• Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion

    Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion

    ★★★★

    The ambitious opening long-take and its fairy-tale ambiance immediately establish a hermetic, snowy palace of memory—which is then promptly exploded, like the snow globe in Citizen Kane, by the cut to Iori on the back of a motorbike, dangling over a violent rush of hot pavement. And no less than in Welles, the virtuosic opening becomes a crystalline seed—a childhood dream of escape—that may or may not encompass or enclose every scene thereafter. (The indiscernibility is all.) Consequently, most every…

  • Flowers of Shanghai

    Flowers of Shanghai

    ★★★★½

    Images plucked from the void. Then again, it may seem odd to speak of discrete "images" in a film that practically dissolves notions of "composition" and "frame" in favour of spectral long-takes conspicuously bracketed by fades to black. The most interesting thing about Hou's restrictions—as rigorously imposed as anything in late Rossellini or Rivette—is that the off-screen world isn't so much elided as negated, cast into darkness. The ubiquitous spirit lamps that populate the Flower House interiors become focal points,…

  • Daughter of the Nile

    Daughter of the Nile

    ★★★★

    For all of the emphasis on Hou's interest in history, this film mainly seems interested in detaching scenes from a recognizable organic development, raising individual moments to the level of pure events that cannot be assimilated into any sort of historical determinism. Like Shu Qi's narration in the opening of Millennium Mambo, Yang Lin's voiceover immediately establishes at least three unstable temporal planes, and no less than in Duras's films, the narration achieves a rare independence from its accompanying images.…

  • The Tree of Life

    The Tree of Life

    ★★★★

    Never really thought I'd write on Malick at much length, but ended up going very long over at my Substack. The essay includes discussion of most every film of his, but I'm placing it here because The Tree of Life section has some prominence. As with the Twin Peaks: The Return essay, there's not much point in excerpting anything but the introduction, but please do give it a read.

    If there is a sense that Terrence Malick has never filmed…

  • Introduction

    Introduction

    ★★★½

    Reviewed for InRO's fourth Berlin dispatch:

    It’s somewhat reductive to observe that Hong Sang-soo, so often noted for his diptych structures, seems to have moved into a new triptych phase with his two latest films: The Woman Who Ran and now Introduction. Still, it does seem rather significant that both films unfold across three clearly distinguishable episodes, each of which sees the film’s main character involved in a rendezvous of some sort. But while The Woman Who Ran establishes a…

  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    ★★★★½

    Wrote on this for Reverse Shot's Great Beyond Symposium:

    There is throughout Petra von Kant a sense of life as perpetual rehearsal, but as Petra’s earlier rude awakening illustrates, we cannot always decide when the curtain will rise, and we may one day wake up to find that it had risen long ago. Still, we inhabit our roles as best we can. Early on, we see Petra putting on her face as her high-society friend Sidonie (Katrin Schaake) carries on…

  • To the Wonder

    To the Wonder

    ★★★½

    The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms... Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another…

  • Twin Peaks: The Return

    Twin Peaks: The Return

    ★★★★★

    Only a few years late, went (very) long on Twin Peaks: The Return, with reference to, among many other things, Chris Marker's Vertigo reading, (Mabusean) destiny-machines and (Lynchian) dream factories, detective fiction (with especial focus on Alain Robbe-Grillet), Michael Snow, Laurel & Hardy, video games, Beckett and "hidden literality," and, especially, the role of language in Lynch. Given the length of the piece, there's not much point in excerpting anything but the introduction, but I'll just repeat something that shows up…

  • Between the Lines

    Between the Lines

    ★★★★

    Chilly Scenes of Winter is probably still the stronger movie on the whole, but judged mainly by the way it encapsulates and/or transmits a directorial sensibility, this feels better and purer. In that sense, it's a kind of precursor to Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, which occupies an entirely different milieu, but nonetheless deals with a similar sense of complex nostalgia for a defunct way of life, likewise resists anything close to a conventional dramatic progression, and makes excellent use of a deep cast (with Jeff Goldblum and Chris Eigeman as the respective scene-stealers).

  • Donnie Darko

    Donnie Darko

    ★★★½

    A fundamentally juvenile movie, mostly saved by Kelly's emotional earnestness and ambition—and anyway the American boyhood dream of witnessing one's funeral, or envisioning the aftermath of one's death, arguably goes back to, well, Tom Sawyer. It helps, too, that the sense of family life is generally strong, the particulars often rather funny, and some of the compositions (e.g. the crane shot from behind the family looking over at the jet engine being carted away) genuinely striking. It's probably too enamoured…

  • Just Don't Think I'll Scream

    Just Don't Think I'll Scream

    ★★★½

    Without consideration, without pity, without shame
    they have built great and high walls around me.

    And now I sit here and despair.
    I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;

    for I had many things to do outside.
    Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.

    But I never heard any noise or sound of builders.
    Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.

    —C.P. Cavafy, "Walls"

    We could also say: We…

  • I Was at Home, But...

    I Was at Home, But...

    ★★★★

    Capsule for In Review Online's Top 25 List:

    If those films inextricably linked to childhood experience — those movies, in Serge Daney’s words, “that watched us grow up and saw us… already entangled in the snare of our history” — are about the trouble with being born, Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But… expresses the particular anguish of being responsible for another’s birth. For Astrid (Maren Eggert), a middle-aged widow and mother of two, the question of parenthood resurfaces…