Columbus Screen 88 of 12 reviews

Columbus

2017

Columbus Poster
  • Watching the film is almost like feeling the muscles in your eyes shift, as you look up from reading a book to stare out at the ocean. From the very first shot, it's clear that the buildings will be essential. They are a part of the lives unfolding in their shadows. Sometimes it almost seems like they are listening.

  • The rapport that develops between [Casey and Jin] is reminiscent of the relationship in Lost in Translation, occasionally edging into flirtation without ever being driven by it. It's the rapport of two people who find common ground while navigating the respective limbos in which they're stuck, contending with filial duty, personal desires, and whether beautiful buildings can actually help someone heal.

  • In Columbus, architecture takes the place of emotions, to sometimes startling effect. An outwardly chilly, resolutely static film that nevertheless finds poignancy in the most surprising places, Kogonada’s directorial debut does a couple of important things so well that I can’t help but forgive the things it doesn’t.

  • Kogonada surveys the town's architecture with the exacting, worshipful eye that he's brought to analyzing the cinema of his heroes, and it's impossible not to wonder if Casey's awakening—her discovery of her right to live her own life and to create her own art—is representative of Kogonada's own drive to create. Like his video essays, Columbus is intensely occupied with the ways in which the space and symmetry of images reveal character and emotion.

  • It's intensely moving—only you have to be prepared to slip between the lines of its perfectly formed geometry to find the sources of its emotion... A strikingly distinctive film, and one of the best American debuts in ages. It is also unfashionably cerebral—but it’s a manifesto for a cinema in which thoughtfulness, even intellectualism, is in no way exclusive of feeling, even of passion.

  • The promise and ultimate limitations of modernism are revealed throughout as an object lesson in filmmaking: that formal beauty must be shaped by lived experience, that attention is informed by interest, and that too much spice can ruin the soup. As such the film’s limpid exposition wilfully avoids the sentimentality of Korean melodrama while aspiring to Ozu’s quotidian rhapsody.

  • There are films that swell in orchestral waves, others that grind like scuzzy metal, and still others that burble like melodic pop, but “Columbus,” the first feature film from Korean-American video essay pioneer Kogonada, chimes like a bell: simple, sustained and thrillingly pure. A gentle but sharply defined story, brimming with grace, compassion and performances of perfect naturalism, it is unashamedly intellectual yet deeply human.

  • Kogonada films with a keen eye for architecture; he takes a pleasure comparable to Casey’s in sharp lines, sheer surfaces, and open vistas, while finding simple, highly inflected angles to capture the emotional urgency of Casey’s awakening. Richardson negotiates the fluently erudite and insightful dialogue with a dancer’s aplomb; “Columbus” is one of the rare films in which nerdy intelligence—knowledge without experience—comes off without neurosis, comedic awkwardness, or vengeance.

  • A little too studied in its smallness, Columbus can be burdened by the mannerisms of American independent cinema. Its beats are familiar, its arc is unsurprising. The should-I-stay-or-should-I-go plots, set on parallel tracks—one with mother/daughter, the other father/son—are little more than serviceable scaffolding for the movie’s more engrossing musings on art and communion.

  • The film's merits are visual and dramatic: kogonada proves a highly skilled director of actors (stars John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson both deliver superlative performances, rich in nuance and feeling) and a stylist with an exceptional eye (his laser-precise compositions, framed around the modernist architecture for which Columbia, Indiana, is renowned, are positively stunning).

  • It may not be the best debut at Sundance, but it’s certainly one of the most distinct. The director, also an insightful video essayist, has a knack for majestic compositions that is rarely matched by his narrative sense; form and content mostly remain detached entities here, rarely marrying into something sublime.

  • The film’s increasing emotional reticence — while on the one hand a logical fit for characters who self-identify as “bookish” — also seems increasingly like a determined wish to project a “quiet,” “gentle” “wisdom” that hasn’t been earned... Columbus mostly seems like a movie that doesn’t want to disturb anyone, which is counterproductive when you’ve got characters wrestling with increasingly obvious, quite serious emotional problems related to damage done by their parents.

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