• The Phantom of the Convent

    The Phantom of the Convent

    ★★★

    Setup is reminiscent of Universal horror, the trio of young friends/lovers stranded in the woods take refuge in the old haunted space, where their hidden desires come to the surface in bold ways; draws on the convent environment and themes of religiosity and the supernatural really well, and the cinematography is so polished throughout — the dark blacks of the night, the luminous wandering figures through the corridors.

  • The Executioner

    The Executioner

    ★★★

    Likely one of the outwardly-facing films from Franco's Spain, directed to international festivals etc., to show off a presumed 'liberal' national cultural sphere. Interesting how elements of Antonioni's art-film meditations on bourgeois melancholy (see: the Mediterranean locations, the sunglasses, the touristic wandering) are deformed here into something far more explicitly pointed, darkly satirical.

  • Redoubt

    Redoubt

    ★★★½

    Haven't kept up with Matthew Barney since seeing the CREMASTERS at Dobie Mall years-back but this seemed totally different; REDOUBT is something more like "traditional narrative cinema" in almost an American-silent-film-type vein, montage always cutting between two things in parallel, providing the familiar feeling of narrative tension: the engraver Barney vs. the hunter's posse; a character watching vs. whatever's-being-watched; character vs. his/her natural surroundings (often animals snooping around, or carcasses). Playing with genre as well, establishing shots show horse-spurs, mason-jars…

  • The Three Musketeers

    The Three Musketeers

    ★★★

    Paul WS Anderson’s crash course in art history, taking “simple” principles of Renaissance architecture, design and innovation (da Vinci mentioned) and stretching them to their most extreme, most garish stylistic possibilities and combinations: postmodern cityscapes in the style of Flemish hyperreal painting; da Vinci’s machines turned into nautical and aerial armada; ostentatious rococo palaces; dingy Rembrandt-lit interiors festooned ornately with still-life objects.

  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

    Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

    ★★★½

    Begins with a Hawks-style flying sequence (and indeed an element of Hawks is in the Jedi code: duty over all, "no attachments") but it quickly veers into a more expressionist mode, dramatizing passion/political upheaval in a DIE NIBELUNGEN-scale opera; Lucas relies on giant CGI tableau, the dialogue— Padmé wondering whether she & the Jedis are "on the wrong side"; or Kenobi shouting he is "for democracy"— is painfully insufficient.

  • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

    Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

    ★★★

    Finding prequels more interesting than I remember the original trilogy being, instead of the empire v. rebels expected structure, the Jedis working for a (deeply compromised) republic, with the ironies of storm troopers saving the day in the final battle. Complexity reminiscent of THE SEARCHERS, alluded to in the Anakin/mother sequences.

  • Christmas in July

    Christmas in July

    ★★★

    Breakneck 67-minute send-up of American-style meritocracy, complete with dialogue consonant with today’s discourse around the subject, dissecting a system which provides opportunity to a ‘lucky 1%.‘ Dick Powell, alternating between zany exuberance and downtrodden coolness, plays a would-be advertising sloganeer, whose self-belief lacks the important confirmation of a ridiculous marketing gimmick, the Maxwell House Coffee New Slogan contest, its winner will be instantly treated like a folk hero/whiz-kid genius.

  • This Is Not Berlin

    This Is Not Berlin

    ★★

    Takes the Assayas COLD WATER/SOMETHING IN THE AIR approach to giving a nostalgic panoramic depiction of a particular youth counterculture (in this case 1980s Mexico City) via the perspective of a new initiate trying on identities. But Assayas leaves me feeling overflowing with intellectual/aesthetic sensations and this felt like a ticking of boxes sometimes, and the final 20min rankled me a bit too...

  • ****

    ****

    ★★★½

    Just the "Portrait of Ted O'Neil" reel.

  • Waves

    Waves

    ★★½

    Does remind me (in its general schema) a bit of the Sirkian formula — with its persistent critique of the intense social pressures to excel, to conform, etc. building & building on the character until he/she is pushed to the breaking point (both mind and body — here, at one point, we even see the x-rays of the strained shoulder/biceps sinews). New stylistics though, built around the idea of waves & currents: the prevalence of "montage" sequences instead of "scenes" — the little visual vignettes conveying information about place/social milieu and flowing one into the next with an emotive propulsion.

  • Macabre

    Macabre

    ★½

    Pretty abhorrent; further idolatry of the paramilitary-style police BOPE (in the wake of the ELITE SQUAD saga), summoned this time to a small town terrorized by two young black men living in the woods (with some sort of backstory of abuse and voodoo?). Narrative all filtered through the consciousness of the “good”  BOPE agent, you know the one who thinks and feels and stuff.

  • Gemini Man

    Gemini Man

    ★★★½

    Elaborates a new type of visuality, sorta like the war-training video games of Harun Farocki. One of the characters says the that "fear is good; it keeps you alert," but I found the dominant affect here was a calmness: the sound-design is quite spare, the dialogue is almost removed from natural ambient sounds and abstracted (like you're listening to a podcast or something) with the near-constant canned sounds of a soundtrack that reminds you this is a film, not reality.…