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Thread: New Directors/New Films and Film Comment Selects 2014

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    New Directors/New Films and Film Comment Selects 2014




    As before I expect to attend screenings of all the New Directors/New Films series and a few of the more elusive Film Comment Selects. A link index of the reviews will come here.

    A General Film Forum discussion-access thread will begin here.

    Links to the reviews:

    20,000 Days on Earth (Ian Forsyth, Jane Pollard 2013)--ND/NF
    Babadook, The (Jennifer Kent 2014)--ND/NF
    Buzzard (Joel Potrykus 2013)--ND/NF
    Cherchez Hortense (Pascal Bonitzer 2012)--FCS
    Dear White People (Justin Simien 2014)--ND/NF
    Double, The (Richard Ayoade 2013)--ND/NF
    Felony (Matthew Saville 2013)--FCS
    Fish & Cat (Shahram Mokri 2013)--ND/NF
    Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, A (Ana Lily Anirpour 2013)--ND/NF
    Japanese Dog, The (Tudor Cristian Jurgiu 2014)--ND/NF
    Me and You/Io e te (Bernardo Bertolucci 2013)--FCS
    Mouton/Sheep (Gilles Deroo, Mariane Pistone 2013)--ND/NF
    Obvious Child (Gillian Robbespierre 2013)--ND/NF
    Of Horses and Men (Benedickt Erlingsson 2013)--ND/NF
    Our Sunhi (Hong Sang-soo 2013)--FCS
    Quod Erat Demonstrandum (Andrei Gruzsnetczki 2014)--ND/NF
    Return to Homs, The (Talal Derki 2013)--ND/NF
    Salvation Army/L'Armée du salut (Abdellah Taïa 2013)--ND/NF
    Salvo (Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza 2013)--ND/NF
    She's Lost Control (Anja Marquardt 2014)--ND/NF
    Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, A (Ben Rivers, Ben Russell 2013)
    Stop the Pounding Heart (Robert Minervini 2013)--ND/NF
    Story of Fear/Historia del miedo (2013)--ND/NF
    Story of My Death/Historia de meva mort (Albert Serra 2013)--ND/NF
    Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, The/L'Étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps (Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani 2013)--ND/NF
    Strange Little Cat, The/Merkwürdige Kätzchen, Das (Ramon Zürcher 2013)--ND/NF
    To Kill a Man (Alejandro Fernándo Almendras 2013)--ND/NF
    Trap Street/Shuiyin jie (Vivian Qu 2013)--ND/NF
    Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga, The (Jessica Orneck 2014)--ND/NF
    We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper 2014)--ND/NF
    Youth (Tom Shoval 2013)--ND/NF

    Entrance, Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center, Film Cociety of Lincoln Center
    [Photo by Chris Knipp]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area


    As before the FSLC/MoMA selection committee has announced some "early selections." The whole program will come later. (Feb. 14, 2014)


    The Double | Richard Ayoade
    UK | 2013 | 93min
    Richard Ayoade has built a loyal following with his hilariously off characters, notably the one he plays in the TV series The IT Crowd and those that inhabit his 2010 directorial debut, Submarine. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as both Simon James, a humdrum worker drone, and his gregarious doppelgänger, James Simon, the film is set within both the claustrophobic confines of Simon’s bureaucratic workplace and his paranoid mind.

    Of Horses and Men | Benedikt Erlingsson
    Iceland | 2014 | 80min
    The debut feature by celebrated stage director Benedikt Erlingsson announces the arrival of an innovative new cinematic voice. Set almost exclusively outdoors amid stunning Icelandic landscapes, the film features in equal parts a cast of exquisite short-legged Icelandic horses and human characters—including the terrific Ingvar E. Sigurdsson and Charlotte Bøving as meant-for-each-other but put-upon lovers—illuminating with great inventive flair the relationship between man and beast.

    Salvation Army (L'armée du salut) | Abdellah Taïa
    France/Morocco/Switzerland | 2013 | 81min
    Like the book it’s based on—Abdellah Taïa’s own 2006 landmark novel—the Moroccan author’s directorial debut is a bracing, deeply personal account of a young gay man’s awakening that avoids both cliché and the trappings of autobiography. With a clear-eyed approach, devoid of sentimentality, this wholly surprising bildungsfilm explores what it means to be an outsider, and with the help of renowned cinematographer Agnès Godard, Taïa finds a film language all his own: at once rigorous and poetic, and worthy of Robert Bresson in its concreteness and lucidity.

    A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness | Ben Rivers and Ben Russell
    Estonia/France | 2013 | 98min
    As collaborators, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, two intrepid and nomadic talents of experimental film and art, have created one of the most bewitching cinematic experiences to come along in a great while. In A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, Robert A.A. Lowe, the celebrated musician behind Lichens and Om, gives a strangely affecting, perhaps even trance-inducing performance as the film’s Parsifal figure, a quixotic man who embarks on a quest for utopia—the holy grail of infinite truth, self-knowledge, and spiritual connectedness.

    Stop the Pounding Heart | Roberto Minervini
    Belgium/Italy/USA | 2013 | 100min
    Sara (Sara Carlson, playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with strict moral guidance from the Scriptures. Set in a rural community that has remained isolated from technological advances and lifestyle influence—no phones, TVs, computers, or drunken teen brawls—the subtly narrative film follows Sara and Colby, two 14-year-olds with vastly different backgrounds who are quietly drawn to each other. By presenting an authentic, impartial portrayal of the Texas Bible Belt, Minervini allows for the humanity and complexity behind the stereotypes to show through.

    Story of My Death (Història de la meva mort) | Albert Serra
    Spain/France | 2013 | 148min
    No one else working in movies today makes anything remotely like the Catalan maverick Albert Serra, a cerebral oddball and improbable master of cinematic antiquity. Known for his unconventional adaptations of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (Honor of the Knights) and the Biblical parable of the Three Kings (Birdsong), Serra here stages the 18th-century passage from rationalism to romanticism as a tussle between two figures of legend, Casanova and Dracula.

    Trap Street (Shuiyin Jie) | Vivian Qu
    China | 2013 | 94min
    Notions of surveillance and observation are turned inside out in Trap Street, producer Vivian Qu’s first turn as a director. Noir in tone, and a great representation of the newest generation of Chinese filmmakers, the film is a bold story of who is really watching who that, while firmly embedded in the current cultural context of China, could happen to any one of us.

    Complete New Directors/New Films 2014 slate (20 Feb.)


    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
    Ana Lily Amirpour, USA, 2014, DCP, 107 min.

    This super-stylish and spellbinding Persian take on the vampire genre doubles as a compact metaphor for the current state of Iran. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature guides us on a dreamlike walk on the wild side, into the nocturnal and sparsely populated underworld of “Bad City,” an Iran of the mind that nevertheless rings true. In a cool and brooding scenario that involves just a handful of characters, an alluring female vampire stalks potential victims with a judgmental eye—but isn’t immune to romantic desire when it presents itself in the form of a young hunk who’s looking for a way out of his dead-end existence. With to-die-for high-contrast black-and-white cinematography and a sexy cast that oozes charisma, horror has seldom seemed so hot.
    Persian with English subtitles
    Wednesday, March 19, 7:00pm & 8:00pm – MoMA

    20,000 Days on Earth (Closing Night)
    Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 2014, U.K., DCP, 95 min.

    This unclassifiable immersion in the twilight world of polymath musician Nick Cave is a portrait worthy of a great self-mythologizer. In their feature debut, artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard combine footage of Cave and the Bad Seeds recording their 2013 album Push the Sky Away with alternately telling and teasing scenes that fall somewhere between fact and fiction. As Cave visits a shrink, digs into his archives, and reminisces with friends (like Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue) who pop up in the backseat of his Jaguar, 20,000 Days on Earth evokes Godard’s One Plus One and Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There in its playful deconstruction of stardom and identity. This enthralling film offers a glimpse of an icon at his most exposed, even as it adds another layer to his legend. A Drafthouse Films release.
    Sunday, March 30, 7:00pm, 9:30pm – FSLC

    Obvious Child (Centerpiece Film)
    Gillian Robespierre, USA, 2014, DCP, 83 min.

    A girl walks into a bar…and starts telling jokes about her vagina and her boyfriend. But it turns out the joke’s on her: the boyfriend’s been sleeping with her friend, and he takes advantage of her public, extremely off-color verbal antics to dump her. Basting in misery (she’s also about to lose her job) and alcohol (with a gay wing-man on hand to enable her), she attempts to find solace in family, friends, more stand-up, and ultimately a casual hookup. What comes next (no spoilers here) represents a brave new frontier in comedy, and director Gillian Robespierre tackles it head-on, with side splitting results. Truly a “choice” comedy, the film features a star-making lead performance by Jenny Slate, who allows herself to laugh along with the joke called life. An A24 release.
    Thursday, March 27, 9:00pm – MoMA PS1
    Saturday, March 29, 3:00pm – FSLC

    The Babadook
    Jennifer Kent, Australia, 2014, DCP, 95 min.

    Young widow Amelia lives with her seven-year-old son, Samuel, who seems to get odder by the day. His father’s death in an accident when driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to him may have something to do with the boy’s unnerving behavior, which scares other children and perhaps even his own mother. But when a sinister children’s book called Mister Babadook mysteriously appears—and keeps reappearing—Amelia begins to wonder if there’s a presence in the house more disturbed than her son. Jennifer Kent’s visually stunning debut genuinely frightens us with the revelation that the things that go bump in the night may be buried deep inside our psyches, not just in the basement. An IFC Midnight release.
    Satuday, March 22, 9:30pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 23, 9:00pm – MoMA

    Joel Potrykus, USA, 2014, HDCam, 97 min.

    Winner of the Locarno Film Festival’s 2012 Best Emerging Director award for his debut feature Ape, Joel Potrykus makes a brazen leap forward with his sophomore effort, Buzzard, a darkly comical look at a slacker office temp who gets by on cold SpaghettiOs while getting off on stealing refund checks from his employer. Filmed on a shoestring budget, often guerrilla-style, in the writer-director’s native Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, Buzzard stars an unforgettable Joshua Burge as an angry young man who, through a series of small, increasingly unhinged mutinies, sticks it to corporate America on behalf of the great unsung 99%. Citing Alan Clarke, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Haneke, and Kelly Reichardt among his influences, Potrykus offers a barbaric yawp for truly independent regional American cinema.
    Screening with:
    Person to Person
    Dustin Guy Defa, USA, 2014, HDCam, 18 min.
    A man is baffled when he finds a beautiful woman sleeping on his floor the morning after a party—and becomes even more so when she refuses to leave.
    Sunday, March 23, 6:15pm – FSLC
    Monday, March 24, 8:30pm – MoMA

    Dear White People
    Justin Simien, USA, 2014, DCP, 108 min.

    Welcome to Winchester University where, in the name of diversity, the all-black residence hall Parker/Armstrong is about to be dismantled. In the middle of an Ivy League campus, all racial hell breaks loose: Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) uses her campus radio show to call out the administration as well as her fellow students, while Afroed geek Lionel (Tyler James Williams) writes for the all-white college newspaper hoping to expose hypocrisy campus-wide. No one is safe in the culture wars that follow. In his feature debut, Justin Simien riffs on groundbreaking films of the black experience of a generation ago (yes, really) to playfully explore the gray areas of race in America, and his satirical take challenges our ideas of identity in our supposed post-racial world.
    Friday, March 21, 9:00pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 23, 6:00pm – MoMA

    The Double
    Richard Ayoade, U.K., 2013, DCP, 93 min.

    Richard Ayoade has built a loyal following with his hilariously “off” characters, notably the one he plays in the TV series The IT Crowd and those that inhabit his 2010 directorial debut, Submarine. His cerebral, visually arresting follow-up, The Double, based on Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, enters slightly darker territory, and recalls the stylizations of Terry Gilliam. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as both Simon James, a humdrum worker drone, and his gregarious doppelgänger, James Simon, the film is set within both the claustrophobic confines of Simon’s bureaucratic workplace and his paranoid mind. Aided by a stellar supporting cast (including Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, and Chris O’Dowd), The Double firmly establishes Ayoade as a leading voice in contemporary cinematic comedy. A Magnolia Pictures release.
    Monday, March 24, 9:00pm – FSLC
    Saturday, March 29, 6:30pm – MoMA

    Fish & Cat (North American Premiere)
    Shahram Mokri, Iran, 2013, DCP, 134 min.

    A bold experiment in perpetual motion with an enigmatic time-warp narrative, Fish & Cat plays out as one continuous shot, with the camera moving among a host of characters at a remote forest and a nearby lake. Gradually subverting a gruesome premise drawn from a real-life case of a backwoods restaurant that served human flesh, the film builds an atmosphere of tension as a menacing pair descend on a campsite where a group of college kids have gathered for a kite-flying festival. But as the camera doubles back and crisscrosses between characters in real time, subtle space-time paradoxes suggest that something bigger is going on. Brilliantly sustained, Fish & Cat is further evidence of a new generation of filmmakers emerging in Iran.
    Persian with English subtitles
    Thursday, March 27, 6:00pm – MoMA
    Friday, March 28, 9:00pm – FSLC

    History of Fear (Historia del miedo) - North American Premiere
    Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina/Uruguay/France/Germany/Qatar, 2014, DCP, 79 min.

    How strong does a fence need to be, or how loud must an alarm blare, or how brightly should an open field be lit for us to feel safe? The impossibility of a definitive answer to these kinds of questions lies at the heart of Benjamín Naishtat’s unsettling feature debut. Set in an economically destabilized Argentina, the film weaves stories of characters from multiple social strata into an interlocking narrative of paranoia and fear. The isolation of wealth and detachment from neighbors causes insecurities to fester, feeding a “security consumption” culture and all its incumbent paraphernalia. As we begin to recognize and sympathize with the situations depicted, the most troubling realization of all arrives: we are doing it to ourselves.
    Spanish with English subtitles
    Friday, March 21, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Sunday, March 23, 9:15pm – FSLC

    The Japanese Dog
    Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, Romania, 2013, DCP, 86 min.

    Offering a striking departure from the gallows humor of the Romanian New Wave, Jurgiu’s Chekhovian The Japanese Dog instead pays loving homage to the tender and gently comical family dramas of Yasujiro Ozu, Late Spring and There Was a Father in particular. Victor Rebengiuc, a legendary veteran of stage and screen, imbues the elderly Costache Moldu with a stoic, yet fragile dignity as he reunites with his estranged son after losing his wife and home in a devastating flood. Exquisitely attuned to the rhythms of nature and rural life—and the melancholy beauty of transient things—The Japanese Dog comes by its emotions honestly and poignantly.
    Romanian with English subtitles
    Friday, March 21, 6:30pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 23, 1:00pm – MoMA

    Mouton (Sheep) - U.S. Premiere
    Gilles Deroo & Marianne Pistone, France, 2013, DCP, 100 min.

    Mouton (“Sheep”) is the nickname of Aurelien (David Mérabet), who at 17 is granted independence from his troubled family and goes off to live on his own in a seaside town. Hired as a chef’s assistant, Sheep fits in well with his coworkers and makes new friends. Life is finally good. Shot in 16mm, Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone’s first feature studies the quotidian aspects of Mouton’s life through his eyes as well as those of the town’s residents. Though fiction, the story is filmed as if it were a cinéma vérité documentary, the camera wandering from scene to scene, character to character. And just when audiences get into the groove of this town, something happens that changes things irrevocably. So two acts, not equally divided, bring us closer to the reality of living than many other films do, simply through small moments and gestures. Winner of two prizes at the Locarno Film Festival, Mouton is a lovely evocation of the pleasures and pain of small-town existence.
    French with English subtitles
    Thursday, March 20, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Saturday, March 22, 6:30pm – FSLC

    Of Horses and Men
    Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland/Germany, 2013, DCP, 80 min.

    The debut feature by celebrated stage director Benedikt Erlingsson announces the arrival of an innovative new cinematic voice. Set almost exclusively outdoors amid stunning Icelandic landscapes, the film features in equal parts a cast of exquisite short-legged Icelandic horses and human characters—including the terrific Ingvar E. Sigurdsson and Charlotte Bøving as meant-for-each-other but put-upon lovers—illuminating with great inventive flair the relationship between man and beast. Several narrative strands defined by the way each character relates to their horse recount a variety of situations according to the particulars of the seasons, resulting in a surprising and sometimes humorous symbiosis between horses, humans, and nature.
    Icelandic, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, and English with English subtitles
    Saturday, March 22, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Monday, March 24, 6:30pm – FSLC

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum (North American Premiere)
    Andrei Gruzsniczki, Romania, 2013, DCP, 107 min.

    Romania, mid-1980s. Sorin (Sorin Leoveanu), a gifted mathematician whose career advancement is blocked because he is not a member of the Communist party, comes to the attention of the security services after he secretly arranges for an academic paper on his new theorem to be published in an American journal. With practiced insidiousness, the Securitate start their investigation, led by Voican (Florin Piersic, Jr.), who sets about pressuring Sorin’s friends and colleagues to inform on him. Making a strong and engrossing addition to a body of films from the New Romanian Cinema that delve into the years of dictatorship, Andrei Gruzsniczki’s low-key but quietly tense drama of compromise and betrayal re-creates the period with painstaking accuracy and captures both the atmosphere of mistrustful cautiousness and resigned discontent of its populace and the petty banality of the regime’s methods of surveillance and control.
    Romanian with English subtitles
    Thursday, March 20, 9:00pm – FSLC
    Saturday, March 22, 3:30pm – MoMA

    Return to Homs
    Talal Derki, Syria/Germany, 2013, DCP, 90 min.

    As immersive a documentary of active war as has ever been made, this unsparing account of the struggle for Homs follows—from August 2011 to August 2013—two close friends whose lives are completely altered when their beloved city is bombed into a ghost town. We witness Basset, a charismatic 19-year-old soccer player and iconic performer of protest songs, and Ossama, a 24-year-old media activist who captures the revolution with his camera, transform from peaceful protesters to armed resistance fighters. Derki’s camera, placed inside bombed-out buildings, records insurgents defending their city under siege as battles intensify, panicked civilians run for shelter, and a rising number of comrades are injured or killed. The soundtrack features Basset’s songs interrupted by gunfire and the occasional comment from the director. The images speak for themselves.
    Arabic with English subtitles
    Tuesday, March 25, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Wednesday, March 26, 9:00pm – FSLC

    Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut)
    Abdellah Taïa, France/Morocco/Switzerland, 2013, DCP, 81 min.

    Like the book it’s based on—Abdellah Taïa’s own 2006 landmark novel—the Moroccan author’s directorial debut is a bracing, deeply personal account of a young gay man’s awakening that avoids both cliché and the trappings of autobiography. First seen as a 15-year-old, Abdellah (Saïd Mrini) habitually sneaks away from his family’s crowded Casablanca home to engage in sexual trysts with random men in abandoned buildings. A decade later, we find Abdellah (now played by Karim Ait M’hand) on scholarship in Geneva, involved with an older Swiss professor (Frédéric Landenberg). With a clear-eyed approach, devoid of sentimentality, this wholly surprising bildungsfilm explores what it means to be an outsider, and with the help of renowned cinematographer Agnès Godard, Taïa finds a film language all his own: at once rigorous and poetic, worthy of Bresson in its concreteness and lucidity.
    Thursday, March 27, 6:30pm – FSLC
    Friday, March 28, 6:15pm – MoMA

    Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza, Italy/France, 2013, DCP, 104 min.

    In their supremely assured debut feature, writer-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza breathe new life into the time-honored genre of the Mafia thriller. While hunting down a rival who has ordered a hit on him, the titular gangster (a smoldering Saleh Bakri) invades a Palermo home, only to discover his prey’s blind sister, Rita (Sara Serraiocco), in the basement. The nail-biting, magnificently orchestrated game of cat-and-mouse that ensues, with its evocative use of sound, darkness, and offscreen space, sets the tone for the rest of this richly atmospheric work. When Rita’s sight is restored—from shock or perhaps some kind of miracle—Salvo is left to determine the fate of his prisoner turned love interest. Winner of the top two prizes at the 2013 Cannes Critics’ Week, Salvo tweaks the conventions of its genre without betraying them and, in the grand tradition of Jean-Pierre Melville, wrings blindsiding depths of emotion from the sparest of means. A Film Movement release.
    Saturday, March 29, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Sunday, March 30, 4:00pm – FSLC

    She’s Lost Control
    Anja Marquardt, 2014, USA, DCP, 90 min.

    In a world of increasing layers between people, intimacy is perhaps the most elusive ingredient of human interaction. A person can either take the plunge and emotionally connect with their OS (à la Spike Jonze’s Her) or, in the case of She’s Lost Control, psychotherapists can refer patients to sex surrogates. Engaging in that line of work, NYC-based Ronah (fearlessly played by Brooke Bloom) puts to use her considerable psych-studies experience, as well as her natural solicitous warmth, to engage in close but professional relationships. Until, that is, she meets Johnny, and her already fraying control dissolves the thin line between professional and personal intimacy. First-time feature director Anja Marquardt, however, never loses control, delivering a stylish, deeply unnerving, and profound film on an intangible modern issue.
    Saturday, March 29, 9:00pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 30, 4:30pm – MoMA

    A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness
    Ben Rivers & Ben Russell, Estonia/France, 2013, DCP, 98 min.

    As collaborators, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, two intrepid and nomadic talents of experimental film and art, have created one of the most bewitching cinematic experiences to come along in a great while. In A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, Robert A.A. Lowe, the celebrated musician behind Lichens and Om, gives a strangely affecting, perhaps even trance-inducing performance as the film’s Parsifal figure, a quixotic man who embarks on a quest for utopia—the holy grail of infinite truth, self-knowledge, and spiritual connectedness. He finds some measure of it in three seemingly disparate contexts: in a small collective community on a remote Estonian island, in isolation in the northern Finnish wilderness, and onstage fronting a black metal band in Norway. While his experience seems to be a perpetual one of home, exile, and return, for us, it is purely magical. A KimStim release.
    Saturday, March 22, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Tuesday, March 25, 6:30pm – FSLC

    Stop the Pounding Heart (U.S. Premiere)
    Roberto Minervini, Belgium/Italy/USA, 2013, DCP, 100 min.

    Sara (Sara Carlson, playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with strict moral guidance from the Scriptures. Set in a rural community that has remained isolated from technological advances and lifestyle influence—no phones, TVs, computers, or drunken-teen brawls—the subtly narrative film follows Sara and Colby, two 14-year-olds with vastly different backgrounds who are quietly drawn to each other. In Minervini’s intimate documentary-style portrait—the third in the Italian-born filmmaker’s Texas trilogy—Sara’s commitment to her faith is never questioned. It’s the power of the director’s nonintrusive handheld-camera style that reveals his protagonist’s spiritual and emotional inner turmoil about her place in a faith that requires women to be subservient to their fathers before becoming their husbands’ helpers. By also presenting an authentic, impartial portrayal of the Texas Bible Belt, Minervini allows humanity and complexity behind the stereotypes to show through.
    Friday, March 21, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Sunday, March 23, 3:30pm – FSLC

    Story of My Death (Història de la meva mort) - U.S. Premiere
    Albert Serra, Spain/France, 2013, 35mm, 148 min.

    No one else working in movies today makes anything remotely like the Catalan maverick Albert Serra, a cerebral oddball and improbable master of cinematic antiquity. Known for his unconventional adaptations of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (Honor of the Knights) and the Biblical parable of the Three Kings (Birdsong), Serra here stages the 18th-century passage from rationalism to romanticism as a tussle between two figures of legend, Casanova and Dracula. Against a backdrop of candlelit conversation and earthy carnality, Serra sets in motion contrasting ideas about pleasure and desire, alternating between winding philosophical dialogue and wordless passages of savage beauty. Winner of the top prize at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival, the film is both a painterly feast for the eyes, abounding with art-historical allusions, and an idiosyncratic, self-aware revamping of the costume melodrama.
    Catalan with English subtitles
    Wednesday, March 26, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Saturday, March 29, 5:30pm – FSLC

    The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
    Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2013, DCP, 102 min.

    Deepening and amplifying their super-fetishistic remix of Italian giallo and horror tropes in Amer (ND/NF 2010), Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani here create a delirious and increasingly baroque pastiche of the trance film and cinéma fantastique—and then push it to breaking point. Returning home from a business trip, Dan (Klaus Tange) finds that his wife has disappeared. When the police are of no help, he begins to obsessively investigate their singular and increasingly surreal art deco apartment building in search of clues to her whereabouts. Traditional narrative dissolves into mise en abyme in this kaleidoscopic, vertiginous adventure in sound and image, sadism and eroticism, and the real and the imagined. The unwary may be shaken up by the Belgian duo’s overpowering and percussive stylistic shocks, but in this haunted-house movie, one thing’s for sure: the eyes have it. A Strand Releasing release.
    French and Dutch with English subtitles
    Friday, March 28, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Sunday, March 30, 1:15pm – FSLC

    The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen)
    Ramon Zürcher, Germany, 2013, DCP, 72 min.

    In the hands of masters like Jacques Tati, Lucrecia Martel, and Chantal Akerman, cinema that at first appears to merely observe and record is in fact masking intricately constructed commentaries, built from seemingly mundane experiences. In the case of The Strange Little Cat, an extended family-dinner gathering becomes an exquisitely layered confection ready for writer-director Ramon Zürcher’s razor-sharp slicing. A mother, desperately trying not to implode, and her youngest daughter, who explodes constantly, form the poles between which sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cats and cousins weave in and around each other in the tight domestic space of a middle-class Berlin flat. Fans of Béla Tarr and Franz Kafka will find much to love, as will devotees of the Berlin School, of which this film represents a third-generation evolution. This comedic examination of the everyday has been captivating audiences since its premiere at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival. A KimStim release.
    German with English subtitles
    Tuesday, March 25, 9:00pm – MoMA
    Wednesday, March 26, 6:30pm – FSLC

    To Kill a Man
    Alejandro Fernández Almendras, Chile/France, 2014, DCP, 82 min.

    Bullying is a phenomenon that doesn’t just take place in the schoolyard. In Alejandro Almendras’s raw, unnerving psychological thriller, bullies and their victims live side by side in a working-class neighborhood. Passive Jorge tries to ignore the cruel taunting of some local thugs who would be considered juvenile delinquents if they weren’t full-grown adults. But when the worst of the bunch steals Jorge’s insulin syringe, and his son winds up in the hospital with a gunshot wound after attempting to get it back, Jorge and his wife seek redress legally—to no avail. The family is humiliated again and again, and when his teenage daughter is sexually threatened, Jorge, pushed over the edge, decides to take matters into his own hands. A Film Movement release.
    Spanish with English subtitles
    Thursday, March 20, 6:30pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 23, 3:30pm – MoMA

    Trap Street (Shuiyin Jie)
    Vivian Qu, China, 2013, DCP, 94 min.

    Notions of surveillance and observation are turned inside out in Trap Street, producer Vivian Qu’s first turn as a director. While surveying city streets for a digital-mapping company, engineer Qiuming catches sight of Lifen, a beautiful young woman. Immediately smitten, he follows her to a street that doesn’t appear on any map or even a GPS. In between his other gigs—installing security cameras, sweeping hotel rooms for electronic bugs—he tries to get to know this alluring stranger. And he does—sort of. But as he tries to learn more about her, events take on disturbing overtones, and the mystery, as well as the paranoia, deepens from there. Noir in tone, and a great representation of the newest generation of Chinese filmmakers, Trap Street is a bold story of who is really watching who that, while firmly embedded in the current cultural context of China, could happen to any one of us.
    Mandarin with English subtitles
    Friday, March 28, 6:30pm – FSLC
    Saturday, March 29, 4:00pm – MoMA

    The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga (World Premiere)
    Jessica Oreck, USA/Russia/Ukraine/Poland, 2013, HDCam, 73 min.

    Deep in the forest, wedged in cracks in the bark and under moss-covered rocks, memories and myths are hidden. These subconscious tales and reminiscences, drawn from the natural world, inform the societies we build. Jessica Oreck’s fantastical work combines animation, traditional storytelling, and contemporary nonfiction filmmaking styles to recount the Slavic folktale of the frightful Baba Yaga, a witch said to live in a woodland hut perched on chicken legs who roasts her guests for dinner. But as modern conflicts and scourges encroached, and their refugees fled to the forest, the implications of her presence began to shift. An impressive contemporary allegory on progress, the past, and the power of nature.
    Saturday, March 22, 1:30pm – FSLC
    Monday, March 24, 6:15pm – MoMA

    We Come as Friends
    Hubert Sauper, France/Austria, 2014, DCP, 110 min.

    Hubert Sauper’s masterful exploration of modern colonialism, with war-ravaged Sudan as a focus, offers devastating insights into the most premeditated, casually insidious ways of taking possession of Africa today. The scenarios of clueless Texan missionaries, shallow UN case workers, and Chinese oil-company CEOs living in gated communities while polluting the local drinking water are like a collage of postcards from hell. It takes a particularly gifted filmmaker to construct from these horrors something that can also engage one’s sense of beauty; with an air of science fiction aided by otherworldly scenes captured from the self-manufactured flying machine in which Sauper and his co-pilot arrive in Africa, the documentarian has created an indelible and righteously alarming second film in a planned trilogy that began with the Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare.
    English, Chinese, Arabic, Ma’di, and Toposa with English subtitles
    Thursday, March 20, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Saturday, March 22, 3:45pm – FSLC

    Youth (U.S. Premiere)
    Tom Shoval, Israel/Germany, 2013, DCP, 107 min.

    Tom Shoval’s gripping, haunting feature debut depicts the ill-advised kidnapping scheme of two Israeli brothers (real-life siblings Eitan and David Cunio) from preparation to aftermath. With their father’s unemployment threatening the stability of their comfortable middle-class existence, older brother Yaki takes advantage of his recently acquired assault rifle, courtesy of his compulsory military service, to put into action a plan inspired equally by desperation and a lifelong diet of violent mainstream American cinema. But the brothers might have bitten off more than they can chew: it’s Shabbat, and their victim’s wealthy orthodox family won’t pick up the phone to take the ransom call. This sharply observed study of familial attachment and fraternal psychology broadens into a tough-minded generational portrait that subtly addresses many aspects of contemporary Israeli life, from the role of the military to the recent economic protests to the enduring fault lines of class and gender.
    Hebrew with English subtitles
    Screening with:
    Shlomo X (שלמה איקס)
    Ruth Patir, Israel, 2013, HDCam, 9 min.
    A car mechanic is at the nexus between fictional and real-life stories.
    Tuesday, March 25, 9:15pm – FSLC
    Wednesday, March 26, 6:00pm – MoMA

    ND/NF Shorts Program 1 (76 min.)

    At the Door (An den Tür)
    Miriam Bliese, Germany, 2013, DCP, 5 min.

    A divorced couple rediscovers a long-lost intimacy via an apartment-building intercom.
    German with English subtitles

    You Can’t Do Everything at Once, But You Can Leave Everything at Once (Man kann nicht alles auf einmal tun, aber man kann alles auf einmal lassen)
    Marie-Elsa Sgualdo, Switzerland, 2013, DCP, 15 min.

    Archival footage stands in for childhood memories, with family history unfolding like a tall tale.
    French with English subtitles

    Face in the Crowd
    Alex Prager, USA, 2013, HDCam, 12 min.

    Characters appearing in intimate interviews and ethereal crowd scenes seem both anonymous and oddly familiar.

    Frances Bodomo, USA, 2014, HDCam, 14 min.

    The story of the first Afronaut, a 17-year-old Zambian girl training for a moon launch.

    The Island (La isla)
    Dominga Sotomayor and Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, Chile/Poland/Denmark, 2013, DCP, 30 min.

    The mood of a family gathering on a beautiful island darkens when one of the guests fails to show up.
    Spanish with English subtitles
    Saturday, March 22, 1:00pm – MoMA
    Sunday, March 23, 1:15pm – FSLC

    ND/NF Shorts Program 2 (72 min.)

    Landscape (Paisaje)
    Matias Umpierrez, Argentina, 2013, DCP, 13 min.

    In the aftermath of tragedy, a woman seeks solace in nature.
    Spanish with English subtitles

    The Wild (Wildnis)
    Helena Wittmann, Germany, 2013, DCP, 12 min.

    The quiet home of an elderly couple comes alive through projections of animals-in-the-wild footage shot by the husband.
    German with English subtitles

    Greenland Unrealised
    Dania Reymond, France/Taiwan, 2012, HDCam, 9 min.

    An unlikely collision of animation, the Arctic, and Antonioni.
    Bunun with English subtitles

    Pieces (Anacos)
    Xacio Baño, Spain, 2012, DCP, 7 min.

    A young man assembles fragments of his mother’s life.
    Galician with English subtitles

    Three, Two
    Sarah-Violet Bliss, USA, 2013, HDCam, 2 min.

    A mother and daughter come home to a disturbing surprise.

    The Reaper (La Parka)
    Gabriel Serra, Mexico, 2013, DCP, 29 min.

    An exploration of a man’s relationship with death, and what one must do to live.
    Spanish with English subtitles
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:08 PM.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2002
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    Film Comment Selects 2014 slate

    From the Film Society of Lincoln Center, NY. "The 14th edition of Film Comment magazine’s essential and eclectic feast of cinephilia presents 22 discoveries and rediscoveries, 17 of them New York premieres, and nine without U.S. distribution, handpicked by the magazine’s editors after scouring the international festival circuit in 2013. "--Mindy Bond, Flavorpill.

    This is concurrent with the Redez-Vous and New Directors screenings, so hard to attend but I may see one or two. I'd like to see the Petzolds and the Moodysson but it depends on my schedule.

    WE ARE THE BEST (Lukas Moodysson)

    A.O. Scott in the NY Times offers a preview of Film Comment Selects with thumbnails of some of the films.

    Our Sunhi
    Hong Sang-soo | 2013 | 88 mins

    A former film student awakens romantic longing in three men who cross her path in this acutely observed take on misread behavior, indecision, and awkward interchanges between the sexes from one of cinema’s undisputed masters of moral comedy.
    Monday, February 17
    Thursday, February 20

    Me and You
    Bernardo Bertolucci | 2012 | 103 mins

    A teenager from a well-to-do-family tries to escape the outside world by shutting himself in his mother’s basement, but finds himself sharing the space with his heroin-addicted older half-sister in Bertolucci’s first Italian-language feature in 32 years.
    Thursday, February 27

    David Jones | 1983 | 95 mins

    Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge star in this rarely screened adaptation of one of Harold Pinter’s greatest plays, a semi-autobiographical portrait of an adulterous affair.
    Read more »
    Tuesday, February 18

    Blood Glacier
    Marvin Kren | 2013 | 98 mins

    Scientists researching climate change at a research base in the German Alps discover a mysterious substance leaking from a glacier containing micro-organisms that can infect multiple hosts, and soon do, in this over-the-top creature feature for the Global Warming age.
    Saturday, February 22

    Manuel Martín Cuenca | 2013 | 116 mins

    The blunt title of this quietly disturbing, creepily atmospheric, and deeply perverse character study of a small-town tailor who forms a connection with his “masseuse” neighbor won’t prepare you for the slow and mesmerizingly deliberate experience in store for you.
    Saturday, February 22
    Wednesday, February 26

    Cherchez Hortense
    Pascal Bonitzer | 2012 | 100 mins

    Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas are together at last in this old-school relationship movie by frequent Rivette and Ruiz screenplay collaborator and ex–Cahiers du cinéma critic Pascal Bonitzer, an underrated filmmaker in his own right.
    Tuesday, February 18
    Tuesday, February 25

    City of Pirates
    Raúl Ruiz | 1983 | 111 mins

    Funny, frightening, and enigmatic, this rarely screened film by the late Raúl Ruiz is like a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th as told through a wildly baroque visual style that suggests a collaboration between Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone.
    Wednesday, February 26

    Denis Villeneuve | 2013 | 90 mins

    In his second collaboration with Villeneuve, Jake Gyllenhaal gives his best performance to date as both Adam, a reserved and humorless history professor, and Anthony, an animated and cocksure bit-part actor who catches the academic’s eye due to their alarming resemblance.
    Thursday, February 27

    Fat Shaker
    Mohammad Shirvani | 2013 | 85 min
    In this singular and cryptic film from a subversive new voice in Iranian cinema, an obese con man uses his attractive deaf-mute son to extort money from predatory women looking for a boy-toy—until one of his marks makes herself at home, with unexpected consequences.
    Saturday, February 22

    Matthew Saville | 2013 | 105 mins

    Moral dilemmas abound in this tense police drama starring Tom Wilkinson and Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay, another knockout from the Australian production collective behind Animal Kingdom.
    Monday, February 17

    Flesh of My Flesh
    Denis Dercourt | 2013 | 76 mins

    Director Denis Dercourt in person for Q&A!
    An unsettling and strikingly oblique psychological horror film that gives new meaning to the term “motherly love,” Flesh of My Flesh takes us into the schizoid reality of a woman whose young child has a rare medical condition that requires a highly unusual diet.
    Saturday, February 22

    Christian Petzold | 2005 | 85 mins

    Petzold’s third film interweaves two intersecting storylines to explore the spectral existences of three female outsiders—a pair of late adolescent girls and an unstable middle-aged woman—who struggle to reconnect with “normal” society and find a place to belong.
    Wednesday, February 26

    Healthcare Mayhem: The Carey Treatment + The Hospital
    Blake Edwards | Arthur Hiller | 1971 & 1972 | 204 mins

    Suspicion abounds in this month’s Film Comment Double Feature of two early-1970s medical gems: The Carey Treatment, an elaborately plotted mystery thriller starring James Coburn, and The Hospital, a blackly comic drama by Network writer Paddy Chayevsky.
    Tuesday, February 25

    The Hypnotist
    Lasse Hallström | 2012 | 122 mins

    Hallström returns to his native tongue for the first time in 25 years for this twisty, visually striking Nordic noir about a psychologist (the great Mikael Persbrandt) who’s lured back into hypnotism—a practice he’d sworn off—to help solve a horrific crime.
    Friday, February 21
    Sunday, February 23

    Noh Young-seok | 2013 | 99 mins

    Director Noh Young-seok in person on February 20!
    This twisty, blackly comic suspense thriller from South Korea follows a screenwriter who rents a winter cabin in a remote country backwater to concentrate on his latest project, but finds himself surrounded by a colorful and noisy cast of characters.
    Thursday, February 20
    Thursday, February 27

    Metro Manila
    Sean Ellis | 2013 | 115 mins
    In this Sundance Audience Award winner, a family of poor rice-farmers travels from the desolate mountains to bustling Manila in the hopes of making some money, only to discover that the exploitation they faced at home is nothing compared to what greets them in the big city.
    Friday, February 21

    The Sacrament
    Ti West | 2013 | 95 mins

    Director Ti West in person for Q&A!
    Indie horror specialist Ti West adopts a first-person found-footage approach, with his usual flair and assurance, for this story of a Jim Jones–type religious cult that will stick in your mind long after the credits roll.
    Friday, February 21

    Top of the Lake
    Jane Campion | 2013 | 350 mins

    Twin Peaks crossed with The Killing—and that isn’t the half of it. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss stars in this thrilling seven-episode television series, the toughest, wildest picture Jane Campion has ever made.
    Sunday, February 23

    We Are the Best!
    Lukas Moodysson | 2013 | 102 mins

    The director of Together and Lilya 4-ever is back on form with an energetic rough-and-tumble story of three rebellious teenage girls who form a punk rock band to defy the stifling conformity of early-1980s Stockholm.
    Saturday, February 22

    The Weight
    Jeon Kyu-hwan | 2012 | 107 mins

    This exquisitely shot, one-of-a-kind tale centers on a sickly hunchbacked mortician who takes pride and pleasure in cleaning and dressing the dead and his burdensome younger stepbrother, who wants nothing more than to be a woman.
    Thursday, February 20

    Christian Petzold | 2003 | 90 mins

    Petzold’s first collaboration with Nina Hoss, star of his art-house hit Barbara, is a slow-burning thriller that uses the relationship between a hit-and-run driver and the victim’s mother to examine the role of chance in people’s lives and the existential malaise of modern Germany.
    Wednesday, February 26
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 03:20 PM.

  4. #4
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    Jul 2002
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    WE ARE THE BEST (Lucas Moodysson 2013)-FCS

    Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), and Klara (Mira Grosin)


    We Are the Best!
    Lukas Moodysson | 2013 | 102 mins

    The director of Together and Lilya 4-ever is back on form with an energetic rough-and-tumble story of three rebellious teenage girls who form a punk rock band to defy the stifling conformity of early-1980s Stockholm.
    Saturday, February 22

    In the event, the staff at the Walter Reade Theater was unable to get this film to play on Wed. night, despite 200 people waiting to see it. We'll see if it will be shown again later or if I can get hold of a screener to comment on it. Mike D'Angelo liked it and gave it a 64 (high for him and putting it in his top ten for Toronto) but seemed to think it might just be a "charming trifle," I notice on checking back on his Toronto reporting. The VARIETY critic reviewing the film at Venice considered it a return to form, to Moodysson's original inclusive warmth, an unusual depiction of young female friendship that avoids Mean Girls and Disney-sweet extremes.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:12 PM.

  5. #5
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    ND/NF Press screening schedule




    MOUTON (100m) - FSLC


    TO KILL A MAN (82m) - FSLC

    THE DOUBLE (93m) - FSLC


    YOUTH (107m) + SCHLOMO X (9m) - MOMA

    FISH AND CAT (134m) - MOMA

    TRAP STREET (94m) - MOMA

    SALVO (104m) - MOMA
    20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (95m) - MOMA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:15 PM.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    ME AND YOU (Bernardo Bertolucci 2012)--FCS



    A reviving retreat

    As Mike D'Angelo noted in his 2012 Cannes AV Club report, Bertolucci's first film in a decade and first one in Italian in thirty years is enjoyable and well made. "Pleasurably inconsequential," he called it, but the now wheelchair-bound filmmaker, logically returning with a movie shot mostly in one small space, could be a small shot in the arm for Italy's currently lackluster cinema world. Anyway it is enjoyable. It starts with Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), an antisocial 14-year-old with a pimply wild-eyed face. He tricks his mother into thinking he's gone off on his class's week-long ski trip, while actually holing up in the large basement under their apartment, having stocked up on a meticulously organized week's worth of supplies. These include canned goods, soft drinks, books, even an ant colony and a big magnifying glass to observe it; he's into insects and animals and probably prefers them to people. In occasional phone chats with his mom, he successfully maintains the pretense that he's up in the mountains with his teacher and classmates.

    But in the event Lorenzo is not alone in his basement hideaway, because he's soon joined by his older half sister Olivia (Tea Falco), who has come here to go cold turkey from heroin. It's the only place where she can do this in secret, she says. Lorenzo, it should be noted, as played by the engaging and vivid Antinori, isn't as nerdy and strange as his behavior might imply. Though he's immediately horrified that the flamboyant Olivia will give them away and he'll be "dead," Lorenzo's behavior toward her is uniformly sweet and kindly, and their parting when she is done and he's about to go back is loving. He also has a nice relationship with his bedridden grandmother, whom he visits even while hiding. Antinori has an obvious comic flair, so while Lorenzo's behavior is self-protective it's also humorous, and lighthearted, and future integration into the urban teenage population seems (perhaps for some disappointingly) quite conceivable. But in the film as written, Olivia steals a lot of our attention away from Lorenzo. This too may disappoint some viewers, but the point of the story seems to be that these two solitaries, by being set close together, are humanized, developing a capacity for caring and affection.

    Me and You mostly works to develop, without psychological clichés, a close-up of how the rapprochement of Lorenzo and Olivia takes place. An older man comes to visit Olivia and gives her money, apparently for an artwork; we see her sophisticated, witty installations or photo pieces that Lorenzo finds on the Internet. The basement seems to have wi-fi and includes a dingy shower and loo, furniture, and trunks containing the wardrobe of a deceased countess who previously occupied the family apartment. And there's music, including several David Bowie songs, headphones -- and the ants. Olivia is a considerable disruption but things would be pretty flat if she had not shown up. Robinson Crusoe gets his Girl Friday and then some. Falco is vigorous and quirky, Antinori more a natural. It's to be hoped both their talents will be on view again soon.

    There's a parallelism between this film and the director's flashier 2002 The Dreamers, with it young, almost incestuous ménage à trois, also confined to one place, though not a basement storage area but a grand Haussmannian Paris apartment. Maybe in this more cramped space, without the contrived and dubious references to 1968, we get to know these characters better. But while it's nice to see Bertolucci working again, it's not yet at all certain what he'll do now will be up to his best earlier work.

    Me and You/Io e te, 103 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2012. It opened in Italy 25 Oct. 2012, but in other countries not till 2013. In France (18 Sept. 2013 release) its Allociné press rating was 3.3, the same as The Dreamers got in 2002. It was in the May 2013 SFIFF. Screened for this review as part of the Feb. 2014 Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center, New York. It showed Thurs. 27 Feb 2014.

    US theatrical release began 4 July 2014 at Lincoln Plaza, Broadway at 62nd Street. Metacritic rating (as of 4 July) 56%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:15 PM.

  7. #7
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    OUR SUNHI (Hong Sang-soo 2013)--FCS




    More good Hong Sang-soo

    As Scott Foundas notes in his enthusiastic Variety review at Locarno, the prolific and ultra-consistent Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo has always focused on and celebrated (attractive, young) women, but Our Sunhi and his previous film Nobody’s Daughter Haewon signal a subtle shift to more of an actual femme POV; and Our Sunhi is one of Hong's most enjoyable efforts in a while, if less emotional than Haewon. As usual, there's a movie director, there's talk of film school, and there are endless complicated and sometimes comical flirtations to be observed, with people getting drunk and overstating things.

    It all begins when Sunhi returns to film school to get a letter of recommendation from Professor Choi so she can get into graduate school in America. She runs into ex-boyfriend Munsu, and they drink. Munsu's declaration of undying love (an excellent and hilarious Lee Sun-kyun here) she rejects, leading Munsu to seek out Jaehak, another faculty member, and film director, and get drunk with him (more hilarity from Lee Sun-kyun). Munsu's absurd ramble about how one must dig deep and go all the way (did he get it from Sunhi, echoing a platitude from Professor Choi?) is rejected by Jaehak, who says digging deep will only reveal one's shortcomings.

    Professor Choi gives Sunhi the recommendation letter he has dashed off, which he has made "honest," in other words ambiguous and niggling, with some good comments but also some unfavorable ones. She is smart, it says, but he's not sure if she has talent or not. She was shy in class. It was evident the professor didn't want Sunhi to go abroad. This leads Sunhi to invite the professor to lunch so she can get him to write a more positive letter. He admits she was his favorite student, and not only that, that he has always been in love with her. When she gives him the nod, he is ecstatic. He drinks with Jaehak, admitting he's excited about a young woman.

    But now it's Jaehak's turn to run into Sunhi, and they go drinking in the same bar, with fried chicken again ordered in by the proprietress. (Thrice now the same old nostalgic love song is played, to ironic effect.) Sunhi gets quite drunk this time, and caresses Jaehak, saying sometimes he is "lovely." As they stumble to Jaehak's building (he has left his wife), it seems they will sleep together, but they don't.

    By now it's clear that all three men are in love with Sunhi, and all are fools. Sunhi is a bit of a fool herself. A recurrent issue is: if you want to make films, why waste your time in film school, either as a student or a teacher? And why all this talk, when you should be doing things? That's the biggest irony, since Hong's movies are all talk.

    As has been his wont of late, Hong creates a succession of similar scenes, with drunken sessions at a bar or restaurant table predominating, and he likes making lines and themes of successive dialogues overlap or recur -- though the parallelism isn't quite as dreamlike and confusing as in the 2011 The Day He Arrives, and the theme of going abroad isn't as poignant as in the 2013 Nobody's Daughter Haewon .

    Sunhi sure gets drunk a lot, but she keeps these three men at arm's length. The situation resembles one in Eric Rohmer, as in A Summer's Tale (1996), where Melvil Poupaud must choose between three young women and -- the classic pattern, found in Jane Austen -- insists on picking the least appropriate. But especially here, Hong is more minimalist and cool than Rohmer. Sunhi is't picking anybody. She's more interested in the recommendation letter than in the three men. Hong is also more of a formalist than Rohmer. He is fascinated with parallels and repetitions of patterns. But this doesn't keep there from being some terrific acting in this movie. As Sunhi, Jung Yu-mi, in her fifth outing with the director, is a combination of sexy, innocent, flirtatious, and mysterious. But the prize must go to Lee Sun-kyun as Munsu: his drunken act with a condescending Jeong Jae-yeong is real, unexpected, hilarious, a triumph. Though the POV may be Sunhi's, in a way, some of the best interactions are between the men.

    Playing with patterns isn't just formalism. It's what playwrights do when they construct a well-made farce. It's certainly a new pattern when all three men meet at last at the palace park, but it's also a comic climax.

    Our Sunhi, 88 mins., debuted at Locarno, where it won Best Director and was nominated for the Golden Leopard. Other important international festivals including Toronto, London, and Vancouver. Screened for this review as part of the Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center, where it was shown 17 and 20 February 2014.

    PROFESSOR CHOI (Kim Sang-joong AND MUNSU (Lee Sun-kyun)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 06:29 PM.

  8. #8
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    CHERCHEZ HORTENSE (Pascal Bonitzer 2012)--FCS




    A harried grown son gradually becoming a mensch

    Cherchez Hortense/Look for Hortense, Pascal Bonitzer's busy, meandering, oddball French film, was included in Lincoln Center's eclectic winter series "Film Comment Selects" precisely because it doesn't fit in anywhere. It was a movie that virtually went straight to video. It opened in September 2012 ("La Rentrée, best time to open a film), got decent reviews, and was forgotten. But someone at the Film Society's house publication found and rescued it. In his series survey A.O. Scott of the New York Times said it's "an exemplary Film Comment selection in that it is a solid, satisfying movie that might too easily have been overlooked." Indeed, but Scott says nothing more, because it's hard to know what to say.

    On the surface, Cherchez Hortense is an example of polished French bourgeois cinema. You have the beautiful interiors, nice locations, cool people, cafés, cigarettes. In this case it's a world above all notable for its elegant disarray, comfortably inhabited by familiar and well-loved actors from France's incestuous insider cinema world. The central couple is falling apart. She is distraught and unfaithful. He is haggard and has lost his self respect. Their little boy Noé (Marin Orcand Tourrès), curses and leaves the cap off the toothpaste tube. But they live in the middle of Paris, in a spacious apartment whose colors delicately harmonize. A bemused sadness should fill one as one walks out of the cinema.

    It is the present day. Damien (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a professor of Chinese civilization at a high level business school, lives with his longtime companion Iva (Kristin Scott Thomas), a theater director, and Noé. The love has gone out of their relationship, lost in dull routine. One day, Iva persuades Damien to intercede with his distant father Sébastien (Claude Rich), a high level official with the Council of State, to save an undocumented foreign resident of mixed Balkan origins called Zorica (AKA Aurore, Isabelle Carré) from possible arrest or deportation that could happen now she's divorced from her French husband. This risky mission plunges Damien into a series of events that turn his life upside down. So the theme of Pascal Bonitzer's new film is stated. At the center of every scene is Jean-Pierre Bacri, an actor who wears exhaustion and despair like an Armani suit. Look at him and the glamorous ever-beautiful aging woman who is Kristin Scott Thomas and you'll see the still-strong preference of traditional French cinema that the women be lovely and the men hideous. The key relationship is the fanciful one between Damien and Aurore, who grew up in France and looks and sounds French (and is French, since the actress is).

    To begin with, Antoine (Arthur Igual), the handsome young lead in her new play, makes a pass at Iva in a car. Guess where that leads. Sébastien is a pig, cutting Damien off at every turn. Worse, he turns out to be gay, as revealed by his saccharine interactions with the Japanese waiter, Satoshi (Masahiro Kashiwagi). If you remember anything from this film it will be the bland, smiling stonewalling of Sébastien: Claude Rich, along with Scott Thomas and Bacri, is a French cinematic monument.

    Damien has a small group of cronies who hang out at a local bar and play chess. When one of them, Lobatch (Jackie Berroyer) turns suicidal Damien is the one who goes to see him and take away the pistol he's nursing.

    Damien's strength is that he keeps on and that, after a lot of lying, he tells the truth -- to Aurore herself -- about his failure to guarantee her security in France. In the end it doesn't matter. Damien is pursued by his own good fortune. The "Hortense" of the title (Philippe Duclos) is the VIP whom Sébastien refuses to approach about Aurore. In the event, Damien, slowly becoming a mensch after all, goes to Hortense by himself. He, like the head of the police station when Damien gets arrested to protect Aurore, defers to Damien because of his expertise about China -- the place where world power is going. This is as if to say all this French stuff is irrelevant. But it still matters.

    But does it matter? Does this film matter? It does if you admire what one critic, for the weekly Positif, called "comfortable, Parisian, leftist French comedy." And this is a rather special genre, one found, of course, only in France. The main faces may be familiar, but they provide nothing but class all the way. Some of these people one would enjoy watching read from a telephone book. Bonitzer has been a Rivette, Ruiz and Téchiné collaborator, mostly in the writing category, as well as a former critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, but this is his seventh film as a director. Agnès de Sacy is the cowriter.

    Cherchez Hortense, 101 mins., debuted at Venice out of competition 31 August 2012. It opened in in France in September 2012 (Allociné press rating 3.5). Screened for this review as part of Film Comment Selects at Lincoln Center where it showed 18 and 25 February 2014.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 01:51 PM.

  9. #9
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    A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (Ana Lily Amirpour 2013)--ND/NF



    A self-conscious vampire movie, in Farsi

    In striking black and white, the American-based Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour's debut future is an unusual vampire picture heavy on the downbeat hipster atmosphere. This got plenty of favorable mentions and some raves when it debuted at Sundance 2014. However it is really a very modest beginning, though a stylish one, and it surely is overshadowed by Jim Jarmusch's lush, atmospheric, beautiful (if ultimately uninvolving) Last Lovers on Earth. To me A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night seemed somewhat like a music video without the music, or an introduction that dragged on too long. The molasses-in-January movement in scenes may seem hypnotic, or just dragged-out. Much sympathy for the genre twisting is a prerequisite for appreciation.

    The film does have faith in its convictions, never fails to compose its shots carefully, and makes the most of its key characters and props, notably a beautiful vintage Ford Thunderbird and a cat. In keeping with the early Sixties look the boy interest, Arash (Arash Marandi), owner of the car, wears wavy dark hair, jeans and a tight white T shirt. The car is taken away by evil tattooed drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) to pay for product supplied to the boy's addict father Hossein (Marshall Manesh).

    The Girl (Sheila Vand), the lonely street-wandering, skateboard-riding, hijab wearing vampire or Nosferata of Bad City, a location Guy Lodge in Variety called "an imaginary Iranian underworld" (there might be livelier real ones), is destined to take care of Saeed posthaste. He makes the mistake of assuming he can abuse her as he does the aging prostitute (Mozhan Marno) whom he occasionally pimps out on the dark empty streets. Subsequently The Girl and Arash develop a love interest -- thus as in the Twilight series constituting a mixed normal and undead couple whose future is uncertain. Their tender relationship is shown coming into being when out in the darkness instead of baring her teeth at Arash, The Girl lets him pierce her ears so she can wear earrings he has given her -- possibly an oddly traditional female, passive scene given the vampire girl's previous gestures for women's rights.

    Unlike Let the Right One In, which Lodge mentions as a vampire movie that has more mainstream potential (and did get a decent Hollywood remake), this new film doesn't cross over from its genre mashup ponderousness, which mixes self-conscious mood with feminism, David Lynch, and spaghetti Westerns. It seems sometimes about to launch into a schtick out of early Jarmusch at some points, and its use of loud musical transitions could owe something to Tarantino; except that there is not enough use made of dialogue for that, and all the talk is, besides, in Farsi.

    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an odd mixture culturally and geographically. It is set in Tehran, its dialogue is in the language of that country and it clearly has an interest in the changing status of women there. But it was shot in California, with cramped interiors and cold industrial streets and an electrical power station that do not look at all like Iran. Doubtless Amirppour shows courage and independence in welding together such a unique mixture and getting it shown at Sundance, and the number of major publications that have published favorable reviews indicates that we'll hear from her again. Part of her promise is indicated by her ability to put together a polished looking and sounding package marked by the striking cinematography of Lyle Vincent and sound design by Jay Nierenberg that's precise and enjoyable.

    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 107 mins., debuted in the Next series at Sundance January 2014. It was screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art series, New Directors/New Films, scheduled there for Wednesday, March 19, 7:00pm & 8:00pm at MoM. Elijah Wood is a producer.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 01:42 PM.

  10. #10
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    WE COME AS FRIENDS (Hubert Sauper 2014)--ND/NF


    Sauper looks at new variations on colonization and exploitation in South Sudan

    We Come As Friends, Hubert Sauper's followup to his stunning, controversial, Oscar-nominated 2004 documentary Darwin's Nightmare about Tanzania, is deceptive. It seems casual and disorganized, rambling from Chinese to Americans to UN peacekeepers to Christian missionaries from Texas. It makes Sauper look like a harmless crank, coming from France and traveling around Sudan in a small homemade airplane that is little more than a tin can with an outboard motor. He talks to no high level officials or experts, and consults, among others, some pretty scruffy and uneducated locals. But all this hides how searching this films is. Focusing this time on a wider topic than the pollution of a like -- the split-up of Sudan and the various colonizers and exploiters of the new South Sudan -- Sauper considers this new upbeat, yet by implication dark, development as a case study in what has been happening to Africa since the white man came there centuries ago. At the end of We Came As Friends one feels exhausted. The plane and Sauper's vivid, artful photo images make his scenes feel other worldly. When we hear Africans say the Americans have colonized the moon we realize this is, for them, and now for us, a nightmare dream, We Come As Friends a message on a postcard from hell -- one it took the filmmaker six years to write. And the plane isn't a wild gesture, except for signaling the lengths the Austrian-born, French-resident Sauper goes to to make his films. He built it "to be able to land on small fields in military-controlled areas where" he "never would have been able to go by invitation," he has explained.

    There are men in the new Christian South Sudan who fought the Muslim Arabs in the north for thirty years, and now they are "leasing" huge tracts of land for a pittance, or nothing, for 99 years to outside countries who come to exploit their mineral wealth, and they think they are getting a good deal. Exploitation of resources by corporate entities at the expense of the local inhabitants happens in Europe and the United States, but it seems cruder and easier here. A blatant example is the Chinese who've come to take out oil. Their methods are poisoning the water for the locals. That happens in the US, but in South Sudan, the Chinese are total outsiders, indifferent to Africans. Sauper got candid talk from the Chinese. They say environmental protection is the local people's responsibility: they blame the victims.

    It is true that this film is a little too long; if unnecessary repetitions were trimmed it could be 15 or 20 minutes shorter. But some situations are so devastating that it's important not only to learn a lot, but to feel nauseated by what one learns. And again, as in Darwin's Nightmare, this is an individual and impressionistic film that makes no claim to be "objective." This is the second in a planned trilogy that began with Darwin’s Nightmare. Each of these is a worthy starting point for controversy, debate, and study. This is a film to be studied, analyzed, rebuffed, explained. And he plans his third film in the trilogy will be an explanation, justification, and followup on Darwin's Nightmare and all the controversy and opposition from the Tasmanian government it gave rise to.

    We Come As Friends, 110 mins., which is in English, Chinese, Arabic, Ma’di, and Toposa with English subtitles, debuted at Sundance, where it won the Special Jury Prize in World Documentary. In Feb. 2014 it was at the Berlinale, where it won the Peace Film Award. It was screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA New Directors/New Films series (March 2014).
    Thursday, March 20, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Saturday, March 22, 3:45pm – FSLC
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-29-2014 at 06:28 PM.

  11. #11
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    OF HORSES AND MEN (Benedikt Erlingsson 2013)--ND/NF



    Horses and woes in an Icelandic valley

    Of Horses and Men is a movie rooted in a special place and makes much good use of the people and the horses found there. And so it's a feature that has a strong documentary element. But like others of this genre, it also has elements that are purely fanciful. We may doubt that a Latin American (Juan Camillo Roman Estrada) got lost here in a snow storm and saved himself by killing his short-legged local horse, gutting it, and hiding inside it till he was found desperate but alive the next day. It seems rather unlikely what happens to the middle-aged farmer Kolbeinn (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson). Courting a respectable horse-owning lady called Solveing (Charlotte Bøving), he is about to leave her dressed in fine riding clothes when she is mortified to see one of her young stallions break loose from a fence and mount Kolbein's pretty young white mare while he he is mounted on her about to ride away.

    There are several other events involving the local horses that are equally vivid, equally dire, and also slightly implausible, though each of these incidents doubtless brings in aspects of local life, such as a tendency to drunkenness and disputes over fences and the freedom to traverse public spaces, not to mention great skill at wrangling horses. Here and there a death occurs as a result of these adventures, or mishaps. And the gathering of the community in a small wood church for the farewell, with a few words spoken about the deceased, could be from a film by Bergman, but is equally rooted in all traditional Nordic life.

    Each incident involves a horse, and begins with the camera peering into its eye and finding the main character of the tale reflected there. The film doesn't seek to penetrate into the mind of horses. It does show the close integration of these people's lives with their horses.

    Bright exterior light and a sense of wide open space contribute to the feel of this film, in which nature itself is a stage. A certain staged artificiality is indicated at the very outset when Erlingsson archly and insistently shows us neighbors on far-flung sides of the valley viewing events with binoculars to see Kolbeinn trot smartly on his white mare to visit Solveing. Also stagy and a strong hint of Erlingsson's background in making short films are the vivid use of tableaux and the minimalism of the dialogue. The series of incidents shows that this is, basically, a set of related short films loosely linked together by location and the horses. Having everything happen with a horse is a little gimmicky, though, and doesn't truly unify the narrative in human terms. This segmented, and simplistic, overlying aspect of Of Horses and Men keeps it from being anything but a novelty as a feature film, however arresting and at several points shocking it may be. Nonetheless Erlingsson has conceived and executed each segment with the mind and eye of a fine storyteller, worthy of a Nordic Boccaccio. In its special way this is still a good film, exhibiting remarkable ingenuity in the staging, good acting, and striking use of locations. But it remains a film with oddities and limitations that withhold if from developing mainstream potential.

    Of Horses and Men/Hross í oss 80 mins., in Icelandic, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, and English with English subtitles, debuted at San Sebastián in September 2013 after an August Icelandic release. It has won a number of nominations and some awards, notably Best Director at Tokyo, Best New Director at San Sebastián, and two FIPRESCI Awards elsewhere. It is the director's feature debut and was Iceland’s 2014 Oscar submission. It was screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA New Directors/New Films series in March 2014. Showings at ND/NF: Saturday, March 22, 6:15pm – MoMA
    Monday, March 24, 6:30pm - FSLC.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 01:52 PM.

  12. #12
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    MOUTON (Gilles Deroo, Marianne Pistone 2013)--ND/NF



    The randomness of life, as seen in the Norman fishing town of Courseulles-sur-Mer

    An experimental film that may be experimental enough to gain cult status but may gain indifference from many viewers uses documentary realism and minimal camera movements to focus on one character and then more than half-way through to switch away from him to minor characters.

    We start with Mouton, real name Aurelien (David Merabet), 17, who is granted legally independent status from his alcoholic mother (seen unwillingly signing off on this in the opening scene) and he goes to live at the inn and seaside restaurant where he's a prep chef, which includes several other very young kitchen workers. The scenes, camera always a a distance, light natural, focus on kitchen routine till Audrey (Audrey Clement), a young woman, comes to be a waitress and almost immediately becomes Mouton's girlfriend. Mouton doesn't talk much. He smiles a lot. The camera shows him and Audrey undressing to have sex, and zeroes in on him sucking her nipple. It's that kind of camera.

    The film creates the rhythm of the almost purely and mindlessly physical life of a worker who enjoys work, meals, sex, cigarette breaks. He is excited about sharing a big local event with Audrey, the Feast of St Anne. But when it comes, with the long day on the pier dancing, making out, and eating seafood dishes, a man who has made a pass at Audrey and been rejected suddenly attacks Mouton with a power saw and cuts his arm. He looks a goner, but now a voiceover comes in to tell us he was saved, but lost his arm. His career as a kitchen worker is over. He disappears from the film.

    Later there is a trial, its final decision shown with the camera high up, and the attacker is sentenced to ten years. But Mouton has wanted life or more, and other friends and family declare this a travesty. Mouton has gone away to live with an uncle in another town. Audrey marries another guy and in a year has a baby. She writes Mouton a short note about her life now ending "I will always remember you." A scene shows two twin brothers (Emmanuel and Sebastien Legrand) using a prostitute in a van. The originally restrained, now nosey camera looks long at her crotch. Other former associates of Mouton get coverage. Mimi (Michael Mormentyn) works at a dog kennel. His wife is Louise (Cindy Dumont).

    And then it ends. This style here oscillates between a keen affirmation of life and the homme moyen sensuel, such as one gets in Henry Green's Living, and a kind of Seventies kitchen sink brutality of realism, symbolized by the group of male friends who come up and spit into Mouton's face, apparently a gesture of friendship or initiation, and his sudden maiming and the prostitutes's hairy crotch. There are times when, certainly, it is difficult to tell the people in the film from what they must be in real life. For example, David Merabet does appear to be a non-actor who does prep work at a seafood restaurant. There are funny, ultra-natural scenes. But the effect overall, for this viewer, was offputting and alienating, at least once Mouton had lost his arm and disappeared from the film. One retains, however, a sense of the small town, seen off-season, and the filmmakers have stayed close to their milieu and people, certainly. But this kind of naturalism risks seeming condescending toward its subjects. And the brutal gesture eliminating Mouton from the story seems crude and arbitrary beyond reason.

    Mouton/Sheep, 100 mins., shot in 16 mm, won two prizes at Locarno 2013. Screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA series New Directors/New Films, 2014. Viewing times Thursday, March 20, 9:00pm – MoMA; Saturday, March 22, 6:30pm – FSLC
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 02:01 PM.

  13. #13
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    DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Justin Simien 2014)--ND/NF


    Sundance satire on racial issues at US college

    This film proports to deal with a controversy at an "Ivy League" college called Winchester University in which the black students are united by the opposition of most of them to a white student Halloween party where partiers are to dress up as Negroes. (Such parties are taking place at US colleges, end credits show.) Or that is one issue. Another is that an all-black residence hall called Parker Armstrong is going to be "dismantled" or made multi-racial. Various characters predominate in a cast and plot as busy and complicated as a John Waters movie. These include (to name a few) Samantha ("Sam") White (Tessa Thompson), who has a radio show whose gibes begin "Dear White People," 'Fro'ed intellectual Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who writes for the "all white college newspaper" (whatever that means) writing articles about racial controversies on campus; and the college president and dean and their sons, and the more volatile and purely ambitious Coleandra “Coco” Conners (Teyonah Parris of "Mad Men"), with her sulky looks and silky weave.

    The movie founders in TV sit-com-land, because it is overly subdivided. It opens with the issue of the importance of having the minority organization represented by an all-black residence hall, introducing some of its main characters. But these lead to other issues, notably the separation between the white college president and his son and the black dean and his son, all of whom are at Winchester. And wouldn't you know it, the white president's son has a black girlfriend and the black dean's son has a white girlfriend. This is further complicated when other characters come into play, none of whom has anything essential to do with the black residence hall issue, though so many arguments have been advanced about that at the outset.

    But then the storyline moves back to the issue of the white students' "black" costume party -- which is now about to take place, as a climactic sequence, and some of the black students infiltrate it, not to undermine it so much as simply, it appears, to enjoy it. This party is disrupted, but in the end is treated as a non-issue (because "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"?). Wouldn't such parties be racist? Are they not an outrage, comparable to minstrel shows and whiteface/blackface in the old days? Turning the white students' "black" party into a chaotic extravaganza seems like a missed opportunity for the kind of intelligent satire and racial commentary the film seems initially headed for.

    All this is weakened by a lack of sophistication about college, starting with the lack of credibility in claiming Winchester to be either Ivy League or a university. Surely that would not matter in itself, but the general lack of sophistication about anything collegiate or intellectual or young adult might matter. This movie seems like a complete missed opportunity in many ways. It lectures us, but doesn't make enough clear and intelligent points, and it makes jokes, but, worst of all, it is not often funny. Those who were delighted by Dear White People at Sundance were responding more to what it meant to be than what it is. As Justin Chang wrote in Variety, Dead White People is better at "rattling off ideas and presenting opposing viewpoints than it does squeezing them into a coherent narrative frame," and "it veers toward smugness and self-satisfaction at times." Nice try; better luck next time. Meanwhile this movie may score well with its ideal audience, young educated black Americans. I'll wait and see what Armond White says about it.

    Dear White People, 108 mins., debuted at Sundance, and was screened for this review as part of New Directors/New Films 2014 (Lincoln Center and MoMA).
    Friday, March 21, 9:00pm – FSLC
    Sunday, March 23, 6:00pm – MoMA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 01:57 PM.

  14. #14
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    Jul 2002
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    THE BABADOOK (Jennifer Kent 2014)--ND/NF



    A child's story book that turns into a haunting

    This is an Australian movie (Jennifer Kent's debut feature) and the Australians are known for having a wild side, so though it's a conventional horror tale, it does ramp things up to a higher pitch. The premise is that into this single parent home with weird six-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) and harried mother Amelia (Essie Davis) there comes a really scary children's book that is more like a series of threats of a haunting. And the haunting comes. The "Babadook" invades the mother, who turns against the child. Things are complicated by the fact that the boy not only misses his dead father. His father died in a car accident that took place when he drove the mother Amelia to the hospital to give birth to the boy. And in the days leading up to the unearthing and reading of the fatal "Babadook" book, Samuel has been acting weirder and weirder, to the point where his school wants to separate him from the other students and have him taught and guarded by himself.

    After reading the "Babadook" book, Amelia hurriedly puts it out of sight, because it has a threatening ending. Later, when the haunting begins, the banks and knocks and shakes, she rips up the book. And when they continue, she pours gasoline over the book and burns it. None of these attempts to still its power workd, and the mother and the boy must go through a prolonged ordeal. Which you may share with them, if you choose. Though this is not up to the violence level to suit Saw fans, it will please those who like horror movies of a more cerebral but still vigorous kind. The sound effects are terrific.

    The Babadook, 95 mins., debuted at Sundance, where it was well received and snapped up by IFC Midnight. Screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA 2014 New Directors/New Films series, February 2014. US theatrical release IFC Center NYC Fri. 28 November 2014; also Internet. Reviewers greatly admire this well-crafted if monochromatic example of the horror genre, as revealed by its Metacritic rating: 83.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 01:59 PM.

  15. #15
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    THE HISTORY OF FEAR (Benjamín Naishtat 2014)--ND/NF



    Summer discomfort, and it's not the heat

    Benjamín Naishtat's auspicious debut History of Fear/Historia del miedo is a Hanake-esaue tour of Buenos Aires, a study of repression, discomfort, rage, tension, and perhaps above all a sense of danger related to class. Throughout this atmospheric meandering among a group of partly interconnected people -- masters and servants, guards and property owners, parents and children, lovers or "novios" (fiances) there is a pervasive sense of resentment and, as the title signals, fear. Of what, we never know. We also never know who these people are, so it is hard to identify with them and sometimes puzzling who they are. Explosions and light -- the latter's presence and absence, as the electricity goes off every now and then -- come and go as unifying punctuation.

    There is a feeling here of potential disorder growing from social unrest that can be found in other recent Latin American films. In Marcelo Lordello's They'll Come Back (from Brazil, ND/NF 2013), siblings are left on a highway in the middle of nowhere because of a quarrel with well-off parents. In Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighboring Sounds (again from Brazil, ND/NF 2012), well off people in a block of flats are "protected" by a security company that turns out to have deep resentments. in Celina Murga's highly original A Week Alone/Una semana solos (Film Comment Selects 2009), children go a little wild when they are completely abandoned by their parents in a posh gated community. Unfortunantely Naishat's film is perhaps the least effective of these four because of the vagueness about identities and backstories mentioned earlier.

    However, Historia del miedo has the power to haunt. It makes effective use of mysterious surveillance tapes shown on home screenes, as well as grainy films of what appear to be troops running around a building where an armed insurrection (of youths?) is in progress, whose nature they are not fully aware of. Also strong is the long final sequence at a celebration outdoors. Again, there is separation, as well as vague uncertainty and fear. A family is sitting around a table dining. No one speaks a word -- a recurrent theme, since a young working class character is constantly criticized for his troubling silences -- but then a youth proposes a game where each person says what he or she would like to be and have.

    Then the lights go out, and most of the family go to look for the children they excluded earlier as punishment for throwing firecrackers in the pool. Now it's realized that they children might be in danger. The scene where some of the adults wander across the park of the housing estate, which they now know is vulnerable, is disturbing. Earlier, the working class young man with his girlfriend go "wading" in a polluted, reuse-strewn stream -- one of the creepiest moments in a film that strives for varieties of creepiness. Interestingly, all four of these films are set in times of hot summer weather.

    As Peter Debruge points out in his Berlin review for Variety , Naishtat operates here by showing the various characters' unease without specifying it. How well it works depends on how inherently sick-making the surroundings are at that moment and how much we as viewers happen to be able to bring to the scene, which varies. It might not have hurt to have worked in more specific plot threads. But good editing and excellent, often irritating and troubling sound design contribute to the success of this semi-experimental debut.

    History of Fear/Historia del miedo, 79 mins., debuted at Berlin. Screened for this review as part of FSLC/MoMA's joint series New Directors/New Films 2014.
    Sunday, March 23, 9:15pm – FSLC

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2015 at 02:04 PM.

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