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  • Happy as Lazzaro

    Happy as Lazzaro

    ★★★½

    [7]

    Happy as Lazzaro shares some clear stylistic affinities with Rohrwacher's previous film The Wonders, which I found irksome and affected. I had some difficulty again with the aggressively rough, deep-rural cinematographic approach, which saturates everything with a "timeless" atmosphere and harkens back a bit too explicitly to Rossellini and especially Pasolini. But ultimately I admired Lazzaro more than I liked it, finding it to be a compelling intellectual experiment.

    In a way, it shares certain traits with Christian Petzold's…

  • Now, At Last

    Now, At Last

    ★★★½

    [7]

    British experimentalist Ben Rivers has produced some highly unusual films in his career, but nothing in his filmography prepared me for Now, At Last. A duration-based work that reminded me somewhat of the gallery-based structuralism of Tacita Dean and Sharon Lockhart, this latest film is just under 40 minutes long, and could be said to constitute a kind of sly in-joke regarding the so-called "slow cinema movement."

    Now, At Last is a portrait of a sloth. Mostly black and…

  • Black Mother

    Black Mother

    ★★★½

    [7]

    One of the major surprises of 2015 was Field Niggas, Khalik Allah's gorgeous, haunting experimental feature. It was clearly the work of someone who'd come up through photography, as it was essentially an hour-long portrait film. Roving the streets of Brooklyn, Allah showed us an image of African-American life that is often deemed too messy or unkempt to put on display: the mostly lower-class denizens of the night, those who hang out at the bus stop or outside the…

  • White Heart

    White Heart

    One of those canonical titles that has been out of circulation for years, Daniel Barnett's White Heart is a major achievement. Experimental film history is not complete without it. Operating at the juncture between Hollis Frampton's system-building, Jack Chambers' cryptic mythologies, and Owen Land's cornball conceptualism, White Heart is a film that doesn't fit comfortably into any particular school or movement, but somehow seems integral to many of them.

    At any given time in the film, there are at least…

  • Donbass

    Donbass

    ★★★½

    [7]

    When the lineup was announced for the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, there were some of us who were wondering why Sergei Loznitsa's newest fiction feature Donbass was relegated to the Un Certain Regard sidebar, given that he has already played in Competition with his three previous features. Now, having seen Donbass, I have a clearer idea, although I don't particularly agree with the festival's decision.

    Even when compared with My Joy or A Gentle Creature, this is an unremittingly…

  • Widows

    Widows

    ★★½

    [5]

    On my Patreon page, I ordinarily post actual film stills, not promotional images like the one above. However with Widows I've made an exception because I think the sliced-and-diced teriyaki picture the studio created (see the poster to your left) is actually quite indicative of the film and what's wrong with it. Considering that McQueen began his work in commercial cinema with a couple of films, Hunger and Shame, that were meticulously edited above all, I was irked by…

  • Green Book

    Green Book

    ★½

    [3]

    There they are, our two mismatched heroes, enjoying a drink and potty break at a roadside Stuckey's somewhere along the Southern highways. I wonder if they split a pecan log?

    Where do I begin? First I can direct you to some other reviews that quite rightly deconstruct the racism of Green Book back to the stone age. Doyin Oyeniyi has taken it on. Sean Burns has had a go. Alissa Wilkinson has taken the movie's very premise apart. And…

  • Vox Lux

    Vox Lux

    ★★★

    [6]

    Here's a film that should have been a line drive up the middle of my soul. A music-centered movie with original songs by Sia Furler and a score by Scott Walker! Starring Natalie Portman, no less. I sat out Brady Corbet's directorial debut, The Birth of a Leader, but I am deeply ambivalent about the guy as a filmmaker. He clearly has chops, but I'm not sure he has found his own voice away from the worn grooves of…

  • First Man

    First Man

    ★★½

    [5]

    Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as the original Mad Man, with considerably less drinking. He's a man of the 1950s, bearing a primal wound (in this case, the death of his young daughter from cancer) that makes him both distant and driven, a strong, silent workoholic desperate to find his existential place in the world while at the same time reverting to a soft-spoken Midwestern form of masculine simplicity when too much is demanded of him, especially by his wife…

  • Wildlife

    Wildlife

    ★★½

    [5]

    This is a film that was never destined to hit the sweet spot for me, since it stars one of my least favorite actors, Carey Mulligan, and an actor whose work I tend not to like very much, Jake Gyllenhaal. They are showy, mannered actors who never seem to fall into their roles. Rather, they perform as though they were in a World's Strongest Man competition, wanting the audience to observe their actorly effort, every flexed muscle and bulging…

  • Jinpa

    Jinpa

    ★★★½

    [7]

    A moderately upbeat, even Jarmuschian fable from Tibet's leading auteur, Jinpa takes its name from its lead actor, who also starred in Tseden's previous film Tharlo. Here, Jinpa plays a man with the same name as his own, although he is clearly not playing himself. This "Jinpa" is a long-distance trucker who traverses the dusty, snowy flats of Kekexili making deliveries. He has tousled rock-star hair, always wears shades, and the cab of his beat-up lorry looks like a…

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    ★★★

    [6]

    "Well," as my lovely wife Jen put it, "they can't all be F For Fake." Quite right. There's nothing particularly wrong with Can You Ever Forgive Me? But it's a story that seems so rich with subtext that its makers -- director Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty -- don't seem the least bit interested in exploring. After all, the tale of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is about a celebrity biographer…