Yasujirō Ozu & The Before trilogy are the obvious reference points for this film, spending time with the duo as they learn and indirectly help each other while touring the amazing architecture of Columbus, Indiana. Director, Kogonada, has made a film that is as beautiful to look at as it is heartwarming, writing a naturally conversational script that Cho and Richardson flow through perfectly. Almost every shot is impeccably framed to place it’s characters within visually arresting scenery, whether in or outdoors. The space between the two characters becomes as meaningful as the places in which we see them positioned. It’s an incredibly still and serene film to watch but one that is rich with life and character. There is a lot of re-watch value here too and it continues to linger in the mind long after it has finished.
The utter aimlessness isn’t propelled to you through great melodramatic romanticisation, it is carefully pushed towards you in small, delectable bits, assuring itself that the viewer delves deeper into the minds and lives that are at stake here rather than to force the common misconception on these characters that one must choose and must find a way out of it all, to strive for a greater future. Writer-director Kogonada opts for telling the story of a girl who sees more merit in staying in her safe and comfortable environment to help take care of her sick mother than to run out into the world to start pursuing lifelong dreams. He presents the delicate nature of choice at one of the most conflicting times of our lives without bombarding us with the emotional confusion. It’s a film so quiet and dare I say even introverted, that it almost doesn’t need to do the talking for us. In fact, it even presents its characters at certain points, having longwinded conversations yet being completely inaudible, merely being substituted by the sound of the world around them or the far-off score that carefully weaves it all together.
I love the focus on architecture, which is a topic I know next to nothing about. While I’m interested in basically all forms of art, architecture is one that I’ve never really explored, and like Jin (an audience surrogate, in some respects), I’ve never truly gotten what can be so powerful or emotional about it – I’ve always just thought of good architecture as cool or pretty. But this movie showed me why it’s powerful to people; no matter what happens, no matter how bad life gets, there’s just this building standing there, this constant, a work of art that doesn’t disintegrate or disappear. People exist inside of it, wandering in and out, and it remains the same. It’s comforting.
Kogonada has crafted a wonderful ode to masterfully framed shots that highlight the subtle nuanced performances of all his subjects. The film’s Director of Photography (Elisha Christian) should most certainly be praised for his achievement that is the visual prowess in this movie. Every shot of the picture is framed with various types of the surrounding and almost omnipresent structures that’s seen to be Indiana’s pride. It also gives leeway for these buildings to express much more symbolic visual significance and emotional emphasis to the characters and the circumstances they are in. I’m so strongly affected by this film.
Stellar performances by John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey and Rory Culkin only punctuate this perfectly paced character study to the point that you don’t feel you can even blink or you’ll miss some tiny little glance or movement or pause. I was totally enrapt by this film, which is almost intentionally inaccessible to main stream audiences. The beauty of this motion picture is the picture, and you are allowed to participate as an observer, almost to a point of over stimulation.
‘Columbus’ gets a 9.2/10
(I updated my list of Best Movies of 2017 to put Columbus in there. First of all, because it’s a 2017 released movie, and secondly, because its a movie that’s pretty under the radar for most people.)
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.6 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.6 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.6 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.6 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.6 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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