Buddhism, Christianity, and a New Filmic Grammar

One of the most thoughtful critics in the business, The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, in 2014 declared director Josephine Decker to be at the helm of a “new grammar” of narrative. He wrote,

Working with her actors, Decker doesn’t seem to observe behavior but to invent it: the characters bring a glint of whimsy, a lilt of pain, and an undertone of seething erotic power to the seemingly most ordinary activities. The images by the cinematographer… exalt bodies and movement, light and texture into frenzies of vertiginous possibility. The subject of the images is time, in exactly the same way that a writer can describe a single moment of feeling, an instant of vision, or a flicker of memory through the course of sentences and paragraphs. Normally it would be an insult to say that a movie that runs a mere hour and a quarter feels as if it were much longer, but here it’s both accurate and high praise: vast realms of emotional experience are condensed into the movie’s brief span.

Following 2018’s Madeline’s Madeline and 2022’s The Sky is Everywhere, Brody’s observation feels too restrained. Decker isn’t just a major figure in the emergence of a new filmic-narrative grammar; there are few more complete stylists working in the English language.

Her newest film, The Sky is Everywhere, introduces Grace Kaufman as Lennie, a high school clarinet prodigy aspiring for the Juilliard School who experiences the dual pull of love and grief for the first time. After her sister Sarah (Ji-young Yoo) dies from an unexpected heart issue, no one understands what Lennie is experiencing… no one other than her dead sister’s left-behind partner, Toby (Pico Alexander). Also in a budding romance with the dream boy and fellow musical genius Joe Fontaine (Jacques Colimon), Lennie’s love triangle carries personally ontological consequences: what kind of person is she without her sister? Does it matter how she exhausts her love?

Continue reading at The Boston Hassle.

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