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Aren Bergstrom

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About Aren Bergstrom

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  • Occupation
    Writer/Director/Film Critic
  • Favorite movies
    Return of the Jedi, Spirited Away, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blue Velvet
  • Favorite music
    Kendrick Lemar, The Beach Boys, Editors
  • Favorite creative writing
    Dune, The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby
  • Favorite visual art
    Hokusai, The Group of Seven, Vincent van Gogh, J.M.W. Turner

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  1. I'll probably take in a film or two if the in-person festival ends up happening, but it'll be absolutely bizarre, to say the least. I have no interest in the online stuff. TIFF's website infrastructure is so bad that I have no trust in them handling a streaming service. CBC Gem and Crave (two Canadian-only streaming services) are bad enough when it comes to quality and buffering. I don't trust a cash-strapped organization like TIFF actually handling the online portion.
  2. I rewatched The Last Wave last night after watching it for the first time back in June when I was knocking off some Peter Weir blindspots. What a beguiling film, one that percolated around my head for the past month, which is what prompted me to put it on again. Not surprising that I liked it even more the second time. In many ways, the film hits some familiar notes in its general conceit about a white man trying to do right by a colonized people. Richard Chamberlain's David Burton has a bit of a white saviour complex (a colleague even calls him out for his bourgeois attitudes towards the Aborigines) and his adamance about using the defense of "tribal cursing" as the cause of death in their trial shows that he wants to exoticize them in order to save them, but by doing so, such an approach would keep them at a remove, keep them Other. But unlike with so many other stories of this sort, Weir is not satisfied with leaving the dynamic there. He complicates the white saviour complex so much by not only digging into David's selfish motivations for helping Chris and the other men (it's suggested that he thinks that if he helps them, his bad dreams will go away, since they may be an aspect of white guilt), but by making David some kind of apocalyptic figure within their understanding of the Dreamtime. This raises all sorts of colonial implications, as in many ways, the appearance of white settlers in Australia was the End Times for Aborigine Australians—their way of life was destroyed. Furthermore, the film parallels the divide between Aborigine culture and settler culture with the divide between the Dreamtime and the waking world. This materializes the cultural divide between the two peoples—it's not just that they see the world in different ways, but that they are literally tapping into different realities and experiencing the world in different ways. There's so much to unpack here. Maybe I'll get around to writing something for 3 Brothers Film and clarifying much of my admiration for this film. As it stands right now, I can hardly think of a better movie about colonial relations or about the shift between waking and dreaming. (I noticed a lot of talk about The Last Wave in the Picnic at Hanging Rock thread, but no individual thread, so I hope I'm not doubling up.)
  3. That's a nice little blurb. I think Weir is perpetually under-appreciated. I'm always down for more discussion of his work. Hopefully I can knock off the rest of my blindspots of his work in the next few weeks.
  4. I didn't have the energy to watch The Last Wave last night, so instead put on The Cars That Ate Paris, which left me baffled. It's a strange mix between a kind of kitchen-sink drama and Ozspoiltation. There are some interesting ideas bubbling beneath the surface of this film, but I'm not sure any of it comes together in a satisfying manner. Aside from the one (accidentally?) striking image of the police officer brandishing the door of his car with the word "pig" spray painted across it and wielding a bloody makeshift spear, I didn't find the film particularly invigorating. Anyone feel passionately about this film, either good or bad? I'm curious to hear what people's thoughts are. (Apologies if this thread already exists somewhere. I searched, but couldn't find one.)
  5. Just caught up with this film last night as I've had Peter Weir's early Australian films on my Criterion Channel list for a while. What a mysterious film. It seems to channel some of those quintessential 1970s movies techniques—superimposition of images, inserts shots of nature, elliptical editing patterns—but it doesn't use them simply to create horror, as say, The Wicker Man does, or to play into any kind of New Age textual elements (although I did get a sense that Ari Aster's Midsommar may have been inspired by this film in some respects). The girls that disappear certainly inhabit the idea of "liberated individuals" within the film, (which would normally be embodied by New Age characters in these sorts of films) but they don't belong to a different world than the others characters here. They're simply the individuals drawn beyond their rigid lives, and they're seemingly swallowed by the landscape because of it. Repression seems to be a big part of the film's subtext, but I don't think a simple reading of sexual repression/liberation works without also taking into account all the colonial implications of the film's use of geography. Despite there being no Aboriginal characters in the film, I find it impossible not to see Hanging Rock as somewhat emblematic of true Australia here. As well, the upper class English seem so clearly out of place in that specific landscape. It's as if the landscape itself makes the girls disappear in a bid to disrupt the colonial presence and go back to nature. The whole experience left me with a lot to think about. I look forward to catching up with The Last Wave in the next few days, hopefully.
  6. I took advantage of the recent long weekend in Canada to finally watch A Brighter Summer Day after having recently caught up with Taipei Story, The Terrorizers, and his segment in In Our Time. Add my voice to the chorus of praise. I was pretty wowed by it, not only by how dense it is, but by the amount of care that went into every composition and character interaction. What struck me most about it is that it never achieves an epic scale, despite being three minutes shy of four hours, which means that the length of the film is there to help us understand these characters and this world in great detail, not to blow up the interpersonal conflicts into a struggle for the ages. But at the same time, Xiao S'ir and the many other characters in the film do stand in as kind of heroes of a historical romance, set at the turning of a society and representing the greater social movements as a whole. It's hard to think of another movie off the top of my head that does a better job of having characters act as historical and social symbols while also investing in these characters as human beings. Thus, A Brighter Summer Day and Wang's other works like Taipei Story do an incredible job of using character and conflict as a means of exploring the overarching changes of a society, but without reducing the characters to mere ciphers. It's a neat balance and a good indicator of how special this movie is.
  7. Aren Bergstrom

    The Matrix

    Was going to comment here and link back to my review from 2019 about how to perceive the significance of the film, but I see that Anders has already done so. So... carry on, gentlemen.
  8. I am not on the voting committee so have no say in the Top 100, but your breakdown of the power of Blue Velvet, Darren, is amazing. Blue Velvet is my favourite "dramatic film" (the only movies I like more are Return of the Jedi, Spirited Away, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which are all fantasies of various sorts) and so if I was voting on this Top 100, it'd sit at or near the top. You beautifully capture two things that are absolutely critical to understanding Blue Velvet: 1. We are meant to be implicated in the sadism on display. We are Jeffrey in the closet. 2. The robins are not satire or a cute symbol of innocence. They are profound love. In this current pandemic, I often find myself remarking to my wife (who admires Lynch and loves Twin Peaks especially, but isn't a big moviegoer) that "there is trouble 'til the robins come", using it as the shorthand for hoping for the moment when the pandemic ends and fear leaves us. Sandy talking about her dream is such a profound moment in the film and has become a shorthand for my own way of expressing goodness in the world. If that's not spiritual power in cinema, I don't know what is. Me too, although in a much more condensed manner than you describe (I'm not even 30, so obviously that is the case). First time, in high school, I was cautiously admiring but more than a little disturbed. Second time in university made me reconsider just how formally audacious the movie is. Then when I finally started living on my own and went off to film school, I watched it again and it basically clicked that Jeffrey Beaumont is probably the character I most connect with in all of cinema. Understanding myself in Jeffrey was one of those "Aha!" moviegoing moments and the film went from being something I greatly respected and thought was brilliantly constructed to something I love and see the world through. I love many other David Lynch works, most notably Twin Peaks, but I don't think anything else he has done captures the essence of his art in such a complete manner. It's the combination of genre and avant-garde, evil and love, camp and nostalgia, that defines him, but all in one perfect two-hour package. So, whoever is voting, please put this at the top of your Lynch works. It's his best.
  9. I did the predictable and binged Tiger King not long after the pandemic started. The absurdity is appalling and undeniably entertaining, but it's also little more than a freak show. More recently, I finished up season two of Narcos: Mexico and season five of Better Call Saul, both of which were excellent, especially the latter. Now, I find myself with no active show to watch aside from the weekly episodes of The Last Dance to give me my sports fix. I'm tempted to delve back into Star Trek: The Next Generation as I find the Star Trek series among the most comforting (and best) series ever made. And if there's one thing that is comforting right now, it's watching excellent leadership react in the face of crisis on an episodic basis.
  10. Aren Bergstrom


    The images of stillsuits hew pretty closely to what I imagined. Of course, I'm most excited for when they finally reveal what the sandworms look like.
  11. You say it much better than I could. Yes, this is what the film captures.
  12. I really loved Beau travail when I saw it on the big screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto at a rep screening. I've been pretty mixed on Denis' other films that I've seen. That being said, I don't know if "spiritual" is the first word that would come to mind when describing the film. I feel like there is definitely something elemental to the film's allegorical storytelling, and Lavant's performance is especially primal. That final scene is transporting, but I feel like it's more of an emotional eruption than a some spiritual transcendence, but I'm open to the film operating on a higher wavelength than the pure repression of the flesh that drives so much of the plot. In my review from last spring, I mention that the ending is a "furious sequence of emotional expression, both beautiful and violent." Perhaps such an emotional outburst would necessarily be coupled with something spiritually uplifting, as if for once in his life, Galoup can finally be himself. I'm sure a revisit of the film with this question in mind would reveal more answers, or at least thoughts to ponder.
  13. Eh, it works for me emotionally. I totally get it not working for others. It's clear that it's not obvious whether it's sunrise or sunset on first (or second, or third) viewing, so I'm not going to defend the framing. But it's not actually the same horizon. The ridge where Luke watches sunset is to the right of the Lars Homestead entrance. In the final scene in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey is standing in front of that entrance when talking with the woman, and then proceeds to continue forward and to the right, so she's actually looking the opposite direction. The homestead is in the left of one frame of Rey watching the sunset, out of focus, and you can tell it's the backside of the homestead, because it doesn't have the entrancing jutting out, which would be there if it was the same ridge as Luke. Again, not defending the framing (it takes investigating it frame by frame to figure this out, which is itself an issue), but just pedantically pointing out that it's not the same horizon, cause I feel like I went this far, might as well go further. Clearly, I'm a little too invested. haha
  14. My list. No audiobooks (which I just can't get into). All finished in the month listed, but not necessary started. I've included an (*) for books I've read before. January Prisoners of the Sun, Hergé* February Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson Whatever, Michel Houellebecq Before Watchmen: Nite Owl & Dr. Manhattan, J. Michael Straczynski Killshot, Elmore Leonard March Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis May The Stand, Stephen King The Dragon in the Sea, Frank Herbert Son of a Smaller Hero, Mordecai Richler June Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Ernest Hemingway (ed. Larry W. Phillips) The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov July The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman Serotonin, Michel Houellebecq, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, William Shakespeare Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
  15. I'm not sure whether there's a better spot to continue a discussion about Dekalog, but in the absence of being pointed to a more appropriate home for this, I'm sharing my recent article about "Lenten Reflections from Dekalog" in which I explore each episode in the series in relation to the Gospels and specifically the parables: https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2020/4/10/lenten-reflections-from-dekalog-1989 I'm sure there are a lot of reflections and perhaps corrections of my interpretations that you all here could bring to a discussion of the films, so I'm sharing here in hopes that some more thoughtful interpretation is brought to light. From my intro: Hope you all find something meaningful in it.
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