The Missing Picture (2013) produces a new form of political essay film that seeks to recreate the filmmaker's personal recollections of life under the murderous Khmer Rouge using the aforementioned inanimate objects - and those few newsreels and relevant propaganda films that survive the period. The genius of Panh's latest testimonial resides in this very novelty, in its figuration of the Marxist regime's intentional and systematic process of dehumanization in a form that essentially eliminates the human form from its reproductions. What results is the titular "missing picture," the heretofore largely undocumented nightmare reality that the Khmer Rouge endeavored to create for its bourgeois and capitalistic enemies, in the image of its profoundly flawed political theory (which disastrously combined Rousseau and Marx). In his dioramic spaces (mostly) and the occasional surviving film clip, Panh's picture equally offers a fond glimpse into Cambodia's lost, pre-Democratic Kampuchea past, into the modern Phnom Penh that would be ravaged by Pol Pot and his ideological faction. A work of powerful, even undeniable truth, The Missing Picture is one of twenty-fourteen's finest commercial premieres to date.
Non-Stop (2014). The Catalan-born Collet-Serra seems to understand something that most others do not, namely that we spend much of our time communicating with others through our phones - rather than in the face-to-face conversations that has traditionally provided the medium with its mode of interpersonal exchange. Collet-Serra responds to the representational problematic involved in this new means of communicative discourse by projecting Liam Neeson's narratively central texts on screen, in a manner similar to the method utilized in Netflix hit House of Cards (another mainstay in my past two months of viewing). Consequently, Collet-Serra creates a plastic image that is at once transparent onto the fictional world that he expressively brings into being, and is, at the same time, readable as a flat surface containing a series of significant data points. Non-Stop does not simply engage, however, with our new forms for mediating the world, but instead also interrogates the outstanding, though rarely discussed question of public safety in the long post-9/11 era. Specifically, Collet-Serra's film, from a John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach story, brings to fictional light the superficial measures enacted by the United States government to insure air safety in the period following the terrorist attack. Non-Stop, in other words, is a film rich in ideas about the world we inhabit - and how we have come to engage it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Missing Picture and Non-Stop are all currently in commercial release in North America, while the ten Kinoshita films listed above are available to be streamed on Hulu Plus.