Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

NWTNOne thing can be said for the selection of Nobody Wants the Night as the opening film for the 2015 Berlinale – it established a theme that recurred with regularity throughout the festival, most particularly in the Competition program. Unfortunately, that theme can most charitably be termed “unfulfilled expectations.” (A less diplomatic, but equally accurate description would be “bad movies from good directors.”) Five of the 19 films angling for the Golden Bear for Best Film fell under this description as audiences suffered through subpar products from Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, Benoit Jacquot, and Peter Greenaway in addition to the disappointing film that kicked off the proceedings. Director Isabel Coixet’s contribution was not the worst (that distinction belongs to Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato), but it may well have been the most amateurish.

(more…)

Mr. HolmesA case could be made for Sherlock Homes as the first modern superhero. It would be as reasonable an explanation as any for the enduring nature of this character. His deductive reasoning is routinely presented as otherworldly. He is generally represented as wearing a costume with his deerstalker hat and Inverness cape. He is as ascetic as Superman and as brooding as Batman. His moral flaws rival those of Iron Man. He has an archenemy in Moriarty and a sense of immortality in that his death could never be confirmed. (more…)

love-mercy01Much has been made of the connection between the sense of smell and memory, but the movie Love & Mercy reminds us of how evocative certain sounds can be. The beautifully remastered soundtrack from this film coming through a Dolby Atmos system in a darkened cinema brings forth a flood of memories: summer heat, sprinklers sending arcs of cool water over the lawn, coconut-scented suntan lotion, riding in your buddy’s car with the windows down, slow dancing on Friday nights in junior high. The Beach Boys provided the soundtrack for Americana for the last 50 years, and it is their music which is this new film’s ace in the hole. (more…)

LifeLife offers a respite from the ongoing debate over whether critics and moviegoers unfairly savage films based on true stories by rigorously fact checking them and then offering up discrepancies between the celluloid world and the historical record. The inclination for a full forensic examination of movies like The Imitation Game, Selma, and American Sniper will more likely intensify than abate. The noxious rejoinder that “it’s only a movie” never satisfied and, in the foreseeable future, will certainly not even given pause to those who return from the multiplex and proceed directly to Google. (more…)

knightofcupsKnight of Cups is a puzzling, not unwatchable, but deeply unsatisfying film. Ultimately, the movie is worth neither the time nor the attention demanded by its 118-minute runtime and its vague narrative structure. Director Terrence Malick’s previous work, The Tree of Life, divided audiences and critics. Viewers of Knight of Cups will likely have an easier time reaching a consensus that this, the seventh feature film from Malick, is a failure. There will be some voices of dissent who continue to claim that the reclusive filmmaker is a unique visionary who uses a distinctive cinematographic approach and fluid, repetitive, dreamlike imagery to weave a tale from memories of the collective subconscious. A few may even believe that, while others will simply be driven by the fear of “not getting it,” much like those who pretend to have read a certain book when the conversation at a cocktail party turns in that direction. (more…)

Panahi TaxiThe inevitable question that arose immediately after the announcement of Jafar Panahi’s film Taxi as the winner of the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the 65th Berlinale was whether the movie deserved the honor or was the prize intended as a message of support from the international community for the persecuted Iranian director.

The answer was yes.

Taxi was at the top of a weak field in this year’s Competition program. On paper, the entries in the premium category looked formidable with heavyweight directors like Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and Peter Greenaway (more…)

welcome-to-new-yorkAbel Ferrara’s long, idiosyncratic career as a director has taken an interesting turn of late as the cult favorite who made his initial mark with two legendary exploitations films in the late 1970’s, The Driller Killer and Ms. 45,  and who also brought us a landmark in crime movies with the 1990 King of New York, now seems bent on inventing a new genre. Call it the psychosexual micro-biopic for lack of a better expression. In last year’s Pasolini and in his most recent effort, Welcome to New York, Ferrara elevates a particularly virulent form of carnality to the level of Shakespearean tragic flaw by showing contemporary great men undone by their physical appetites. Toward achieving that goal, he is far more effective in the former film than the latter. (more…)

FaultsFaults, an out of the mainstream effort detailing an attempt to rescue a young woman from a cult, appears to have been made in the 1970’s as an ABC Movie of the Week and kept in a time capsule until its release on the festival circuit in 2014. Take the stray cell phone and the recent automobiles out of the picture, and you have a period piece that is better suited for a time and place that no longer exists.

Kids into cults seems a bit passé. The hippie phenomena of the 60’s spilled over into the communes of the 70’s, and parents saw their children play out the ageless act of rebellion first through drugs and then through philosophies; in either case, it meant the young leaving the old behind. While cults remain a phenomenon, they generally break into the mainstream press now only through apocalyptic predictions or tragic acts of self-destruction. (more…)

1001 Grams2014 has been a very good year for Norwegian cinema on the international festival circuit. In February, a pair of exports from this Scandinavian nation attracted favorable attention at the Berlinale, where Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance) appeared in the Competition division and Blind played in the Panorama program. This fall has seen 1001 Grams garner comparable praise after showings in Toronto and London. The three films share an engaging sense of quirkiness in the writing, ultra-professional and understated acting, clean, crisp cinematography, and terrifically paced and assured directing. (more…)

BlindHow can you trust if you cannot see?

If you lose your sight, how can you be sure that your husband is not sneaking into the room to stare at you? How would you know if your hair is graying? How could you read the results of a home pregnancy test?

Sightlessness is not a mere disability in Eskil Vogt’s sublime debut feature, Blind. It is solitary confinement, isolation on a strange, new planet fashioned by one’s imagination with indeterminate physical laws and a time-space relationship unique to a particular universe. Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) has a rare condition that robbed her of her sight as an adult. Her visual memory is fading, and even though she exercises it daily, her doctor informs her that she will lose it all together one day. (more…)