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  • Journal de ma tête

    Journal de ma tête

    ★★½

    49/100

    Mystified by Meier's approach to this fact-based story (made for Swiss television, though it premiered at Berlin; it's an hour-and-change-long episode of a true-crime anthology series). What's worth exploring is the societal censure faced by Ardant's lit teacher, who's perceived by others as being implicated to some degree in her student's crime; the personal relationship between teacher and killer is of considerably less interest (especially since we see none of their classroom interaction preceding the murders—an admirable choice in…

  • The Thin Man

    The Thin Man

    ★★★½

    66/100

    Second viewing, first since 1992 (during my initial blitz through the canon after moving to New York and discovering its rep houses). Kinda flabbergasted by how little Nick + Nora there actually is here—movie's on fire whenever Powell and Loy banter it up, but I'd forgotten that "chivalry" keeps requiring Nora to be sidelined and that Hammett's typically convoluted mystery plot regularly grinds the repartee to a halt. Basically two magnificent, iconic characters trapped in a forgettable programmer. Turns out that's more than enough.

  • Women in Love

    Women in Love

    ★★★

    56/100

    Second viewing, last seen so long ago that the first viewing isn't in my logs (which I started keeping in 1992). Hoped I'd come around this time, as I did with The Devils, but Lawrence's intensely verbal ratiocination just doesn't translate well to the screen, despite Russell's strenuous efforts. Lots of verbatim dialogue here that feels overripe emerging from the mouths of even such fine actors as these; everyone remembers the wrestling scene not just because Bates and Reed…

  • Godard Mon Amour

    Godard Mon Amour

    ★★

    40/100

    Tweeted from TIFF '17: "More tepid than painful, though I winced at almost every cutesy allusion to Godard's own films." A.O. Scott's review cogently sums up the general case against Hazanavicius (whose unreleased-in-the-U.S. Cannes Competition title The Search is much more dire than this, imo): "Godard, for better and for worse, is a cinematic thinker, someone who has tried, over the course of a prolific and contentious career, to locate the philosophical potential and the intellectual essence of the…

  • The Firemen's Ball

    The Firemen's Ball

    ★★★½

    70/100

    Second viewing, first in over 20 years. Much funnier than I remembered, though I think I see what Younger Me's problem was: Forman is less interested here in specific individuals—nobody really stands out, and any of these dithering middle-aged functionaries could be swapped for any other—than he is in the overall pathetic vibe. Still think the film would have benefited from more character differentiation (in the way that, say, Iannucci always creates 57 distinct varieties of venal boobs; as…

  • The Girl Without Hands

    The Girl Without Hands

    ★★★½

    65/100

    Quite possibly my favorite animated film of all time, were I to judge based solely on the animation itself. Laudenbach's pulsating, deliberately incomplete style is a gorgeous riot of delirious minimalism, frequently eschewing facial expression and even basic body language in order to express emotion purely via line, shape, and color. Exactly the right stark, tumultuous approach for a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Trouble is, this particular tale offers barely enough incident to sustain a short, and Laudenbach, perhaps…

  • Babes in Toyland

    Babes in Toyland

    ★★

    36/100

    Surprised to find that I like this even less than the '61 Disney version, despite Laurel and Hardy's presence as ostensible headliners. Laurel gets to show off some stickball skills, but actual comedy routines are thin on the ground. (Thin in the air.) (Just generally pretty trim.) The duo feels as clumsily shoehorned into the story as they in fact are; it's as if the Marx Brothers had been hastily added to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. And nothing else…

  • Isle of Dogs

    Isle of Dogs

    ★★★

    58/100

    Not gonna wade into the cultural-appropriation debate, but it does feel to me as if Anderson set this in Japan primarily because the idea isn't robust enough to sustain a feature without a distracting scrim of colorful and busy homage. That's my working hypothesis regarding why I found this notably less superficially delightful than most of his other films, in any case. (Then again, I'd probably have concluded that Anderson and stop-motion don't mix, if not for Fantastic Mr.…

  • Henry Fool

    Henry Fool

    ★★★★

    76/100

    Third viewing, first since 1999, and now certain aspects seem weirdly prescient. Corrigan's character has a proto-alt-right flavor, and there's dialogue concerning the then-forthcoming digital revolution in publishing that seems intended as satire but pretty accurately predicts where we are now (except that Hartley couldn't foresee that the screens in question would be mostly smartphones rather than laptops). Still superb otherwise, though I love individual elements—particularly Thomas Jay Ryan's bizarrely magnetic performance, which has to rank among the greatest…

  • A Quiet Place

    A Quiet Place

    ★★★

    57/100

    An inherently cinematic premise (as Don't Breathe demonstrated to better effect), but while Krasinski does a serviceable enough job milking it for tension, he can't resist spoon-feeding the audience. On Twitter I mostly carped about the damn whiteboard, which is bad enough providing clumsy exposition in the background but becomes flat-out laughable at the climax, when a rack focus to WHAT IS THE WEAKNESS prompts the daughter's sudden belated realization of WHAT THE WEAKNESS IS. Arguably even more egregious,…

  • King of Jazz

    King of Jazz

    ★★★

    55/100

    Typical early-sound revue, albeit imaginatively shot/staged, with routines that run the gamut from dazzling ("Ragamuffin Romeo," apparently the sole film appearance of insanely limber vaudeville performer Marion Stattler) to, uh, yeah ("The Melting Pot of Music," depicting jazz as a fusion of influences from everyone on earth save black Americans). Also notable as Bing Crosby's screen debut, and seeing him in this context made it clear how instrumental he was in supplanting the vibrato-heavy vocal style that dominated at…

  • Lean on Pete

    Lean on Pete

    ★★★½

    70/100

    From TIFF '17, I tweeted: "Flirts with doing something extraordinary, can't quite commit. But terrific detail even at its most conventional." If memory serves, first sentence refers to Haigh's bait-and-switch, establishing a familiar boy-and-his-horse narrative and then pushing it somewhere considerably bleaker. And then I seem to recall being slightly disappointed by the ending—not so much because it offers a modicum of hope as because it justifies a fairly quixotic quest. (It's as if we'd known where the girl…