• Tommaso

    Tommaso

    ★★★★

    On the one hand, I'm struggling to stay objective, because I once spent an hour in Abel Ferrara's company, found him to be super-charismatic - though of course it was only for work (*) - and can confirm that even the ardent way Willem Dafoe swigs water from a bottle recalls his writer-director; on the other, the details of Ferrara's life are well-known and the film co-stars his real wife and daughter, so it's not like I'm privy to any…

  • The New Mutants

    The New Mutants

    ★★

    Pale Man monsters with big teeth, really? Maybe this is so inert because it's a genre movie made by someone with no genre imagination, who's actually more interested (to his credit, I suppose) in dramatic metaphors like the adolescent body as a cage to be unlocked - through sex, mostly - by the adult within, just like the teens' mutant powers are caged by the evil corporation. (The mutation = puberty subtext is actually spelled out.) Then again, the YA…

  • First Cow

    First Cow

    ★★★★½

    Like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, a woozy quasi-Western that both treats the frontier life as a prelapsarian fantasy where everything is possible - "History isn't here yet," says someone - and locates in it the conflicts (and violence) that persist in finished-product America. Reichardt uses suspense more effectively than ever - more effectively than in Night Moves, maybe because she made that explicitly political whereas this is more of a fairytale (a buffoonish autocrat, like the emperor with new clothes;…

  • After We Collided

    After We Collided

    ★★

    Quite amusing that this opens with a recap/reminder of After, one of the least memorable films ever to spawn a sequel. (At least they didn't call it 'After After'.) Even more amusing that it pays lip-service to Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc - Tessa (our heroine) loves to read - then quickly settles down to being as sexed-up and 'edgy' as the teen-movie template will allow (much more than the clean-cut original), leading to some unintentional high comedy. Tessa…

  • VHYes

    VHYes

    ★★★

    As nutty as it sounds, though it's almost too successful at evoking the feel of zapping through cable-TV channels in the 80s/90s: the thrill of changing show every few seconds is real, but once you stay on something for more than a couple of beats it quickly starts to get boring. The parodies are lame, the fake sitcom ('Ten of the Same') too broad, the shout-outs to the 21st century embarrassing, the porn movie about global warming... I dunno, seemed…

  • The Twentieth Century

    The Twentieth Century

    ★★★

    Surreal, ornate, camp, stilted, often splendid, self-conscious certainly - Too Much, certainly - borrowing visual ideas from kids' cartoons, 60s sci-fi, the dystopic look of 1984 (lots of trapeziums and upside-down triangles). Rankin is another Bard of Winnipeg ("Maybe you shouldn't go to Winnipeg so much... A good man like you") though Guy Maddin has by far the better sense of humour; even the good jokes tend to be slapdash here, e.g. the "tests of leadership" that lurch from satire…

  • Wasp Network

    Wasp Network

    ★★½

    Quite surprised to find Assayas getting safe and inert in late middle age, I was sure he'd start indulging his experimental side instead - and indeed this boring film improves in the final section, when the narrative grows more diffuse and the roaring tide of politics takes over. His recurring theme of people scrambling to keep up with larger forces is much in evidence - economic forces in Non-Fiction, sociopolitical in Something in the Air, the unstoppable force of Time…

  • The Burnt Orange Heresy

    The Burnt Orange Heresy

    ★★½

    Does art exist in itself, separate from the stories we tell about it? If art is truth, how does that square with the malleable nature of truth? Could art still be said to exist if it remained in the mind of the artist? All good questions - but also, e.g., an art critic gets a once-in-a-lifetime interview with the world's most reclusive artist (broken up in two slots, a boat ride and a dinner) then claims he's too tired to…

  • Come to Daddy

    Come to Daddy

    ★★★

    "He's not... how I imagined him." Daddy issues (a.k.a. What to do when the Absent Dad turns out to be a raging alcoholic psychopath?), then it really gets rough - but you also get Elijah Wood as a well-meaning mommy's boy in pencil moustache, monk's tonsure and those eyes that were always a little too big for his face ("Bad guys have eyes that look like raisins," claims a cop in one of many non sequiturs), a perpetual refugee from…

  • Blast of Silence

    Blast of Silence

    ★★★½

    Beatnik noir, in a way, with a swinging jazz soundtrack and painfully existentialist, one-man-alone philosophy (at one point we go to a jazz club, where a cool cat sings a song about being "dressed in black all the time") - yet also an incredibly accomplished no-budget indie, made with a fervour that extends to its hero (played by the writer-director; the DP is also the producer). He's not coolly alienated, like the hitman in Murder By Contract, he always hates…

  • Babyteeth

    Babyteeth

    ★★½

    Too much skill and heart to dismiss, though this type of consciously circuitous quirk is hard to do; Mike Mills can do it, everyone else tends to seem passive-aggressive. Murphy varies her style - restless camera here, a contemplative long take there (e.g. in the family dinner where Mo talks of "horse mushroom season") - and varies her effects too; there are great change-of-pace bits, like the brief and haunting 'What the Dead Said to Milla'. Still skews sweet, or…

  • Young Ahmed

    Young Ahmed

    ★★★★

    It's uncanny how the Dardennes take a subject (esp. a hot-button topic, like here), treat it so simply yet engineer so much tension, just through being open to all possibilities. "I'm changing," says Ahmed, and so he is, after all he's young (he's 'Young' Ahmed), mentally and physically changing, and was playing video games just a few months before becoming radicalised ("I wish you could be like before," says Mom in the film's most wrenching scene). He is indeed changing…