Saturday, December 21, 2013


Just about every film lover I've talked to is praising Gravity for its technical wizardry. Director/co-writer Alfonso Cuaron has showcased a care for such visual intricacies with his previous work, most notably Children of Men. His love for the long take and how to pull it off organically certainly places his work in an elite group of films made by Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, John Woo and Robert Altman. Gravity seemingly uses the long take not just to contribute to the feeling of weightless wandering that space constitutes, but it also makes what is lately used far too much as a gimmick, actually feel like it has a place in storytelling- that being 3D.

Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Wim Wenders (Pina), and Ang Lee (Life of Pi) are the only filmmakers in recent memory that made accomplished movies that featured the technology, but one thing always bothered me about the conceit and that was the editing. Fact being that movies are made up of a series of edits and that when the shot that had leaves falling down in the background suddenly switches to a shot of leaves not falling down in the background and those said leaves were being "enhanced" by 3D, it's quite distracting. The 3D here works so effectively because (like those filmmakers I mentioned above), Cuaron also knows when not to overbear us with the visual effect. Debris will come flying all of a sudden, but it feels natural because when there is a cut, that debris has passed out of the frame for the moment.

The camerawork itself is something be in awe of as well. Emmanuel Lubezski (Cuaron and Terrence Malick's regular cinematographer and a five-time Oscar nominee for A Little Princess, Sleepy Hollow, The New World, Children of Men, and The Tree of Life) moves the camera so effectively and organically through space that the feelings of weightlessness, buoyancy, and ranges of speed all feel like a singular part of one's viewing.

A few have commented how the performances are one of the film's shortcomings. I'd have to somewhat disagree. Certainly this movie can be taken as a visual feat and crowd-pleaser, but what Stone (Sandra Bullock) is experiencing is not just survival, but also a passage of grief. The space station disaster is not the only disaster of her life and the events of Gravity are an analagous representation of body and mind being affected by sudden life-altering chaos. On the nose? Yes. Does it work? I'd say so.

Every piece of this movie feels perfectly orchestrated and at no point do I feel the filmmaker emerging to say "hey, by the way, you are watching a movie." Instead, the film is what the other greats of the year are: a fluid experience.

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