• How It's Done

    How It's Done

    ★★★½

    While familiarity with Polish politics would undoubtedly enhance HOW IT'S DONE, it's a prankish documentary that conducts an actual social experiment - political marketer Piotr Tymochowicz held auditions for a person to become a politician, no consistent ideology or knowledge needed. (Like the Yes Men or Sacha Baron Cohen, although with a much different tone, it plays out satire in real life.) Director Marcel Lozinski followed Damek, the man Tyomochwicz selected, for three years. In a post-Trump world, the vision of politics as empty showbiz rings very true.

  • Doctor Glas

    Doctor Glas

    ★★★

    DOCTOR GLAS is based on a novel written in 1905, first adapted to film in 1942. Mai Zetterling's version, with its out-of-focus and blown-out dream sequences, is a product of its period. She tries to capture the title character's (Per Oscarsson) subjectivity, as he gets involved in a rape-revenge plot. Given the potential sensationalism of the story, the film feels strangely austere and restrained, yet it also dips into surrealism. Though directed by a woman, it approaches the subjects of abortion and sexual assault from Doctor Glas' point of view, but one can see something more critical lying within that choice.

  • Project X

    Project X

    ★★½

    Mindless obnoxiousness as a spiritual quest. (Of course Jimmy Kimmel makes an R. Kelly joke during the end credits.) A shame it's not all on the level of "Pursuit of Happiness."

  • Love & Saucers

    Love & Saucers

    ★★★½

    Most wholesome alien abduction tale I've seen, unlike the grift of Whitley Strieber, etc. The film treats David Huggins as an ordinary person who believes he's had some strange experiences rather than a freak.

  • Euridice BA 2037

    Euridice BA 2037

    ★★★★

    Waiting in Hades, Euridice hears the constant rattle of distant gunfire and a grating click on her phone. This film's sound design is granular and sculpted. Made a year after Greece returned to democracy, EURIDICE BA 2037 feels like a film made in Eastern Europe under communism (as does the only other Nikos Nikolaidis film I have seen.) But it also offers a feminist take on domesticity and marriage as deadly traps. Instead of kitchen-sink realism, Nikolaidis embraces a surrealism…

  • Perhaps Love

    Perhaps Love

    ★★★½

    A midlife crisis movie with elements of melodrama and comedy, PERHAPS LOVE treats all its characters with respect and acceptance. It explores a young gay man's crush on his older male teacher, who is heterosexual, with far more nuance and hope than one might expect, especially from the former's initial declarations of obsessive passion.

    More next month in my article on the New York Asian Film Festival for Gay City News.

  • The Black Phone

    The Black Phone

    ★★★

    Scott Derickson and Ethan Hawke's first team-up, SINISTER, is certainly flawed, but its Super-8 snuff films got under my skin as much as any other 2010s horror film's imagery. Their return to the genre with THE BLACK PHONE does not pay off to the same degree, but it's better than it had to be. Immediately, the gray, muted cinematography is very noticeable. Late '70s Denver looks stuck in a perpetual winter. I found this ugly till Finney (Mason Thames) gets…

  • Stalked by My Doctor

    Stalked by My Doctor

    ★★★

    Eric Roberts is Lifetime's answer to Nicolas Cage.

  • We

    We

    ★★★½

    Alice Diop creates a different "banlieue film," without crime or violence. It's her first film which incorporates her as a subject and shows her onscreen. She shows and talks about her parents, who immigrated to France from Senegal. The scenes with white people preparing to go hunting - dressed in aristocratic cosplay - which bookend the film are a bit schematic, but the heart of WE depicts far more complex encounters between whites and French people of African descent. Diop's…

  • Mad God

    Mad God

    ★★★★

    There are passion projects and then there’s MAD GOD. Shot by Phil Tippett over a 33-year period, the film takes place in an enormously detailed apocalyptic dystopia that reflects his background as a special effects artist. Tippett cites Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings as his major influence, and this comes through in images like a diorama of bloodied bodies seen through a building. But cinematically, his vision suggests Alexei German’s HARD TO BE A GOD combined with the avant-garde animation of Jan…

  • The Match That Started My Fire

    The Match That Started My Fire

    ★★★★

    A joyful, sex-positive short celebrating girls' first experiences of sexual pleasure, edited with a sly wit and musicality.

    More to come in my article on Anthology Film Archives' "Let's Talk About Sex" series.

  • Dark Glasses

    Dark Glasses

    ★★★

    A modest but real comeback. While cruel and brutal by most filmmakers' standards (how many people's throats are slashed?), it's mellow, even sentimental, by Argento's, built upon a woman's bond with her surrogate son. (Despite the violence committed against its sex worker protagonist, DARK GLASSES doesn't suggest that she's done anything wrong.) It also returns to the beautifully nightmarish world his films have always inhabited, extending the chase scenes running through them for more than 30 minutes.