• The Northman

    The Northman

    ★★

    It's kind of freeing knowing that there is no Amleth urtext, and so that every telling of the legend is an interpretation of the last until the source disappears. It is hybrid and multiple, like a cumulative error that proves the impossibility of ever accessing the legend in its 'raw', originary state. Knowing this, the artist opts to translate the last translation of the legend, to reinterpret its mythic fatalism, and to account for the uneasy status of this mad…

  • The Legend of Boggy Creek

    The Legend of Boggy Creek

    ★★★★½

    The Legend of Boggy Creek moves unassuming 'cause it's a sleepy portrait of a place called Fouke. Director Charles B. Pierce arrives at Fouke to interview people about, and stage reenactments of, their encounters with the Fouke monster. Deploying a treacly cinematic tone, the interviews are formally indistinguishable from the reenactments, and so every story, person, scene, and so on, runs flat across the same diegetic plane. What's strange about Pierce's relationship to the subject is that he doesn't have…

  • Ambulance

    Ambulance

    ★★★★½

    The ambulance draws the picture into a totalising simplicity — for the image to move the ambulance must be moving. This centrally important unit poses both an opportunity and a problem, for the existence of the image is predicated on the vehicle first being located in space, and the vehicle keeps moving. Those working to locate the ambulance draw on sightings and surveillance tech, and report its progress via dumb banter. Where Bay usually offers the punchline as a point…

  • Crash

    Crash

    ★★★★½

    Crash casts itself in steely lobotomised elegance, the only images of any tactility being human hands brushing up to machine wounds. Even before we return to the psycho sterility that characterises Crash, however, there's a sense of rapture withheld. What Crash violently resists is the possibility of a violent shock to the viewer's nervous system, the event of which would be a victory for the car-wreck image. It's so dedicated to its own failure that its ending murmurs weak at…

  • The House That Jack Built

    The House That Jack Built

    ★★★★½

    Jack tries and fails to build his house

    Jack picks up a jack and the jack doesn’t work. He looks at this broken tool for a bit and then he kills a woman with it. There's a saying often misattributed to Mark Twain that "When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail". It was Abraham Kaplan or Maslow who first put it in books, and it was intended to illustrate instrumental bias: when the tool precedes the problem,…

  • A Dangerous Method

    A Dangerous Method

    ★★★★½

    Suicide and interplanetary travel

  • Body Count

    Body Count

    ★★★★

    Achingly beautiful scenery and dilapidated buildings, Loffredo's cameras are as interested in the physicality of the scene as they are the plein air effects of light distorting the land. The characters are so numerous and undifferentiated there's no mistaking they're death fodder, but Deodato's is a dispersed approach to narrative, almost modernist, that sets a detached focalisation at the site. Brutal, of course, but poetically so.

  • Dinner Rush

    Dinner Rush

    ★★★★

    Dinner Rush approaches its business as an operational totality (there a strip club, here a restaurant), and produces a cross-section bound through classical unities. Louis is the positioned as the restaurant's nodal point, but this is more a matter of storytelling convenience than character hierarchy. He has his reason for being there but then so does anyone, and the conditions for entry are in allowing oneself to become entangled in the interpersonal and environmental rhythms of place. Giraldi understands this…

  • Flags of Our Fathers

    Flags of Our Fathers

    ★★★★

    Sidesteps sentiment by revolving around the mechanisations of historical memory with an essayish intensity. It's less concerned with the truth per se than with how it disappears with the ones that know it, not that it mattered when they were still around any way. Gagnon is happy to let it go, Bradley thinks it might as well remain buried back there along with the dead, Hayes struggles reconciling personal loss with national mythmaking, finding home nowhere. If the first flag…

  • Deep Water

    Deep Water

    ★★★

    Not a complex eroticism, but one where the pleasure is quickly deferred, the film in turn has a hole in its stomach. Vic has the desire to be desired by Melinda, Melinda wants to be desired by Vic but can only assess it through the introduction of a third party who desires her. Melinda understands that lack follows pleasure's fulfilment, and Vic can only desire that of the other. It's Vic's job then to wait and then extinguish the Melinda-desiring…

  • The Shrine

    The Shrine

    ★★

    Between The Shrine and Sound of My Voice I am struck by the ambition of in-film journalists investigating cults, and their desire to get to the bottom of things. They have no sense of curiosity, only the drive to write big and 'reveal'. The geographic and ritual specificities of a cult are more often compelling than whatever portrait the writer is wanting to paint of the leader or their followers, and this is because the portrait is always prewritten. Truthfully…

  • Next of Kin

    Next of Kin

    ★★★★½

    Linda arrives at the outback diner, the television above the service hatch broadcasting events that will have taken place just beyond the conclusion of her story. The diner, like the estate, functions as an uncanny entity that records everything that has happened within it, and summons its entire past back on a whim. Objects held within these sites are mnemonically saturated and operate as portals, such that the subject who encounters them has past fall through present, and their identity…