a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman


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Director Sho Miyake’s art house-ready, beautifully shot black and white meta-cinematic sophomore feature, Playback, rambles through some weighty subjects and formal preoccupations without the heft of much emotional connection. Fifty years after Last Year at Marienbad, it’s good to see filmmakers working a similar cinematic terrain, but Playback lacks the strange intellectual/metaphysical insight of Robbe-Grillet, the evocative cinematography of Sacha Vierny or the sure directorial hand of Alain Resnais that made their film so rich. That’s the mighty trio Miyake’s up against. Playback commences with the dark night of actor Haji (Jun Murukami), facing innumerable problems as middle age encroaches. Taking a trip to a friend’s wedding, he falls asleep only to wake up in his high school days, as an adult, along with his wedding party friends. From there Playback shifts back and forth between a subjective past and possible presents. At first this gives the viewer a certain bemusement at figuring out the Chinese box structure of the film, but soon gives way to ennui at this maddening exercise in cinematic game playing.

Originally published in EL Magazine, November 2012.


Written by Nicholas Vroman

November 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm

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