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Thread: Summer 2022 diary of films seen but not reviewed

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    Summer 2022 diary of films seen but not reviewed

    Unreviewed - a summer list (to be continued)


    BENITO A. MARTINEZ OCASIO/AKA/BAD BUNNY AS "WOLF" IN BULLET TRAIN

    New summer movies I could not review or preferred not to. More will be added..

    BABYSITTER (Monia Chokri 2021). Again, like BULLET TRAIN, superficially clever, though nowhere on that production level: a hazy, self-satisfied candy-colored playing around with misogyny and male self-absorption focused on a man who writes a whole book, a bestseller, he hopes, instead of just apologizing, to atone for a rude recorded public kiss that gets him fired from his job. Jessica Kiang shows in her excellent, detailed Variety review that it just isn't as smart or hip as it thinks. She calls it "forced" and "haphazard." French Canadian.

    BULLET TRAIN ( David Leitch 2022). Facile train actioner full of clever flashbacks, onscreen titles, and slo-mo violence in a derivative style based on Guy Ritchie and various other undesirable models. Very slickly done and some admire it, but I do not see how you can take it seriously. It's too slick. All that saves it is Brad Pitt's laid-back persona as a hired assassin who wants to become a nice guy now. Brian Tyree Henry is in this, who plays Al/Paper Boi in "Atlanta." Not a worthy follow-up but who would know?

    CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH (Cooper Raiff 2022). I loved his simpler debut, SHITHOUSE (UK title FRESHMAN YEAR), but the slowness and excessive self-regard sink this sophomore effort about a young man (Raiff) who falls for older women and briefly gets a gig as a "party starter" at Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. Not a slog, since he plays and is a people-pleaser, just blah. People hate the title; I thought it was real smooth.

    COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON (Mounia Akl 2021). I missed the July 15 and 22, 2022 US release dates. But it seems too good not to review.

    I LOVE MY DAD (James Morosini 2022). No, I did review it, though I lost my review at first, then found it a day after its release on my second computer where I had not absent-mindedly copied over it. Maybe I shouldn't. It's generally thought to be "cringeworthy." But I still see something deserving a thread of sympathy since Morosini really was "catfished" (made a victim of fake-identity entrapment) by his father, and somehow they lived beyond it. Hard to take a clear stand on such a film.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-05-2022 at 09:17 PM.

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    YEAR OF THE DRAGON (Michael Cimino 1985). Watched because Criterion Channel is taking it off this month and I had never seen it. Spectacular, classic filmmaking from start to finish despite the racism, weak characterization, clichéd dialogue. It's the visuals and especially the big screen crowd scenes that sing. You can see why the French decorated Cimino and why Tarantino, who loved the final shootout sequence, made this one of his five favorite action films of its period. Dave Kehr's Chicago Reader short review:
    Police captain Mickey Rourke finds himself reliving his service in Vietnam when he takes on a Chinatown heroin racketeer (John Lone). Michael Cimino’s film (1985) gives full rein to his personal tics—Southeast Asia, male bonding, mass social ritual (no less than three funeral scenes in this one)—as well as his usual weaknesses—lumpy narration, rhetorical inflation, wooden dialogue—while staying well within the standard outline of the violent urban thriller. Cimino’s talent is at least 50 percent hot air, but the part that is not—his superb feel for movement across the Panavision frame—seems especially valuable. Say what you will about his overstuffed, overdetailed images, they at least represent a notion of cinema, as opposed to the flat television aesthetic that dominates Hollywood, that no film lover can afford to ignore.
    Yes, whatever the faults, this feels like glorious cinema. Yet Janet Maslin found much to object to in her 8/16/85 NY Times review and later, at greater leisure, Pauline Kael slowly tore it into little pieces in the 9/9/85 New Yorker. They were prejudiced, this that was the blindness of the moment, and they missed the artistry later assessments (as of Days of Heaven) have uncovered. Cimino's depiction of NYC Chinese crime syndicates is superior to other such treatments, with a lot of dialogue in Chinese, for one thing. Even back then everyone agreed that John Lone is impeccable as Mickey Rourke's sleek, steely young Triad boss adversary, Joey Tai. See the TRAILER
    for a lavish 2016 French "Ultra Collector "limited edition Blu-ray+DVD "coffret" (yours for 284.19 €) that includes a 208-page book.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-17-2022 at 10:33 PM.

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    BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (Justin Lim 2002). Yes, minority people don't have to represent themselves as exemplary, but this goes boldly to the opposite extreme. See the passionate reply to a viewer complaint at Sundance by Roger Ebert, a big defender of this film, who yelled at a post-screening audience critic: "Asian Americans have the right to be whatever the hell they want to be. They do not have to 'represent' their people." I saw this when it came out, drawn to the story of wealthy Orange County Asian American high school honor students who, out of boredom with their "model minority" status, "progress from cheating to theft to murder" (Chicago Reader, Rosenbaum) . Whether or not this is a great film, it's an iconic one. Rewatched 8/22/2022 on Criterion Channel. Also watched a 2017 video of a SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival seminar with Lim and the main actors 15 years later discussing the special experience of making BETTER LUCK TOMORROW and how it changed things for them. "We would like to have our 'MOONLIGHT' one cast member says. They haven't had theirs yet. OLD TRAILER. NEW TRAILER.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-05-2022 at 09:20 PM.

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    THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF BOREDOM (George Miller). That's not the real title but describes the feeling of watching "narratology" professor Tilda Swinton and djinn-from-a-bottle Idris Elba crammed into a needlessly posh Turkish hotel room (analogous to the impossibly posh London house for a professor she later returns to) while a lot of glitteringly exotic but ultimately rather tedious tales unfold as djinn-life flashbacks, using gooey, monotonous CGI. while Tilda and Idris continue to sit around in white bathrobes in the hotel room. Into this static basic plot situation Miller, a brilliant action filmmaker, can't inject even a fraction of the imagination and excitement Apichatpong Weerasethakul achieves with a much lower budget using a much less stereotypical version of Tilda in MEMORIA. This new movie is based on a story collection by A.S. Byatt . See Bonnie Johnson's comparison in the LA Times explaining what essential elements the film leaves out from the book: it emerges that while in Johnson's view the djinn's stories are gorgeously told in the film, the professor is reduced to a dry hull and the sexual element has been excised. If you like the idea of a djinn's life history and "narratology" - a celebration of 1001 Nights-style storytelling - I suggest you read "Dunyazadiad" in John Barth's three-part book Chimera. The film opened Aug. 26, 2022. Watched at Albany Twin with three other people. Metacritic rating: 60%.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-05-2022 at 10:54 AM.

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    TOP GUN: MAVERICK ( Joseph Kosinski) As reboots of 37-year-old movies go this is a good one. I mildly enjoyed seeing Tom Cruise return to the scene of his greatest triumph with a noble cameo from the seriously ailing Val Kilmer as Mav's mentor and protector, "Ice." At 60 Tom still has the pizazz and the smile to make the absurd courage believable, and his role nicely acknowledges, does not shirk, his age. There is movie magic in the daredevil flight sequences. The filmmakers just about manage to make the lightening maneuvers comprehensible to the ordinary viewer, even if it's hard to believe them or believe in them. The machismo and the militarism are alienating and seem out of date. Miles Teller is a blank (in a key role) and has a silly mustache, and Jon Hamm is just thick-necked bluster. The original seemed better, more three-dimensional: probably it was the reverse. I am really tired of the terminally unsubtle kind of character Ed Harris plays so well. Metacritic 78%.



    THE GOOD BOSS (Fernando León de Aranoa) Javier Bardem shines as the ironically described " El buen patrón," the smug, self-satisfied head of a provincial scale factory he inherited and which he dominates, pretending to love his employees like family when he merely uses them and throws them away when he feels like it, and will do anything to get one more "best factory" award. Screenplay issues mar the material. There's too much plot or too little. This could have been honed down into a sharper sex comedy or expanded further into a mini-series about labor and management. Nobody is likable here; everybody is at least mildly obnoxious, and it's not very funny. The movie pushes class and race and gender buttons, but it's unclear why it was such a huge success in Spain, beating out Almodóvar's PARALLEL MOTHERS for local awards. Metacritic rating 65%. Watched with a huge crowd of two dozen people, probably there for the A/C on Labor Day.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-05-2022 at 09:54 PM.

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    Claire Denis.
    CHOCOLAT (Claire Denis 1988). With a really great filmmaker, a film she made 34 years ago can still seem like exciting news. First time rewatching this stunning debut. When I originally saw it Denis hadn't yet become one of my favorite filmmakers and didn't quite take it in. It's subtle; you must attend closely. It is based on her life to age 12 in Africa (Cameroon), and concretely represents colonialism and race through its action. This becomes pretty complicated as the film progresses but never strays from the basic triangle of the French provincial official, his wife, and the pull between her and their extremely overqualified servant Protée (Isaach De Bankolé), who is also the only friend of the little girl, France. Ebert's original review is good; he got it. Watch the film, read the review. I will try to report on some of Denis' less talked about early films - not available on streaming.
    EBERT:"Chocolat" is one of those rare films with an entirely mature, adult sensibility; it is made with the complexity and subtlety of a great short story, and it assumes an audience that can understand what a strong flow of sex can exist between two people who barely even touch each other. It is a deliberately beautiful film - many of the frames create breathtaking compositions - but it is not a travelogue and it is not a love story. It is about how racism can prevent two people from looking each other straight in the eyes, and how they punish each other for the pain that causes them.
    TROUBLE EVERY DAY (2001) Made right after BEAU TRAVAIL (1999), which everybody loves so much, and right before FRIDAY NIGHT (2002), this is a cannibal movie and I had to sign up for a free trial on Shudder to watch it. This shows how when you see a bad movie by a filmmaker you admire you start to question your admiration. Featuring Béatrice Dalle, whom I don't like, and Vincent Gallo, who gives me the creeps, as the cannibals, is where things start to go wrong. This uses the same intensely sensual closeup visuals, minimal dialogue, and cross-editing, as L'INTRUS. Maybe here they don't engage, but you can study them cooly. Also am re-watching L'INTRUS in a new very sharp screener. Wanted to watch NÉNETTE ET BONI, but have to get a DVD to do so.

    TOUS LES GARÇONS ET LES FILLES DE LEUR AGE/aka/US GO HOME (1994), one episode of a TV series. See IMDb for a description of the series and its impressive lineup of directors. Free on YouTube. First appearance in a Denis film of her regular Grégoire Colin, then 18 or so. Theme: The Sixties, its American music, French teens seeking to get laid. Colin is the brother of two siblings who go to a dance party with that purpose. Agnès Godard's camera. Vincent Gallo is also featured as a US Army officer, "Captain Brown." It is drenched in catchy American soul/op music and, with a military base nearby, a love-hate attitude toward Yanks prevails.


    [CHOCOLAT, FINAL SCENE]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-26-2022 at 10:54 AM.

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    Claire Denis, cont'd.

    BEAU TRAVAIL (1999). This striking, utterly confident variation on "Billy Budd" is the film that secured Claire Denis' international reputation. Rewatching it carefully with the Criterion bonus material, especially the recent statements by main actors Grégoire Colin and Denis Lavant, I can appreciate all that went into training the troop of young actors in dance and athleticism and making them into a tight unit, the use of the harsh beauty of the Djibouti locations and local population. Agnès Godard's images, oh my. The way Denis took over Michel Subor's "Bruno Forestier" character from Godard's LE PETIT SOLDAT, very cool. It's a unique, highly accomplished film. Great material for discussion, for film class. But for all its beauty and intensity rather than touching or believable it is more than anything 92 minutes of gorgeous beefcake tableaux. Impressive, a must-see, not a personal favorite. (P.s. AlloCiné lists a boxed set "collectors edition" called "Terres étrangères" with BEAU TRAVAIL + L'INTRUS, for sale "from 199.99 €.")



    There is an interview with Claire Denis in the GUARDIAN today 9/10/2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-26-2022 at 10:56 AM.

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    Claire Denis, cont'd.

    WHITE MATERIAL (2010). Much more satisfying to see this during a home Denis binge, not worry about (my NYFF) festival debut disappointment, appreciate how it speaks to other Denis films, and appreciate how incredibly effective Isabelle Huppert is as a mad colonial Mother Courage. To see once more how this director scores at something new - an action film forged largely through still tableaux - depicting a country dissolved in chaos. What is happening in this undefined African naion (Cameroon, like CHOCOLAT - and a sequel to it)? The feds are restoring order, demolishing the rebel army and the marauding child soldiers. Colonial remnants now firtually stripped bare, all French are fleeing or fled, except Maria (Huppert) who runs the Vial coffee plantation. We see Denis regulars: Michel Subor (of multiple films) as her father-in-law the plantation owner, Nicholas Duvauchelle of BEAU TRAVAIL is her no-account son, and Isaach de Bankolé as the wounded, dying rebel leader "The Boxer" who, 22 years earlier, was the impeccable servant of CHOCOLAT: what a rich irony to compare those two roles! Again Criterion bonus material, a statement by Denis, makes me understand the film's context better. (Huppert was 53 in the photo below.)



    I CAN'T SLEEP/J'AI PAS SOMMEIL (1994) Watched on M4HD.TV. Not a favorite but it's surprising who likes this, Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle, for instance. An IMDb citizen critic says it "demystifies" the film noir genre. Based on the real eighties Paris "granny" serial killer, it treats him as just like everyone else, integrating him into a group of miscellaneous immigrants in the picturesque 18th arrondissement whose different stories it follows and interrelates, starting with a pretty Lithuanian arrival, Daiga. Not sure I wanted the noir genre demystified. We see such known names and Denis actors as Jacques Nolot, Alex Descas, Béatrice Dalle, and some other appealing types, sometimes it feels like a sterile exercise but still it is a highly original, a distinguished film. The citizen critic relates it to Kieslowski's RED.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-26-2022 at 11:02 AM.

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    Two by Agnieszka Holland.


    MARINA GOLOVINE, GREGOIRE COLIN IN OLIVIER OLIVIER

    OLIVIER OLIVIER (1992). In French. Not seen since the nineties, this haunting tale of a conflicted provincial family and disappeared boy is the earliest role (nearly) of Grégoire Colin, around 16, as the boy six years later, who's been living as a gay hustler, who a Paris cop thinks is the disappeared Olivier. Is he or isn't he the lost Olivier? Holland winds things up rather quickly. A great story rather than a great movie. Colin has a teasing, pleasing quality. Still rather small, he flits through the film lightly. A sort-of followup to Holland's EUROPA EUROPA (1990) (in German) about a young man in living among the Nazis during WWII who conceals the fact that he's Jewish. On Amazon Prime.

    EUROPA EUROPA (1990). In German, Polish and Russian. Originally watched this in the nineties, then later OLIVIER, OLIVIER. Marco Hofschneider (whose good looks, rosy cheeks and ruby lips are the key to his success) plays the young Jewish con man (in the memoir of Solomon Perel) who wants to become a movie actor, and after all his family seem tomhave been killed after escaping from Germany to Poland, winds up posing as a goy to escape Nazi persecution, being in a Stalinist school and learning Russian, being an interpreter for the Nazis in Russia, then through crazy but dangerous luck, back in Germany in an elite Nazi school that's a much tougher test of his deception than the front. Solly is a much more fully developed character than Grégoire Colin's wispy "Olivier," a true story that with its voiceover always seems sort of a lark. Born in Warsaw in 1945, Holland had divided her life between France, Poland, and the US so these two stories suited her background. As stories they are well told, especially this one, but they're not particularly notable for their psychological depth. These are probably my favorites of her films, though I also liked TOTAL ECLIPSE, with Leo DiCaprio, another attractive youth, very bold as Arthur Rimbaud.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-14-2022 at 02:24 PM.

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    Claire Denis, cont'd.

    NO FEAR, NO DIE/S'EN FOUT LA MORT (1990). This little-known item is Denis' gritty, assured sophomore feature, starring the African-born Isaak de Bankolé (as Dah, from Benin), who starred in her debut CHOCOLAT, and French-born Alex Descas (as Jocelyn, from the Antilles). They play two immigrant pals who team up to run cock fights which are organized by a sleazy white owner of freeway roadside businesses, Pierre Ardennes (iconic actor Jean-Claude Brialy of LES COUSINS and THE 400 BLOWS and 191 other credits). Okay: Denis says she was inspired by Franz Fanon's classic analysis of colonialism and decolonization, The Wretched of the Earth, and everyone talks about racial exploitation and colonialism. But first of all this is a no-nonsense action film with realistic scenes of an obscure illegal gambling sport. Perhaps not atypically for such a film, it ends with a somewhat melodramatic tragic denouement a little like an old B-picture. In keeping with the first aspect, Descas, whose character Jocelyn grew up on the islands with a cock-fight-specialist father, trained extensively in preparation for his role in how to handle fighting cocks, and those scenes are riveting. Not stopping at that, though, he creates in Jocelyn a repressed, disturbed, tragic character full of mystery and anger who turns to drink. Brialy's Pierre is just an asshole, obviously trying to cheat the black guys every chance he gets, not a very interesting role but he plays it very well. There is a love interest; a focus on a white cock as a stand-in for the desired white woman. Not too subtle, but the no-nonsense style and authenticity, Agnès Godard's strong cinematography, and other Denis tech and team features, make this a strong, flavorful film, which sadly online citizen critics weigh down with empty political, cinephile jargon, forgetting to talk about the actual film. Typically for Denis, it's a whole new direction. Unique is a jazz score recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at his New Jersey studio, with Abdullah Ibrahim, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Frank Lacy, trombone; Ben Riley, drums. I had not seen this film before. It's hard to get. Actually bought a DVD that just arrived from England (9/23/2022). The disk has no case but is new, with excellent subtitles (details later). Denis' next feature would be the ensemble serial killer film I CAN'T SLEEP (1994). Coming next on this thread, NÉNETE ET BONI (1997), which I also recently purchased a DVD of for this Denis-binge.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-26-2022 at 11:03 AM.

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    Claire Denis, cont'd.

    NÉNETTE ET BONI (1996). Estranged siblings in Marseille reunite to deal with the underage sister's pregnancy. Following Denis' 1994 TV anthology series one-hour TOUS LES GARÇONS ET LES FILLES DE LEUR ÂGE.../U.S. GO HOME, NÉNETTE ET BONI] has the same personnel, Grégoire Colin and Alice Houri as the titular brother and sister, also Vincent Gallo as part of the erotic-sexual mix, and Jacques Nolot, as the father who'd been a character in I CAN'T SLEEP (also 1994). Stunning when you know Denis's work well though I find the finale problematic. Agnès Godard's cinematography's up-close intimacy is cranked up to the max for the sexed up 19-year-old pizza-maker Boni's young man cuddliness, semi-comic masturbatory fantasies, and repressed desire for Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's voluptuous if ditsy wife of the neighborhood baker (Vincent Gallo; Gallo and Bruni Tedeschi have several lovely amorous scenes with music; the Tindersticks score is much admired). Holden of the Times had a beautifully written review at the time and Ebert was appreciative and grasped an essential quality, the way the inbtense, cryptic vérité style simultaneously tells us less than a conventional film would about the characters but makes us feel we know them more intimately than a conventional film would. Even subsidiary scenes of low-level gangsterish associates of both Boni and dad Monsieur Luminaire (Nolot) are vivid, intensely voyeurish, a little like the cockfight scenes in the 1990 NO FEAR, NO DIE. Odd is how Denis interweaves the most realistic sequences with dreamy erotic fantasies and a the end that backfires (or the conclusion is just fudged) because it's just unclear (to me anyway) what happens after Nénette has her baby. Watched now on a new DVD I recently bought, first seen without much understanding on a rented video in the nineties. Three years after this Grégoire Colin was to become the homoerotic fantasy hunk of Denis' Billy Budd dance tableau BEAU TRAVAIL. Denis' obvious fascination with him in NÉNETTE ET BONI makes it seem funny Colin in the Criterion BEAU TRAVAIL interview thinks there was any doubt he would even be included in that movie.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-26-2022 at 11:43 AM.

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    THE SIENT TWINS (Agnieszka Smoczynska 2022). Now is the time for me to regret my not being in NYC: the NYFF starts tomorrow and runs to the middle of October. Instead this afternoon I went to Landmark's Albany Twin, had buttered popcorn, the reliable thing, and watched (ironically?) THE SILENT TWINS. It announces at the end the said twins (played by non-twin actresses) wrote extensively and kept many journals and notebooks which were used, well, extensively in the movie. That’s the trouble. It has no imagination of its own. A drab, dreary piece one constantly imagines oneself watching years from now on TV, which could have been from almost any dreary time, though mostly set in the early eighties. This “astounding true story” has a deservedly lukewarm Metascore of 60%. (My enjoyable recent watches - of which I've written reviews - have been screeners from the Mill Valley Film Festival: the tremendously upbeat, fun documentary about rural kids in Uruguay WE DREAM OF ROBOTS/SONAR ROBOTS (Pablo Casacuberta 2022) and the distinctive little indie feature road movie PROVO by Emma Thatcher out of Chicago looking at Mormons. You'll find these in the Mill Valley Film Valley 2022 festival thread. I will go back to Claire Denis shortly.


    LETITIA WRIGHT, TAMARA LAWRENCE IN THE SILENT TWINS
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Today at 12:23 AM.

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