Here’s Manuel with two more dispatches from the New York Film Festival
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
And the winner of most literal title at this year’s fest goes to: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. For that is precisely what happens in Dash Shaw’s diverting and visually stunning film...
Sitting atop a tectonic rift and following a minor earthquake, the horribly unstable and ill-maintained high school at the center of the film breaks off the land where it rested and begins floating out into the ocean where it obviously begins sinking. It’s John Hughes meets The Poseidon Adventure filtered through a hand-drawn style that’s equally minimal and bonkers (my favorite imagery was of some collage-like characters’ lungs as they ran out of oxygen while swimming). At the heart of it all is a group of misfits (including students voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham and Maya Rudolph and a hilariously off-kilter cook voiced by Susan Sarandon) that do everything they can to survive the walking death trap that the high school becomes. Ultimately, despite its dark humor (a look at what the golden boy of the school becomes in light of the crisis is just hilarious) and for its visual panache, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea fell flat to me. Here was yet another run of the mill narrative about a narcissistic socially awkward white guy (played by Schwartzman, obviously) that needs to learn the error of his ways by the end of the film, while being aided by characters both more colorful and more interesting around him. There are winks of self-awareness of this very template but it wasn’t enough to convince me that the project’s wildly inventive animation wasn’t papering over a lot of the script’s shortcomings. But boy is it at least entertaining to watch for its punchy artistry.
Yourself and Yours
Hong Sangsoo's Yourself and Yours felt like a dream. I walked out and everything around me still looked hazy and immaterial. I half expected to run into You‑Young Lee, or someone who looks just like her, as if her multiplying powers on screen could very well replicate themselves outside of it. You see, after Young-soo (Kim Joo-hyuk) has an argument with his girlfriend, Min-jung (played by Lee), whom he’s heard has been out drinking with other men, we begin seeing a girl who looks just like Min-jung meeting and out drinking with other men who claim to have met her before—she refuses to acknowledge any of those previous encounters, leaving the men questioning their own memory and her own truthfulness, like Young-soo during the spat that ended their relationship. Every time Lee comes on screen it’s unclear whether we’re seeing Min-jung or a girl who looks just like her (at one point she tells a man who approaches her that she’s actually a twin though it’s unclear whether she’s being playful, evasive, lying, or all of the above). We see this happen several times even as Young-soo continues to pine away, belatedly realizing how he should've trusted his girlfriend rather than cave into jealous rage. By the time he comes upon a girl who looks like his ex-girlfriend (she continues to make clear she’s never seen him before in her life, an assertion the film never clarifies, choosing instead to linger in its dreamlike ambiguity) Hong has made such questions of identity irrelevant. In between, Hong has created a playful and altogether fascinating kaleidoscopic tale of shared intimacy that’s beguiling precisely for its ability to confuse: seeing someone you know anew has never felt this literal.