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March 5, 2023 / barton smock

( words toward Alice Diop’s ‘Saint Omer’, words toward ‘The Whale’

Alice Diop's radiantly grey Saint Omer is some unwatched, new, unknowable spectacle. A stationary doom that travels back in time to change place. A doom that takes time with it. The film is full of transcript, detail, explanation. But its magic is not uttered, and says all the quiet parts in a found language. Its rooms, its bodies, its faces, make of image a plagiarist. Its distance gets inside. You'll stand, and feel returned.

No heart of gold, here, in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale. Just difficult people feeling small. Fraser plays Charlie as goofy and scared and watches as they become the same thing. His performance finds not only common ground but also an earth to step quietly upon. Hong Chau, as Liz, gives an outing both open and inner, and for all the air sucked out of nonexistent rooms, her performance makes place hard to leave. Morton and Sink hit different keys and I was glad that both seemed beyond grace notes. I saw no lingering, nor excessive helplessness, nor loving of what helplessness there was. I did see these characters eyeing the exit immediately and then some deciding to stay, and others deciding to stay until their staying was exposed as a decoy for lost absence. I saw people pausing in doorways, brightly going, brightly gone. Not everything in the film is a perfect fit, and the ending both works and doesn't work, and is probably not what really happened. But it wears well the wearing down.

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