For Reel

Routine Pleasures (1986)
December 29, 2016, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jean-Pierre Gorin
3.5 Stars
routine-pleasuresOften in Jean-Pierre Gorin’s pastiche American landscape, the filmmaker refers to Manny Farber’s writings on Howard Hawks, which generalized the filmmaker’s action films as, “powerfully interested in the fraternal groups that he sets up, sticking to them with an undemonstrative camera that is always eye level and acute on intimate business, and using stories that have a straight-ahead motion and develop within a short time span.” As is typical in Hawks criticism, Farber championed the sheer functionality of Hawks as a storyteller—if Farber romanticizes the nuances (he is a particular admirer of gestures in a Hawks film), there is a suggestion that the sheer efficiency of his storytelling was not only a satisfying mode of narrative, but decidedly an American device. Gorin’s Routine Pleasures attempts to argue in the same vein about a similarly efficient mode of storytelling, only his involves obsessive, quirky hobbyists who use a warehouse at the Del Mar Fair Grounds in San Diego as the dreamscape wherein they enact train engineering fantasies. Kent Jones’ essay on the film for Criterion reveals that Gorin intended to make a film about the type of person that might have voted for Ronald Reagan, and in the fetishization of preserving a structured moment, the metaphor is compelling. Regardless, however, Gorin never condescends to his subjects—in fact, it is surprising just how enchanted he becomes by the rhythms of the hobby, suggesting that it is manifestation of American mythologizing, or as Gorin puts it, the “conservative imagination.”

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