• Love in the City

    Love in the City

    ★★★

    As a cross-section of Italy’s established and rising filmmakers, Love in the City is perhaps most revealing for what it bares of the possibilities and increasingly visible limits of the nation’s neorealism. “Paid Love,” for example, ends up speaking on behalf of its subjects, introducing them with a degree of condescension about their “sad lives” before verité interviews ask loaded questions that acknowledge the economic circumstances that drive many of the women to sex work while simplistically asking if they’d…

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    ★★

    The new color grading for the UHD release is a staggering improvement over what once looked waxy and garish, adding some of the earthy tactility of the previous films. I'm also increasingly fond of that first stretch, where the Cold War setting works in conveying the paranoia of the Red Scare and the absurdity of the nuclear age. That the fridge-nuking got all the derision at the time ignores that this is really the only stuff that fully works. Once…

  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    ★★★★

    Both this and E.T. have long struck me as more alike the outright sci-fi horror of Spielberg's later War of the Worlds than most would think. Zsigmond's cinematography here can be suffocating, with blown-out on-screen lighting having a paranoid energy that explodes when the strobing orange glow of UFOs pass overhead. Spielberg really takes his time with this, freely indulging the fears that this may be a hostile invasion as people go missing and those who glimpsed alien crafts begin…

  • The New World

    The New World

    ★★★★★

    The subtle build-up of these conflicts doesn’t ground The New World’s lofty romanticism, but it does complicate Smith and Pocahontas’s strange union. It’s telling that the first thing we see the British erect upon landing isn’t shelter, but a noose, and for all the paranoia the British feel toward the Powhatan, it’s the Westerners who resort to barbarism, torture, and cannibalism as starvation and fear of the unknown overtake them. By the same token, the natives aren’t so simple and…

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

    Impossible to rate this as I find it a near-masterpiece as a work of spectacle, from its propulsiveness to its expressionism to the perfection of its setpieces. Even, in an abstract sense, its oscillations between horror and slapstick work shockingly well. But my god does it remain one of the most racist and sexist works of a decade where nearly all mass-market films exhibited consciously or unconsciously the reactionary values of the era. I can rewatch it almost as often as the other two films that surround it, but never without copious wincing.

  • The Sparks Brothers

    The Sparks Brothers

    ★★★½

    Though arranged chronologically, The Sparks Brothers always seems to zig and zag between topics, perhaps in homage to how the Maels have never stayed in one stylistic lane for long, adopting a completely new sound just as it seemed as if they had finally found an aesthetic that translated to pop success. As such, the film avoids getting bogged down in the usual peaks and valleys of tracking commercial fortunes, flattening the brothers’ boom and bust periods into the broader story of their consistent artistic restlessness.

    Full review here: www.slantmagazine.com/film/review-edgar-wrights-the-sparks-brothers-like-sparkss-music-goes-to-cool-places/

  • A Sunday in the Country

    A Sunday in the Country

    ★★★★

    Colored and lit like the impressionist paintings its protagonist never made to his great regret, A Sunday in the Country recalls a more sedate Terence Davies in the way Tavernier's ever-roaming camera manages to combine several perspectives at once while providing a distanced, third-person observer of relatable, non-narrative family dynamics and muted conflict. There are even moments in which the old man will gaze at one of his works before the camera slips into the memory it conjures. This is…

  • Blow Up My Town

    Blow Up My Town

    ★★★★

    A brash, Godardian debut that furiously lays the foundation for what would become frozen in deadpan rage by the time of magnum opus. After a brief, whimsical view of the woman walking home, the film turns sour almost as quickly as she enters the domestic space, with the slightly chaotic manner with which she starts to prepare dinner immediately giving way to an ominous mood as she starts to tape the cracks of the kitchen door. The haphazard way in…

  • Siberia

    Siberia

    ★★★★½

    Genuinely surprised that even Ferrara heads seem to be unenthused about this, though even as someone who loved it I'll be the first to admit it's possibly his densest and most bewildering work. Late Ferrara has been defined by its unexpected elegance, whether crafting, somehow, the most graceful and warmhearted apocalypse movie of the boom of end-times prognostication or paying gentle tribute to a fellow cinematic poet of the grotesque and sublime. Siberia crosses that side of Ferrara with the…

  • Dead Mountaineer's Hotel

    Dead Mountaineer's Hotel

    ★★★

    The vibes of this (Euro synth-prog, pre-Shining alien vistas of a snowbound mountain resort, the angular and wildly clashing modernist interiors of a faux-log cabin hotel) were so strong but the script's dull bluntness sapped all the beautiful mystery of the Strugatsky's best work, and even the goofy twists failed to enliven its stultifying progression.

  • Pigs and Battleships

    Pigs and Battleships

    ★★★★

    The story here doesn't really unfurl so much as gradually emerge from an overwhelming barrage of visual and textual information. Imamura out of the gate establishes postwar Japan as a frenzy of hustling so chaotic that "organized crime" seems more of a generous assessment than a designation. Like most Yakuza films, this takes brutal aim at the hollow honor among thieves, but Imamura reaches a bit further to implicate the backstabbing of gangsters as indistinguishable from the demands of legitimate…

  • What Happened Was...

    What Happened Was...

    ★★★★½

    On a second viewing with the vastly superior presentation of the recent restoration, this really strikes me as one of the most remarkable American independent films, a work as minimal but probing and rich as late Ferrara. Nothing is given to the audience; you are thrown in and must swim through the torrents of awkwardness yourself, and Noonan's Hopperesque images only hammer home how both people's inability to shut up (while saying nothing) only exacerbates their loneliness).