Nocturama Screen 91 of 14 reviews

Nocturama

2016

Nocturama Poster
  • Metro maps, landmarks, and time stamps are regularly displayed, as all the while Bonello assimilates simultaneous perspectives and temporal backtracking with diagrammatic precision. Small uninflected activities—a boy photographing some putty-like substance plastered on a subway corridor wall, the cell members ditching cell phones in trash cans—take on incremental significance. The director is scrupulous about maintaining our spatial bearings even while gradually undercutting our mental ones.

  • TIFF’s “Platform” sidebar, introduced last year, was designed to foreground stylistically and thematically audacious films. One of the most audacious Platform entries, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama, was noteworthy for eschewing the usual moralism that pervades most films determined to condemn terrorism.

  • In order for Nocturama to work its magic, the viewer must occupy the central meeting place of urban alienation (and reflexive abandonment of the present) that has historically sent people ducking into movie theaters in the first place. Nocturama’s contemporaneity is thus a byway to its tragic classicism—although for those who can’t quite relinquish their literal-mindedness for two hours, it may instead mean multiple willful suspensions of disbelief.

  • In every respect, Nocturama is a bravura feat of filmmaking, from the trancelike first hour, in which seemingly insignificant actions and movements through the streets and subways of Paris fall together into a planned attack, to the sobering finale. The question of what it all means would take more space than I can give myself here. Bonello is using his talent to powerfully evoke belonging, liberation, and seduction in a dark vision.

  • Bonello's approach and look pulls inspiration from methodical arthouse thrillers like Jacques Rivette’s Secret Defense and Gus Van Sant’s elegantly hypnotic mass school shooting film Elephant, along with the sly, bravura of mainstream formalists like Paul Verhoeven and Brian De Palma.

  • Powerful sensations spring from Bonello’s masterful and unapologetic use of multiple viewpoints to accentuate the spectacular elements of certain moments. He repeats scenes of explosions – but more originally and shockingly, brutal shootings – multiple times in quick succession, and from various angles. He comes close to the bombast of American action films, but adds a layer a feeling often lacking from this exhilarating trope through rich characterisation.

  • At least with regards to what it is composed of, Nocturama is many things. Initially pitched as an action film, it turns out that Bonello’s latest has more in line with action painting, slathering onto its broad canvas an all-over mélange of genre iconography, pop appropriations, and historical reference points, and navigating through it all with impulsive shifts in attitude.

  • Graced with a distinctive young cast and real cinematic verve, there’s lingering food for thought in this borderline surreal, delectably tense, artistically coherent venture which should attract plenty of attention.

  • Working from a nerve-racking script written five years ago — long before the wave of attacks that started in France on Jan. 7, 2015, with the Charlie Hebdo shooting — Bonello replies to the news with a magnetic and purely cinematic gesture that may have frightened the Cannes Film Festival selection committee (the touchy film was ready in time for the May edition), but should spark a wide range of reactions when it screens at the Toronto and San Sebastian film festivals.

  • We never know how or why this diverse group of millennial kids coordinate a series of violent attacks on financial targets and then hole up in a Paris department store, where they watch themselves on TV screens while blasting Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” Maybe they’re just beautiful automatons programmed by some mysterious force. But, do automatons dress up in drag and lip-sync Shirley Bassy’s “My Way”? It might be absurd and even dubious, but Bonnello’s movie stuck with me.

  • While the editing rhythm of its first half is a little tedious due to its unevenness, Nocturama slowly but surely becomes a boldly explicit film that arouses the viewer’s sympathies in these tragic, pathetic figures, with a shocking ending that guts a most powerful punch.

  • Nocturama is to some (arguable) degree a shallow movie with a flippant/trivializing attitude, rejecting the default gravity granted its subject, which means someone will definitely get upset about the film. It’s also a highly recommended, original and (this may seem like the wrong word, but it’s true) fun work.

  • With the action largely confined to the mall for [most] of the running time, Nocturama flirts with satire as it regards the characters burning off energy by window shopping through the store. The use of the physical space of the mammoth building, combined with the jabs at the overriding consumerism that even these leftists cannot shake, suggests Jacques Tati by way of Dawn of the Dead.

  • If you put reality aside and try to judge the movie in a sort of vacuum, there are definitely things worth salvaging — such as Bonello’s assured stylistic hand, which mixes fluid Steadicam shots with an array of tantalizing soundtrack choices, as well as an elliptical narrative that brings a handful of characters together in captivating ways, especially in the film’s suspenseful first half. It’s like Elephant meets Spring Breakers in contemporary Paris.

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