• FIRST TIME [The Time for All but Sunset - VIOLET]

    FIRST TIME [The Time for All but Sunset - VIOLET]

    ★★★½

    The opening barrage of heterosexual propaganda (read: Coca Cola commercials) expands into a catalogue of billboard ads along a German railway, and plays nicely off of an anticipated gay romance in a train compartment. Both in turn play off of the history of early 20th century panoramas, the locked-down, proscenium-shot composition of the train interior balancing out the "pure" documentation of the exterior views. The title signals a structuring principle, as the film is entirely prologue, each segment offering variations…

  • What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

    What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

    ★★★★

    Reverse Shot review, excerpted below. For the first hour, it's probably the most exciting new feature I've seen this year. Would recommend going in blind, though.

    Despite the persistent tendency to see Bresson’s work in terms of subtraction or removal—in metaphors of “stripping away” or “paring back”—his legacy continues to be one of the richest there is in the cinema, with connections to filmmakers as accomplished and distinctive as Nathaniel Dorsky, Angela Schanelec, and Jean-Claude Rousseau, to name but a…

  • The Girl and the Spider

    The Girl and the Spider

    ★★★

    Quite liked The Strange Little Cat, but even after two viewings, this one still seems to me significantly weaker. More for Reverse Shot.

    Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s The Girl and the Spider opens with a view of an apartment floor plan. Across the film’s 98-minute runtime, as we watch the corresponding apartment space subjected to all manner of modifications, the image lingers in the mind as an abstraction, a measure by which we are able to comprehend, and evaluate, the…

  • The Tsugua Diaries

    The Tsugua Diaries

    ★★★½

    Reverse Shot review, excerpted below:

    For Miguel Gomes, the theory and practice of filmmaking are inseparable. This is not to say that his films are somehow doing critical work—though Gomes did in fact start out as a critic—only that where some directors prefer to dissolve theoretical frameworks into recognizable story arcs and textures, Gomes seems less interested in concealing his interests and themes. Rather, he allows his conceptual designs to rest easy on the surface of his work—perhaps on the…

  • Titane

    Titane

    ★★

    Reviewed for In Review Online's second TIFF dispatch:

    What is the role of “transgressive” art in an ostensibly liberal society? Or, to put it another way: In a cultural context where the top prize of the world’s most prestigious film festival can go to a movie where a woman fucks a car — twice — and where no image, however outré, seems incapable of being assimilated into the dominant lines of discourse, what is the place of personal belief and…

  • France

    France

    ★★★★

    Review in Cinema Scope 88. Apart from being the film of the year so far, this also opened up Dumont's work for me in a significant way. Well, maybe except for Jeannette; still not sure I'd respond to that one now.

  • Drive My Car

    Drive My Car

    ★★½

    The lengthy pre-credits prologue is likely the most Murakami-esque section, directly connecting creative and sexual union, after which the film (very) gradually transforms into a logy, lugubrious drama of trauma recovery. The problem, based on the four of his features I've seen is that Hamaguchi is, pace some other characterizations, a rather unremarkable dramaturg: his films are more conceptually appealing than they are texturally or behaviorally convincing, an aspect of his filmmaking that Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, with its…

  • Mr. Bachmann and His Class

    Mr. Bachmann and His Class

    ★★★½

    Given the 217-minute runtime, which leaves ample room for a great many things, it's perhaps useful to start with what this film isn't. It's not a portrait of an institution, neither of the Georg Büchner School in particular (which learn very little about, outside of Mr. Bachmann's class), nor of Stadtallendorf in general (we get a sense of the town's demographics, the kinds of jobs available, its history, but its municipal workings are not the film's focus). Likewise, the film…

  • Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

    Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

    ★★★½

    For all of its zeitgeisty elements, this is a film fundamentally about the timeless question of education. The three-part structure works well: The first section has the camera operating halfway between surveillance-state agent and curious bystander, offering literal panoramas of urban iconography; the second expands into a "dictionary" of images, highlighting the impossibility of controlling the linguistic associations that form (must we mean what we say?); the third develops into a logorrheic forum/trial played at a wide range of behavioral…

  • Annette

    Annette

    ★★★

    "But where's the stage you wonder? Is it outside, or is it within?" The opening number ("So May We Start?") doesn't answer this question explicitly, but the exhortation to hold your breath and keep your reactions to yourself effectively does, making this a film about, as it were, the stage within. As in Mauvais Sang, Carax affirms himself as a genre director in the manner of Godard—that is, a filmmaker of categories (girl/gun, blood/red, etc), presenting images and series of…

  • The Green Knight

    The Green Knight

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    "A Filmed Adaptation of a Chivalric Romance by Anonymous," though as many have observed, Dev Patel's Gawain isn't exactly chivalrous, and this is a rather cold and desolate for a romance, a winter's tale if you will. The choice to intercut Arthur's speech with Morgan le Fay's ritual summoning—something like Welles' expansion of the witches' role at the head of Macbeth, also a deviation from the source material—does two main things. It immediately links storytelling with magic (as do the…

  • Old

    Old

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    The governing logic is that of a locked-room murder mystery: each adult is essentially handed a character card ("Please state your name and occupation"), typed with specific skills and personalities (god-complex surgeon, cowardly actuary, etc), and given secrets that are parceled out across the runtime. Accordingly, the dialogue is expository and relentlessly explanatory, so any complaints about it are fundamentally complaints about the convention—which one can of course still reject, though one ought to be absolutely clear about doing so.…