Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Bronstein’

Kid’s-eye view of a constant state of emergency

May 12, 2010

In this week’s Village Voice J. Hoberman reviews Benny and Josh Safdie’s “Daddy Longlegs” (2009), which, as you’ll recall, was my favorite narrative feature from the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival. Indeed, I liked it so much that I ranked it #4 on my list of the top 10 movies that screened in Madison more than once over the course of the past school year.

Hoberman’s take on the film’s protagonist, Ronald Bronstein’s Lenny (not to be confused with his girlfriend, Leni), is pretty harsh, almost unsmiling; put simply, Hoberman seems to have been much less amused by Lenny’s various parental screw-ups than I was. Yet, he also seems to have found an especially spacious room in the film via forehead-slapping observation of Lenny’s bad behavior that I myself wasn’t able to spend much if any time in: the psychological—or, more precisely, psychodramatic—dimension of “Daddy Longlegs,” the discreetly raw dialectic formed by its 9-year-old adults and 40-something toddlers.

Keep your fingers crossed that “Daddy Longlegs” gets released on DVD some time in the next few months. It definitely deserves to be revisited.

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The WFF continues

April 16, 2010

Although Wednesday was Day 1 of the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival, it seems fair to say that the fest didn’t kick off in earnest until last night. I caught two films: Benny and Josh Safdie’s revelatory “Daddy Longlegs” (2009) and Bong Joon-ho’s ridiculous and ridiculously fun “The Host” (2006).

“Daddy Longlegs,” formerly known as “Go Get Some Rosemary,” overflowed with feeling, charm and painful honesty; Ronald Bronstein’s performance as Lenny, a film projectionist who apparently attended the William Burroughs school of parenting, is the strongest and most magnetic I’ve seen so far this year, trumping even the excellent work of Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig in “Greenberg.” “Daddy Longlegs” will screen again at 11 on Saturday morning at the MMoCA; there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be there for seconds.

“The Host” had its Orpheum audience in the palm of its slimy, mutant-reptilian hand. The film was hammy as hell, unsubtle in its politics and grandly operatic in its overall sensibility. The visual texture of “The Host” was really something: dirty, damp, bloody at times, scaly—and then abruptly sterile, clean, white. It certainly helped that I had plenty of good company with me at the screening, of course.

For more on yesterday’s proceedings, check out Sally Franson’s coverage over at the Isthmus. (A line formed at the Orpheum for “The Host” at 9:30? Yeesh. I walked in at 10:10 and had no trouble finding a prime seat.)

As far as today (Day 3) is concerned, there’s much to do and see. In today’s DC you’ll find a batch of recommendations from my colleagues Kevin Slane, Kyle Sparks, Mark Riechers and Todd Stevens; it looks to me like they made some good picks.

Me, I’ll be attending “Collateral” at the Orpheum at 4:30 (the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis will introduce), “Harmony and Me” at the Union Theater at 7:45 (director Bob Byington will be in attendance and will do a Q&A after the screening) and “It Came from Kuchar” at the Play Circle at 9:45 (to be preceded by George Kuchar’s “500 Millibars to Ecstasy”). I’ve got big-time expectations for all three.

Whatever you do, go see some goddamn movies.

Painful viewing

January 27, 2010

Sometimes the measure of a film’s effectiveness is the degree to which it hurts its viewer, that is to say, the amount of pain—psychological or visceral—it inflicts upon her. After all, only suckers think that works of art are objects designed and produced to arouse pleasure on the part of the spectator.

If the above is true, then Ronald Bronstein’s “Frownland” (2007) is about as blissfully excruciating a movie as you’ll ever see. It isn’t frustrating like, say, Larry David is frustrating; it’s much closer to having rock-laden sand kicked in your face repeatedly for 107 minutes. But, as they say, therein lies the point: “Frownland”‘s portrayal of a small network of individuals who each embody the grotesque in uniquely cringe-inducing ways is one of the more affecting cinematic experiences I’ve had in a good long while. Bronstein presents the flesh as a nerve-ridden pincushion, the intellect as a machine for manufacturing fashionably right-sounding pseudo-wisdom (when it’s functioning smoothly, that is) and the city as a gargantuan, claustrophobic, candlelit asylum. Not a pretty picture, but it’s got truth oozing from its pores.

When my viewing of “Frownland” ended last night, my curious (and probably disturbed) roommate asked me “What the hell were you just watching?” I replied with something to the effect of “Oh, some movie. One minute, I need to get it out of our apartment.” And with that I rushed out to return it to Four Star Video Heaven (where it just recently arrived on DVD). In its absence, my apartment became a considerably more pleasant environment.

So yeah, I’d be very interested in revisiting it sometime—just not sometime soon.

Here’s a trailer for the film… with French subtitles, of course.