Film Fest: “Melancholia” & “Patience”

I got a double dose yesterday at the New York Film Festival’s press screenings (the official opening night is Friday, September 30). First I saw Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia.” Some of the imagery in this apocalyptic study of a depressive young woman (Kirsten Dunst, pictured) and her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is very beautiful in a Gregory Crewdson kind of way. And the soundtrack’s use of a motif from “Tristan und Isolde” is one of the few times that a Wagnerian quotation heightened a film for me rather than just reminding me of how titanic an artist Wagner was and how stupid it is when his lessers appropriate him. I wish I could say that “Melancholia” accumulated for me but alas no: I found it more admirable the recommendable. I had quite the opposite reaction to “Patience (After Sebald),” Grant Gee’s ingenious exploration of W. G. Sebald’s book “The Rings of Saturn.” Not a biopic of Sebald, who died in 2001, but a non-linear mood piece about a walking tour Sebald undertook in Suffolk. The movie’s canniest strategy was to use a Sebaldian oblique approach to its subjects. Very stimulating.

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