Nearly three decades before the World Trade Center towers became sites of real-life tragedy and mythic icons of the war on terrorism, they served as the staging ground for an entirely different act. On August 7, 1974, a tiny figure stepped out into the space between the buildings. He didn't fall, nor did he jump -- although audiences watching James Marsh’s Sundance award-winning documentary Man On Wire may be reminded of the terrible images of those who did during 9/11. Philippe Petit was actually balancing on a wire suspended between the structures, but from the ground, it looked as if he was walking on nothing but air.
I returned from two and a half years of living abroad to discover that Beverly Hills, 90210, my guilty teenage pleasure, was being resurrected. This would be the perfect transition back to American culture, right?
Remember the first day of school? Blundering around lost, filled with a sense of unseen peril, hot dread, and anticipation? For those of us too old or too traumatized to remember, the CW's thrown together a refresher course that will evoke all those emotions -- 90210.
Claustrophobes beware -- every October or November, millions of Cambodians jam into their capital city, Phnom Penh, for a riotous three-day water festival, clogging the riverside boulevard that runs in front of the royal palace. Although Bon Om Touk is much beloved for providing opportunities to watch boat races, slurp fertilized duck eggs, and indulge in flirtation, the festival celebrates historic Khmer maritime prowess and an even older phenomenon -- the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap Lake. This switch brings streams of fish that provide 60 percent of the country's overall inland catch.
Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai made his name chronicling romantic alienation with an unmistakable visual style. But his new film, My Blueberry Nights, is atmospherically innocuous and contentedly middle-aged. What happened?
Wong Kar-Wai at the 2006 International Cannes film festival. (AP Photo/Laurent Emmanuel)
Wong Kar-Wai is cursed by the sort of foamingly mad fans who will keep a filmmaker treed for life. As one of this barking group, I'd say that the devotion is inspired by both the Hong Kong director's unmistakable visual language and by his capacity as an expert chronicler of romantic alienation. Couple Wong's obsessive attention to stylistic detail -- aching slow-mo, ravishingly saturated color palettes and costume design, all set to the naked confession of pop songs -- with the immortal rhythms of romance gone wrong, and it's no surprise that Wong's work would inspire the vigilance of a jealous lover: He's mine!
The opening of Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days demands much by showing little. A half-full fish tank. Rising smoke. Clutter sprawled on a kitchen table. A hand reaches in, taps ash off the end of a cigarette, withdraws. This strange still life is viewed from a static mid-level position, through a gaze as dispassionate as that of a security camera. In this film, the opening says, it's the background that counts.