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  • In Praise of Love 2001

    ★★★★★ Watched 17 Aug, 2014 1

    An exquisite work, filled with Godard's irascible antagonism but filtered through a lens of somber, even melancholic reflection. I don't envy the film's showing on 9/12/01, where its justifiable protests against American cultural imperialism ran afoul of that instant-reactionary zeal that swept Americans regardless of erstwhile political allegiance. And granted, some of its attacks, such as America's total lack of history, or the mischaracterized notion that Spielberg never paid Schindler's widow, but I'm reminded of JLG's equally pissy, incorrect estimation…

  • In Vanda's Room 2000

    ★★★★★ Watched 18 Aug, 2014

    This is the moment Costa was building up to his entire career, a breakthrough in his filmography of constant critical self-examination and a direct engagement with the morality of being a director. IN VANDA'S ROOM isn't (just) striking for its immersion into docufiction but for the total erosion of the barriers Costa previously found in his attempts to film neglected communities. This isn't reality—Costa used his now-stripped crew and unintrusive DV setups to allow for multiple takes to get his…

  • Ossos 1997

    ★★★★½ Watched 16 Aug, 2014

    If CASA DE LAVA exhibits a budding conflict between Costa's talents as a filmmaker and the unpredictability seeping into his increasing interest in documenting outsider communities, OSSOS directly approaches a new way of shooting, though it does not quite reach the full breakthrough of IN VANDA'S ROOM. Nonetheless, Costa's first cinematic journey to Fontainhas is one of the best films of its year, a portrait of young, impoverished characters who behave unpredictably, and sometimes horribly yet are never painted as…

  • The Gleaners & I 2000

    ★★★★ Watched 16 Aug, 2014

    I've seen a few docs of various lengths on the topic of food recycling, of groups dealing with the grotesque waste of industrialized food societies by picking through garbage. But Varda's film is so much richer; it's not a history of gleaning so much as a living document of the practice's constant state of flux, a mixture of its traditional usage out on private fields mixed with its growing urban counterpart. She even situates herself in this mold, claiming to…

  • La libertad 2001

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Aug, 2014

    A woodcutter seems to have the bare necessities and to enjoy a life without corporate oversight, yet the eventual intrusion of bosses and demanding customers offers a reminder that everyone, even someone who lives off armadillos and just enough gasoline to power a chainsaw, has their masters. The title suggests that "Arbeit macht frei" is the sick-joke tenet of capitalism itself, not just fascist camps.

  • Casa de Lava 1995

    ★★★★½ Watched 16 Aug, 2014

    An exceptionally beautiful film, transferring Costa's innate formal control from the tense interiors and carefully controlled urban exteriors of O SANGUE to landscape vistas of Cape Verde's unforgiving, alien climate. The use of color is superb: from the mileage it gets out of the island's black soil (not to mention black bodies), to the heat-saturated palettes that make every frame oppressive, even in pitch-black night shots (I've stumped a lot for putting things on Blu-Ray with good transfers lately, but…

  • Level Five 1997

    ★★★★ Watched 15 Aug, 2014

    As I slowly trawl through Chris Marker's filmography I'm increasingly struck dumb by his utterly singular form, his essayistic bricolage reflective of his attempt to reconcile personal memory with history at large, especially the way the two inform each other. LEVEL FIVE is framed around digital exploration, yet it hinges on the Battle of Okinawa and its far-reaching impact, not only on the war but the Atomic Age and the postwar mentality, of Japan but perhaps all major powers, of…

  • The Blood 1989

    ★★★★ Watched 14 Aug, 2014

    What a remarkable debut, one of the most beautifully crafted ever made (maybe the most formally accomplished first film since Night of the Hunter? and that's not really comparable, given Costa worked as an AD on a few films and Laughton had a whole career around cameras to pick up tips). Its narrative is more fitfully rewarding, but when it clicks, its blend of numerous references into a romanticized vision of young love and survival recalls a more classically minded Carax. Combined with its neverending supply of arresting, perfectly composed images, this mildly too-elliptical work is nonetheless a better first film than most ever manage.

  • Blue Jasmine 2013

    ★★½ Watched 13 Aug, 2014

    This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.

  • The Beaches of Agnès 2008

    ★★★★½ Watched 13 Aug, 2014

    A sublime autobiography, one that nominally hits all the chronological beats of this hackneyed genre but consistently finds upbeat, inventive ways to illustrate it, breaking the mold. (At times, she almost seems to be showing Michel Gondry how to do the lo-fi thing to an actual end, not just to be overly precious.) My only complaint is that I wish I'd watched this just before a Karagarga freeleech so I could snap up all her films that never made it to DVD.

  • The Gang's All Here 1943

    ★★★★★ Watched 10 Aug, 2014

    It's a loaded sentiment to say a musical's songs are a bit dull and still find it one of the most overwhelming musicals ever made, but when Busby Berkeley is directing and choreographing the songs could be Nickelback tunes for all I care. The camera seems forever in motion, with judiciously synchronized and contrapuntal movements and cuts that add visceral punch to everything while also lending appreciative time to every arrangement of dancers and the performers' individual talents. Its use of color also verges on the Archers-esque. I might need to finally break down and get a region-free player for MoC's upcoming Blu-Ray.

  • Drum Beat 1954

    ★★★ Watched 10 Aug, 2014

    Too repetitive and occasionally on-the-nose even for a '50s Message Movie, but still a solid piece from Delmer Daves, with a sad estimation of both sides of a conflict, and the internal strife within those divisions, that make reconciliation all but impossible.