Nocturama Screen 92 of 24 reviews

Nocturama

2016

Nocturama Poster
  • The film marks a breakthrough for Bonello... In Nocturama, all of Bonello's eccentricities—even his tendency for obfuscation—are organized around a palpable concept, which is nothing less than the precarious state of Western civilization. It's supremely timely, capturing the zeitgeist better than any other movie I've seen. At the same time, Nocturama isn't a diagnostic work—Bonello isn’t out to analyze the zeitgeist but rather create an aesthetic that reflects its mysteries and contradictions.

  • The film becomes less a dogmatic abstraction and more a New Wave-ish amalgamation of influences rendered current out of necessity rather than ideology (or the deliberate lack of it). Unique to Bonello, however, is its masterful soundtrack, usually a high point of his films. If you thought BABY DRIVER used music in an inventive way, NOCTURAMA—all of Bonello’s films, really—will reveal the true zenith of such a tactic.

  • In less assured or idiosyncratic hands, the notion of these killers suddenly transfixed — zombified, even — by Chanel, Fendi and Sonia Rykiel might have played as a cheap satirical dig, a facile reminder of the hypocrisy behind their anti-establishment rage. Stalking his characters with sinuous camera movements and split-screen surveillance footage, Bonello turns it into the stuff of a waking nightmare, complete with the occasional dreamlike apparition drifting into view.

  • As an in-the-moment viewing experience, Nocturama is a gut punch wrapped in a velvet glove; it’s so intensely visceral and visually impressive that it short-circuits interpretation. It all but dares you to dismiss it as a gorgeous stunt... But in retrospect, Bonello’s film is like one of those bullets that expands after it has penetrated its target, growing larger and sinking in more deeply until there’s no digging it out. The film is an exercise in style, yes, but its aesthetics are weaponized.

  • Bonello is a decadent movie poet of literal and emotional interiors with a uniquely cubist approach to both time and realism; his style is druggy and dreamlike because it’s so cornered, self-confined, self-refracting. In Nocturama, his radicalized night critters run free in the evacuated department store as he busts out one killer camera move after another to the best and most eclectic movie soundtrack in recent memory. If this is artistic self-indulgence, then please, please, let us have more.

  • It might best be seen as a surrealist thought experiment... If these callow terrorists do not appear to have an agenda, Bonello does. Unlike other aggressively contemporary films, Nocturama does not attempt to analyze a particular reality, mediated by music videos and digital ads. Rather, it seeks to embody it. Bonello’s characters are less recognizably human than they are their own personal avatars in some advanced computer-game prototype.

  • The movie averts exploitation and cynicism by refusing to proffer half-baked answers as to why these fictional, malevolent protagonists did what they did — conjecturing that can often lead to extreme banalities and other obscenities committed in the name of “understanding” repugnant acts. Bonello strips the scaffolding of the film to action and reaction, emphasizing the how and the when of the tyro terrorists’ plot and its consequences.

  • The film's unwavering strength lies in its acknowledgement that no single line of thought or critique can ever explain the range of complexities inherent to a given historical scenario. While the film's teenage characters prove incapable of envisioning their actions beyond the present moment, Bonello never dips into moralism.

  • 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.

  • In his own time when revolution was in the air, Godard made Week End (1967) with enough beautiful faces and rock ’n’ roll to lure in the viewer until he launched a cataclysm on screen. Today, Bonello has responded in an equally fraught moment with as exquisite and symphonic a display of pure genre pleasure as any movie this year, but wound inside an explosive politics and a set of unanswered questions opening a Pandora’s Box of possible outcomes. Let the debate begin.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Perhaps Bonello brings us too close to sympathy for his devils... But should we really prefer an art that’s primarily focused on what’s responsible? An irresponsible art is a lively, fickle art. Nocturama is a lively, fickle film. It shakes off the cohering impulse of narrative in favor of the sensual appeal of a dreamscape. Many will be left adrift, but that’s a more intriguing, productive result than leaving a theater feeling like you’ve gotten it all.

  • 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.

  • The political ills of the time are reduced to events without causes and without solutions, to idealistic adolescent complaints reflecting the blank moral purity of youth as Bonello himself imagines it. The banality of the interests, desires, and discontents displayed by the attackers seems calculated to turn the movie into a feature-length behind-the-scenes spread: terrorists, they’re just like us.

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