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  • Painted Skin

    Painted Skin 2008

    Watched 30 Aug, 2015

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

    Painted Skin doesn't always put its best foot forward. There are a number of clumsy moments: The most egregious being an attempt to create drama by cutting around the moment a character suddenly turns to face another. The absence of the turning movement is intended to shock but instead it just jars. That said, as The Bride with White Hair showed, I'm more than capable of overlooking some oddities (both films share an extreme fondness for Dutch angles) if the…

  • Of Horses and Men

    Of Horses and Men 2013

    Watched 27 Aug, 2015

    Tonally similar to Imamura's work in that it is both bawdily humorous and startlingly tragic. The animals are active participants here though rather than just metaphors deployed via inserts (although to be fair the fish in The Pornographers isn't exactly passive). Like Imamura's work Of Horses and Men does effectively balance its tonal shifts - transitioning from levity to grief with uncommon grace. It's also cleverly structured in a way that takes full advantaged of its small town setting.

  • Leviathan

    Leviathan 2014

    Watched 27 Aug, 2015

    Leviathan feels like Zvyagintsev gathered up The Return's study of authoritarian masculinity and Elena's class portraits and wove them together. In that regard it feels like a full stop or a culmination and I'm not sure where he goes from here. His perspective feels new though: as though he's shifted from being a mostly detached observer to a bitter commentator.

  • A Most Violent Year

    A Most Violent Year 2014

    Watched 24 Aug, 2015

    Essentially a version of The Godfather in which there are no innocents to begin with: just men who are very good at pretending to themselves that they're innocents. In doing so it makes a direct attack upon The Godfather's narrative of capitalism with a human face being pushed out by ruthlessly amoral capitalists, and of pure individuals being tarnished by impure people. It's counterintuitive but somehow in removing the gangsters from the gangster film Chandor made the genre even more cynical.

  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

    Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 2015

    Watched 22 Aug, 2015

    In a way this is surprisingly ambitious. Rogue Nation's finale doesn't try to top its previous stunts in spectacle but in suspense and... um... catharsis??? It's even more surprising that it nearly succeeds. In other words I wasn't expecting wine gently sloshing in glasses to be a salient detail in a Mission Impossible film.

  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015

    Watched 22 Aug, 2015

    It's refreshing to see a contemporary spy film that's more interested in bon mots & stylish clothes than action. Unfortunately it's stuck in third gear.

    Oh and the score has some neat, not entirely explicable nods to Spaghetti Western soundtracks.

  • Mr. Holmes

    Mr. Holmes 2015

    Watched 18 Aug, 2015

    A movie that knows it's about memory, regret and fiction and yet centers its climax around an almost irrelevant moment of peril.

  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

    Ali: Fear Eats the Soul 1974

    Watched 15 Aug, 2015

    •Initially aligns us with Ali's perspective as good people persecute bad people before heartrendingly coming around to Emmi's "neither better or worse than others" perspective as it digs into group dynamics and Orientalism.

    •Sets and costumes are so vivid that they almost serve as outlets for emotions that the characters often seem to be repressing. That goes double for the way windows and doors isolate people.

    •In some ways the above is such an odd, dumb statement to make about…

  • Inside Out

    Inside Out 2015

    Watched 09 Aug, 2015

    I'm going to go out on a precarious limb and suggest that Lava and Inside Out are a well matched pair. Granted Inside Out's tale of emotional growth is significantly more sophisticated than Lava's one note ode to abstract love but it's only marginally less safe and heteronormative. Dad works in finance and has a football game in his head, Mum is emotionally sensitive and looks after the homefront and together with boyfriend-fantasising daughter they form an idealised nuclear family.…

  • Tangerine

    Tangerine 2015

    Watched 13 Jun, 2015

    One of my favourite things about Tangerine is how attentive it is to the gap between public faces and private realities. Several times it includes close-ups of signs with messages along the lines of "We Do Not Serve Prostitutes and their Clients" only to follow them with scenes of characters freely engaging in the ostensibly prohibited behaviour.

  • Adam's Woman

    Adam's Woman 1970

    Watched 02 Aug, 2015

    Adam's Woman has about as sophisticated a take on gender as you'd expect from its title. It's also caught in a rather awkward moment in Australian social history: ready to rehabilitate our convict past but not quite able to grapple with the lie of Terra Nullius. (There is not a single black face to be seen in this film.)

    Adam's Woman is a handsome film: it's shot in panavision, mostly on location. Its technical proficiency is somewhat let down by its score though which consists of tiresomely literal songs and literally tiresome pieces.

  • Victoria

    Victoria 2015

    Watched 11 Jun, 2015

    Victoria is a decent enough heist film. Its one shot gimmick forces some subtly (can't cut to close-ups) and its de rigueur documentary-like shooting is effectively claustrophobic. It has some narrative strengths too: a sticky door is an effective piece of misdirection. Make no mistake though: Victoria's single continuous take is a gimmick. At one point the camera operator "cuts" in camera by letting the shot drift slowly out of focus and then snapping it back into focus. Maybe now that Sebastian Schipper's gotten some attention he'll let himself use his full toolbox.