THE DISASTER ARTIST
The Disaster Artist is a real Hollywood biopic about the infamous writer-director of the so-bad-it’s-good classic The Room, Tommy Wiseau, and simultaneously a feature-length showcase of James Franco’s well-researched impression of him—so that it even remotely works, let alone actually functions as a warm, empathetic portrait of the audacity/resilience of performing and putting yourself out into the world, is a miracle, but here we are. Unsurprisingly, however, its’ very, very funny; Franco’s performance is of course central to that, his interpretation of every bizarre cadence and personal hang-up Wiseau has feels genuine (right down to his lumbering physicality), and surrounding him with every comedy character actor you can think of to react to the performance just somehow never gets old.
The film’s other great trick is its faithful recreations of the production look and set stories (all taken from Greg Sestero’s book, which the film is adapted from), Franco and regular collaborator Brandon Trost combine the famous references and locations with a handheld look suggests the unique spontaneity of Wiseau. If the film falters it’s in its bromance plot between the two Franco brothers, its brief swings into the Studio Comedy Friendship Story are rote and undercooked mostly, though they do eventually cohere it in the emotional climax—when they premiere The Room to thunderous laughter—as Greg and Tommy bond over their faces, finally projected on the big screen, being welcomed with any form of joy.
Colonial ennui is brutally tragic slapstick in Zama, the latest film by Argentine writer/director Lucrecia Martel. Adapted from the novel by Antonio di Benedetto, Zama is about the crushing nature of bureaucracy, tracking what feels like years in the life of Spanish Empire official Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) as he simply tries to transfer locations—preferably to Lermes, where his wife and child are—and finds himself instead trapped in a fever dream of administrative embarrassments and general misfortune.
Martel and cinematographer Rui Poças frame Zama mostly in carefully fragmented close-ups, their heads, bodies and actions often cut off making characters feel cramped into the frame and powerless as we observe their reactions to things happening just outside the frame and out of their control. (There’s an amazing bit where an out-of-focus Llama keeps intruding the background of a close-up of Diego having a life-changing conversation.)
The film ultimately works best as a farce of personal slights and disasters for Zama, using the burden of Imperialism, in all its mundanities and inadequacies, as a devastating but hilarious punchline—though it gives him the power to impose his will on the Indigenous people of Paraguay (who remain stoic and dignified in Martel’s compositions), there’s no happy ending, no hope for working people in the Colonial process.