Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Indignation (2016) A Film by James Schamus


"Schamus's debut feature is impressive for how its tamped-down style and the coming-of-age narrative work so confidently in tandem, with the filmmaking's sedate professionalism increasingly reflecting a milieu in which decorum is paramount, and any behavioral deviation stands out. Marcus's decision, egged on by his vigilantly cautious parents, to attend Winesburg College while his peers ship off to the Korean War is itself a deviation, and it sets into motion a slowly dawning realization for the young man to the limited pathways allowed by the conservative society he's been raised in. If Newark feels to him like a hermetically sealed mini-universe lorded over by his paranoid father (Danny Burstein) and orbiting around only the prospect of the small-time family butchering business, then Winesburg, with its mandatory sermons and rigidly compartmentalized campus social groups, is just another trap."

Full review here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

For the Plasma (2014) A Film by Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan


"Among the films to emerge in recent years to exhibit the influence of Jacques Rivette, Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan's For the Plasma wears its reverence for the French director most transparently. It gives us a coastal Maine setting vibrating with an air of the unreal; two female protagonists who, while tasked initially with one project, gradually become embroiled in other clandestine pursuits signifying some slippery conspiracy; a chain of scenarios involving mapping, tracing, and analyzing; and well-dressed businessmen with apparent connections to a larger, just-out-of-reach intrigue. The film's two leads resemble Rivette muses of yesteryear, with frizzy-haired, monotone Rosalie Lowe evoking Bulle Ogier and the boyish Anabelle LeMieux inviting comparisons to Juliet Berto circa Out 1. Eventually, one even goes boating."

Review continues here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Van Gogh (1991) A Film by Maurice Pialat


"In 1956's Lust for Life, Vincente Minnelli captured Vincent van Gogh's antisocial mania and his harum-scarum dealings with the mainstream art world. With 1990's Vincent & Theo, Robert Altman fixed his attention on the swirl of meretricious forces surrounding the doomed artist, and in typical Altmanesque fashion, the ways in which the talons of commerce make fools of those with integrity. French filmmaker Maurice Pialat evidently found both approaches too dramatic. His own fictionalized account of the Dutchman's waning days, 1991's frankly titled Van Gogh, leeches late-19th-century France of sensationalism, barely treating it different than he would one of the drab modern locales of his contemporary dramas. In doing so, van Gogh's neuroses and shortcomings end up looking much like those of Pialat's standard anti-hero, a man driven to let his worst self gradually overshadow his best."

Full review here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cafe Society (2016) A Film by Woody Allen


"More than any of his numerous recent films, Woody Allen's Café Society conveys the enormity of life's experience, and it does so using the most direct means possible: by simply piling up incidents. While the 80-year-old filmmaker's speedy rate of production continues to be laudable, the velocity of his recent work is equally notable. These days, Allen's screenplays carom from one plot point to the next with a highly selective regard for what to bother picking through the implications of, and Café Society bears that tendency out in the extreme. Here's a film in which the protagonist's mafia-involved brother is put to death at one point and all that's allocated to the passing is a curt establishing shot of ash-spreading before a cut to a wailing nightclub crooner jars the film back into its jazzy swing."

Full review continues here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Men Go to Battle (2015) A Film by Zachary Treitz


"Shot on quasi-grainy digital at close range and evenly lit in autumnal tones, Zachary Treitz's Civil War-set Men Go to Battle lacks the polish and bombast of much costlier historical dramas. Evoking the cloistered rawness of Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights and Robert Eggers's The Witch, the film aims for revelatory intimacy within a commonplace past, but while its simulacrum of 1860s Kentucky is impressively textured in spite of a shoestring budget, Treitz's preference for arm's-length characterizations renders a convincingly made-over ensemble little more than another ornament on the landscape."

Full review here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Guy from Fenyang (2016) A Film by Walter Salles


"In the blighted canon of documentaries about directors, A Guy from Fenyang has nothing of the hagiographical cheerleading or predetermined talking-head baton passing of something like Frank Pavich's Jodorowsky's Dune. If anything, Salles seems to take a cue or two from Gabe Klinger's excellent Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, another film bonded tightly to the leisurely thought processes of its subjects, and one equally unbothered to let the work in question play out at length and stand on its own."

Full review here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dark Night (2016) A Film by Tim Sutton


"The first four images of Dark Night, Tim Sutton's contemplation of civilian gun violence in America, have a fragmentary precision that's gutting. First, a girl's eye is studied in close-up as red and blue light—seemingly the incandescence of either a movie screen or fireworks—flashes over it. Then, streaks of refracted red light blink rhythmically across the top of a dark frame, forcing us to reconsider the source of the initial glow as potentially that of a police siren, followed by a shot of a larger red smear, underneath which a distant American flag slowly waves. This sequence is capped off by a wider angle of the girl, who's sullenly slumped on some grass at the side of a road as the unfocused legs of onlookers bob in the background and ambulance sirens creep into the otherwise hushed soundscape."

Full review here.