January 15 - 21, 1999
In a fascinating review of THE THIN RED LINE by T. Malick, in this week's edition of the CHICAGO READER, Rosenbaum also discuss' INSIDE/OUT. www.chireader.com/movies/archives/1999/0199/01159.html. There was also a short review of INSIDE/OUT in the "Critic's Pick" section Quotes from that review follow. The entire review can be found at www.chireader.com "A person could more profitably compare The Thin Red Line, currently playing at McClurg Court, with Rob Tregenza's Inside/Out, playing in a one-week run at Facets Multimedia Center (and Inside/Out is a Critic's Choice this week in Section Two). But the parallels between these two epic experiments are pretty striking. Each is the third feature of a prodigiously talented middle-aged eccentric and original thinker with a background in existential philosophy that informs every artistic move he makes. Both films are shot in wide-screen 35-millimeter with Dolby sound (though Tregenza's film is in black and white). And both filmmakers are passionately (and unfashionably) devoted to the aesthetics of silent cinema: The Thin Red Line makes as many visual references to F.W. Murnau's Tabu (1931) as Days of Heaven makes to Murnau's Sunrise (1927) and City Girl (1930), and Tregenza, who likes to film pantomimes in long shot, includes on his Web site a beautiful quotation from Luigi Pirandello that applies almost as well to Malick's film: "The screenplay should remain a wordless art because it is essentially a medium for the expression of the unconscious." The films share narrative strategy as well. Both discard the conventions of a central character and a single story, running a relay between many disparate characters in the same rural setting, none of whom is subjected to any moral judgment. And both are a little too long for what they can achieve dramatically--Tregenza's film is just under two hours, Malick's just under three--but that's because both are overly ambitious. If you agree with me that 90 percent of the movies made nowadays are insufficiently ambitious, being overly ambitious is a shared flaw that deserves our deepest respect. Both filmmakers value physical environment as much as "action" in the ordinary sense, and both--albeit in very different ways--use the cleavage and disruptions produced by World War II to reflect on the second half of the 20th century. Yet they're playing to different audiences in radically different venues. Inside/Out--made for a tiny fraction of the other picture's budget, with no stars to speak of--has had too limited and piecemeal a national release since its 1997 premiere at Cannes to qualify even as a minor contender in any present or future NSFC awards, even in the experimental category. No articles about Inside/Out will show up in Vanity Fair or Premiere, no reviews will grace mainstream magazines or TV shows, no qualifying Oscar screenings will be held anywhere. Economically and culturally speaking--which in this country generally amounts to the same thing--the two pictures are never going to be permitted to inhabit the same universe. The fact that Tregenza's distribution company, Cinema Parallel, has allowed us to see Michael Haneke's The Seventh Continent, Bela Tarr's Satantango, Jacques Rivette's Up Down Fragile, and several recent films by Jean-Luc Godard locates him in a separate cosmos as far as most critics are concerned. So any context that can accommodate him and Malick has to be created by the audience." Malick's intimate acquaintance with the aesthetics of silent cinema reaches well past Murnau. The punctuating shots of nature in the midst of combat--a wounded bird, a riddled leaf, a hill of waving grass--are pure silent-movie syntax, as is the notion of a collective war hero (often found in films and fiction about World War I; William March's 1933 book Company K is one distinguished example). The poetic and philosophical internal monologues of Malick's various soldiers, often paired with a sustained and soulful close-up of the character, are the structural equivalent of intertitles in silent films of the teens and 20s. This is a precious legacy that most major filmmakers of the 90s (excepting Godard, Tarr, Tregenza, Manuel de Oliveira, and a handful of others who live outside the Oscars sweepstakes) have either forgotten or never discovered in the first place--a sensibility that frees images from the tyranny of the sound track, allowing them to register in all their primordial power--and the major achievements of The Thin Red Line would be unthinkable without it."
copyright J Rosenbaum Chicago Reader
CRITIC'S PICK OF THE WEEK. " An uncredited Jean-Luc Godard produced this 1997 third feature by the singular American independent Rob Tregenza (Talking to Strangers, The Arc), and along with Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, Godard is certainly a presiding guru over this powerful if enigmatic view of life in and around a psychiatric hospital somewhere in rural, snowbound America. Shot by Tregenza himself (one of the best cinematographers on the planet) in black-and-white 35-millimeter 'Scope--mainly in extremely long, choreographed takes that transpire with a minimum of dialogue but with an extremely inventive and original Dolby sound track--the film offers not so much a plot in the usual sense as a series of interlocking characters and events governed, like the film's title, by polarities: sound and image, interior and exterior, sanity and madness, freedom and institutional captivity, society and isolation. According to clues planted in the clothes and decor (especially the cars), the action begins around 1945 and ends in the present or near future, but to confuse matters further the characters and their behavior remain unaging constants. Tregenza's background in existential philosophy serves him well: every shot comprises an event, and most of them were shot only once, in a single take (as in Talking to Strangers), allowing change and contingency to shape the material. Art conceived as both adventure and confrontation, Inside/Out requires a certain amount of creative energy from the audience but grandly repays the effort. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, January 15, 7:00 and 9:15; Saturday and Sunday, January 16 and 17, 2:30, 4:45, 7:00, and 9:15; and Monday through Thursday, January 18 through 21, 7:00 and 9:15; 773-281-4114.