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  • Floating Skyscrapers 2013

    ★★★½ Added

    Capsule review from my Transylvania Film Fest coverage at Next Projection

    Those three films constituted the entirety of this critic’s opening day in Cluj, courtesy of travel arrangements that made anything but a morning chocked with sleep seem silly to consider. Bright and early beginning the next morn, then, with an AM trot through the sun-soaked streets lifting the spirits so as to almost Floating Skyscrapers an unfair advantage. The apathy toward the director, Tomasz Wasilewski, ought to have evened…

  • Vis-à-vis 2013

    ★★½ Added

    Capsule review from my Transylvania Film Fest coverage at Next Projection

    It was better, at least, than the feature it supported: another novel idea’s enough to invest in Vis-à-Vis, which traces the strained relationship between a debut director and the soap star he’s tapped for a leading role as they take to the eponymous Croat isle to workshop the script. Pained parallels aplenty to follow as each man reveals deep personal secrets to the other—secrets any half-awake audience member ought…

  • Memoires Vives

    ★★½ Watched 03 Jun, 2014

    Capsule review from my Transylvania Film Fest coverage at Next Projection

    It just wouldn’t be right, in Transylvania of all places, not to have horror in some sort of sight. So to the Shadows Shorts, an eclectic selection of genre brevities given pride of place ahead of each competition screening. Before Vis-à-Vis came Mémoires Vives, a suitably strange effort from Frenchman Fabrice Mathieu shot with the chief actor projected into an arrangement of miniature scenes crafted by the artist Marc…

  • Something Must Break 2014

    ★★½ Watched 03 Jun, 2014

    Capsule review from my Transylvania Film Fest coverage at Next Projection

    Minds inclined to meander might, at a concluding point of Something Must Break, be drawn to dwell on Laurence Anyways. There’s a near-identical shot in each film—albeit at the beginning in the other—with near-identical connotations; the difference, of course, is that this new effort never earns its iteration. As the transgender Sebastian strides down the street, head held high for the first time as Ellie, the movie celebrates the…

  • Quod erat demonstrandum 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 07 Jun, 2014

    It’s not just his being here in Cluj to accept the TIFF lifetime achievement award that the great Polish helmer Krzysztof Zanussi’s presence is felt. His films of the ‘60s and ‘70s cast a shadow over Quod Erat Demonstrandum, the sole Romanian film in competition, and one whose black and white agéd aesthetic contributes a sense of antiquity that might have made it a contemporary of movies like Camouflage and The Illumination. It is, like those films, a socio-political tract…

  • Sunt o babă comunistă 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 06 Jun, 2014

    If we’re taking bets on TIFF’s audience award, fat wads of the smart money are resting on I’m an Old Communist Hag, a populist delight that played like gangbusters to the local audience. But the movie’s crowd-pleasing capacity oughtn’t to be mistaken for an indication of levity, and if it’s the quick-fire laughs that give it its fun, it’s the deeper issues they give way to that make it a film that lingers. As the adult daughter returned from exile…

  • Viktoria 2014

    ★★½ Watched 06 Jun, 2014

    “10 years before the collapse of communism” proclaims the opening title card of Viktoria, and by the time we reach the closing credits we seem to have lived it. Bulgarian filmmaker Maya Vitkova’s debut feature is a writer-director-producer picture if ever there was one, an over-extended mess of a movie that could stand to have its luvvies cut to ribbons. Like the assembly of archival footage with which it opens, like a who’s who of world figures circa 1979, this…

  • The Crypt

    ★★ Watched 05 Jun, 2014

    It might take a degree in Franco-Romanian relations and theology to take much away from The Crypt, and even then you’d need to be reaching. This tonally temeritous offering from sophomore director Corneliu Gheorghita isn’t half the existential allegory it thinks itself, or even a quarter of the fun. Just on the strength of the imagery that opens the film that’s an almighty shame; with a helicopter dramatically descending over rural Romania to the tune of an ominous, otherworldly score,…

  • Stockholm 2013

    ★★½ Watched 05 Jun, 2014

    If Richard Linklater has left only one significant mark on the face of film—and let’s not deceive ourselves—it’s the effective eradication of the May-December romance for a young generation of filmmakers in favour of the 9-5. It’s rarely a month goes by without a new movie taking inspiration from the Before series, a swathe of new Jesses and Celines following—literally, figuratively—in their forebears’ footsteps. What Stockholm suggests is that we’ve reached a point of saturation: sophomore Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen…

  • Fish & Cat 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 04 Jun, 2014

    Time and motion: the bare elements of the cinematic image. D.W. Griffith’s formalisation of the grammar of film editing when the medium was yet in its infancy effected an understanding between spectator and screen of the space between, the time and the motion we do not see in the space of a cut: the filmic equivalent, as it were, of reading between the lines. With Fish & Cat, Iranian director Shahram Mokri has poured the bathwater down the drain with less…

  • Blind 2014

    ★★★ Watched 04 Jun, 2014

    Is it a benefit or a burden to share much with not only last year’s winner, but the one before that too? One can only wonder in the case of Eskil Vogt, whose co-written Oslo, August 31st took home the Transylvania Trophy two years ago, and whose directorial debut, in competition this edition, shares a blind heroine with last year’s Ship of Theseus. Neither seems an appropriate point of comparison for Blind, all the same; if there’s a forebear to…

  • Floating Skyscrapers 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 04 Jun, 2014

    If there was but one thing we learned from the critical bludgeoning taken by the latest from Atom Egoyan last month, it’s that there’s a weariness toward the way Cannes tends to favour established filmmakers returning to the Croisette for the umpteenth time. That’s a problem nicely skirted by the competition criteria here in Cluj, which welcomes former competitors back under the auspices of its “Usual Suspects” sidebar and reserves the major slots for debut and sophomore directors. It’s a…