Honestly, it’s probably best not to try… but here goes.
Fifty years is a long time. Unfortunately, it has not been long enough to distance America from the depicted in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. There’s Motown music in the background and the cars look old, but otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single moment of the movie that doesn’t crackle with contemporary relevance. Bigelow’s direction is as frenetic as it has ever been, one-upping the verisimilitude she showed in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. This has become a popular stylistic choice for hard-hitting stories that straddle the line between drama and thriller, from United 93 to Children Of Men.
Bigelow’s latest film falls into this sub-genre, technically, though I’m not sure either “drama” or “thriller” is the best descriptor. Detroit is a horror movie, tense and relentless and deeply upsetting.
Technically, yes, it is a movie, but the experience I have watching it is something different. Upon viewing Lars Von Trier’s Dogville in theaters, I felt like I’d just seen a very intimate and powerful stage production, not a film. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was a little like that, too — the fact that time really is unfolding over the years for these actors, along with their characters, wipes the usual artifice of cinema away.
A Ghost Story is the latest such film. I liken seeing it to going to an artist’s exhibition — the scenes are like individual pieces. You stop there for a minute or two, think about what you’re seeing, what it makes you feel… and then move on.
“Babe with the power.”
“Power of voodoo.”
“Remind me of the babe.”
“Maybe Michael couldn’t commit to this marriage, so he created a delusion… produced an unconscious, psychosomatic manifestation of… I’m better with food. Okay? You’re Michael. You’re in a fancy French restaurant. You order crème brûlée for dessert. It’s beautiful, it’s sweet, it’s irritatingly perfect. Suddenly, Michael realizes he doesn’t want crème brûlée. He wants something else…”
“What does he want?”
“Jell-O? Why does he want Jell-O?”
“Because he’s comfortable with Jell-O!”