ENJOY THE MOVIES
One of the most damaging aspects of neo-liberalism has been its commodification of human relationships. This is demonstrated and analyzed in a New Yorker article entitled "Japan's Rent-a-Family industry," and that same article is the basis of Werner Herzog's newest film, Family Romance, LLC, named after the profiled company. Herzog, however, is not much interested in politics. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) is a colonialist scenario depicted as a search for the sublime; in Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016), Herzog is more interested in capitalists and their victims than capitalism as such. Such is the case in Family Romance, in which the casting of non-professional actors, including Yuichi Ishii, the founder of Family Romance, as himself, is the tell. For Herzog, psychic effects matter more than political conditions.
Before the title card in Pablo Larrain's film Ema is a following shot of the platinum-blonde title character walking down the middle of an empty road lit by neon and fire. It is perhaps the only truly familiar authorial element in Larrain's latest feature. Ema marks Larrain's return to his homeland of Chile after a successful Hollywood debut in Jackie, and he also returns, for the first time since Tony Manero, to apolitical subject matter. There are no coups, riots, or assassinations in Ema; nobody even dies. Instead, a dancer couple (Mariana Di Girolamo as Ema and Gael Garcia Bernal as Gastón) spars after Ema returns their son to foster care after he immolates a family member, trying alternately to destroy and repair the atypical family.
Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is virtually certain to win the Oscar for Best International Film, and it is not out of the running for Best Picture or Best Director, either. It unanimously won Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and critics has lauded it as the greatest film of an exceptionally strong year, and perhaps even one of the best of the decade. It has brought belated, much-deserved attention to South Korean Cinema. By any measure, it has been a success that has likely exceeded the wildest dreams of anyone associated with it. What, then, should be made of the existence of a black & white version set for a theatrical release this year?