Monday, April 24, 2017

November (2017) Tribeca 2017

After the first press screening for Tribeca my friends who attended it described it as both the best film at the festival and the worst- at the same time. Having seen the film myself I completely understand why they said that. A film of singular vision it has sequences that will make you sit wide eyed and slack jaw at the beauty and raw power of them, while at other times the film just boggles the mind making you wonder what they were thinking. Either way the film is a masterpiece and grand piece of cinematic art.

The film is set in a time when Christianity and pagan beliefs intermingle. The dead come home on All Saints Day for a meal, the Devil can your soul in exchange for magic, and people do turn into werewolves. Everyone steals from everyone else. As everyone tries to get by with as little effort as possible a girl named Liina falls hopelessly in love with a boy named Hans and pines for him so much she turns into a werewolf.

I’m only touching on the plot of the film. There is great deal going on the film but not a lot of it lays together in any sort of narrative arc. This is a film which has its mind more on the ideas it is playing with. Do we need a soul? What is the nature of being alive? Is the purpose of life to work? The thin narrative is used to string together a series of scenes that kind of explore these ideas and others.

Visually arresting the black and white photography will take your breath away. Squalor has never looked this good. This is a film where the images instantly transports you into another time and place. It’s a film that reminded me of the monochrome work of Andre Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Jim Jarmusch or Aleksei German. And not only visually narratively the film echoes some of the best work of these but other directors as well. Everything seems other worldly. The monochrome sheen creates pure a place that by passes our conscious mind and goes straight into the center where our dreams live.

Sequences play out as waking dreams the opening bit where one of the kratts steals a cow and flies it back to its master is one of the most amazing things you’ll see all year. Even though you’ll know how it was done you’ll still marvel at how real it plays. All the scenes with the kratts are some of the best in the film. The kratts are creatures made from farm tools that are given life by the devil in exchange by the devil (think something from a Jan Svankmajer or Quay Brothers film). They have to work or they will die- though giving them an impossible task can result in unfortunate results.

If you’ll notice I’m only speaking of the film in pieces and that is because in many ways the film does not hang together. As amazing as the film is in its parts, it never quite hangs together some sequences are just strange, others ramble on with no clear point and others don’t quite work. Things don’t always link up and we have to connect a good number of dots. The result moments where our spirits soar are occasionally followed by ones where we are moving through mayonnaise. It’s extremely frustrating and makes you want to scream at the screen.

And yet despite the films problems I would argue the film is must see.

The moments that work, the visuals and many of the thematic elements keep the film from completely crashing and burning. As several of my fellow writers told me when they saw the film a month ago said-this is among the best and the worst films you’ll see all year at the same time. This is a film that is truly a singular vision and the work of a completely and utterly mad director. Love it or hate it when you are done seeing NOVEMBER you will know you have seen a film.

If you want to see something special, if you want to see a film that is unlike anything else and which will make your mouth hang open in wonder even as it bumping around then you must see NOVEMBER which is one of the best films and one of the worst films at Tribeca

1 comment:

  1. It certainly is one of the best films I have EVER seen at ANY Tribeca Festival--such a brilliantly filmed and creatively wrought cinematic treat, so hope you won't mind that I must laughingly reject the disclaimer about it also being the worst. Tribeca has rarely scaled such heights.