Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Columbus review

Columbus, Indiana is a small town that is the birthplace of Vice President Mike Pence. And I'm guessing that most Americans didn't know this. It is also a place where the late J. Irwin Miller of the Cummins Company led a private-public effort to construct buildings of modern architecture and art. The film Columbus uses this fascinating city as a backdrop.

Jin (Star Trek's John Cho) is a Korean-American who must stop in Columbus, Indiana after his professor father becomes ill and falls into a coma. Cho's performance has empathy and sadness as he is confronting the mortality of his father. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who is taking care of her addict-mother, Maria played by Michelle Forbes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation) She gives an honest performance as a working class single mother. Unfortunately, Casey is putting her dreams of going to Yale in order to stay with her. Richardson turns in a realistic performance of a woman who is dedicated to her sacrifice but also has a yearning for something more. The two meet and develop a friendship among the art and architecture.

Writer and director Kogonada obviously has a love for this city of art. He uses it as a plot device while also getting Casey to talk about all the buildings and sculptures. It might be contrived except that Kogonada weaves his characters with the art, which obviously includes the architecture. They interact with it.

The look of this film is itself a work of art. Kogonada carefully frames each shot the way Kurosawa did with his movies. It's twenty first century Hopper. Hallways, buildings, furniture, rooms, sculptures even a chain link fence are shot in creative ways. He uses shadow to cover some characters. There are scenes shot with natural light. A mirror is used to reflect an intimate conversation. And in these photographic paintings are moving characters, people.

But among all of this art, this need for perfection are the imperfect lives of people. Jin is also estranged from his father. His dilemma is how long does he stay with him. Casey's dreams may disappear. These are two lonely people with paths that intersect like a work of modern architecture. My only problem with this film is that Kogonada could have used some subtle music as background for the conversations between Jin and Casey. It was a little too quiet.

Columbus is a film that conveys many things. Loneliness. Sadness. Warmth. Love. Beauty. It deserves multiple viewings. The grade is A Minus.

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