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  • Gold

    Gold

    ★★★½

    Discussed with Girish Shambu on the latest episode of the podcast, alongside some discussions of what exactly is the so-called Berlin School. One of those films that I think can really help explicate because the genre stylings are there to serve as a guide as opposed to deconstruction.

  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

    ★★★

    Fire Walk With Me is Laura's perception of Twin Peaks the town, and more so, the television series it ties into. The cinematography is hardened with terse contrasts and heavy blacks, the niceties and quirk of its more disarming characters all but missing, and the frames often more disjointed and disorienting. One could even say the casting changes are a product of Laura's perspective. Her best friend Donna has been replaced with someone less discerning—Moira Kelly's widened eyes and quivering…

  • Twin Peaks

    Twin Peaks

    ★★★★½

    "The clash between Peyton Place-style intrigue and the ghastly horrors on a young girl’s body create a yin and yang like nothing else in Lynch’s filmography. Constrained perhaps by the regiments of network television, the strangest horrors remain a flickering light, the mysterious boisterousness in Kyle MacLachlan's performance, and the excessive crying. Just watch Donna’s sudden outbreak—seemingly motivated by a spiritual connection with the intensity of a whirling noise underneath the soundtrack. Before introducing a mysterious room with a dancing…

  • Cousin Bobby

    Cousin Bobby

    ★★★★

    One of the films discussed in the new Jonathan Demme podcast tribute. A perfect synthesis of Demme's approach to humanism. At once, this is kind of an almost tritely stylized documentary about "hey I just rediscovered my cousin!" Except it uses that almost as a springboard to cover some of the most blatant political expressions in a mainstream documentary. The two sequences that end this film—a small victory for a pothole, and a montage of Detroit / LA / other cities burning in the 1960s—are a ying-yang of political montage. Absolutely necessary viewing.

  • The Headless Woman

    The Headless Woman

    ★★★★

    Discussed with scholar Catherine Grant on the latest podcast. Revisiting this movie was such a phenomenal viewing experience—because now that I'm so familiar with slow cinema / contemporary contemplative cinema, this acts as an adrenaline rush. Every shot contains so much information, whether narrative details or sociological observations stuffed just in the corner of the frame (if not offscreen and completely relying on sound). But the fact that the surrealist narrative still catches me off balance every time speaks to the way one must ultimately give way. This is what movies should do.

  • Falkenau, the Impossible

    Falkenau, the Impossible

    ★★★★

    I discussed the origins of this footage in my new podcast with Fuller expert Marsha Gordon, but this is really something else. While the footage itself is haunting, I'm consumed with the image of Fuller sitting in his chair while narrating these past events. His clear and terse voice gives a no-nonsense characterization of what occurred there, talking about the need to witness and the role of visual testimony. This proto-director's commentary is an essential document of not just a filmmaker but more importantly a moment in when questions of history are debated when visual evidence remains so essential.

  • The Steel Helmet

    The Steel Helmet

    ★★★★

    Discussed with Marsha Gordon on the latest podcast, and a textbook example of how a writer-director can make a war movie about a contemporary moment that is political without having a stated politics. Both the DOD and the communist papers interpreted Fuller's politics as against their own position. It's of course humanizing (or enraging?) to think that even 60 years ago, the confusion between depiction and endorsement has been brewing. But what's most important is how Fuller could even make this film work neither as a diatribe nor as propaganda, but simply and brutally showing the life of a soldier.

  • The Lost City of Z

    The Lost City of Z

    ★★★½

    "Gray avoids a neo-colonial gaze by explicitly grappling how people view the Other, periodizing the enlightened man instead of seeing him in the moment of now. But the articulation of his filming of this all becomes rather cursory—usually one to forefront his emotions, the period detail neither lavishes the images nor infects the narratives. The moments that usually define a Gray story are omitted in favor of the controlled framing and central performances. It’s almost strange that within a jungle…

  • Return of an Adventurer

    Return of an Adventurer

    ★★★½

    Published in the Village Voice

    The films of Moustapha Alassane, perhaps the most idiosyncratic director to emerge from Niger, mix genre, style, and national identity into movie magic. MoMA's retrospective sheds light on a filmmaker who, over the past five decades, integrated the stories of his culture into various forms (animation, documentary, fiction) to create a genuinely populist cinema. Humorous shorts like Bon Voyage Sim (1966) and Kokoa (1985) reimagine the political landscape of Africa through animated amphibians, while The Return of an Adventurer (1966) demonstrates the imposition of Western values on Nigerien society through the use of cowboy iconography in chronicling a gang of hooligans.

  • Graduation

    Graduation

    ★★★

    Published in the Village Voice:

    Taut thriller or absurdist comedy? The latest from 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu takes a deadpan approach to toeing this line. After a student is attacked before her college entrance exams, her father attempts to manipulate her scores when the school refuses to grant her an extension. As he involves his family and friends in the scheme, his social exchanges only make the situation more surreal. Staged in even-handed two-shots and defying moral judgment, the Romanian-language Graduation deftly balances humor with increasing horror.

  • Door 3

    Door 3

    ★★★½

    Kurosawa's pre-Cure intrigue, a mash-up of It Follows and Inland Empire. Like the former, it essentially uses an STD metaphor, right down to the slow-moving emotionless bodies that stalk our protagonist. Of course, Kurosawa has always been one to avoid usual bumps in the night. He uses axial hard cuts in the découpage to present the zombie-like beings; their stillness in flat presentational framing essentially is what makes them terrifying. When a shot of a character we have known to…

  • Song to Song

    Song to Song

    ★★★★

    Discussed briefly on the latest episode of the podcast. His most character-centric film since The New World and maybe his best since then as well. One thing I forgot to mention is I love how eclectic the soundtrack is. Malick doesn't reserve himself to one style to tell this story, but a multiplicity that helps the film feel like one set in the direct here and now as well as in a timeless mode.