Into the Splice

Adventures of a film spectator by Nicholas Rombes

  • Memorable Cinematic Moments of (Mostly) 2013

    Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper) On the surface, the scene is familiar, verging on the clichéd, and yet it’s made unfamiliar and strange though a sort of weird tension that develops around it. Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck), a troubled Iraq war veteran who chafes at working in the Braddock, Pennsylvania, steel mills like his father and brother (Christian Bale), has convinced John Petty (Willem Dafoe), a bookie who’s deep into debt with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), to meet with DeGoat in the Ramapo Mountains area of New Jersey, where DeGroat runs a drug operation and fixes bare-knuckle fights in…  Read more

    On Dec 16, 2013
    By on Dec 16, 2013 Columns
  • Misremembering Only God Forgives

    Of all the transformations cinema has undergone since the rise of affordable home viewing in the 1970s, perhaps the most ephemeral, difficult to quantify is this strange result: the difficulty of falsely remembering movies. Whether it was mixing up and remembering out of order a series of shots, or conflating scenes from different movies that happened to star the same actor, or simply forgetting portions of a film, it was difficult to recall a film correctly, accurately. Which isn’t the same thing as not recalling a film truthfully. This became apparent after watching Only God Forgives recently on the big…  Read more

    On Aug 12, 2013
    By on Aug 12, 2013 Columns
  • Zero Dark Thirty and the New History

    I saw Zero Dark Thirty twice. The first time, the auditorium was nearly full. The second, about a week later, there were only two other people. But both times, the auditorium felt empty, as if, in commanding the attention of its viewers, the film left no room for thought. Whether Zero Dark Thirty endorses torture or not has been much discussed elsewhere, and that discussion and debate has, in its own way, framed the very way we think about the movie. And yet there is another form of torture depicted in the film and that is the torture perpetrated by…  Read more

    On Jan 29, 2013
    By on Jan 29, 2013 Columns
  • Watching Blue Velvet in the Land of Borges

    In Jorge Luis Borges’s story “The South” the narrator notes that “every Argentine knows that the South begins at the other side of Rivadavia.” And this is where I found myself last month, in a city called Mar Del Plata, for the 27th Mar Del Plata Film Festival, hundreds of miles south of Buenos Aires, where I had been invited by Pablo Conde to attend the book launch of a Spanish translation of The Blue Velvet Project, which originally appeared here at Filmmaker from August 2011 to August 2012. Where I was, among generous, film-loving people, everything hovered on the…  Read more

    On Nov 29, 2012
    By on Nov 29, 2012 Columns
  • Into the Splice: Jane Eyre

    At the State Theater in Ann Arbor, I fell under the spell of Jane Eyre’s cold naturalism (which made the occasional flashes of heat even hotter), but not all of those seated around me did. Specifically: a woman in the row in front of me who, at the most tender, sexually charged moments in the film would sigh heavily, throwing her head back. When she wasn’t doing this, she was answering her phone calls (at least twice), fidgeting in her seat, or stretching her arms above her head. She had obviously been dragged to the film by her companion, who…  Read more

    On Apr 25, 2011
    By on Apr 25, 2011 Columns
  • Into the Splice: The King’s Speech

    I had put off seeing The King’s Speech, and for good reason it turns out, though not the reason I expected. The movie is proudly what it is, and it is hard not to fall under the spell of the story. In some ways, it’s a very old-fashioned film, in the same way that True Grit is old-fashioned. The complete absence of irony. Both films simmer at the same ahistorical temperature. On the big screen, movies still have a certain scale of force absent from smaller screens. The reason to go to the movies is to be dominated, and yet…  Read more

    On Feb 7, 2011
    By on Feb 7, 2011 Columns
  • Into the Splice: Black Swan

    Things didn’t bode well from the beginning. The crowd in the theater was restive. People shifted uncomfortably in their seats even before the movie began. I was alone, and sat in the back, the projector whirring somewhere above and behind me. But that was only the beginning. As it turns out, I had been editing Alla Gadassik’s remarkable video-essay for the Requiem // 102 project, and had learned of an obscure Italian Jennifer Connelly film from 1988, Etoile (directed by Peter Del Monte), which also happens to be a nightmarish film about Swan Lake that also features a monstrous black…  Read more

    On Jan 10, 2011
    By on Jan 10, 2011 Columns
  • Into the Splice: After the Flood

    Downtown Waterloo, Ontario. At night. A night unfinished. The previous evening I had spoken at a conference about analog nostalgia in the digital age. I brought a turntable with me from Michigan. And one single to play: “You’re Gonna Die” (1978) by the Ann Arbor/Detroit post-punk art band Destroy All Monsters, featuring Ron Asheton on guitar. At the border crossing entering Canada at Port Huron, I was asked a series of questions about the reasons for my visit to Canada. I answered in ways that made the guard skeptical, and I was told to go directly to Immigration. There, a…  Read more

    On Nov 30, 2010
    By on Nov 30, 2010 Columns
  • Into the Splice: Let Me In

    I went to see Let Me In with low expectations. Like so many, I had seen and been awed by the original Swedish version, Let the Right One In (directed by Tomas Alfredson), whose quiet pacing and lonely stretches of relative silence only made the horror more horrible when it came. An American version, surely, would speed up the pace and overload the naturalistic violence with CGI-generated hyper-energy. On the way to the theater I asked Lisa about this. “I don’t know,” she said, “give it a chance.” “But I don’t want to give it a chance. I want to…  Read more

    On Oct 14, 2010
    By on Oct 14, 2010 Columns
  • Into the Splice: Machete

    It was only later that I discovered that I had been charged admission to Machete as a “student.” I am not one, and haven’t been for many, many years. I was glad not only because it saved me two dollars, but also because I didn’t have to resort to the Harvey Korman moment near the end of Blazing Saddles, when he cuts in line to buy a ticket for the film itself, pulls out an I.D., holds it up with a skeptical smile and asks the ticket lady, “Student?” to which she replies flatly, “Are you kidding?” At 9:30 on…  Read more

    On Sep 28, 2010
    By on Sep 28, 2010 Columns
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