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  • Rat Film

    Rat Film

    ★★★★

    Looking over reviews of this at least on here suggests that I have a stronger admiration for the project that most, and as I discuss with director Theo Anthony on the podcast, I think that's because I find the style of the film not easily boxed in. Reviews seem to suggest that one subplot is too many, or Anthony does better with his humans than his history (or visa versa). I find the variety of it all to be what…

  • Faces Places

    Faces Places

    ★★★½

    Discussed with Ms. Agnès and her co-conspirator here on the podcast. If my delight in this one is reserved perhaps because Gleaners is and continues to be such a revelation, that even though this has its own unique contours, it perhaps cannot tap that. But what I found so provocative was the was AV and JR crafted their characters and the emotional journey I felt with her. Whether the Godard part was staged (other interviews suggest not), her emotional outburst…

  • Ex Libris – New York Public Library

    Ex Libris – New York Public Library

    ★★★★

    "In Wiseman’s Jackson Heights, he posed a growing society full of nooks and corners and crannies of populations that truly filled the idea of the “nation of immigrants.” But he also looked at the threat from capitalist America and the creeping horrors that gentrification could bring, how that attempted to stamp out our diversity. The library offers a different take on how large institutions benefit communities. As Wiseman expands, we see the micromanaging of small groups, responding to their unique…

  • Heaven Can Wait

    Heaven Can Wait

    ★★★½

    Discussed with Colorlab's Laura Major in the latest episode of the podcast. Essentially a more or less well tuned script with great performances across the board. The energy of this thing zigs and zags, though unlike Elaine May's directorial work, Beatty sugarcoats more than goes for the kill. That's a compliment, mind you, as part of the enjoyment of this oddball work is just how pleasant it is.

  • Bonnie and Clyde

    Bonnie and Clyde

    ★★★★½

    Not a review, but my first published article about the legal revolution of Hollywood is now out in the new issue of The Velvet Light Trap. It explores the contracts devised by Warner Bros. for two films directed by Arthur Penn, The Left-Handed Gun and Bonnie and Clyde. I ask the question, "What could contracts tell us about how films are made and the role of the director?" Here's a brief excerpt:

    By 1967 the studio had transitioned into a…

  • Three on a Couch

    Three on a Couch

    ★★★★

    Definitely one of the weirdest projects Lewis made, and as Jaime Christley and I discuss on our podcast tribute to Jerry Lewis, one that is both entirely outdated and incredibly radical. The moment with Janet Leigh as she dances is quite the emotional slow burn, but what I do find so fascinating is the way that Jerry slowly becomes the Jerry character. We see his character slowly devolve and become much more of a clown until its no longer possible to be anything else.

  • Good Time

    Good Time

    ★★★★

    A green Sprite bottle, given almost a mythical introduction in a frenetic monologue, slips out of the hand of a character and roles into a puddle of water. The camera, finally imparted from its intense close-ups to a God's eye long shot, lingers just for a second as it rolls into a puddle where it could be misconceived as trash. An object of everyday life that has been signified with narrative agency (A MacGuffin up there with the Arc of…

  • Killer of Sheep

    Killer of Sheep

    ★★★★½

    Discussed with NYTimes critic Manohla Dargis on the latest episode of the podcast. Not much to say: it's a masterpiece that I would be shocked if it doesn't cross into the Sight & Sound Top 50 during the next poll.

    Fun Fact: The film first played abroad at a Rome film festival in 1980 which had a focus on black cinema. This included: Micheaux's Body & Soul, Richard Maurice's Eleven P.M., two William Greales docs, Dixon's The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Gordon Parks's The Learning Tree, and this little gem.

  • The Republic

    The Republic

    ★★★

    Discussed with director James N. Kienitz Wilkins and writer Robin Schavoir on the podcast. I think the conceptual bit works quite well; the absence of an image makes for compelling cinema. The real question is whether the allegorical drama works, which given the daunting running time (I did it in a few parts over a few different screens / audio devices), has some interesting threads though the characters feel sedate. But maybe give it a try as a podcast.

  • Baby Driver

    Baby Driver

    ★★★½

    Edgar Wright would have never fit the 70s New Wave: he belongs at Warners in the 30s. Baby Driver colors inside the lines, but this is a stark contrast from other recent Hollywood films praised being "different enough." He wants the image on screen to matter more than the cultural conversation that occurs afterwards. He's rather cast a David Byrne than a emotive performance (perhaps to a slight detriment when the gears change). He wants to create tone and rhythm…

  • Letter from an Unknown Woman

    Letter from an Unknown Woman

    ★★★★

    The key moment of this film is the second goodbye at the train, which suddenly becomes a moment of horror for Lisa. This horror should not occur, but the non-diegesis of Daniele Amfitheatrof's score combined with the sudden look of shock registered by Fontaine's face tell us that this moment is tragedy. What has happened exactly? Her son has exclaimed as the train rushes out the station that he expects to see her in two weeks. This is of course…

  • The Doll

    The Doll

    ★★★★½

    Discussed at the end of my latest podcast, which features dispatches from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. As Victor and I discuss, Lubitsch seems fully formed as an artist by here, all his pertinent themes and narrative tropes appearing (not to mention the extremely naughty humor). But what I again found fascinating is how the most "limiting" factor of his style—the tableaux two shot—becomes a trope that actually enhances the sophisticated rhythm of the humor instead of limiting it. This is someone who before ever discovering continuity editing already had mastered what a shot could do.