Sunday, October 1, 2023

Youth (Spring) (2023) NYFF 2023

Wang Bing’s award winning look at the young people working in a Chinese sweatshop. We watch as they work, joke, fall in love and plan their future.

This is an observational look at a group of co-workers who will work their way into your heart. As I’ve always said, while we work to make money, the reason we stay is the co-workers and it’s easy to see why these people hang together, they make each other laugh. While the film isn’t all fun and games we do get a sense of why they  get along.

Running just under four hours a film like YOUTH may sound like a tough slog, but it really isn’t. I was given a chance to see the film before Toronto and I thought I might break the film up into pieces, but quite honestly out side of a bathroom break I watched the film from start to finish. I was quite simply too invested in the people on the screen to walk away.  The best thing description of the film was I went into the film out of an obligation to cover it because it was at Cannes, and Toronto and New York and I can out of it enjoying the hell out of it because it connected me to some people who made me laugh and smile and feel connected to humanity.

Don’t go into this film expecting grand story lines but rather go in expecting to just see life happen. Races are run, jokes told, plans are made, clothes are sewn together, people come and go. This is life happening at the speed of life, which means it’s a leisurely affair.

I enjoyed this film a great deal. Not only did the film make me feel but it made me ponder about life as lived, by me and by others.


SO Unreal (2023) Fantastic Fest

Narrated by Debbie Harry this is  look the history of cyber cinema and how technology was viewed over the years.  Interesting to a point, I’m not certain that the film adds up to much.

More essay than documentary this is a film that is going to have any well versed film fan arguing with the screen. This is very much Amanda Kramer’s take on things and while that’s all well and good, I’m not certain that she is always right. I kept talking to the screen making the people around me shush me for much of it’s running time.

I suspect that part of the problem is the narration which is delivered in a low key way that is intentionally mechanical. I initially thought it was a machine voice and then I saw Harry’s name.

While not bad, it’s just not that interesting.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

I'LL CRUSH Y'ALL (2023) Fantastic Fest

Dark comedy about a paroled felon known as Nuthead who ends up back home. When his brother gets in trouble with the mob, he and his slingshot shooting partner to make things right.

Amusing little film made me smile and never really clicked with me. Part of it is the humor wasn’t to my liking, but also the way the film was shot never made me forget it was film.

It’s not bad, and I’m guessing you may like it, but it never worked for me.

Bark (2023) Fantastic Fest 2023


Love it or loath it film is the story of a man who wakes up shackled to a tree. Why is there isn’t really clear. Things become complicated when some one appears and sets up a camp with the intention of watching him die.

Bleak, black torture porn off shoot feels like an expanded play. This is a two hander truly set in a single location. It’s a well made and well acted film that touches the darkness in our souls.

Does that mean it’s a good film?  For me, probably not. This is just a black film whose point I’m still trying to work out. Is it just about the inhumanity of man? Perhaps but I’m not sure I need 90 minutes of a man tied to a tree to see it. At some point I considered walking out, but I was curious where it was going. While not quite the conclusion I was expecting, the final turn made me gasp.

Yes it’s well made but it’s way too dark (and possibly pointless) for my tastes

Mushrooms (2023) Fantastic Fest

Just over an hour long film has a woman out in the woods encountering a lost couple who want her help to escape. She’s not too sure that’s a good idea.

Essentially the cinematic equivalent of a short story with a sting in the tale, MUSSHROOMS is a film you need to see and then discuss. It’s not that there is anything wrong, rather it’s simply a matter that the construction of the film is such that anything said beyond a bare minimum will ruin how you see the film the first time through. This is another one where the less you know is better.

As good as the film is the first time through, I’m not sure how this will play on repeated viewings. Yes a second one will be fine, but after that this fragile little film may seem less special. Still, as something to see with no expectations this film is a great deal of fun.

STORM (2023)Beyond Fest

A couple wake up to noises in their house- going to investigate they eventually discover an intruder in the house.

And that’s really all I can say about the film. It’s not that I don’t want to, rather it is simply that the film flips and flops and since it only runs 8 minutes it will be spoiled if I say too much.

I will say that it is a tense little film with a wicked sense of humor. It also has a resolution that will make you sit up and go ‘Whoa”.

Recommended where ever you can see it.


This is a look at lawyer and genealogist Randy Schoenberg and his teenage son Joey Schoenberg as they travel through their family history across Europe and time.

The elder Schoenberg got into genealogy as a kid as the result of a school project. Because he is the grandson of a famous composer he had a bit more to work with than other kids and he became hooked on tracing his family history. Even as he was making headlines with big cases (He fought to get a Klimt painting returned to it's rightful owner, a story made into the film WOMAN IN GOLD). His work helped him be able to travel around the world in order to continue pursuing his family history.

This is a very good film. It's a wonderful tale of family and history and how sometimes they collide. It's a film full of good people finding out all sorts of interesting things.

World Premiering at the Woodstock Film Festival it will be playing also at Cincinnati, Zurich and Tel Aviv between now and October 8.

MASTER OF THE HOUSE (2023) Vancouver International Film Festival

Young sommelier​ working at a fancy restaurant has to choose between friendship and advancement when a noted food critic arrives to do a review.

Very good short looks like a million dollars, is beautifully acted and moves like the wind. This is a solid short that would make a killer feature. You can feel the plot threads bleeding off the screen, begging to be explored. It’s one of those films where the fact you can see the bigger world beyond the edges of the frame make it a better film.

This is super filmmaking from top to bottom and director Dylan Maranda, jumps to the top of the list of ones to watch.

Friday, September 29, 2023

SRI ASIH: THE WARRIOR (2023) Fantastic Fest

This is just a quick note to say that you need to see this marvelous comic book film. This is going to be a quick note because the screener I was given did not have subtitles.

The film is the story of a young woman with mystical powers (think Wonder Woman but kind of more bad ass) who takes on  a bunch of bad guys. Full of great fights and spectacular imagery this is a return to comics films being fun. I didn’t have any clue but I enjoyed the hell out it- who needs Marvel or DC when you can have a film as fun as this.

Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967 NYFF 2023

During the 4th NYFF Agnes Varda and Peir Paolo Paolini walked through Times Square. Varda filmed their walk and then later recorded a conversation to put over it. The film was recently found, restored and finished.

This year's NYFF is making a big deal about this four minute short, including it as part of several feature film screenings.  I'm not really sure why. It's not that it's bad, but more because there isn't much here.  The footage is just them walking down the street. The conversation is intriguing but  I wish it was longer that 4 minutes.

Is it bad? No, but it is at best a footnote.  Its kind of like finding a small doodle in the margin of a book by someone famous. It's cool, but nothing special.

If you see it you'll like it, but odds are you'll wonder why they are making a big to do about it.

La Práctica (2023) NYFF 2023

Droll comedy about the owner of a yoga studio who has to deal with running his business and various personal relationships.

Martin Rejtman returns to making movies with his first film in almost a decade. It's a sweet little film that will make you laugh as the characters go through their paces.

I liked La Práctica but I never full loved it despite laughing a great deal. The problem is the mannered telling kept me distant, and reminded me of the director's earlier films. 

Worth a look, especially if you've never seen a Rejtman film.

Human Surge 3(2023) NYFF 2023

People wander through various locations and talk about things.

You are going to either love this film or hate it. Odds are you are going to love the experience of seeing this film if you see this on a big screen where you can get lost in its images.  If you see it, as I did , via a screening link, you are going through the whole film wishing that you had seen the film on a huge cinema screen.

Shot with a 360 degree camera, with the images unfolded the images have  a scope that you don't normally see in a film. There is an overwhelming sense of place and space.  Because of the way the camera records images, there are sequences, such as the walk in the tall grass towards the end, that end up creating hypnotic images.

The images that create a head space that is magical.

The problem with the film is that outside the images I'm not certain the film works. The reason for this is that film has no plot. It is simply the camera following various people walking and talking. The dialog is improvised so as a result is  you end up with exchanges that go nowhere or are odd ("I see a crow vomiting on a beach") or are intentionally meaningful. The exchanges might have worked if most of them weren't from a distance with the speakers walking with their backs to us.  We can't really see them enough to connect with them. And while I'm sure there is a better connection on a bigger screen, I still suspect that it isn't as strong as the filmmaker thinks it is.

For me this is film made with a really cool conceit that has nothing beyond the conceit.  If that's enough for you, great, but  if not this is a tough slog.

Worth seeing if you can see it on a truly big screen for the images, otherwise I'd take a pass.


Documentary/essay on moths morphs into a pondering of life on a larger scale. This is a gorgeous looking film that not only shows us the beauty of moths but also forces us to think about biodiversity and life in general. If you want an atypical mind blower this is for you.

Portrait of the abandoned community of Allensworth, California. Now little more than a group of empty buildings it was once a thriving African American town. This is a thought provoking essay about communities, race and the ebb and flow of society.  While the nature of the presentation may not work for everyone, the film raises a number of issues that will make the receptive audience think about the film for hours afterward.

Miko Revereza’s essay/documentary pondering his family’s status as undocumented Filipinos in America is a film of quiet power. Contemplative in nature owing to the film diary like approach, the film puts us in to the head space of the director and makes us walk the proverbial mile in his shoes.  Worth a look for anyone who is interested in the state of being undocumented.

Lee Grant’s 1976 short film is a huge scale intimate drama about the meeting of a man’s wife and lover at a ritzy restaurant. Based on  a Strindberg play it’s a chamber piece in a grand setting. Susan Strasberg and Dolores Dorn shine in their roles.  It feels like it’s part of a much larger film we never got to see, but should have. It’s playing with Grant’s excellent TELL ME A RIDDLE so make the effort and go see them.

(I should write up TELL ME A RIDDLE but it’s been too long since I’ve seen it so my review would have been just go. Truthfully it’s so good it will make you realize how good Grant is as a director and curse Hollywood for not letting her direct more.)

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Thoughts on THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023) NYFF 2023

When THE BOY AND THE HERON was opening in Japan no images other than a single one of the heron was release and there was no effort to explain the plot. Everyone thought it was a brilliant marketing move, but having seen the film I completely understand why it was done- the plot is ever changing and the fantastical images from the second half  are misleading as to what the film is. Ultimately you have to just see the film to really know what the film is.

That is not hyperbole, that is the truth. Nothing I can tell you is going to prepare you for what you see and until you see it it’s kind of pointless to discuss the plot.

If you what to know what the film is, it’s the story of a young boy, who moves with his father to the country after his mother is killed when the hospital she is in is bombed. However the film is so much more than that.

It is not hyperbole to say this is the greatest film that Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. It is the work of a master animator operating at the highest level, making a film about life and death and kicking the ass of the audience.

And when I say the film will kick your ass I wasn’t kidding. It’s a heady and emotional roller-coaster that starts in one place and ends somewhere else. It’s a film that is full of wonder that over whelms you with ideas and images that leave you emotional moved at the end. Indeed, about a minute into the end credits I suddenly began to sob uncontrollably. I can not tell you what did it or why, I just know that I suddenly needed a box of tissues I did not have with me.

When you see the film you have to go with it. The construction is something special. It begins as a conventional narrative, slips into dream logic, then abandons that for pure emotional ramblings. I can’t discuss what happens because until you pass through it you won’t understand it.

Visually it is largely unlike anything Miyazaki has done. Yes, we have his images, but he goes outside of that into the realm of the surreal. He is operating in the realm of his friend and partner Isao Takahata who created images to match his story, hence POM POKO  doesn’t look like GRAVE OF FIREFLIES nor like the TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. Indeed this film seems to be the next film Takahata would have made if he were alive. It is in a way it’s a huge tribute to the late master.

I really need to see this film again to truly discuss it. I knew that twenty minutes in. There is so much to contemplate from the place herons hold in Japanese culture, to seeming riffs on things like the work of Kenji Miyazawa and NIGHT ON THE GALACTIC RAILWAY, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Hero, to the films notions of life and life after death, of what makes a family and several dozen other things. I need to see the film again because the denseness of the narrative has me certain things that I missed things. What I mean by this is that events early in the film that you would think should lead to something, don’t seem to for a good while, until an hour or more of screen time passes and a line or an action that we thought was a lost thread back snaps into sharp context., 

Yes, I’m being vague- but I have to because for any points I want to make require a context you can only get from seeing the film so I need to wait until everyone sees the film when it releases to fully discuss my thoughts. I will be writing more after by second pass through, but for now this should get you going. Until then know that this is one of the best and most thought provoking films of the year and quite possibly the best film that Studio Ghibli has ever made.

This film will rock your world.

And try to see it knowing as little as possible.

GAMMA RAYS (2023) San Sebastian 2023

This is the story of several young adults on the fringes of their groups and what happens to them.

I’m sorry if that doesn’t tell you a great deal but it’s kind of hard to really discuss what this film is. One part narrative and one part documentary the film is hybrid mix that is kind of like watching life as live except that we know some of this was created for the film. I have not explored how much that is, rather I just let wash over me like watching people on a summer day.

This is nice little film that moves you and touches your heart because you quickly realize the people on screen are real people. 

It's also a hard film to really discuss in a vacuum because in viewing the film you want to relate what you've seen to your own life, and you want to relate to it in a conversation with someone because you will have thoughts and ideas that you want to discuss not pontificate about. My feeling when the film was done was to discuss it not review it.

That my friends is a rave because it is a sign of a film that demand we interact with it.

Go see GAMMA RAYS, if not at the San Sebastian Film Festival where it just premiered then at one of the festivals that will follow soon.

AIMEE: The Visitor (2023)

AIMEE is a compact little thriller cashing in on the fact that AI is in the news. The film has a hacker downloading the newest AI program, the Aimee of the title, and learning very quickly that the program was designed as malicious software, aiming to learn everything about you and then use it against you.

Set in a couple of rooms the film moves like the wind. Running a breezy 70 minutes the film does what it has to do and then gets off. It is another of the recent spate Full Moon  films that are nicely compact and run as long as they have to, not worrying that they have to meet a certain length to get a theatrical booking (theaters really want  a film at least 80 minutes long lest audiences complain). Like the other Full Moon films I’ve seen recently it’s a lean mean thriller machine.

What the film feels like is a kind of back door pilot. I could see the film acting as a pilot for a TV series where Aimee is battled by a group of hackers. I’m not sure how far the series could go, but if handled right it could make a good series.

As it stands now AIMEE is a solid short thriller that’s worth your time.

There is Something in the Barn (2023) Fantastic Fest

Destined to be another Christmas classic THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE BARN is a wickedly funny holiday horror film in the RARE EXPORTS territory.

The plot has an American family moving to Norway when they inherit their uncles home. They don't know about the thing in the barn that killed him.  It quickly transpires that a elf is living in the barn. He makes friends with the son of the family. However he is not the only one of his kind and the others are not friendly, they are actually homicidal.

While much of the first half is a kind of culture clash comedy with foreshadowing of the darkness that follows, the second half is where the film amps everything up and it becomes a balls to the wall battle between the family and the elves. It's a blood and gory affair full of humor. As the the film goes on we are laughing as we are groaning at what happens.

This film is an absolute holiday delight. Its so good I expect that there will be sequels.

Go see this- and have a grand time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Limbo (2023) hits theaters and VOD Friday

Two cops in Hong Kong chase down a serial killer killing women and collecting left hands.

This is a great film. Bleak, black and dripping with mood, it’s a film that echoes the darkest moments of films like SEVEN, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and ZODIAC, but without any hint of levity. Watching LIMBO you have descended into the lowest depth of hell and you can’t escape.

The first thing you notice with the cinematography. The monochromatic images of light and shadow pop. They aren’t really Black and white, but black and muted silver. It’s so stark and arresting it influences everything in the film. It is as big a character as the ones portrayed by the actors. It’s so key to the film that if this had been shot in color LIMBO would not have been even half as good. (Honestly this film should be put into the Oscar mix because I don’t think any film I’ve seen this year not only looks this good or had images that are this important to the success of the film.)

This film will depress you in the best sort of a way. It’s a film where you can feel the goodness sucked from the souls of the people on screen. We are in the realm of broken people and it hurts. The classic film noir films have nothing on this film.

I absolutely loved this film. I really wish I had seen it on a truly huge screen where I could get lost in the images. As it is this is one of the best crime thrillers of seen in the last few years.

A must see.

Before The Sunset (2023)

BEFORE THE SUNSET is a small gem of a film. It doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen before but it does it extremely well and keeps us connected for its entire running time.

The film concerns Kazunori a once mighty man of business now living in a nursing home. While out on a walk he tells Asuka, his caregiver about his life and how he never had time for a family.  She wishes that he could get what his heart desires. He wishes to be 20 again, and he is suddenly 20, back in college and with a desire to help Asuka get over a broken heart.

Sweet little film about seizing life and enjoying what it gives you. It’s a lovely film filled with great characters that you fall in love with. Normally I would have passed on this film but it arrived when I was hip deep in very serious fall festival films and it acted as the perfect palette cleanse. It was a lovely reconnect to the world of real people and not highbrow cinema artists.

Is this the greatest film ever? No but it never was supposed to be. It was supposed to just be a sweet little tale that makes you feel and reconnect with life and as that this film is gangbusters.


A Silence (2023) San Sebastian 2023

A family implodes in the wake of a scandal.

Beautifully shot and achingly acted film should have been one of the best films of the year but an obtuse and telling and a refusal to be clear on details until the second half of the film makes this largely a time waster.

The write up simply says it"revolves around Astrid , the wife of an acclaimed lawyer. Silenced for 25 years, her family balance suddenly collapses when her children initiate their own search for justice." adding it was based on a true story. The film is really about the father being a child abuser and one of his children looking for justice in the wake of a criminal case. 

Not that you really know that for a chunk of the film. No one says a hell of a lot and when they do (especially in the first half of the film), it's not really referencing what exactly is going on. We know something happened, hence the media attention, but what it is we aren't told.

I don't mind being spoon fed or having to work things out for myself, but things aren't really clear, more so since there is a fractured narrative, which isn't  clear out of the box. I really wasn't sure what is going on. Frankly I am still not certain of a lot of it.

Whose idea was it not to give us any bread crumbs?

By the half hour point I had so disconnected from the film that by the time we started to get details and things (kind of) started to go together I really didn't care.

This is a well made art house film that is much too clever for its own good.

Pass on this one