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  • John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

    John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

    ★★★★

    The starting point for this fascinating and endlessly surprising documentary by Julien Faraut was the director’s discovery of a previously unseen cache of 16mm film rolls dating from the mid-1980s that featured John McEnroe at Roland Garros, the tennis tournament commonly known as the “French Open.” This archival footage was originally shot by another director, Gil de Kermadec, for a series of instructional films that began in the 1960s and for which McEnroe, the controversial world number one who helped…

  • Madeline's Madeline

    Madeline's Madeline

    ★★★★★

    A theater director asks a teenage actress to mine deeply personal emotional terrain – including the tumultuous relationship she has with her own mother – in order to workshop a new play. This wild and beautiful film, a quantum leap beyond Josephine Decker’s first two movies (BUTTER ON THE LATCH, THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY), cuts deep into the heart of the kind of dubious emotional exploitation inherent in nearly all director/actor relationships. Imagine MULHOLLAND DRIVE from a truly female…

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  • Like Someone in Love

    Like Someone in Love

    ★★★★★

    The late Chilean director Raul Ruiz’s indispensable book Poetics of Cinema argues against the necessity of “central conflict theory” that has long dominated commercial narrative filmmaking in the western world. If Abbas Kiarostami, one of the world’s greatest living directors, ever wrote a comparable book on film theory, one suspects he might similarly challenge the notion of the “three-act structure.” The Japanese-set Like Someone in Love may well be the Iranian master’s most provocative work; his extremely unconventional handling of…

  • A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

    A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

    ★★★★½

    This masterful experimental film by co-directors Ben Rivers and Ben Russell begins with one of the most incredible images I’ve seen on a cinema screen in some time: an epic panning shot of a Finnish landscape, first from right to left, then from left to right, as the last traces of sunlight disappear from the night sky. As the screen grows increasingly dark, a band of hilly forest becomes nothing more than a thick, black horizontal line separating the midnight…