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Critics reviews
Notes on an Appearance
Ricky D'Ambrose United States, 2018
Notes on an Appearance, the bold debut feature from New York-based filmmaker Ricky D’Ambrose, is [a] work of precise abstraction, employing a Bressonian emphasis on hands and gestures and using a minimum of in-frame detail to create something beyond what we see, ingeniously crafting a narrative that never fully forms and that begs audience participation.
January 15, 2019
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D’Ambrose’s movie, so deceptively light, is in fact a packed dossier, loaded with information and pieces of physical evidence that, by virtue of being singled out in those recurring inserts, appear to take on a heightened relevance to the case at hand.
August 17, 2018
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What’s striking about Notes is its determined rigor—and perhaps a certain cerebral show-offiness, although that’s a characteristic that the film appears to send up in itself. At any rate, this film hits the viewer—assuming the viewer isn’t totally resistant to its unapologetically rarefied appeal—as a sharp, bracing draft of icy water.
August 16, 2018
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Watching it requires learning how to watch it. Static shots are edited in a deliberately primitive style, eliding crucial bits of narrative. The camera often fixates on ostensible clues: a postcard, books, mysterious home movies in which no one is seen. . . . If Mr. D’Ambrose doesn’t quite earn his pretensions, it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker thinking so far outside the box.
August 16, 2018
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What would demand fifteen minutes and probably a glorified flashback-only cameo in the industry-standard, backstory-obsessed version of this movie takes D’Ambrose just a handful of beats, all thanks to blunt, arresting shots of fetishistically accurate reproductions of Taubes-centered media coverage.
August 14, 2018
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D’Ambrose’s ardent intellectualism is a sublime comedic mask. For all his gleeful fabrication of a realm of cultural aspirations and achievements, his subject is the mysteries that elude dialectics and disputations, the ones that animate the artistic, aesthetic impulse that his movie both exalts and embodies.
April 05, 2018
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In many ways [it] feels like a contemporary adaptation of Bresson’s The Devil, Probably. Bresson isn’t the only palpable influence; the formal rigor, staccato editing, and muted affect of the performances are also indebted to Straub/Huillet, while the narrative, structured around the existentially charged search for a central character who mysteriously vanishes, borrows from Antonioni’s L’Avventura.
April 04, 2018
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There are home videos taken by Taubes and, rather dazzlingly, an array of mocked-up books written by and documentation on him. . . . The amount of layout pastiche, all in a particular pocket of media consumption, is almost counterproductively impressive.
March 28, 2018
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Are things—objects, events, utterances—inherently linked by a causational order, or do they just exist, waiting for our hermeneutic work to fill the gaps? This conceit extends meta-fictionally to the structure of the film. Some of D’Ambrose’s more inspired DIY choices . . . are Kuleshovian flourishes that highlight the role that the spectator plays in filmic construction.
March 28, 2018
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One of the most impressive emerges close to home: From the coffeeshops and bookstores of Brooklyn comes Ricky D’Ambrose’s austere, bewildering, and unyieldingly cerebral Notes on an Appearance, an anti-mystery in the tradition of L’Avventura assembled with the cool reserve of Robert Bresson.
March 28, 2018
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In addition to writing, directing and editing his films, D’Ambrose serves as their production designer. His eye for New York street corners, colour, planimetric framing and the graphic artistry of archival objects joins with his euphoric classical musical interludes (underscoring a bright green screen) to lend this tale of a generation’s lost economic agency operatic import.
March 21, 2018
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With its classical aesthetic and paucity of modern conveniences and epochal notables, Notes on an Appearance exists in a kind of timeless realm, one where things change so often that it’s difficult to keep track. D’Ambrose views Brooklyn as a fugacious thing, one that, like David, is there one moment, gone the next.
March 19, 2018
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D’Ambrose, for his part, believes unfashionably in art. To return to his style, I should only like to say that, having seen Notes on an Appearance now six times, I am confident that I could recount every one of its nearly 300 shots in sequence. But the harmony which, through his precise compositions . . . and his elegant, gently repetitive chaptered structure, plays in the mind, does not appear.
March 16, 2018
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In this era of monopolized artistic expression, any filmmaker who manages to surmount the confines of financial restraint and create a film that stands out deserves attention. The ingenuity that Ricky D’Ambrose has demonstrated this quickly in his career is astounding. . . . [It]succinctly establishes and maintains a unique identity with the bravado and confidence one would expect from a veteran of the medium.
March 05, 2018
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Why would Ricky D’Ambrose call his new film Notes on an Appearance when the event at the core of it is a disappearance? I don’t have an answer to that. . . . Todd takes on the case, but the leads are discouraging. The appearance, then, might be David’s in Brooklyn or it might be the appearance of something that isn’t actually all quite there but is nonetheless exceedingly attractive and watchable.
March 05, 2018
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