet is still unable to find his physical ideal (break out the tiny violins) until he meets Bobbie (Ann-Margaret) who’s all T-and-A all the time. Their passion fizzles to dramatic blow-outs (he yells, she cries) that end in an overdose and divorce. As they grow older, Sandy and Jonathan grow more and more disillusioned by the opposite sex – but while Jonathan is angry, Sandy simply falls into complacency and nonchalance. Though the film’s frank discussions about, and depictions of, sex (a condom on screen, quelle horreur), are hardly as shocking now as they were in the 1970s, the characters’ detestability and blatant misogyny are still as unsettling as ever. Jack Nicholson is the stand-out star and Nichols, to his credit, reigns the nastiness in (somewhat) and keeps the performance from being a caricature. “Carnal Knowledge” remains a timeless and emotionally resonant portrayal of the uglier side of the male sexual psyche.

Retrospective: The Films Of Alfred Hitchcock Pt. 2 (1940-1976, The Hollywood Years)

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: Retrospective: The Films of Alfred Hitchcock Pt. 2 (1940-1976)

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"Shadow of a Doubt" (1943)
Inspired by Thornton Wilder's famous Rockwellian vision of small town America in “Our Town,” Hitchcock turns the fantasy inside out with “Shadow of a Doubt.” The story follows young teenager Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright), who longs for excitement, which arrives in the form of her namesake, her cultured Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten). When two undercover cops show up working on a “survey” of the average American family, they reveal to her that her beloved uncle may in fact be the serial killer known as the “Merry Widow Murderer,” and Charlie is forced to question her own blind loyalty to her favourite Uncle (a relationshiop that is already dripping with incestuous overtones). Cotten puts in a great show as the charming and debonair Uncle Charlie, making it as hard for audiences as it is for his niece, at first, to believe he may be a serial killer underneath it all. Hitchcock, ever a master of setting and place, creates the perfect average American family in an average American small town, complete with a chatty neighbourhood policeman to Emma Newton’s insistence that a cake cannot be made just for pictures. Park Chan-wook's upcoming “Stoker" seems to be a homage to this one, but the Korean director will have a tough task living up to its inspiration. [A-]
Hitchcock Cameo: Playing cards with his back to the camera on the train, seventeen minutes in.

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"Strangers on a Train" (1951)
“Wanna hear one of my ideas for a perfect murder?” Guy Haines (Farley Granger), a famous tennis player, is recognized on a train by Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker). Guy wants to divorce his cheating wife Miriam in order to marry Anne Morton, the daughter of a U.S. senator, and advance his career in politics. Over lamb chops on the train, Bruno also reveals he’d like his interfering father dead, and so suggests the perfect crime — an exchange of murders by perfect strangers. The conversation ends somewhat up in the air, with Guy placating the seemingly eccentric Bruno, who is satisfied a deal has been struck. Guy and Bruno’s relationship dynamic is set from the start, the seductive Bruno and the elusive Guy. Bruno ends up killing Guy’s wife, in one of the most elegantly shot strangulations scenes in cinema history, shown in reflection of Miriam’s thick glasses. Then Bruno demands that Guy keeps his end of the bargain, and Guy, with motive aplenty, is put in a tricky spot. The final confrontational climax between the men resulted in a magnificently shot action scene in which Guy and Bruno fight on a merry-go-round spun out of control, resulting in a fantastic trick shot of an explosion. “Strangers on a Train” is perfectly taut thriller, in which the two male leads shine as, respectively, the ostensibly good but pretty unlikeable guy at the wrong place at the wrong time and the creepily seductive and occasionally frenzied villain who embodies Guy’s darkest desires. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name, Hitchcock endured a grueling adaption process with endless rewrites, but his passion for the story never waned, and is clear in the final product, filling it with double-entendres and masterful film noirish use of black and white and shadow — and a number of shots still obsessing film students today. Despite its shocking-by-1950s-standards themes, with homosexual overtones galore, “Strangers on a Train” did gangbusters at the box office and critical esteem for the film has only grown with time. [A]
Hitchcock Cameo: Continuing the ever-growing string-instrument theme from “Spellbound” and “The Paradine Case,” getting on  train with a double bass ten minutes into the film. All he needed was a viola and he would have had a quartet.

Retrospective: The Films Of Alfred Hitchcock Pt. 1 (1925-1939)

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: Retrospective: The Films of Alfred Hitchcock Pt. 1 (1925 - 1939)

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"The 39 Steps" (1935)
Probably the first truly great Hitchcock picture, this is the one where everything that he’d been working toward coalesces into a gripping, enormously entertaining chase thriller that feels like it could have been made yesterday. Adapted by “Blackmail" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" scribe Charles Bennett (really finding a groove with the director), from the seminal 1915 spy novel by John Buchan, it sees the perfectly ordinary Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) finding himself embroiled in an espionage ring after watching a performance at a music hall in London, England. Wrongly identified as a spy and a murderer, he flees London for Scotland, pursued by various agents of the law and the underworld. Enter the soon to be tried-and-true, Hitchcock Icy Blonde, played by Madeleine Carroll, who becomes entangled in the chase. Slightly more screwball and playful than some of the director’s other films of the period, it’s filled with sight-gags (including poor Carrol being handcuffed to Donat and dragged every-which-way, much to Hitchcock’s delight) that mix nicely with the more classically Hitchcockian spy-chase-suspense-thriller narrative, establishing a formula that would serve him well over the decades to come. Donat makes a perfectly dapper and surprisingly physically impressive lead, who meets mortal peril with debonair quips and self-deprecating charm — it’s a shame it’s his only work with Hitchcock — while Carroll is the template for the Hitchcock female lead, sexy, smart and strong-willed. It’s been remade three times since, but this stands head and shoulders above all the others, and really sees the director come of age, truly bringing him to the attention of world audiences (thanks to its stars, it was a huge hit both home and abroad). [A]
Hitchcock Cameo: Throwing away a cigarette box outside the theatre at the 06:56 mark.

The Overrated And Underrated Films Of 2012

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature:Overrated and Underrated Films of 2012

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Underrated: “Bachelorette”
Theres been a lot of talk of late about women in comedy, which felt like a pretty redundant conversation when it began: is the question “Are women funny?” really something we’re asking in the 21st century  After all the success of “Bridesmaids" last year, it seems, unfortunately, that the pendulum swung back the other way, with a backlash against women doing “gross-out humour." Unfortunately this kind of sentiment seemed to wash over into the reviews of Leslye Headland’s first film “Bachelorette" — which definitely features its fair share of gross-out moments, pavement licking and wedding dresses being used as toilet paper, but also goes beyond that. "Bachelorette" isn’t funny like Judd Apatow films are funny, instead it’s full of biting one-liners and black humour, it’s a bit nasty and as smart as heck. You probably don’t want to hang out with all the characters at a bar after the movie like I did after seeing “Bridesmaids,” but the leads in “Bachelorette” ring truer than most female characters do in film these days, for better or worse. Headland has created the kind of female characters that are severely underrepresented, ones with actual problems, who aren’t always nice but also have shades of grey, are at least semi-functional and maybe talk to each other about something other than a dude once in a while. She also casts it brilliantly, with leads Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, all committing to their roles as the “bitchelorettes” with gusto and putting in charismatic performances. The supporting guys aren’t half bad either with both James Marsdenand Adam Scott filling their roles with perfect panache. “Bachelorette” may not be a comforting feel good comedy, but that doesn’t make it any less insightful, witty or entertaining.

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Overrated: “Holy Motors”
Perhaps “Holy Motors" is only overrated in certain circles of cinephilia — its not likely to win any major awards nor make millions at the box office, but critical reception has been overwhelmingly glowing, with the film making decent showings in both the Sight and Sound andCahiers du Cinema best of 2012 list. Yes, Denis Levant,the star, the lead, the one with the most screen time, is great, but a film this well reviewed should be more than just an actor’s vehicle. Instead, Leos Carax's picture feels repetitive, pushing the same points about reality, fantasy, representation and viewership over and over — and to tell the truth they weren’t that insightful the first time 'round. Sometimes Carax makes his point in visually arresting ways, and in other scenes he comes close to being emotionally touching, but this is a film that feels all too pleased with its own cleverness, quietly laughing at the viewer for taking any of it seriously. “Holy Motors” ticks a lot of boxes in terms of intertextual references, which will surely make it great fodder for a Film Studies course, but grows tiresome over the course of the film. Its also full of obvious and unaffecting scenes that seem to appear purely for “shock value” — Levant’s green-suited, flower-eating devil, from his naked erection to bloody finger biting, feels tired and even dated, as do the out of place co-stars like Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, who both felt useless in this film, whether purposefully or not. To wrap the film up, Carax’s final scenes only further trivialise the last 100 odd minutes that the audience has endured. Its hard not to feel that one of these vignettes could have been an entertaining short, but as a feature, and a lauded one no less, it is simply tiresome.

15 Of The Best Baseball Movies

Excerpt from the The Playlist feature: 15 of the Best Baseball Movies

A League Of Their Own” (1992)
The story of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which started in 1942 with all the male ballplayers fighting in WWII, “A League of Their Own" is something of a touchstone for any female athletes of a certain age told they simply weren’t good enough. With a snappy script of quotable one-liners, thePenny Marshall-directed comedy also manages to tug its share of heartstrings. “A League of Their Own” managed to not only make baseball accessible and riveting to non-fans as well as fanatics, it showed that the sport was grueling and the girls (and guys) who played it played hard and suffered for the game they loved. It features a great ensemble cast, including alpha female Geena Davis fresh off “Thelma And Louise,” Madonna in one of her better acting turns, Tom Hanks, playing against type as the blotto Jimmy Dugan and a scene-stealing Rosie O’Donnell as Madonna’s loudmouth BFF. The narrative unspools in extended flashback, illustrating the conflict between Dottie Hinson (Davis) and plucky younger sister Kit Keller (Lori Petty), as two sides of a coin: one who is settled in the traditional values of marriage and family, and the other who yearns for the new freedom the AAGPL offers. Their reluctant alcoholic and antagonistic manager Dugan (Hanks) doesn’t take it seriously and instead Hinson steps up as manager, fueling an inevitable separation, creating a rift both personal and professional. Though at moments “A League of Their Own” can veer into sappy cliché territory, Marshall’s ability to keep baseball at the cinematic center, as well as effectively combine laughs, gasps and tears (even though “there’s no crying in baseball!”), make this film a heartfelt favorite, baseball fans or no.

Fall In Love: The Playlist’s Favorite Romantic Comedies
Excerpt from the The Playlist feature:Fall In Love: The Playlist’s Favorite Romantic Comedies

"Harold and Maude" (1971)
As far as loveable rom-com couples go, it’s hard to look past Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude.” It’s the kind of film I can’t really imagine being made today, with the story centering on the innocent romance between the young death-obsessed Harold (played byBud Cort) and the 79-year-old and carefree Dame Marjorie “Maude” Chardin (Ruth Gordon). The film’s setupof Cat Stevens singing “Don’t Be Shy,” as Harold methodically goes through the motions of faking his own death, to the complete lack of amusement or shock of his mother who walks in on him, sets the tone beautifully for this romantic comedy, that balances its blackish heart with a sweet first love/coming of age story. Harold and Maude meet at a mutual stranger’s funeral, and Harold falls hard for Maude, who shows him there is more to life than death e.g. flowers, dancing and playing the banjo, which in the hands of a lesser actress would be insufferably twee. Though Cort was in his early 20s when the film was made, his wide-eyed stare and floppy hair make him appear eternally boyish, in contrast with Gordon’s Maude, who is in no way the graceful ageing lady – but as a couple they are incredibly endearing, and the film’s effective statement of a deep connection winning over superficiality in the game of love should not be overlooked. Laughs come courtesy of Harold’s idiot mother who tries to set him up with various prospective wives, who he frightens off with more phony, gore-filled suicide attempts so he can instead go on adventures with Maude and her petty-crime sprees. Ashby made the inspired choice of having Cat Stevens soundtrack the film, perfectly underscoring some of the sadder moments, to the point of tears on more than one occasion for this writer. In fact, it’s the film’s mix of deadpan humour and heartfelt emotions that make it so adorable and continuously watchable. — Sam Chater

The Films Of Richard Linklater: A Retrospective
Excerpt from the The Playlist feature:The Films Of Richard Linklater: A Retrospective
Before Sunrise" (1995)
Continuing the theme of shooting what he knew, Linklater turned one of his own personal love stories into one of the great indie romances of the ’90s. “Before Sunrise” centres on two characters, the slightly cynical but moreover dreamy romantic American Jesse (Ethan Hawke), and the idealistic but grounded French Celine (Julie Delpy). The two meet by chance and begin talking on a train from Budapest, Celine on her way back to Paris, Jesse on his way to Vienna for 24 hours before he flies back to America. He convinces her to alight in Vienna with him to continue their conversation, and so it begins, a 14-hour marathon conversation (not in real time, fortunately…) which must end, as the title implies, at sunrise. It sounds banal, but much of what they say about life, love, politics et al. is interesting and insightful, and reveals hidden depths of the two young characters still trying to “figure it out”. As their time together runs out, the two decide instead of risking their spark fizzling long distance, to instead meet up in six months in Vienna, leaving a tantalising will they/won’t they to the ending. Linklater took great care with his casting, and he chose well, Hawke and Delpy not only put in fantastic performances, but their natural romantic tension is intoxicating; both actors are also said to have contributed uncredited work to the script, which is not hard to believe, considering the naturalism in their delivery. Between that and Linklater’s unobtrusive shooting style, full of tracking shots and extended takes, its hard to remember what you’re watching isn’t actually two people really having the most important night of their lives. [A-]

Tape" (2001)
This drama, made simultaneously with “Waking Life,” reads like a filmmaking exercise — made in real time, with the then-new digital camera, with limited sets (a small motel room with an adjoining bathroom) and only three actors, even if those actors are Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard. Based on a one-act play of the same name written by Stephen Belber and set in Lansing, Michigan, the motel room is rented by drug dealer and volunteer firefighter Vince (Hawke), who may also have a hot temper and semi-violent tendencies. He’s there in theory to support his high school friend Jon (Leonard), a documentary filmmaker who has a film in a local festival. While the two are reminiscing, an argument about the circumstances under which Jon slept with Vince’s high school girlfriend Amy (Thurman) years ago comes up. Vince coerces an incriminating confession out of Jon, which he catches on tape. Of course Vince has also invited Amy to the party, and the conversation just gets more bizarre and heated from there, ending with a neat little plot twist. This is where Linklater is most at home directing realistic dialogue that is both interesting and insightful to the human condition. He uses the digital camera to great effect, swiftly moving it from person to person, amplifying the emotions as they grow increasingly heated. Adapting theatre plays to film is not the obvious slam dunk you’d think, but “Tape" manages to capture the live feel, while also making the rapid-fire dialogue and limited setting work to the film’s advantage. Linklater also gives the cast room to stretch beyond traditional “movie star” acting with Hawke in particular shining, proving once again that both he and Linklater consistently bring out the best in each other. It’s not surprising that it was Hawke who approached Linklater with "Tape," and asked long-time friend Leonard and then-wife Thurman to co-star. Intended for TV, it was decided to release the film theatrically based on the final cut of the film, and it joined "Waking Life" at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.  [B-]


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