70 years in the life of Henri Groues, a Catholic priest who became beloved figure in France before his death in 2007.
A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
ABBE PIERRE - A CENTURY OF DEVOTION (2023) Cannes 2023
70 years in the life of Henri Groues, a Catholic priest who became beloved figure in France before his death in 2007.
Razing Liberty Square (2023) plays Friday at Human Rights Watch Film Festival NYC Friday
The problem the poor, the minorities and the disenfranchised have had over the years is that even when they have been shunted to certain areas over the years, the rich and powerful will eventually come and try to take their land and their homes. In many cases the rich want to add to their territory (See RACIST TREES) and just want the poor out of their way. In the case of Miami Florida, they know the sea levels are rising and they want the high ground for themselves.
RAISING LIBERTY SQUARE is the story of global warming and how the high ground near Miami Beach has suddenly become valuable because at some point it will be the beach. This means everyone who has ocean front property now will have to move. The film follows how plans to up grade the the Liberty Square area which are supposed to be a boon for everyone turned into a boondoggle and nightmare for the people being displaced.
This film is going to make you shake your head and get angry. This is a film that clearly shows you should never trust rich people when there is something at stake that they actually want. Following the lives of residents and people involved with the plans it becomes clear that many people have an agenda beyond the good of the community.
While it's a story we've kind of heard before the fact that rich people and cities are going to be coming for people's land because it's not going to be underwater is something new. This film is a dire warning about what the future is going to hold for millions of people across the globe.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Delta (2022) Open Roads 2023
If you can get to one of the Open Roads screenings of DELTA do so. This is a moody thriller that was shot with a big screen in mind. (And yes it will look good on your TV but you will be in the delta if you see it on the big screen)
The film is the story of a depressed delta area in the north of Italy. Industry wants to start polluting the waters again with their waste and the fishermen are struggling to catch enough fish. One fisherman is getting around traditional methods of getting fish by using electricity. This provides enough fish but rapidly decreases their population. It’s a move that gets him on the radar of a game warden who begins to play a game of cat and mouse with him.
This is a visually stunning thriller that looks so good that you can smell the waters and feel the rain on your face. Few films of the last decade or so have looked this good. Every shot is absolutely perfect and adds volumes to story the film is telling. This film really should be up for an Oscar for cinematography, if not for other things as well.
The reality is this is a bleak tale where no one really wins. You have the feeling the fishermen and their families are pretty much doomed, their way of life slipping away. The wardens are fighting a no win battle since all they are doing is delaying the inevitable. The bleakness of the situation results in a tale that is a more like a film noir than many of the classic film noirs.
I want to try and compare DELTA to other films but that really isn’t possible. Sure certain films remind me of this film or novel or that, but it is only a shot or a moment. The reality is DELTA is its own thing. It may pull things from elsewhere, but the way it puts them all together is uniquely its own doing.
I absolutely loved this film. I loved the look, I loved the feel. I just loved that it felt like a honest to god real movie instead of a prepackaged product that is put out just to turn a buck. …
Actually …this feels like one of the great thrillers of the 1970’s where the director was going for broke by making a gritty film that feel lived in.
I can’t recommend this film enough. One of the best films at Open Roads.
After Sherman (2022)
A film pondering the notion of home through a small town in South Carolina.
This is an essay/meditation on a number of subjects about having a place where your family can call home. Its about the director's home town where his ancestors set down roots after being freed during the Civil War.
Its a film of beautiful pieces that never come together into anything meaningful. I say this because there is no effort to explain who anyone is or to tie the various pieces together. This is all the pieces of a great film sitting unassembled.
Playing as part of Tribeca's Critic's Week, this is the sort of film that seems like it should be deep and important, but ijust missed the mark so closely that no one wanted to tell the director to try again.
Monday, May 29, 2023
Open Roads New Italian Cinema 2023 starts June 1
I am a huge Open Roads fan.
I discovered the festival early in the run of Unseen Films and I have been a fan ever since. What initially drew me to the festival was the fact that it brought many of my favorite Italian film directors and personalities to New York. What kept me going back was it was opening up my eyes to all sort of great films I never knew existed, thus introducing me to new directors I need to keep an eye out for.
The festival is so good that I end up cursing myself for missing the films I catch at a later point. (This year I was annoyed I missed Freaks Vs The The Riech which is one of the best super hero movies ever made.)
As this posts I’m still wading through the selections. There are a lot of interesting films playing here so you’ll want to get tickets. While there are lot of good films there are two that I think are on my list for the absolute best films of this year so far::
THE STRANGENESS a story about how Luigi Pirandello came up for the idea for 6 Characters in Search of an Exit. It is a film you need to go with because of the structure, but you won’t mind because it has some of the craziest characters you’ll ever see.
THE DELTA is a moody thriller set in a rural region of Italy. Set in a swampy area it’s a film that looks and feels like nothing of recent vintage and more like the moody thrillers from the 70’s. This film blew me away and I’m trying to see if I can see it on the BIG screen. This is going to get a lot of chatter once more people see it.
Tickets are on sale now and I think if a film piques your interest you should just buy a ticket and go.
ANONYMOUS SISTER (2021) opens Friday
Director Jamie Boyle filmed her family over a the years. The result ended up being a record of how opioids effected her family and her sister in particular.
This is a really good view from the trenches of the current opioids crisis. Revealing what it is really like the film charts how the drugs damage the family, but more importantly it shows how the family fought to remain together.
It’s a moving trip that is recommended.
Sunday, May 28, 2023
Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York starts this week
If you read Unseen Films with any regularity you know I will try and cover several versions of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Film Festival through the year. I do it because the different stops of the fest have different films. This week the festival is coming to New York and I am absolutely delighted.
I love HRW Film Fest. In part I love it because it shows important films that people should see because they make a better place. Mostly I love the festival because they show incredibly good films that make me go wow. Yes important films need to be seen, but if the films aren’t kick ass they won’t change people’s minds. HRW films are always kick ass and always make me see the world in a new way.
You have to go see something.
The absolute must see is SEVEN WINTERS IN TERAN. Its the story of a young woman who was thrown and jail and sentenced to death for killing a man who entered her house and raped her. It will break your heart. Its one of 2023's best films and a must see. A review went up earlier today because I wanted to get word out ASAP that you must see it.
And for a couple of films I am not going to do full reviews. It’s not a matter of them being bad, rather it’s purely do to my not having a great deal to say for one reason or another.
IN MY NAME is a loving look at four friends who struggling with their gender identities. Made by Nicolo Bassetti whose son is one of the people profiled, it’s a lovely film about people whose gender doesn’t fit into the typical male or female boxes. While I really like the film a great deal, it’s really good time with really good people, I don’t have much to say beyond calling it lovely and recommending it.
KOROMOUSSO BIG SISTER is the story of several women who were the victims of genital mutilation in the home countries. The film recounts their stories and shows us how they come together to support each other and form a family. It’s another solid film that recounts a barbaric act that is still happening across the globe and what it takes to recover from it. The film is also very recommended.
For tickets and more information go here
Seven Winters in Tehran (2023) HRW 2023
Hands down the best film at this years New York edition of The Human Rights Watch Film Festival SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN is going to kick you to the curb and leave you feeling numb. It's a must see film that will make you angry beyond words.
The film is the story of Reyhaneh Jabbari who was sentenced to die after she killed the man who tried to rape after he broke into her house. As she headed to the gallows her family and friends tried to free her and ended up helping many other people along the way.
In all honesty I have no words. At a time where women are struggling to retain control of their bodies, stories like this show how bad things can get. It's stories like this that perfectly explain why people don't particularly good things to say about the leadership of Iran or about religious groups that advocate the lesser place of women.
I was pretty much depressed from start to finish. By the time the film ended I just sat staring at the screen wondering why I bothered to see the film and pondering how I could kill everyone in the Iranian leadership (That's not a serious threat simply an expression about my complete and utter disgust for everyone involved in the prosecution).
While it speaks specifically to what happened in Iran, SEVEN WINTERS is a dire warning from the front line of the war against women. This is what can and will happen if backward thinking and hatred for half the population of the earth is allowed to take root.
You will forgive me if this isn't a proper review, but SEVEN WINTERS isn't a typical film, rather it's a call to arms and plea to do something since it reveals quite clearly how good people are dying for bigoted reasons.
A must see.
SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN plays the Human Rights Watch Film Festival May 31st at Lincoln Center and June 7 at the IFC Center.
For more information and tickets go here
Saturday, May 27, 2023
Cabane A Sang 2023 Mixed Meats
Saving the best last Cabane A Sang's Mixed Meats is one of the best collections of films from the last four years. This collection is so good that I stopped making notes and just watched the films.
Seriously from the trailers (DICK DYNAMITE and HELLO WAYNE) to the animated films (CUTIES) to the live action shorts (SERIAL ENCOUNTERS, SLASHER SQUAD) are all top of the line.
This collection is so good that I want a copy of it so that I can press it into the hands of everyone who didn't get to see the collection. It's actually good enough that I went back after seeing the collection and made notes for a longer piece which will follow in short order. I say that because the brilliance of these films need to be fully discussed.
If you want to boil down why Cabane A Sang is one of the best festivals in the world today this collection is a prime example. While I know people who don't like horror or genre films will argue with me those who do love great films of all kinds will understand how amazing this festival is. They don't program bad films.
If you are in Montreal you need to go to the festival and see if you can bribe your way into see this magnificent collection.
AIR is the story of how Nike wooed Michael Jordan and changed the sneaker market forever.
Good behind the scenes story is hurt by Matt Damon being in his typical Matt Damon mode. If you've seen a lot of Damon films, you know where he often is simply his charming self with no coloring what so ever. That's his character here, Matt Damon the charmer. Sure the scripts make it clear that Damon is not the same person he is in other films, but the truth of the matter is he just cut and pasted his performance from an earlier film. While he's never bad, he's always Damon.
Its a shame since the film has some really great performances from the rest of the cast, who disappear into their roles. Chris Tucker for example had me doing triple takes.
While the film is never bad, you really have to wonder why this film cost so much to make and why some critics are falling all over themselves about it.
It's worth a look but I'm glad I watched it on Prime.
Friday, May 26, 2023
Cabane A Sang's Party Pooper Spectacular
Tonight is the Party Pooper winners and it’s going to make your jaw drop.
It’s a wild group of films made by people who answered Cabane A Sang’s call for films so expect the technical quality to run the gamut while enjoyment factor is pegged at the top of the chart. They had to make a film on the theme of SEXY, that ran under five minutes and cost less than 200 bucks...
I’ve seen the group of films and they are wild and crazy and absolutely positively not for kids or more importantly not for the faint of heart. I say that because these films are off color, gory and certain to provoke a reaction. You will be laughing uncomfortably, getting grossed out and admiring the filmmakers ability to just go for it in ways that most filmmakers never could.
Oh to be a fly on the wall or in the middle of the theater when these babies unspool.
The winners are going to to preceded by an hour long collection of films from the Mixed Meats section of the festival. The films (some of which are represented by the art for this post) are some of the best films of the festival are worth the price admission alone and they deserve more than a tossed off line or two... And I'm not writing them up because I don't want to ruin them.
As for the films in the competition they are super bunch of films and these are some of the best:
A guy getting ready to spend an afternoon with a porn tape keeps getting interrupted. Hysterically funny in a completely wrong sort of way.
LAST NIGHT STAND
Monster speed dating goes horribly wrong...and as a result you will be doubled over with laughter.
A woman becomes fascinated with menstrual blood and sex.
A man calls a "freaky escort agency.
Uncomfortably funny tale of love gone wrong.
A woman is trapped ona ski lift with an unsexy guy feeling frisky.
EYE SEE YOU
A young girl and a young boy and a bloody ending
A big guy goes hunting...and I am not telling
Country of Hotels (2019)
Three stories set in room 508 of an unnamed hotel showing the creepy side of life.
One story is mistress and her love, another is the tale of a slowly unhinging business man, the third is concerns a rock star who is waiting for his girlfriend. With the thing tying them together being the story of the staff of the hotel. Though the reality is the stories are not self-contained and bleed over into each other, sometimes in surprising ways.
When I finished the COUNTRY OF HOTELS I went on line to try and get a handle on what people thought of the film. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing what happened in the film, more that this is the sort of film that makes you want to talk about it as soon as it’s done. Its not a film that you watch alone and then go off into the night, rather it’s a film that that you watch and when it ends you turn to the person next to you and discuss it. Having sat at home and watched the film on a screener, I had no one to engage with and I had to turn somewhere.
While being billed and sold as a horror film, and having horror elements to it, it's not wholly a horror film.. The truth is that the film falls across genres and easily isn’t classified. I suspect that the inability to pigeon hole the film is what is going to keep some people from being in love with the film. Many people need to know what a film is or they won’t like it. If I was hard pressed to label the film I would simply say “disturbing” and leave it at that. I say that because there are things in this film that really bothered me. We go into people psyche’s and lives in ways we probably shouldn’t. I didn’t like being with these people and was left feeling deeply disturbed and bothered by what was transpiring on the screen. I suspect that’s a kind of a rave, but at the same time I need to take a shower.
If you want an unclassifiable film that is going to get under your skin and leave you bothered give Country of Hotels a shot
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Cabane A Sang goes Weird! Tonight it's KEEP IT WEIRD
Strap in kids Cabane A Sang is getting weird….if the programmers are saying things are getting weird then you know things are on another planet other than Kansas. And having seen the evenings films I have no idea where we are now.
One of the greatest festivals in the world returns for a second night with a collection of insane off the walls films that will delight anyone who isn’t a stick in the mud. These crazy films are going to make you go wide eyed and talk to the screen. If you are going to the screening expect lots of explosive reactions.
Sigh… I really NEED to get to Montreal next year.
I don’t know what to say but Frank Apache and his crew are magnificent film programmers. Not only do the pick the best films they can find they arrange them so perfectly that each film builds on the next. The result is they aren’t just playing the films but the audience as well as they are whipped into a crazed frenzy.
They need to teach classes to every other festival in the world.
I love them with all my heart.
I also love the films that they are showing.
A quick reminder- everything Frank and his team program is top shelf. If at any time I seem down on a film or less receptive it’s simply because the top shelf material reorders itself when compared to other top shelf films.
Then again this collection of films is less about being good or bad but more about altering how we see the world. The films here aren't just weird, most of them are down right disturbing.
Okay yes some of the really short ones (one is 15 seconds) are just strange, but most of them will leave you wondering what in the hell you just saw, and you'll want to go out and play in the sunshine.
While I normally try to review every film in a Cabane A Sang collection, that isn't possible here, the films are too visceral for a reasoned review. To that end I'm going to mention some of the ones that entered my dreams.
HARUSPEX is nightmarish film akin to ERASERHEAD about a man working in a kitchen preparing food. Its wrong.
MY EXBOYFRIEND is a woman talking about the transformation her ex-boyfriend made. Outside of the transformation this shouldn't be disturbing but it is.
NASTY is a film about eating...and yea...
EARWORM a literal evil worm lives in an audio cassette and it wants to bore into your head. Its under four minute and really wrong...
FACE RECOGNITION has a man hiding out from the police by getting massively drunk and changing
POSTED NO HUNTING a CCTV set up in the woods records something unexpected.
DING (aka THING) Told in Amazing animation this is the story of a man pushed to the edge and beyond
ASMortal a woman who becomes addicted to sounds goes over the edge.
The rest are equally weird and they will almost certainly leave you bothered.
Thank you Frank and crew.
For more details on these and the other films in the collection go here.
ALL TO PLAY FOR (RIEN A PERDRE) Cannes 2023
Virginie Efira gives another stellar performance as a single mom trying to do the best she can with her kids.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Three Women's tales at Cannes: MARGUERITE'S THEOREM, LEGUA, and CREATURA
In screening films for Cannes I unintentionally ended up putting together a triple feature of films looking at the lives of women from different perspectives. Because the films resonated more being presented together I am presenting the films as a triple feature review
MARGUERITE'S THEOREM (2023)
This is the story of a young woman who is living a neatly ordered life. Heading toward completing her thesis in prime number she has her world rattled to the core when during a talk a mistake is made and she has to go back and start over.
One of the best films I’ve seen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival MARGUERITE'S THEOREM is a beautifully acted and made film about a driven woman trying to find the correct path. While specifically about the young woman in question, the film resonates outward to reveal the layers that exist in anyone who seek to have a perfectly controlled life.
The stages of life as portrayed by three generations of women in one family. A middle aged woman goes to help he mother care for the home of a rich family who are never there. They are to keep the house fresh in case the family shows up. Meanwhile the youngest daughter is a will o the wisp and simply drifts from thing to thing.
The arc of our lives played out before our eyes. Grandmother is set in her way and doesn’t want to change.Life is set. Daughter is trying to get by and asking is this what life has come to, her plans being beat down by life, while the youngest sees possibilities in everything. The drama is the clash of the world view and the realization that this is the arc of life.
This is a beautiful film with a very deliberate pace. It’s a film that moves at the speed of life which may not thrill others but is destined to leave others wanting more. Normally this would not be a film I would chose to see but because I’m covering Cannes I got to discover this gem.
Worth a look.
A young woman moves in into a house with her boyfriend and suddenly has to deal with a sudden lack of desire. She then begins o reexamine her life to see what brought her to this place.
I’m not going to lie, while I can admire CREATURA and I could tell you how good the parts of the film are I always felt like an outsider. I’m not sure if its because a number of things are left unsaid, the filmmakers not spelling certain things out specifically, or because the film is very much rooted in the female experience. I say this because through much of the film I kept feeling that had I been a woman it would have made more sense to me.
Very well done, but I think this is going to play better for women than men.
Cracked (2022) hits VOD and DVD on May 26
CRACKED shouldn’t work. It’s a tale that is similar to any number of films and it’s full of cliché turns and yet the film works and results in chills as tells it’s story of past evils invading the present.
The film is the story of a widowed mother who needs money desperately to pay for an eye operation for her daughter. With no way to get the money a friend of her father shows up in New York to say that her father had passed away and left behind a couple of paintings that some rich guy wants to buy once a little restoration is done. If she goes back to Thailand she will be able to get the money she needs. However once she arrives things begin to go south as weird things happen, the painting start to decay and the ghosts of the past come back.
This is a dark and moody film about how the sins of our families past come back to haunt us. The back story here is a creepy one and suitably unpleasant. I’m not going to ruin it by going into details.
To be honest some of the ghostly happenings reminded me of other supernatural tales, however director Surapong Ploensang cleverly uses some of the cliché turns against us. We maybe expecting certain turns but Ploensang ups the ante in such away that we can’t help but remain at the edge of our seat. (remember cliches would be cliches if they didn’t work). I may have had an idea how some of the plot was going to go but I didn’t know it all and I didn’t expect somethings to be taken as far as they were.
What an absolute delight.
I loved this film and recommend the madness to anyone who wants to have a chilly night at the movies.
Cabane A Sang2023: The Launch Event Scifi FIlms
The first night of this year's Cabane A Sang proves once again that this is the best programmed festival in the world. This first night of films, which will be streaming on their Facebook page, is a mind bending collection of short science fiction tinged films that will delight and disturb you. There isn't a bad one in the bunch, which means it's almost two hours of thought provoking and haunting tales you won't be able to shake.
I'm hoping that the next three nights of films will be as good as these films are because this collection is fantastic. These are some truly great films, and while most were new to me the one's I had run across previously were some of the best genre films out there.
What follows is a brief run down of the selections screening. I don't say much because I don't want to spoil them. Additionally since the films are streaming on festival Facebook page (details here) you can just see the films for yourself.
I will be reviewing the collections that are playing each night so come back to see what you are missing on the nights that are only playing to sold out houses in Montreal. I will also waxing poetic about why this is one of the best fests in the world that I have ever run across,
A movie trailer about the Covid vaccine turning people into zombies. I want to see this film.
Steampunk martial arts trailer. It looks good but I want to see more.
A trailer for a grade Z martial arts/alien invasion film. I would love to see the full film with a big audience
A man gets lucky on a tinder app and finds his legendary date has left him carrying alien spawn.
This is absolutely the right balance of wrong, funny and gross. I thought I new what was going to happen but I was pleasantly surprised,
A martial arts master fights a cyborg.
NEVER ENDING GAME
An effort to reclaim loaned things gets side tracked by a video game. Creepy thought about what happens when you save a level
DEUS EX MACHINA
A man contacts a machine intelligence
As a man's wife dies he has an encounter with a robotic priest. Bitter angry film about a man dealing with a robotic priest and people's lack of compassion.
A meteor falls from the sky and man takes it and the slime contained in it home. Awesome film about a man who never saw the blob.
A man must complete certain tasks to see his love. A look at hat would it be like to be trapped in a video game turns into a proof of concept for a feature film we need to see.
A man tampers with time. A disturbing visceral film
A spy story and the e behind scenes. A good look at the movies and how the magic is created
Strange creatures experiment on a man- weird and deeply disturbing tale with a sting in the tail.
Strange found footage alien invasion is like going into another universe.
For more information on the festival go to the festival web page here
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
John Wick Chapter 4 (2023)
Chapter Four of the John Wick saga would seem to be the end of the tale, at least until the spin offs start dropping all around up.
Bigger and louder than the previous film it entertains in delightful ways, bringing it all to a close as the whole franchise jumps the shark.
I’m not going to go into detail as to what happens other than to say that a lot people die and Wick gets what he wants. We are introduced to numerous new characters and travel with some old favorites.
The best thing in the film is Donnie Yen. Yen’s Caine is glorious character, a heartbreaking bad ass who knows he’s in over his head but is going to go along to save his daughter. The performance is Oscar worthy (YES HE DESERVES AN OSCAR NOMINATION) Watch his body language. Nay, watch his eyes. Caine maybe blind, but Yen still uses his eyes to effect. Watch how they move and don’t react even behind his glasses. I have been arguing about the greatness of Yen as an actor for years, and I have argued with him (I interviewed him twice) he needs to do dramas because he is so good. While Yen told me people want to see him in action films, he does need to do dramas. This is one of his best roles, it’s a beautiful companion to his role in BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS where he plays another guys trying to do right by his daughter. How good is he? They changed the end of the film and let him live.
While I would most certainly say the filmmaking of the film ranks it among the best of the year, with set pieces that are among the best ever put on film, the film is sloppy narratively and the desire to give us a grand send off results in the film completely sliding from it’s own world into cinematic silliness. I just had to throw up my hands and let it wash over me.
The problem is that while the previous films operated in a world just to the left of our world with assassins and a whole dark world where people got hurt and die, Chapter 4 just throws logic and reason out the window. Clothes are now bullet proof, people can repeatedly get hit by cars, fall down flights of stairs or go fall from great heights, or have their jugulars cut and no one dies or is inconvenienced until they are. This wasn’t the case in the previous films where even punches took a toll. Here nothing does any damage. If we weren’t four films into a much loved series we would be laughing the lack of damage off the screen.
Additionally the film’s sense of the world ceases to make sense. The High Table can simply blow up a building in New York and no one says boo. Huge gun fights breakout across Paris and no cops show up and civilians don’t flee in terror. While the series posited a shadow world in control of things, they always tried to be in the shadows, now it’s all a matter of to hell with it. You can’t kill several thousand people and destroy so much property and have no one notice. The shadow world would be in the light it makes no sense…
…then again we shouldn’t be surprised with the new bad guy the Marquis. What complete waste of a character. One of the stupidest villains in screen history he’s a petulant child that doesn’t belong in the world of John Wick. Why is he there? Actually my question should be is why did the high table pick this guy? He has no gravitas. Outside of shooting one character he doesn’t do shit. I mean seriously he is such a fucking wuss that he has Donnie Yen fight Wick in the end. I kept waiting for him to reveal himself as a bad ass but there is nothing there. Why was he picked to handle the Wick problem? There is absolutely no reason that the other wise smart High Table would defer to him. Think about every other character related to the High Table in the series, they make sense. We know why they are there. The Marquis has none. He is such a bad character that it results in Bill Skarsgard worst performance. I mean I was looking at him and I was thinking I know who this is, but at the same time my brain disconnected because he is such a shitty character that is so badly written I couldn’t believe it was him.
And yet, while the smart and clever series shifts to something mindless, JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 always entertains. It is, for all my bitching a satisfying ending and it makes me want to see the spin offs.
Backlog (2023) Cannes
This is the true story of a young woman who was raped and then had to wait years to have her rape kit looked at.
This short film is a scream into the night about the horrific problem of rape kits not being tested. A problem across the country on a massive scale, the fact rape kits are not being tested has resulted in serial rapists being allowed to walk free for years. The problem is so bad that when municipalities have started diminishing the backlog they found just how bad a problem they were having.
The film doesn't really go into the full extent but does go into one case where the victim had to fight for justice and ended up appearing before congress. It's a sobering tale that needs to be heard.
Monday, May 22, 2023
The Other Laurens (2023) Cannes 2023
The niece of a private detective asks him to investigate the death of her father, his estranged and rich twin brother. He supposedly died in a drunken car crash but the girl insists that her father had given up drinking. Getting to the house he finds things are odd with his American wife, bikers and assorted unsavory people wandering around.
Good looking off kilter thriller is a cinematic ride that is going to keep you guessing about what is going on to the very end. That last statement I mean in both a good way and a bad way. I mean it in a good way because this multilayer thriller has a lot going on. There is so much going on regarding the mystery and the themes the film is exploring beyond that that it takes a good chunk of the film before things begin to come together. The problem is that by the time the end credits roll I’m not sure they’ve explained everything. When I got to the end I wanted to watch the film again because I felt like I had missed something.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is enough there to make it worth a second viewing. While I enjoyed the ride, I didn’t care about the destination. I don’t think I was really satisfied at the end. Part of it was some of the digressions along the way specifically the speeches, and thematic explorations of who we are/rich vs poor really never lead anywhere. I also don’t like the way the film works overtime making things obscure for our hero only to give us a just okay resolution. Much of my dislike is how people speak in ways that people really don’t. It might just be the subtitles but at the same time some of the English dialog feels artificial as if it was written by someone who can speak American English but not in a way that Americans actually speak.
Forgive me if this review seems more negative that it should. There is so much in OTHER LAUREN I like, say what you will it has style to burn, and it made me really lean in and want to see where it was going, but I am really disappointed it didn’t stick the landing.
Reservation aside if you want to take a really good cinematic ride whose parts are better than the whole give this is a shot.
Omen (2023) Cannes 2023
Young man returns to Africa with his pregnant wife in order to reconnect with his family and his heritage.
Wonderful cinematic journey is one of the great finds of this year’s Cannes. I was absolutely delighted by this film which not only showed me a part of life I never knew, but did so in such away that made me want to lean in and know more. What an absolutely amazing visual experiences I’ve seen this year. Mixing the real world with a spiritual one this is a film that walks in the shadows between worlds for an experience that deepens the story of man returning to his old world.
It has been a several days since I saw the film and I am still replaying sections of it in my mind. I desperately want to see the film again, preferably on a big screen, where I can really let the film take me on its trip instead of being distance from the shock and awe of it’s wonders.
You need to see this film, especially if you love films that are unique cinematic visions.
A restortation The Werchmeister Harmonies opens Friday
Werchmeister Harmonies is Bela Tarr's much heralded work of great beauty and unease. It is a film best viewed, like all of his films, in a dark room with limited interruptions. It is a film that will hang with you and dance about in your head in odd ways. I'm not sure it's quite the classic that some people have proclaimed it but I do think that its worth seeing.
The film focuses on Janos, a young man living in a small village in Hungary. He is clearly smarter than the people around him. One need only see the opening set piece where he explains eclipses to a bar room full of people, to know that he is much more clever than everyone else. Janos takes care of one of his uncles who is a sick intellectual trying to work of the philosophy of music (the title comes from that).
One night while delivering newspapers he watches as a tractor pulls a huge trailer into the town square. Inside of its stark metal walls are the seeds of dissension and destruction for many in the small village, including Janos himself. More specifically inside the trailer is the stuffed carcass of a whale and the home of The Prince, some person of small stature who is rightly viewed with suspicion because it is said the things he says spur evil (and how right that is).
As night turns to day and the trailer opens its door for business, events are set in motion that will take a terrible toll on everyone in the small village.
Say what you will, once you've seen a Bela Tarr film you'll be able to recognize them a mile off. For some filmmakers a recognizable visual style is often a kind of death kiss, in that you get to a point where you know how things are going to go. An example is one of my favorite directors Peter Greenaway, whose recent films often descend into a static image in image style that comes off as a laziness to anyone who's familiar with the other films he's directed. Tarr, as far as I've seen has never run into that problem. Yes he shoots his films in a moody black and white that seem to place the films in a weird world on the edge of reality, but where that is is always changing. The "here" of the film is not like any other film, except that many of his films are set in the villages of his native land. Additionally his use of long extended takes, there are no quick cuts, the camera moves about within a scene, almost never gets tiring because more times than not the technique puts us into the action; we are there with the people in the scene and not some truly outside observer.
This is a film you fall into...like a nightmare. From the opening off kilter explanation of planetary mechanics onward to the haunting final images of an almost deserted village square this is a film draws you in and takes you along as the nice orderly world goes mad. Unlike Janos' explanation that the moment of darkness in an eclipse will give way to light, this is a film where that moment of darkness becomes something else entirely. It is the end of the world in many ways.
The evil at work here is insidious. For much of the film I listened to all of the stories of terrible things going on and I figured they were just stories because, like Janos, we really didn't see anything. Then then, slowly things begin to go amiss, people begin to want things and to step outside of the order of things... things go off kilter. This is thanks to the words of the Prince, a character we hear but never really see. He is a beast of the worst sort, a madman who does terrible things, not for any reason other than he can. Read what you will into it.
Actually read what you will into much of the film. This is a film rife with enigmas and potential meanings. Little is explained, things just are. We are given enough that we can follow along and make inferences and speculate, but there isn't enough to fully have concrete answers. If one looks this film up at IMDB and elsewhere one can easily find multiple meanings and explanations. Its a head trip of the best sort.
I like this film. I'm not one of the people who rave about it and think its one of the greatest films ever made, but I do like it a great deal (personally I like Tarr's earlier Damnation better). I like the dream like quality of it (even if it is a nightmare). I like that you fall into it and it takes you to some place very different than you're used to. Mostly I like that the film makes you think and takes it for granted that the audience has a brain and can work out any meaning on their own.
And I love the images. The stark black and white images, including the stereotypical one of Janos gazing into the whales eye (see above), are the sort of things that stay with you just out of view. Basically this is one of those films you want to hang on your wall and let play just for the art of it.
It's a beautiful dark nightmare of a film that is worth taking the time to see.
Recently restored, the restoration begins playing in theaters starting Friday
Sunday, May 21, 2023
Chicken for Linda (2023) Cannes 2023
When a mother punishes her daughter a bit excessively, she instantly regrets it and asks what she can do to make up for it. This results in a request for her to make chicken and peppers. The trouble is Mom can’t cook and there is a general strike on and its nigh impossible to get chicken.
Utterly charming animated film may possibly end up in the Oscar mix when it reaches American shores. This is a sweet slice of life that is full of great characters, who are really all the people we know. What makes this film go as gloriously as it does is the fact that the film isn’t predictable. Every turn feels like life, it all feels right from start to finish. Movies are not supposed to feel like that, especially animated ones.
A joyous masterpiece.
I was delighted from the first frame to the last- laughing and smiling my whole way through.
Destined to play everywhere at every festival for the next year CHICKEN FOR LINDA is a must see.
Dungeon And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
A bard (Chris Pine) and his friend (Michelle Rodriguez) break out of prison in order to return to his daughter and reclaim a magic item which will will allow him to bring back his wife from the dead. Along the way he discovers that the friend (Hugh Grant) who was taking care of his daughter sold him out and is working with a red wizard to bring about great evil. He then has to assemble a team of adventurers to get his daughter back and, unintentionally, save the world
Cinematic equivalent to playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons, Honor Among Thieves is a blast. Witty in all the right ways the film is punctuated the magnificent set pieces (The maze, the fat dragon) to be a true cinematic delight. Playing both to the fan and nonfan this film is absolutely intent on telling a good story and making us want to go adventuring.
What I love about the film is that the film creates a whole bunch of characters we really care about. While the characters seem to be one note at times the actors and actresses actually create real people. It’s not in the big moments but the small ones where small lines and tiny gestures and look create wondrous characters. It’s because of the performances that the film completely sticks the landing and ends up with a deeply moving ending, despite being telegraphed early on.
What a great film
This is one the best big budgeted Hollywood epics in years and highly recommended.
Abled (2022) SFF
Portrait of paralympian Blake Leeper who is so good a runner that he has fought to compete in the regular Olympics.
Super portrait of a man who over came the limitation put upon him by genetics (he has two short legs) to become one of the greatest athletes in the world. The film follows Leeper as he tries to be allowed to go to the regular Olympic in Tokyo in 2021. Raised to just go for it we follow Leeper in his struggle. He doesn't see any problem with what he is doing. He doesn't see any real difference between what he can do with anyone else. He is simply trying to be the best athlete possible.
This film is moving in several different ways. His story of not giving up and being the best you can is inspiring and moving. And you expect that from a story such as this. The film however also makes it clear how wrong organized athletic organizations can be. Time and time again they refuse to let him participate saying his legs give him an advantage but at no time to they make any effort to go to him and see what is really going on. If his blades were that big an advantage wouldn't everyone be able to do what he does?
I was moved Leepers story.
ABLED is one of the great unexpected gems of 2023.
Saturday, May 20, 2023
Egghead & Twinkie (2023) SFF 2023
EGGHEAD & TWINKIE | Feature Film | Festival Teaser from Sarah Kambe Holland on Vimeo.Twinkie is a young woman who is getting ready for big changes. Egghead, her best friend is going off the Stanford, she is working to get her art work out into the world and she is starting to tell the world the world she likes girls.
(Ex)perience with Love (2023) Cannes 2023
A couple who can not conceive a child is told that in order to do so they must go back and sleep with all of their past lovers.
What starts out as a seeming sex farce instead becomes something much more complex as the silliness gives way to an intriguing examination of not only revisiting our past and what we find there, but also a rather complex look at the nature of love. It's a film that will have you pondering your life as you chuckle.
This unexpected gem works because of Lucie Debay and Lazzare Gusseau as the couple in question. Beautifully portraying a couple trying to work out their future, they give us a two people we genuinely like and completely accept as a pair. We like them to the point that we want to hang out with them. As such we also buy anything that they are doing. We take the craziness of the set up and just go with it.
Having characters we like allows us to dive in and go where ever directors Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni wants to take us. As the film moves from a farce like comedy into something more complex we simply go with it because the characters are so well fleshed out. We accept it because in each narrative turn Sirot and Balboni open us up to new possibilities. We are forced to consider more than what was initially on our plate.
I was beyond delighted and when the film ended I started emailing fellow writers telling them that they had to cover this. (That's a rave)