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  • All I Desire

    All I Desire

    ★★★½

    While the mise-en-scene lacks some of the ironic opulence of the color Sirk/Hunter films, this film foregrounds the complex nature of social performance in a way that prefigures his masterpiece Imitation of Life. Stanwyck plays an actress whose stage performances are only a dress rehearsal for the performance she must put on when she returns to visit the family she left years ago.

    The film’s central irresolvable contradiction is that Stanwyck’s character cannot be a wife and a mother while…

  • Atlantics

    Atlantics

    ★★★★

    Impressionistic, magical realist exploration of desire, economic exploitation, and postcolonial precarity. The cinematography focuses on the water, the sky, the cityscapes, and the laser lights of a makeshift dance club where the youth congregate. The wealth of the imperialist nations is on display among the upper classes, but they are no match for the spiritual revenge of the people and the sea.

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  • The Witch

    The Witch

    ★★★

    Hooptober 4.0
    Country 3/6: Finland

    While it’s from Finland and not Sweden, this film reminded me a lot of Bergman films from the late 40s and early 50s, especially the comedies. A group of upper-class archeologists and explorers sit around making jokes about sex that inadvertently reveal their various hangups and sexual dysfunctions: one guy is in love with another’s wife, one is impotent, etc. So despite the light tone, there is a disturbing sexuality lurking beneath the surface.

    This…

  • So Big!

    So Big!

    ★★★★½

    Movies like this are why I love the pre-code era so much—not just because of the permissiveness or lack of moralizing, but also the ramshackle approach to plot construction in early 1930s films. This film skips around time—we get snapshots of Stanwyck’s life as a little girl, a young schoolteacher, a married farmer’s wife, and then a widowed farmer with a grown son. The film resembles nothing less than an Ozu film in its approach to plot events: significant events…