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A different lens on film. An independent, reader-supported, online film journal since 2013.

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It starts at the symphony. Already late for the performance, Joseph summons Anna to a confrontation with Sean’s father, and Sean, refusing to cooperate, rolls his eyes up and faints in the hall. The camera sweeps us and Anna into the waiting elevator, swirling drunkenly around the car to pause on Joseph’s satisfied press of the button. In the long take that follows, a wide shot of Anna and Joseph hurrying to their seats becomes a slowly zooming two-minute study…

Witches, as defined by this opening sequence, are women who really do perform magic, but also women who are maligned unfairly. The perversion of their intentions, in moments of grief and fear, has the unintended consequence of killing the men around them. Magic here is both literal and figurative: in the Owens family, “the craft” is closer to the divine feminine spiritual practices of pre-Christian, earth-worshipping religions than Satan worship. Practical Magic establishes this conflation of sex and magic that’s…

Gattaca borrows from the aesthetics of classic noir in the use of tilted camera angles, interplay of light and shadows, unbalanced framing, blurring the lines between good and evil, and a motif of paranoia and alienation. Vincent’s planned manned space flight—to Saturn’s 14th moon Titan—leaves at the end of the week. He only needs to successfully impersonate Jerome until then. Then he’s free, floating millions of light years away and just beyond the reach of the long arm of the…

India’s opening thoughts come from a place of growth, the result of an evolution that spans the film. While Stoker opens on its ending, the film’s narrative begins on India’s 18th birthday, a celebration of coming-of-age marred by its overlap with her father’s funeral. His traumatic death could represent a cleaving in India’s life, and, indeed, the film does deal with the slippery tension between childhood and adulthood. Yet Stoker knows that the supposed end of adolescence can be as…

For most of the film’s running time we’re given little reason to like Johnny (other than the fact that many of us already like Astaire). One could argue that Johnny luring Yolanda into meeting him without a chaperone and demanding her “absolute unquestioning obedience” seems particularly ominous in our present age, when the news is filled with stories about men—including supposedly holy men—abusing their power, but I can’t imagine this scene went down easily in any era, no matter how…

When everything he has built his life upon begins to crumble, when Larry becomes a modern-day Job, either ensnared in a cosmic prank or caught in the worst series of coin flips, he begins to doubt. His is not, however, the doubt of the quavering theist who suddenly sees the possibility of God’s not existing. It’s that of a man who cannot understand why God would wish him to suffer. He does not doubt God, just God’s motives. As he…

I’ve hung wallpaper in each of the six apartments I’ve rented in New York. Well, I’ve tacked it up with pushpins—a renter’s hack I’ve used to cover bare walls with kitschy florals and stippled forest scenes. I do it with every move, the same way I adhere contact paper to cracked countertops and roll area rugs over imperfect parquet floors. Living here, you learn to improve on apartments that are worse for the wear of countless tenants, and those who…

This verbal disconnection isn’t the only piece of the film’s uncanniness. Physical intimacy is often depicted but never fulfilled, with sexual interactions reserved to one party remaining completely passive. Early on in the film, Steven and Anna partake in their usual kink in which the latter pretends to be under general anesthetic. (It’s eerily close to necrophilia.) Later, when Martin’s mother (Alicia Silverstone) flirts with Steven, she compliments his “so white and soft and clean” hands before sucking on his…