Krisha (Shults, 2015) and Old Stone (Ma, 2016)

Two more great ones from this year. Krisha is a film that makes me jealous. Trey Edward Shults’ camera moves in creative ways, it’s really immediate, and the sound is impressive.

The film was most certainly shot quickly, but I only say that for the one-location, and the relatively small cast (though the chaos they create is fantastic). Here’s one of my favorite sequences, which starts with Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) in CU looking out her guest room window. The camera cuts to her dog (with which she has an amazingly emotional scene later) and the camera just pulls away a little bit. Next to a MS from outside of Krisha’s room, and the camera pulls away quite a bit more:

This is the first half of the sequence that I wanted to talk about, but I like this part for several reasons. First of all, Krisha is always peering. It makes the first half of the movie feel like a suspense film rather than the intense family drama that it is. That pull away on the dog is great, too. First, it’s a cute dog. Second, it just gives a little life to an animal that’s going to play a role later. And third, it starts to imbue the scene with a little more energy.

That cut to outside the room comes with a big audio transition, where the quiet of Krisha’s room is shattered by the family – voices, a football game on TV, a ball bouncing, footsteps – outside. It’s kind of like Krisha’s calm (at first) exterior and her (apparently) distraught interior.

Edwards uses transitions like this one frequently in the film:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-33-52-am

Almost literally: whirlwind. The next part of this sequence is a long take. There are many of those in this film. I’d guess it’s a combination of style and necessity, since there’s little traditional coverage. It really works. The camera starts really wide (and tall, which I love) and pushes in fluidly as Krisha descends the stairs:

It keeps following her, landing in this CU:

It’s a great camera, and also a great way to leave the noise of the kitchen literally behind (the camera). This struggle of sound, of CUs and WSs, and of Krisha’s mental state all collide in a gorgeous way throughout the movie.

Edwards punctuates the film with several shots that just kind of ramp up the tension. Here’s one. Very solitary. Prison-like:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-35-36-am

Like I mentioned, there are a lot of long takes in this film. Some are fairly straight push-ins-

-and those are really buoyed by the great performances. He switches aspect ratios as well, throwing some “cinematic” 2:35 in later:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-36-41-am

And going to 1:33 as well:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-36-59-am

It all adds up. Krisha is a ride. It’s sorrowful and funny. It reminds me in some odd ways of Andrew Betzer’s great short film John Wayne Hated Horses in the masculinity that overtakes the household at times. But when it’s strongest its quiet reflection is shattered by loud diegetic sound, a great score, and a reveal that I should have seen coming was I not so caught up otherwise.

Old Stone

Speaking of shattering films, Old Stone can be frustrating. Gang Chen plays Lao Shi, a cab driver caught up in something close to a mash-up of police and governmental over-bureaucracy and an insurance nightmare.

Old Stone is, at heart, a straight-forward thriller. Its non-linear structure reveals part of its hand early, but by that point we’re so drawn into Shi’s journey that it doesn’t matter.

What’s really great about the film is the way that director Johnny Ma slowly builds tension with some non-diegetic shots of lightning over tree-tops; with Shi’s unnerving innocence; and with the cast of characters that surround Shi (his wife, his boss, a former rider in his cab, the man he hit with his cab), all of whom have an agenda very different from his of moralistic integrity.

The trailer gives a quote that compares this to Dostoevsky. I totally see that, but it felt like just as much Kafka to me. There are so many times when characters speak in this logical/not-logical dialogue that puts Shi in his place but doesn’t solve anything.

The look that Ma and DP Ming-Kai Leung get is great. It’s grainy and high-contrast. It looks like 16mm at times, but with a really pretty blow-up.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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One Response to Krisha (Shults, 2015) and Old Stone (Ma, 2016)

  1. Pingback: The Best Films of 2016 | dcpfilm

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