• The Game

    The Game

    ★★★½

    One of the recurring narrative structures in Fincher's films is someone fumbling trying to escape a master designer's elaborate plan. This can be seen in the cops solving the murder case in Se7en all the way through the framing for murder plot of Gone Girl. Even in Fight Club, the lead character scrambles to navigate the world created by his own alter-ego. Here, this game explicitly resembles conventional mainstream thrillers (an omniscient and omnipotent corporation, a femme fatale, masked and…

  • The Trial of Joan of Arc

    The Trial of Joan of Arc

    ★★★

    In contrast to the expressionistic intensity of Dreyer's film, this strips all the emotions away in order to emphasize the text of the trial. As a result, this is far more driven by dialogue than Bresson's surrounding work and is a bit less captivating for it. That said, the intention behind the film is clear: by blankly recounting the historical ledger, our attention is directed more inward to Joan's mysterious spiritual core. She's often viewed and judged through a voyeuristic…

  • Se7en

    Se7en

    ★★★★

    Somerset's arc is the most interesting to me on rewatch, especially considering that the resigned optimism of his final voiceover was a studio compromise. For the majority of the runtime, the movie pairs Somerset with the killer and contrasts him with Mills. Both Somerset and the killer see the world as beyond saving - the killer punishes sins in response while Somerset chooses to retire and turn away. Mills on the other hand, refuses to believe people are beyond saving…

  • Pickpocket

    Pickpocket

    ★★★★½

    Unlike in A Man Escaped where the minimal style fit snugly with the minimal psychology underlying the simple desire to escape, there is a great deal of psychological depth here. There's the guilt Michel feels for robbing his mom being re-enacted in more common crimes - even his philosophical ramblings about supermen fixing society by being above the law seems to speak to a desire to transcend his past failings. Then there is the way that his resistance of normal…

  • A Man Escaped

    A Man Escaped

    ★★★★

    A significant leap forward from Diary of a Country Priest in terms of Bresson achieving an anti-psychological style. That film often featured extended close-ups concentrated on the titular priest while he reacts to the outside world. Even if the priest's face was mostly blank in a way typical of Bresson's models, the face reacting to the world around him was still our primary way of engaging with the film and the character. Here, Bresson is just as focused on concrete…

  • Diary of a Country Priest

    Diary of a Country Priest

    ★★★½

    Beyond being the first clear exploration of Bresson's career long interest in the inner torment of religious salvation, it's also a major transitional work between Bresson's more classical early style and the singular later style. Much of the film is organized around extended voiceovers or conversations that would feel fairly conventional in structure if not for the ways that Bresson focuses attention on the priest's face in arrestingly prolonged long takes. The main stylistic motif in the movie is a…

  • The Godfather: Part III

    The Godfather: Part III

    ★★★

    The original Godfather films painted Michael as a tragic figure because of his abandonment of the perverse family values that at least gave Vito's violence a code outside of raw capitalist ambition. Michael's fall is emotional in its own right because he's a fully realized character, but both original films position him as a symbolic figure for a larger American fall as well. Here those larger critiques are mainly abandoned in favor of a more operatic and Shakespearean personal tragedy…

  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream

    Tucker: The Man and His Dream

    ★★★½

    "Where is my car? What's left of it? Anything?"

    Pretty irresistible in its self-portrait of Tucker as the archetypal dreamer raging against a system that actively fights to maintain the status quo in the face of new ideas. What's moving here is the way that Tucker's dream slowly slips through his fingers due to both the cynical maneuverings of bureaucrats as well as technical failures. While the business and political rivalries maliciously undermining Tucker's dreams is very clearly connected to…

  • The Rainmaker

    The Rainmaker

    ★★½

    Coppola's interest in this material is obvious in its idealistic fight for justice among the money hungry amoral sharks. As a legal drama, this is pretty consistently good. The awkwardness of the material for me comes into play when the central romantic relationship is used to deepen the protagonist's larger sense of idealism. Not only does he fight the insurance companies and refuse to give into shady legal practices, he also will literally get into fistfights to protect a battered…

  • The Power of the Dog

    The Power of the Dog

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    One mark of a great film is the way that it can humanize a hateful figure without ever excusing his abuses. This movingly traces a trajectory of homophobia fueling the adoption of a performative hyper-masculinity that inevitably harms women. Phil is initially defined primarily by his callousness and macho posturing - one of his first scenes sees him literally burning a delicately handmade paper flower before publicly roasting the sensitive boy who made it. But the film gradually develops each…

  • Gardens of Stone

    Gardens of Stone

    ★★½

    Significant for two meta-textual reasons that give this film a greater importance in Coppola's filmography than it likely deserves. The first is that it's something of a companion piece to his iconic Vietnam movie Apocalypse Now. In describing AN, Coppola usually goes out of his way to say that the film isn't directly about Vietnam and the specific politics surrounding it. Instead, it's more of a mythic portrait of wartime psychology more generally. This takes a similar approach as actual…

  • Peggy Sue Got Married

    Peggy Sue Got Married

    ★★★½

    "The things that happened to me 50 years ago are more on my mind than the things that happened today"

    As light as the film's overall touch is (and this is Coppola's funniest movie by a mile), Peggy Sue's trip back to high school in the aftermath of a looming divorce has a melancholic flair to it throughout that sometimes hits really hard. The time travel is literal in the film's universe as her travels have clear impacts when she…