F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 16, 2016)

16 06 2016

A TeacherMany people, it seems, saw the title of Hannah Fidell’s “A Teacher” and focused almost exclusively on … well, the teacher. Perhaps as they should. It’s certainly easy to get drawn into the confused, muddled mind of high school professor Diana Watts (Lindsay Burdge) given that she is having an affair with one of her students.

We’ve seen variations of the illicit sexual relationship before and quite often from the perspective of someone like Diana, a person struggling with the push and pull between inescapable guilt and undeniable passion. What we have not seen (at least not that I can recall) is something like the perspective of her pupil, Will Brittain’s Eric Tull.

Besides the obvious difference in their ages, a more subtle rift divides Diana and Eric: socioeconomic class. When they rendez-vous, she pulls up in a rundown, decades-old sedan. He cruises in with a Texas-sized truck. She goes home to a tiny apartment, which she shares with another friend. He can either go back to his palatial home or a sprawling ranch in the countryside.

Their relationship feels like it satisfies more than just a lustful teenager’s libido. Their tryst becomes rather symbolic of the kind of power wealthy students can wield over their instructors, who take home fairly measly salaries. Eric’s opulent background combined with a libidinous braggadocio (which recalls far too many people I knew in school) creates the ultimate one-sided exchange. He continues the affair less because he wants to and more because he can. It becomes proof of his superiority that he can turn a typical idle schoolyard fantasy into reality.

The reason for Diana embarking on such a foolhardy escapade seems unknown even to her, though that doesn’t stop her – and us – from trying to find out. No such quest was necessary for Eric. Every second Brittain spent on screen rang authentic to the swaggering Texas teen, and for that reason, “A Teacher” is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

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REVIEW: Everybody Wants Some!!

30 03 2016

SXSW Film Festival

After completing the arduous shoot of “Apocalypse Now,” director Francis Ford Coppola famously remarked, “My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam.” Writer and director Richard Linklater, brilliant though he is, seems to lack Coppola’s penchant for bombast or self-promotion. So, if I might, I would like to say what I doubt Linklater ever would about his latest film, “Everybody Wants Some!!

“Everybody Wants Some!!” is not a film about college. It is college.

For the roughly two hour runtime of Linklater’s so-called “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” I did not merely watch a representation of college-aged males running amuck. I was transported back to my own college days – never mind that the film takes place in 1980, when my dad first enrolled. The cars, the hair, the music and the outfits might have shifted in the four decades between then and now, but the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

I have praised many a college movie, from Noah Baumbach’s sardonic “Kicking and Screaming” to Lord & Miller’s farcical “22 Jump Street” and even the animated with Pixar’s “Monsters University.” Those movies can hardly hold a candle to “Everybody Wants Some!!” I recognized every single character in the film as having some analogous counterpart in my own life. This may have a little something to do with the fact that Linklater is, like myself, a Houston native and very familiar with that distinctly Texan strain of the “bro.”

I suspect, however, that my reaction comes less from geography and more from ethnography. The film is not rooted in place or time, though each definitely leaves a stamp. Rather, it is about the full college experience and all it entails. “Everybody Wants Some!!” celebrates that very unique freedom of the period between being someone’s kid and being someone’s parent. It’s the rare occurrence where liberty comes with hardly any repercussions or responsibilities. The now matters more than the future, and everyone collectively agrees to enjoy it.

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