• Romancing in Thin Air

    Romancing in Thin Air

    ★★★★

    So I spent much of the runtime wondering what To was trying to do with the film's conceit — the whole "replace dead lover with idealized famous actor" thing seemed like weird wish-fulfillment, but Mr. To here isn't one to make simplistic drivel, quite the opposite actually. This seems really more about cinema's social and cathartic functions than its escapist qualities. Whereas in something like Breathless or Eugene Onegin the obsession over narratives/popular culture tended to imply negative consequences, this…

  • The Wild Pear Tree

    The Wild Pear Tree

    ★★★★½

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm absolutely loving Ceylan's evolution with his two recent features. Yes, his films have become longer, talkier, more prosaic. That languid, poetic style he was known for in films like Uzak? Few and far between. But what I find interesting here is this: Ceylan, who I had previously regarded as somewhat of an arthouse charlatan, has for his past two features been criticizing lofty self-important artists. There's just a delicious irony in this;…

  • Love Exposure

    Love Exposure

    ★★★★

    Very silly, yet very dramatic. Reminds me of an Asano Inio manga, right down to all the absurdity, suffering, raunchiness, and obsessions with cults. But Sono is pretty darn competent with the cards he sets on the table of this 4 hour epic. He carefully modulates an environment of sheer wrongness, a nightmare to conservative morality, all of which strains the new "family". So the father is an adulterous priest, the mother wild and wanton, the son a deviant who…

  • Winter Sleep

    Winter Sleep

    ★★★★½

    Up until this point Ceylan mostly struck me as a faux poet, a wannabe Tarkovsky. Not to say he hasn't made good films prior, but for every lyrical scene he creates, another would comes across as forced Tarkovskian reverie. In this film however, Ceylan seems to have embraced the unpoetic, or the prosaic, most notably with the greater usage of shot-reverse-shot and the ridiculous amounts of exposition. This could be self-critique we are witnessing, a distancing from what a filmmaker…

  • The Ear

    The Ear

    ★★★½

    Considerably effective in conveying subjective terror, relying on paranoia and the vagueness of memory to get that across. Flashbacks make frequent appearances and what was once insignificant enough to not be shown becomes sinisterly significant when presented in clouded, singular perspectives. But there is no need for real validity when the totalitarian machine is all powerful. Ending's great because it's really telling of this.

  • Spiral

    Spiral

    ★★★

    It's been a while since I've read Junji Ito's work of the same name, but some of his images have really stuck. Not all of Ito's grotesque body horror found its way into this adaptation, obviously (though how could they omit the iconic eyeball spiral?), but the film mostly succeeds in laying the atmosphere thick, which, when coupled with the already vivid imagination of the source material, succeeds for the most part. While in some regards the feel of a…

  • Breaking the Waves

    Breaking the Waves

    ★★★½

    Even though von Trier loves to wallow in miserabalism, the quick and loose style he employs serves a crucial role in undercutting what could've been unbridled manipulation, though the film skirts dangerously close to that. I mean, it really is all about exacerbation, where all factors move to work against any levity, whether they are narrative-dictated misfortune or existing social conditioning (in this case uncompromising religiosity). But I do appreciate that von Trier leaves all the condescending moralizing for the religious debate and not so much for the misfortune, which he captures with surprising empathy, despite the obvious perverseness of the situation.

  • Speed Racer

    Speed Racer

    ★★★★

    ANIME IS REAL

  • Miami Vice

    Miami Vice

    ★★★

    Honestly its status as some misunderstood masterpiece bewilders me. Like sure, everyone agrees on its evocative digital cinematography, whose aesthetic is often inverted to imply a glossy superficiality that Mann then likens to a world of macho flash and materialism. But Mann seems to have already been doing this from what I've seen of him, like in Manhunter or Heat, just with the implications of digital technique (though regular film can be seen as an equivalent for an arbiter of…

  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

    ★★★

    Perhaps a little too caught up in the stylish mysticism of it all, in that its spiritual angle can feel more like ornaments than something really profoundly religious (see Ordet), but it does conjure up some fairly pastoral scenes of breezy delight.

  • Pulse

    Pulse

    ★★★★½

    Hyperactively thematic. Watch as Kurosawa juggles a great number of hefty symbols and semi-genre obligations that clash and mishmash into a less-than congruent whole, and watch as he paradoxically translates that into early technological insecurities so readily felt in oxymoron. Like the best of prophetic early-internet art (Serial Experiments Lain) the puzzling and cryptic appearance of this new technology becomes a kind of horror—here manifesting as ghosts—but with computers as the center Kurosawa expands his scope into non-technological spaces, like…

  • A City of Sadness

    A City of Sadness

    ★★★★★

    A nation's tumultuous history as painted by the naturalistic bravura of Hou Hsiao-hsien's skill, filtered through the microcosm of a family and granted resounding soul in the contrast of silence and violence, where Tony Leung's necessitated deafness serves as foil for the mayhem of petty gangster scuffles and the broader social unrest. Shots of the land echo throughout as if to signal some sort of impending change of culture, language or history; sure enough Taiwan stood on the brink of…