• There There

    There There

    ★★★½

    Filmmaker: The movie dares you not to notice the way by which it’s made, and you toy with that throughout. That early moment of realization, that the characters are never going to enter the same frame, forces you to ask yourself questions about how this was made, even if you didn’t know.

    Bujalski: I’ve been surprised—there are people who can and do watch this whole thing, and certainly understand that something strange is happening, but never put together that these…

  • Showing Up

    Showing Up

    ★★★★

    Frustration—about being right while treated like she’s always wrong—can make Lizzy petty. “He’s always been creative,” Jo says to brush away any alarm Sean’s behavior might raise. “A lot of people are creative,” Lizzy responds, as dismissive as she is correct. The film operates in a tonal register near Ann Beattie’s best short stories: observations of specific/privileged zones within white-collar/creative class circles, rendered with a mildly satirical judgmentalism justified by its accuracy and judiciousness (a great line: “We’ve got different…

  • R.M.N.

    R.M.N.

    ★★★

    Matthias (Marin Gregoire) is introduced working in a German sheep-slaughtering factory; when a factory supervisor curses him as a “lazy Gypsy,” Matthias promptly headbutts him and hits the road back to his Transylvania hometown. Everyone’s left home to find work elsewhere, which we know because the characters keep saying that, and Matthias’s bakery manager ex-girlfriend Csilla (Judith State) has been forced to recruit foreign laborers for minimum wage positions. Her hiring of two Sri Lankan employees (Gihan Edirisinghe and Amitha…

  • Brother and Sister

    Brother and Sister

    ★★★

    Arnaud Desplechin’s Brother and Sister ended to the audible reception of somewhere around seven boos, two derisive whistles and nothing else; if you’re someone who believes indifference is a worse reaction than active hostility, this somehow seemed to split the worst possible difference. Consensus holds, not inaccurately, that Desplechin’s peak work is, at least for now, behind him, with the arguable exception of My Golden Days—non-coincidentally, a prequel to 1996’s My Sex Life. His experiments outside of erratic interpersonal dramas,…

  • Armageddon Time

    Armageddon Time

    ★★★½

    It’s 1980, morning in what’s not quite yet Reagan’s America: he’s still a candidate heard on TV prophesying that America is approaching its own moral moment of Armageddon, which—along with the Clash’s cover of “Armagideon Time”—is the pretext for the title. Gray’s gloomy takes on Greek tragedy, from Little Odessa up through We Own the Night, could all have had this title, their narratives devoted to plunging characters into endless downfalls. Armageddon Time, though, unexpectedly begins in a place of…

  • Scarlet

    Scarlet

    ★★★

    At the Nice airport, a sign greets arrivals with “Welcome to the Côte d’Azur” in French, Russian and (smaller type) English, giving an idea of the area’s most regular visitors. But at this year’s Cannes, the yacht count is likely to be down, what with presumably diminished attendance from extremely wealthy Russians. The first person to point that out was a friend before leaving, the second a stranger on the bus from the airport to Cannes—one of a pair arriving…

  • How to Save a Dead Friend

    How to Save a Dead Friend

    ★★★

    Marusya Syroechkovskaya’s How to Save a Dead Friend engages directly with the Putin-shaped present. Primarily constructed from footage Syroechkovskaya shot between 2005 and 2016, Friend demonstrates how far we’ve come since Jonathan Caouette assembling of Tarnation exclusively from home movie archives was a breakthrough. Now, any compulsive self-documenter can spend years filming, then decide which life thread to extract for their first film—which is not to diss Syroechkovskaya, a disciplined shooter from her teen years onwards. Friend focuses on her…

  • Top Gun: Maverick

    Top Gun: Maverick

    ★★★

    In some ways the press kit is more interesting than Maverick itself, with just over 30 pages of making-of material covering a lot, all grounded in Cruise. He tells stories about what he learned from Harold Becker on the set of Taps, how Sydney Pollack got him to take flying lessons and, most crucially, positions a large part of his goals for Maverick in capturing flights accurately, particularly G-force strain on pilots’ faces. That meant five months of intensive training…

  • The Balcony Movie

    The Balcony Movie

    ★★★

    In 1999’s Taka historia (translation: “that’s the way it is”), Łoziński made use of his apartment building by looking inwards to profile two neighbors, frequently roaming the building’s interior courtyard. Here, he turns his gaze outwards, setting up shop on a street-facing balcony. Acting as his own camera operator (and, arguably more impressively, boom operator), Łoziński spends many passing seasons standing and trying a variety of tactics to rope passers-by into acting as his subjects. The film is structured, perhaps…

  • Constant

    Constant

    ★★★½

    I interviewed the directors of this film, which made me finally look up what “point cloud animation” and “photogrammetry” were after years of seeing examples I couldn’t name in experimental films.

  • West Side Story

    West Side Story

    ★★★

    For the eighth year running, I did a round-up of 2021’s US releases shot on 35mm, and this film seems like a fine place to park it on this site.

  • Friends and Strangers

    Friends and Strangers

    ★★★½

    We shot Friends and Strangers on an ARRI Alexa, but like a 2010 [camera]—one of the very first versions released, which still has the same sensor, the same image basically as what the Alexa Minis, or whatever the latest ones are, use. But it’s bigger, it chews through a lot more power, it’s noisier, it’s extremely heavy, so cinematographers and directors working commercially are happy to pay $100,000 [for a newer camera] instead of $10,000, which is what we paid…