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Thread: Winter doldrums FILM JOURNAL Jan.-Feb. 2019

  1. #16
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    COLD PURSUIT (Hans Petter Moland 2019)

    Cold Pursuit is a remake of Fupz Aakeson's In Order of Disappearance, the Norwegian tale of a vengeful father at a wintry outpost, moved to Colorado and with Native Americans as the outcast rivals instead of Serbians. It's been rewritten, with Hans Petter MOlland back as director aiming only, he says, at "a second chance at making scenes even better." Many little details are copied and very little besides the settings changed. I can't complain; I loved the original. Liam Neeson (who else?) replaces Stellan Skarsgard as the snow-plow operator dad who sets out to kill off a whole drug gang to avenge the wrongful death of his son and touches off a gang war that leads to a massacre. Probably in the foreign setting and with a bigger budget Moland has lost some of the lightheartedness and briskness of the original. Going by Metascores (74 vs. 59) the critics liked the first version quite a lot better. The two aren't all that different. It must just be that violence seems more elegant and less crude displaced to another language, I guess. This is good Winter Movie Doldrums relief. It's wintry to an extreme, and nasty fun. But the astonishment of the original is hard to repeat. Watched 8 Feb. 2019 at Hilltop Century.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-16-2019 at 09:53 AM.

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    ARCTIC (Joe Penna 2018)

    Want to chase your Winter Doldrums with somebody else's winter horrors? Joe Penna is a Brazilian musician who became famous on YouTube, and this, his first feature film, debuted as a midnight showing at Cannes. It's a rigorous, sparsely told, grueling-to-watch survival story with few audience satisfactions other than to make you glad you're not spending winter stranded at the North Pole. Actually shot in Iceland, it stars the handsomely weathered-looking Danish veteran actor Mads Mikkelsen as the lone survivor of a small plane crash. A grimly ironic event leaves him with somebody else to save. The monotonous and repetitive action has been compared to Bresson's A Man Escaped. It's Beckettian too, also Sisyphean; sometimes just plain boring, but overall, agonizing. Like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Overgård (Mikkelsen) is stranded, dogged, competent and methodical. But where Crusoe is endlessly chatty, Overgård rarely speaks. Cinematography and digital effects, including an awesome giant polar bear, are great; the score, though overbearing, is at times welcome for filling the void. The storytelling is stingy. No intro crash; a final rescue barely hinted at. Its mere 97 minutes will not be time you'll get back. Cannes May 10, 2018 debut (Out of Competition). Metacritic 70. Watched at Albany Twin (Landmark) Feb. 15, 2019.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-17-2019 at 05:11 PM.

  3. #18
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    In New York. Feb.-Mar.-Apr. 2019.
    The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and New Directors/New Films - the two Lincoln Center film series in February and March (ND/NF runs till April 7 this year - are a dramatic escape from the Winter Movie Doldrums I've been getting since 2006. The press screenings have been curtailed, making it more complicated. Not much time nevertheless to watch any commercial releases so far since I got here Feb. 26th.

    Only:



    SORRY ANGEL (Christophe Honoré 2018) - rewatched.

    in my NYFF review I called it "a lot to take in." (Plaire, aimer et courir vite ("Pleasing, Loving and Running Fast") is the French title. First thing in this NY sojourn I saw it again in its US theatrical release. I'm more comfortable with it now. Thought the ending a bit "sentimental" but was impressed in the wake of two Vincent Lacoste performances in the Rendez-Vous (in The Frenchman and Amanda at the brave, virtuoso scenes he turns in here. Also Armond White's appreciative new review - "Sorry Angel, a Near-Masterpiece, Complicates Gay Politics" - underlines what a significant contribution to gay cinema it is. Honoré takes on three challenging stages of a gay man's life, youth, adulthood, and middle age, as well as the "horrible" AIDS years of the early Nineties, when he came to Paris and became HIV-positive, when it was still a death sentence and ACTUP was still crucial to survival. If this is a lot, Honoré is up to it. Not everybody necessarily sees that. The AlloCiné press rating is 4.2 but the Metascore is only 76%. Watched at Quad Cinema 27 Feb. 2019.



    EVERYBODY KNOWS/TODOS LO SABEN (Asghar Farhadi 2018)

    As many have said, not satisfying and not up to Farhadi's best work at all. His best have been made at home, in Farsi. This is in Spain and stars Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin. There are first-rate actors all thorough. The opening segments are appealing but feel fake; they're like a TV commercial of full-of-life Latin types and adorable chaos. The kidnapped girl story parallels his earlier About Elly but is more conventional. The resolution seems irrelevant and is unsatisfying and these weaknesses undercut the potentially interesting moral and social issues for which the mystery is a pretext. Farhadi's other foreign-made one (à la Woody Allen?), the France-set The Past, was more specific. It had one foot in Iran. Nobody will hate this film. It's enjoyable and beautifully made. If you love these actors or this filmmaker, you'll probably want to see Everybody Knows at some point, but you won't walk out of the theater delighted. Metascore 68%. Watched at Village East 16 Mar. 2019.



    GIANT LITTLE ONES (Keith Behrman 2018)

    Dialogue that's alternatively sketchy or obvious and a grating score (an annoying loud tune every five minutes) unfortunately made this hard to take for me. It is original in its plot line, in leaving its high school protagonist's sexual identity undecided. Josh Wiggins' character Franky balks when his best friend Ballas (Darren Mann) performs oral sex on him when they're drunk, then, scared, Dallas blabs about it and claims Franky, not he, was the perpetrator. This leads to lots of problems - fights, Franky's gf leaving, bullying. At least he grows to accept his father leaving to live with a man, but hanging out with his friend's promiscuous sister leaves things up in the air. I miss the Eighties youth pictures! Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan as his parents help give the movie visibility. Set in the director's native Canada. Metascore 66%. Watched at Village East 17 Mar. 2019.



    MÉNAGE/TENUE DE SOIRÉE (Bertrand Blier 1986).

    A mousy couple squabbling at a club (Michel Blanc and Miou Miou) is adopted by a flamboyant bisexual ex-con burglar (Depardieu)who takes over their lives and their sexuality with outrageous and hilarious results. Blier seems to turn Parisian boulevard comedy on its head making it far more vulgar and crazy. I didn't know French movies were this raw and obscene in the Eighties. It is funny, especially in French, but makes no logical sense, indeed some note Biier doesn't know how to end and it just goes wacko. The heady, exciting opening scenes where Bob takes Antoine and Monique burglarizing and enjoying rich people's houses seem the best. I was a total novice at Blier, and if I can spend more time at the renovated Quad Cinema, which is currently presenting AMOUR OR LESS: A BLIER BUFFET, a series of his relatively small oeuvre in original 35mm film prints, his famous 1978 Get Out Your Handkerchiefs/Préparez vos mouchirs presented daily all day, other films once a night at nine, this wrong can be set right. Watched at Quad Cinema 17 Mar. 2019 at 9 p.m.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-22-2019 at 06:31 AM.

  4. #19
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    I'm looking up Jonathan Rosenbaum on Bertrand Blier, knowing he was around then. He plainly is not a fan and sees this as a defining line separating him from Pauline Kael at the time, who he represents as ecstatic in her admiration as shown at a NYFf press screening of Get Out Your Handkerchiefs in 1978. He thought Blier was like Roger Corman onl French. I have a feeling though that the "only French" part is what makes all the difference. I'm not saying I'm going to be a huge belated fan. Only I can see the special charm and amazement right away.

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    BEAU-PÈRE (Bertrand Blier 1981)

    The wife divorces, and from age eight, the new younger husband helps raise the daughter, Marion. Then the wife dies in an accident, and the real dad and step-dad vie for custody of the girl, now fourteen. But she wants the young (29-year-old) in-law dad who raised her. And not just as a dad. She wants him as her first lover. Blier takes on a serious plot this time. Notable for being the last time he could use Patrick Dewaere, who plays René, the lead father-in-law, an attractive, indecisive loser. Also with Nathalie Baye. Once again I was struck that Blier's seems really good at openers and not good at endings. He's got a dazzler opening section when the Lolita-esque daughter puts the make on step-dad and his resistance slowly melts. Then it drags on way too long.. Nonetheless, this a quite subtle and fascinating film. One can't help being moved by Dewaere's convincing performance as a sad sack musician who hates himself, knowing that the actor committed suicide at 35 the following year. The whole thing reminds me of Ozon, but seems more sincere. Watched at Quad Cinema in their "Blier Buffet" series 9 p.m. 18 Mar. 2019.



    MERCI LA VIE (Bertrand Blier 1991).

    In this one, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Anouk Grinberg, Michel Blanc and others, A young girl studying to pass her "bac" (high school graduation exam) meets Anouk Grinberg, a much more experienced somewhat worse for wear young woman and latches onto her for experience of life, especially sex. What follows is a series of elaborate self-reflexive vignettes, at the end so grand they somehow combine the horrors of AIDS (still then a scourge and death-sentence) and the Nazis, makiing a mélange of periods and horrors. He seems to think he's Fellini making 8 1/2. He's not. This left me coldest of the Blier films so far, but one regular walked out exclaiming "Wow!" Watched at 9:15 p.m. in the Quad Cinema "Bier Buffet" series 19 Mar. 2019.



    GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS/PRÉPAREZ VOS MOUCHOIRS (Bertrand Blier 1978).

    Raoul (a very young Gérard Depardieu) calls in Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere) because his wife Solange (Carole Laure) just knits and cleans the house, has fainting fits, is not turned on by him sexually and can't get pregnant. Stéphane is happy to be called in, beds her for a while, and introduces her to Mozart. But the same problems soon arise and it's left to Christian Beleul (Riton Liebman), a wealthy and brilliant 13-year-old boy they encounter working in a summer camp, to turn her on and get her pregnant. The same madcap energy prevails here as in the other Blier films. Still I'm not impressed by the narrative structure, which always seems to be lacking in economy and thrust. As with Beau-père and in a similar vein, Blier plays with taboos, but here the seduction isn't so deliciously drawn out. This is shown all day at the Quad during the "Bier Buffet" run, setting the way for a wider rerelease of this best known of his films and his Best Foreign Oscar winner. Not as interesting to me as Beau-père, but no doubt essential Blier. 21 Mar. 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-21-2019 at 09:57 AM.

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    BUFFET FROID (Bertrand Blier 1979).

    A grim takeoff from theater of the absurd in which an out of work man (Gérard Depardieu) and a Paris chief inspector of police (Bernard Blier, the director's father, very droll) form a strange alliance with a hapless serial killer (Jean Carmet) in a dark, soulless Paris dominated by the modern business district west of the city, La Défense. There is a series of killings, which are looked on by everybody as no big deal. It is hard to get one's head around this one, but its screenplay won Blier his first César award. There are women, notably the young, striking Carole Bouquet at the end, but it's not sexy. Once again one has the sense Blier is stringing together vignettes, skillfully here, though. Watched in the AMOUR OR LESS: A BLIER BUFFET series at Quad Cinema, 21 Mar. 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-22-2019 at 06:52 AM.

  7. #22
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    BERTRAND BLIER.
    The five films in the AMOUR OR LESS: A BERTRAND BLIER BUFFET series at Quad Cinema that I saw are an introduction to this pretty famous French filmmaker. Clearly for me Beau-père is the most winning of the five. Get Out Your Handkerchiefs and Ménage/Tenue de la soirée have the same kind of titillating, sexy charm. Merci la Vie and Buffet Froid go off in different directions. Most of these are very theatrical. One can imagine them as stage plays, though often they're based, rather, on his own novels. The openings are usually great. They really grab you. But then he seems to be stringing together plot lines that lose the original thrust, or you realize it never had that much point in the first place. About Blier's Going Places ( which I haven't seen yet) Pauline Kael said that it was "an explosively funny erotic farce," and Roger Ebert said it was the most misogynistic movie he could remember. He is often accused of being misogynistic, but his men are excused by being simply clueless about women, not intentionally mean or exploitative. There is at best a delightful madcap energy. And he has great actors, starting with Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-24-2019 at 10:49 AM.

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    (This is more a New York Movie Journal now.)



    US (Jordan Peele 2019).

    Peele moves into pure horror with a doppelgangers-out-to-get-you-and-your-family story this time. A disappointment compared to his striking debut Get Out, but still with some strong staging and not to be missed for any horror movie fan. Watched at Village East 22 Mar. 2019. Metascore 81%.



    CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI/CRISTO SI È FERMATO A EBOLI (Francesco Rosi 1979; US release of uncut version 2019)

    Some of the pull quotes from this much-admired and awarded film, now seen in"uncut" form in four original 55-minute TV episodes from RAI (divided over two days), “Best viewed as a meditation and "the audience seemed hushed..." hint at its lovely somnolent quality. It is generally low-keyed as perhaps befits a story about an Italian intellectual in 1935 in "internal exile" from Turin by the fascists for leftist political activities to a remote nowhere town in Lucania (now more often called Basilicata). His life is becalmed, but he experiences uplift as he learns to practice medicine because it is direly needed. Good period flavor, and a classy international production of the time with two French stars, Alain Cuny, François Simon, and one Greek one, Irene Papas, something the Italians could do because of their custom of dubbing everything. (They don't do that so much anymore.) The distinguished-looking, preternaturally calm Gian Maria Volonté plays the autobiographical main character of the novel, medically-trained painter and writer Carlo Levi. Watched in two separate segments at Film Forum 25 and 26 Mar. 2019 at press screenings. The public run will be 3-18 April.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-27-2019 at 04:03 PM.

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    THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (Alex Gibney 2019)

    A typical fast-paced standard Alex Gibney doc about the rise and fall of Theranos, the firm that raised $400 million, then billions, to build a box that could do 200+ different blood tests on a tiny pin prick of blood. Lots of rich old famous white men bought into it, Walgreen's bought it, and it was ultimately a fraud. Is it okay to say I hate Elizabeth Holmes? She is compared to Steve Jobs, who I don't like either: but he at least had products that worked. The most accurate word used for Holmes is "zealot." But she was also an idiot, selling people on a medical technology product that was supposed to change the world when it was never scientifically or technologically possible. It's even questionable that as Holmes thought, it would be a good idea for everybody to have a machine to test their blood in their house. This is a very good story. It shows the recent growing prevalence of fraud in Silicon Valley and in the world of startups. Watched at Cinema Village 25 Mar. 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-25-2019 at 08:45 PM.

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    ASK DR. RUTH (Ryan White 2018)


    DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER IN ASK DR. RUTH

    RYAN WHITE: ASK DR. RUTH (2019)

    Another press screener. Everybody knows about Dr. (Ed.D.) Ruth Westheimer, this tiny (4 feet six inches) popular media figure, I guess, but I knew little and was glad to be informed. This gives her whole story, her escape from the Holocaust via a Swiss orphanage, but loss of both loving parents. Her time in Israel on a kibbutz, studying psychology at the Sorbonne, emigrating to the US, working as a housekeeper, three husbands, two children, multiple grandchildren, Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her whirlwind media career began in 1980 on WYNY where they hid her away at midnight on Sundays. She was a pioneer in sex education, and her good humor, positivity, very idiomatic English but heavy German accent, her outspokenness made her irresistible. As I hate Elizabeth Holmes of Teranos, as I am ambivalent about Toni Morrison, I LOVE Dr. Ruth. She comes across to me as an adorable and good person. Amazingly, she is now 90, and the film ends with her birthday celebration. Debuted at Sundance, also (like Toni Morrison) Magnolia, to be released theatrically 3 May and on Hulu 1 June. Watched on a screener Mar 24-25, 2019.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2019 at 10:24 AM.

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    THE CHAPERONE (Michael Engler 2018)

    From the pen of Julian Fellowes, the writer of the popular gentrified British TV series Gosford Park (2001) and Downton Abbey (2010), this Masterpiece and PBS film revolves around Norma, a lady raised as an orphan (Elizabeth McGovern) who married a lawyer (Campbell Scott) when she was sixteen. She gets the job of chaperoning the 15-year-old future silent film diva Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) on a trip from Wichita to New York City for a summer of dance training with the Ruth St. Denis-Ted Shawn troupe. Norma's motive is to see the nuns who raised her in a New York orphanage and seek the identity of her birth mother. This leads also to liberation from her corset, romance with a German handyman (Géza Röhrig of Son of Saul) whom she meets at the orphanage, and some very genteel collateral excitement. We don't get to see all that much of Louise Brooks and the very promising Haley Lu Richardson is somewhat wasted, but this movie is definitely ideal material for the Masterpiece Theater set. This seems rooted in the small screen (where director Michael Engler has done all his copious previous work) in style and look, but nonetheless theatrical release in NYC is coming 29 Mar., and in the San Francisco Bay Area 12 Apr. 2019. Watched on a screener in NYC 27 Mar. 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-27-2019 at 03:32 PM.

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    WORKING WOMAN (Michal Aviad 2018).

    This Israeli drama about sexual harassment on the job by a high end real estate developer on his very competent female assistant climaxes in Paris and she disintegrates afterward but she pulls out of it neatly enough. The characters are cool and neutral, there is no background music: the director has mainly done docs. Though well done this felt to me as if it lacked something; like an unusually well made instructional film. But in this time of global @MeToo awareness, that could be a plus. Metascore 81%. Showing at IFC Center, but I also had a screener. Watched 2 Apr. 2019 in NYC. (I can't say this was altogether a doldrums-banisher - now that the Rendez-Vous and New Directors for me are pretty much over - but it is the height of relevance to a hot topic.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-02-2019 at 03:53 PM.

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    TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders 2019)

    An "American Masters" film about her life and work mainly narrated directly into the camera by Morrison herself with lots of amazing photographs and film clips to illustrate and with talking heads including Hilton Als, Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz and various others. She is a formidable and engaging person, an insinuating, gentle, but utterly confident speaker. Amazingly, she is 88. Why does she laugh so much in recounting her life? A sense of fun perhaps. I can't really comment or evaluate because I have not read any of her work. I've always feared it would be too melodramatic, or just not for me. For somebody who has won so many awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, this is probably blind of me. But this film didn't really change my opinion. Magnolia theatrical release coming Jun. 21. It debuted at Sundance. Watched on a screener Mar. 22-23-24, 2019.

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    Recent festival-watching.


    MAY 2018 CANNES PHOTO CALL FOR "DIE STROPERS" (THE HARVESTERS)

    Maybe "winter doldrums" are gone now that the weather seems springlike, and after being in New York (not so spring-like then) for Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and New Directors/New Films. Anyway I'm into the San Francisco Film Festival now. I learn (though it happened a couple years ago, but nobody told me) that the SF Film Society has been "rebranded" with five or six color-coded divisions, and we're supposed to use "SFFILM" a lot and avoid the old "SFIFF" so I'm doing that. No problem, the "International" seemed unnecessary anyway; most festivals are international anyway.

    Look at the list of SFFILM reviews I've put up so far - but some, ASAKO I & II, DR. RUTH, A FAITHFUL MAN, HONEYLAND and THE LOAD, I watched earlier and reviewed in connection with the NYFF or New Directors. I don't guess BELMONTE is Veroij's best, but it's stylish and moody.

    THE CHAMBERMAID is a terribly grim slog but also hypnotically immersive. I was asked not to write a full review of it, anyway, as is the case with several others, including the terrific THE HARVESTERS, an intense moody depiction of a gay young man in a horrifically unfriendly environment of machismo and ultrareligionsity in the vanishing world of white Afrikaners.

    CLOSE ENEMIES is a thing I love, a French "polar noir," a cop thriller, and it's an excellent if not groundbreaking one. I love A FAITHFUL MAN but I'm not watching it now (maybe I will see it again soon). It was in the NYFF Main Slate last fall. I have to admit I haven't (yet) made it through FIRST NIGHT NERVES. It seems very gay and very campy, a theatrical Hong Kong drama about prima donna actresses, and ridiculously complicated and over-plotted. Fun for some.

    HONEYLAND is a great observational documentary I reviewed for New Directors. IN MY ROOM is wholly new to me. It's a Berlin School film by Ulrich Köhler, the husband of Maren Ade (of TONI ERDMANN) and I get what he's doing this time: it's the end of the world and a shlub becomes a self-sufficient macho guy, a mansch. This is a very interesting film. THE LOAD isn't for everyone, a moody, stylish, minimalistic (too minimalistic maybe) study of the periphery of a Kosovo 1999 massacre.

    I'm waiting to get a screener of LORO. There are supposed to be two parts, LORI I AND LORO II, and I don't know which this will be. This may not be Toni Servillo and Paolo Sorrentino at their best, but being their take on Silvio Berlusconi, it has to be interesting.

    SFFILM 2019 reviews posted so far:
    Asako I & II/寝ても覚めても (Ryusuke Hamaguchi 2018) NYFF
    Ask Dr. Ruth (Ryan White 2019)
    Beast in the Jungle, The (Clara van Gool 2018)
    Belmonte (Federico Veiroj 2018)
    Chambermaid, The /La camarista (Lila Avilés 2018)
    Close Enemies/Frères ennemis (David Oelhoffen 2018)
    Faithful Man, A/L'homme fidèle (Louis Garrel 2018) NYFF
    First Night Nerves/八個女人一台戲 (Stanley Kwan 2018)
    The Harvesters (Etienne Kallos 2018)
    Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov 2018) ND/NF
    In My Room (Ulrich Köhler 2018)
    Load, The/Teret (Ognjen Glavonić 2018) ND/NF
    Coming soon:
    Loro (Paolo Sorrentino 2018)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2019 at 10:08 PM.

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    PETERLOO (Mike Leigh 2018)

    A passion project, but it gives off no passion. The most expensive film Mike Leigh has ever made, and about perhaps the most important event in British labor and democratic rights history, the Peterloo Massacre, the Manchester mass rally of 60-80,000 people in 1819 when 15 were killed and 600 wounded by armed forces. Too many speeches, too many characters; it reminded me of a historical pageant I saw in Virginia at the age of nine about the Virginia Colony called "The Common Glory." All sides are represented (and there are a lot of sides) but the Tories and the royalists are caricatures, especially the clownish Prince Regent. Rory Kinnear shines and alone is a complex character as Henry Hunt, the radical chief speaker of the rally. Lovely painterly images by Dick Pope, who made the wonderful MR. TURNER'S look so great. Nice folk songs. A lot to be learned here, if you're teaching or attending a high school class For one thing, there was only a crackdown on reform right after; a positive result was the founding of the Manchester Guardian newspaper. If you're just an adult film fan, though, Peterloo winds up being a bit of a snooze. The memory of MR. TURNER haunted me as I watched this. Leigh stretched himself very successfully there, not so much here. Runtime 2 1/2 hours, Metascore 68. Watched 13 April at Albany Twin, which has the best buttered popcorn in the East Bay - there's always that.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2019 at 08:33 AM.

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