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  • A Star Is Born

    A Star Is Born

    ★★★

    Perhaps fittingly for a film that takes place in the pop milieu, as long as this version of A Star is Born doesn’t aim for introspection it transports us. The first hour or so here, which chart in moment-to-moment detail the plucking of Lady Gaga’s Ally from obscurity to her instant rise to stardom via a viral video, allow us to get caught up in the rush that a proximity to fame can bring. Here the film coasts on the…

  • Our Time

    Our Time

    ★★★

    Perhaps Our Time is meant as a recuperative gesture from international cinema shock jock Reygadas, or perhaps he felt that after his past provocations, the most outrageous thing he could do is serve us a self-serious, Bergmanesque epistolary relationship drama starring his own family. There’s no escaping that had Bergman directed this in his prime it would be half the length (with twice the insight.. and better performances…), yet it must be observed that once this three-hour film establishes its…

  • Asako I & II

    Asako I & II

    ★★★½

    A fairly ambitious and convincing treatise about the ways our past needs can dictate our future relationships and about the gap between who we are and who the person we love loves. I wish it was a little less slapstick-driven (at times it feels like live action anime), and I wish Hamaguchi actually paid more than lip service to the courtship phases of these pairings, but there are enough ideas to ground the film, no doubt…

  • Transit 

    Transit 

    ★★★½

    Petzold films have become predictable pleasures by this point, and this one is no exception… A Nazi refugee drama in modern dress, this chugs along so efficiently that you scarcely notice that you’ve become emotionally involved. While it doesn’t quite hit the amplified heights of Phoenix (there’s no revenge plot to drive the action, and that film's quasi-gothic atmosphere is sadly not replicated here), the film works almost in spite of itself. It feels very much like it has been…

  • Ash Is Purest White

    Ash Is Purest White

    ★★★

    Basically this is two hours of Tao Zhao proving that she’s a straight up gangster, and what more could you want than that?

  • Long Day's Journey into Night

    Long Day's Journey into Night

    ★★½

    Conceptually brilliant, if roughly aping Mullholland Dr.’s structure can be considered brilliant. Still, too sleepy and elusive in its approach by half for my tastes. Definitely one that I should revisit outside of the festival atmosphere, but at the same time this is clearly a film that’s been made precisely for festival audiences…

  • In Fabric

    In Fabric

    ★★★★

    To the Devil… a Department Store?

    Strickland is ever the playful formalist, and here that formalism extends completely into the dialogue itself, resulting in about half of this very funny horror comedy’s laughs. Although this doesn’t reach for the emotional resonance of The Duke of Burgundy nor the sustained sense of madness of Berberian Sound Studio, it’s probably the most effortlessly watchable thing that the director has turned out to date… Think a postmodern tribute to Death Bed or Halloween III and you’re in the right ballpark.

  • What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?

    What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?

    ★★

    A disappointment from Minervini, who eschews his usual docufiction trappings to offer a more straightforward account of American race relations in 2017. This stuff, unfortunately, is unlikely to challenge any assumptions that any American has on the issue (indeed, this is the first time where I’ve felt that Minervini’s nationality might be a liability to his project). The bulk of the film is taken up with three narrative strands, involving the efforts of a new Black Panther party, the attempts…

  • Vision

    Vision

    ★½

    There’s a fine line between beguilingly mysterious and blandly new agey, and to these eyes Kawase’s latest falls on the wrong side of that border. Centering around a French scientist (Juliette Binoche) who travels to a mountainous Japanese forest in search of a fabled spore that only blooms ever 997 years, this self-serious drama exhibits most of Kawase’s worst tendencies. There are arbitrary cuts to nature footage, vague affirmations of unity, and a general malaise that becomes the dominant tone.…

  • The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

    The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

    ★★

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  • The Wild Pear Tree

    The Wild Pear Tree

    ★★½

    A throwback, of sorts, to Ceylan’s Distant, this epic-length film follows a sad sack college graduate as he returns home to confront his uncertain future and his family, which has disintegrated as a result of his father’s compulsive gambling habit. First and foremost, it needs to be said that this is the least visually striking of the director’s digital works. The locations, mainly a desolate farm and a cramped apartment building, are meant to evoke a sense of decline by…

  • Maya

    Maya

    ★★½

    Not a huge fan of the director’s output because I can rarely tell if she’s being subtle or slight.  I conceptually appreciate  that she tells her stories on the margins of where other films might find interest (this is a drama that deals with the road to personal recentering after a kidnapping... which isn’t depicted whatsoever), but she often falls into traps of her own. Yes, maybe we’ve seen one too many hostage crisis movies, but can’t the same be said about films about unlikely romances or unscrupulous land developers?  Neither of the attractive lead actors contributes much to our understanding.