• Providence

    Providence

    ★★★★

    A shrewd illustration of the way that art draws upon life but is ultimately reworked around the imagination (and its attendant judgments and hangups) of the artist. We "meet" an old man's family through the prism of his demented Gothic Tolstoy vision of them as a reflection of his own cynicism, callousness and fading sexual energy. Their brutal physical and erotic conflicts relentlessly escalate in a way that is made all the more darkly funny by the patriarch's own sprightly…

  • What Do You Think?

    What Do You Think?

    ★★

    Tourneur still in his short-film "apprenticeship" after moving to America turns in this frothy little number about the vicissitudes of fate, or perhaps the subtle ways in which we make our own arcane destinies. Despite its brightly lit, stagy setups, the darkness that would soon define Tourneur hangs around the margins as the characters contemplate all the minuscule events that lead to a near-death experience and how easily it could have gone even worse. But overall this is too dry an exercise to stick, and the blunt ending only makes this feel more pointless.

  • Both Sides of the Blade
  • Tol'able David

    Tol'able David

    ★★★★½

    The realistic production design (maybe the most "real"-looking silent I've seen leaves plenty of space for expressive acting and cinematography that views the realities of rural, generational poverty with a clear-eyed honesty that complicates the film's overall sentimental tone. Casual brutality runs rampant here, senseless and filled with aftershocks that reverberate to loved ones and the community at large. The final fight is surprisingly raw, and that's before our sweet little weakling gets the baddie in what looks shockingly like a triangle hold.

  • Double Indemnity

    Double Indemnity

    ★★★★★

    That brief period where Wilder seemed to be out of fashion among younger critics for being "a writer first and director second" sure seems even more ridiculous in immediate retrospect, doesn't it? An excoriating noir not among the underworld but in high-society, where the real amoral money hounds live. Every shot is perfectly framed to make upper-middle-class homes look like desiccated, heavily contested battlegrounds.

  • Penda's Fen

    Penda's Fen

    ★★★★★

    Somehow distills every trope of British cinema at the time—kitchen-sink drama, disaffected coming-of-age portrait, pagan-sexual folk horror—into a vast, dense object mingling explicit and implicit questions of sexual identity, political consciousness and the very concept of what it means to be English, all in only 90 minutes and on a shoestring TV budget. Rudkin's script runs riot with allusion and tacit connection that generates a vastness underneath the more plainly spoken debates of spiritual and identity matters, though even those…

  • White Tiger

    White Tiger

    ★★★½

    A man given a second chance at life after making an impossible recovery after being burned over 90% of his body returns as a kind of living dead animated solely by a passionless but resolute desire to get vengeance on the German tank that destroyed him. That tank is as ghostly as he; even captured Nazis admit to being more scared than relieved when it turns up to assist them. The camera moves in elegant, swooning motions redolent of Malick,…

  • Theorem

    Theorem

    ★★★★½

    In which divine beauty and sexual beauty are made one and the same in the form of Terence Stamp's stroke game, and confrontation with it shatters the hollow illusion of bourgeois materialism's meaningless prettiness. Maybe the first great synthesis of Pasolini's own defiantly contradictory identities in his work, evincing the political and spiritual crises related to centuries of sexual repression and finding hope, however grotesque and chaotic, in overthrowing the latter.

  • The Face of Another

    The Face of Another

    ★★★★

    The plot is definitely in the Twilight Zone/Black Mirror area, but it constantly works through its themes through mood, composition and performance over mere dialogue. Teshigara's use of off-axis close-ups, and a theatrical emphasis on ample negative space mix cramped claustrophobia and eerie isolation until you feel all sense of self around Okiyama start to crumble. Nakadai's slow escalation from numbed un-person to frantic, paranoid new man is an outstanding performance, a man regaining his humanity by ironically losing all self-control (and Self-control).

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

    Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

    Continues to be vaguely amazing that Rowling has built this entire miserable prequel series around the ease with which complacent "good people" can allow themselves to be duped by low-effort manufactured crises into becoming fully genocidal fascists and that she has written these scripts largely in between constantly refreshing her Twitter feed to post debunked articles backing up her rabid transphobia. And these continue to be some of the most truly ugly films ever made on this scale. How much are lights, really?

  • The Devils

    The Devils

    ★★★★½

    "Most of the nuns here are noblewomen who have embraced the monastic life because there was not enough money at home to provide them with dowries. Or they were unmarriageble because ugly, a burden to the family. Communities which ought to be furnaces where souls are forever on fire with the love of God are merely dead with the gray ashes of convenience."

    A brutal, beautiful savaging of religious hypocrisy and what inevitably occurs in a system where Church and…

  • Rouge