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  • Near Death

    Near Death 1989

    ★★★★★ Added

    Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman is famous for his thoroughness and objectivity even if he’s not quite as unimpeachable in these areas as some of his partisans claim; 2013’s AT BERKELEY, for instance, gave surprisingly short shrift to the title university’s professors while letting its administrators ramble on forever. 1989’s NEAR DEATH, however, has both of these qualities in spades and is a monumental achievement of the documentary form; it takes as its subject the medical intensive care unit of Boston’s…

  • The Blue Room

    The Blue Room 2014

    ★★★★ Added

    “Life is different when you live it and when you go back over it after.” So says Julien Gahyde (director and co-writer Mathieu Amalric), an adulterous–and possibly murderous–farm equipment sales rep, in response to a gendarme’s incessant questions concerning an ambiguous crime. Gahyde’s year-long affair with a beautiful but unstable pharmacist, Esther Despierre (co-writer Stephanie Cleau), also married, ends in tragedy but this erotic thriller is ingeniously constructed to only teasingly parcel out the narrative information; the nonlinear structure, which…

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  • Like Someone in Love

    Like Someone in Love 2012

    ★★★★★ Watched 16 Oct, 2012

    The late Chilean director Raul Ruiz’s indispensable book Poetics of Cinema argues against the necessity of “central conflict theory” that has long dominated commercial narrative filmmaking in the western world. If Abbas Kiarostami, one of the world’s greatest living directors, ever wrote a comparable book on film theory, one suspects he might similarly challenge the notion of the “three-act structure.” The Japanese-set Like Someone in Love may well be the Iranian master’s most provocative work; his extremely unconventional handling of…

  • A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

    A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness 2013

    ★★★★½ Added

    This masterful experimental film by co-directors Ben Rivers and Ben Russell begins with one of the most incredible images I’ve seen on a cinema screen in some time: an epic panning shot of a Finnish landscape, first from right to left, then from left to right, as the last traces of sunlight disappear from the night sky. As the screen grows increasingly dark, a band of hilly forest becomes nothing more than a thick, black horizontal line separating the midnight…