By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

James Schamus

“This mix of fiction and documentary is a notable feature of so much of what’s interesting in recent cinema, from all the big-budget films ‘based on a true story’ to the more independent works that in a variety of ways tackle the breaks, cracks, and fissures of the ‘fictional’ narrative structures that shape our actual existences. The first scene of the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time is exemplary in this light – no other scene I’ve watched in 2017 dealt so boldly with all these confusing and conflictual aesthetic and political conflicts. In it, a seething, developmentally disabled young man (played by the film’s co-director Benny Safdie) sits in the office of a psychiatrist (Peter Verby, in “real life” not a professional actor, but a criminal attorney), who is administering some kind of cognitive test meant to elicit from the young man some account of his own violent history and tendencies. Under the guise of soliciting therapeutic, healing self-knowledge, the psychiatrist cannot but help betray his performance to be in the service of the state and its institutional power. Shot primarily in extreme close ups, the scene first solicits our concern for the psychiatrist’s safety (Safdie’s performance is electrically on edge); but it is the state violence of the psychiatrist’s probing, and the intensity of that violence as it is revealed on Safdie’s tear-stained face, that alerts us to the film’s greater empathies, especially as the session is interrupted and the scene ended with the entrance of Nick’s brother Connie (Robert Pattinson), who, in the name of family, pulls his brother from the office (and into a woefully mis-executed crime). The Nikas family ‘organization,’ brought to life in the hybrid documentary-fiction language of the Safdies, never had a chance against the powers serving the crime family currently in the White House, but the reality of their resistance, as evidenced in Benny Safdie’s tears, is an eloquent reminder of what’s at stake in the current battles waged within the images we circulate, and the battles hardly visible but no less real.”
James Schamus

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“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady

“You know how in postproduction you are supposed to color-correct the picture so everything is smooth and even? Jean-Luc wants the opposite. He wants the rupture. Color and then black and white, or different intensities of color. Or how in this film, sometimes you see the ratio of the frame change after the image begins. That happens when he records from his TV onto his old DVCAM analog machine, which is so old we can’t even find parts when it needs to be repaired. The TV takes time to recognize and adjust to the format on the DVD or the Blu-ray. Whether it’s 1:33 or 1:85. And one of the TVs he uses is slower than the other. He wants to keep all that. I could correct it, but he doesn’t want me to. See, here’s an image from War and Peace. He did the overlays of color—red, white, and blue—using an old analog video effects machine. That’s why you have the blur. When I tried to redo it in digital, I couldn’t. The edges were too sharp. And why the image jitters—I don’t know how he did that. Playing with the cable maybe. Handmade. He wants to see that. It’s a gift from his old machine.”
~ Fabrice Aragno