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  • Midsommar

    Midsommar

    ★★★★

    Originally, on leaving the theater, I was kind of annoyed with this film. It's very well made, with unusual ideas and techniques. It's interesting and solidly entertaining. But Midsommar plays strongly both as an anthropological horror story (along the lines of Wicker Man and Lair of the White Worm) and as a comedy of millennial mores. Frankly, the strength of the latter detracts from the former. Not every horror film these days has to be boundary-blurring genre mash-up. Thanks to…

  • High Life

    High Life

    ★★★★★

    Third time seen, this time with a group of friends who were very much absorbed by this eerie, unsettling tale. Finally, then, I had an opportunity to discuss the film and swap theories. It was a good time to rewatch High Life, since earlier in the week I had watched for the first time Tarkovsky's Solaris. The connection between the two films starts with professional pedigree: during her journeyman days, Denis served as casting director on Tarkovsky's final film, Offret

  • Solaris

    Solaris

    ★★★★★

    A first, necessarily superficial review of a film that I will want to rewatch as soon as possible on Criterion Channel.

    Solaris is a sweeping, exhilarating allegory of the nature of love, a meditation on theology, and a commentary on scientism. For me, the cumulative power the film reached in its final moments was shattering. The ending was wholly surprising, in a way more remarkable for its elegance and aptness -- not in the artificial "gotcha" way that takes you…

  • The Poet and Singer

    The Poet and Singer

    ★★★½

    Crude reality punctuated by song, poetry, and philosophy ..:. or is it the other way around? In this journeyman effort, Bi Gan endows black and white with as much texture and richness as he does to color in his feature films.

  • Diane

    Diane

    ★★★★

    Well, this was kind of a downer. Bleak like Bergman, only without the symbolism. Diane, portrayed by Mary Kay Place, is a retired woman living in a small New England town. She occupies herself with helping friends, performing other good deeds in her community, and agonizing to no avail over her opioid-addicted son. This work brings her little fulfillment, driven chiefly by guilt over sins of her youth that she has not found a way to move past. Her life…

  • Gloria Bell

    Gloria Bell

    ★★★★

    As the decades pass ... and life accumulates its disappointments, failures, regrets, and indignities ... how do you integrate all that experience without letting it define you? How do you create opportunity and remain open to joy? How do you find connection despite sometimes feeling invisible or irrelevant? How do you allow romance to flourish within mundane reality? This is the journey that Julianne Moore takes us on as Gloria Bell.
     
    It's a surprisingly quiet, sometimes somber film that ends…

  • Elevator to the Gallows

    Elevator to the Gallows

    ★★★★★

    A Jeanne Moreau voice-over is worth a thousand images.

    This tale of interlocking crimes is told with such narrative and visual economy, it's the very distillation of noir. Or, to make a French pun, you could call it a polar express*.

    What's fascinating is that the camera registers passion, but so dispassionately and with such clean changes of focus that the viewer never has a clear idea toward whose point of view the story is tilting. The interrogation and darkroom…

  • Us

    Us

    ★★★½

    Doesn't play out as smartly as it's set up, at least on first viewing. Not sure I get the very ending, even after watching Red's monologue three or four times for some allusion to the reality of the Addy/Red relationship. The scaling up of the story's premise to the "Hands Across America" connection seemed half-baked. 

    Great performance(s) from Lupita Nyong'o, but Winston Duke not so much. Terrific score, the film seemed choreographed in places, even before the final "pas de…

  • The Dead Don't Die

    The Dead Don't Die

    ★★★

    Raw Flesh and Caviar Casting

    I am obviously a movie zombie ... mindlessly plodding to the theater to watch The Dead Don't Die even though I pretty much knew what to expect. No coincidence that the movie was rife with overused jokes that refused to die.

  • Sorry Angel

    Sorry Angel

    ★★★★½

    Promets-moi d'apprendre à salir la beauté, mon ami. (Promise me you'll learn to sully beauty, my friend.)

    Set in Paris in 1993, this movie explores the often tangled permutation of gay relationships in the early days of the AIDS crisis. I was impressed by the authenticity of its portrayal of gay life of that era. It acknowledges and honors the constellation of affinities that form the reality of many gay men, from a quick grope in the alley to a…

  • Anima

    Anima

    ★★★★

    If you could do it all again ... this time with style.

    A gorgeous, haunting, pulsating electronic work, evocatively choreographed and filmed in Prague. Perfect short film to watch on a desperately early bus ride to work.

  • Call Me by Your Name

    Call Me by Your Name

    ★★★★½

    Beautiful romance, beautiful film. This is the first movie I've seen Timothée Chalamet in, and his charisma as Elio -- (presumably) the more vulnerable party in the relationship -- is just mesmerizing. I was less convinced by Armie Hammer's portrayal of Oliver -- I just felt that even given his character's brash and blustering personality, there could have been a hint of warmth at the beginning. After their romance becomes full-fledged, his Oliver clicked more for me. 

    Several aspects of…