Monday, November 21, 2016

Always Shine (2016) A Film by Sophia Takal


"Shot in Southern California and set in a culture of fledgling film-industry types, Sophia Takal's Always Shine is also a film that feels acutely like it was manufactured in a development office on La Cienega Boulevard. It's Queen of Earth meets Mulholland Drive, Passion with a dash of Persona, The Neon Demon in the atmospheric key of Martha, Marcy, May Marlene. It won't take a cinephile to recognize these touch points, and that probably wouldn't bother Takal, who makes sure to signal on numerous occasions—through shots of camera lenses, glimpses of electronic slates, and direct-to-camera addresses—that Always Shine isn't just an entertainment product with echoes of other films, but a narrative about the deforming, cannibalistic project of Hollywood."

Full review continues at Slant.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Illinois Parables (2016) A Film by Deborah Stratman


"The nature of Stratman’s decade-in-the-making project recalls the work of fellow Midwesterner David Gatten, particularly the monumental Secret History of the Dividing Line, a similarly long-brewing endeavor that burrows into the implications of an obscure bit of pre-colonial American history around the Virginia and North Carolina border. Stratman even has a likeminded fondness for bygone texts, whether in her embrace of the tactile qualities of the printing press (sundry newspaper clippings are Xeroxed and optical-printed for our viewing pleasure), or in her use of epistolary ephemera on the soundtrack, such as a Ralph Waldo Emerson letter narrated by Gatten himself."

Full review at Slant.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Quiet Man (1952) A Film by John Ford


"This being a John Wayne role in a John Ford film, Sean never tips over fully to the dark side. But four years before The Searchers mined this very territory and became canonized for it, The Quiet Man derived much of its complexity from its flirtations with the murkier shades of its star's persona. Not only is Wayne's assimilated Yankee etched with a sense of privilege that touches on the nastier registers of American machismo, his shyness is pierced by a propensity for nonverbal bluntness, his initial social grace is later undermined by a pushiness in getting his way, and, most critically, his sterling physical form is recognized for its inclinations to violence. In a radically unorthodox gesture, Ford withholds any particulars regarding Sean's background as a boxer until a moment of tension with Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), Mary Kate's brutish brother, that dislodges a fragmented sense memory detailing his accidental murder of an opponent in the ring."

Full review of the new Olive Films 4K blu-ray at Slant Magazine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Portrait of a Garden (2016) A Film by Rosie Stapel


"Botanists, horticulturists, and groundskeepers won't be disappointed by Rosie Stapel's Portrait of a Garden, a comprehensive visual inventory of a fabulously maintained multi-acre 'kitchen garden' on a historic Dutch estate. Others, meanwhile, may walk away feeling as indifferent to the craft of landscaping as they were when they came in—a crippling Achilles' heel in a film whose chief concern is the transmission of out-of-fashion knowledge to new generations. Peppered with a near-constant barrage of footnotes on the lower third of the frame identifying whatever varietal of crop viewers happen to be observing at a given moment, the film is insistent in its efforts to stoke interest in gardening and pruning, yet it stops short of bridging the gap for those less inherently spellbound by soil, roots, and branches."

Full review at Slant.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Autumn Lights (2016) A Film by Angad Aulakh


"Anyone who’s spent some time on Vimeo in the last few years should be familiar with a certain surge in fawning Icelandic tourism videography, the tropes of which are immediately recognizable, from time-lapse footage of waterfalls to leisurely pans of glaciers, all accompanied by sub-Sigur Rós post-rock. If a mark of distinction can be conferred upon the Icelandic-American production Autumn Lights, it’s that writer-director Angad Aulakh more or less skirts these conventions. Save for the occasional pillow shot of a distantly viewed snowcapped mountain or a glassy lake surface, the filmmaker keeps most of his story’s action confined to interiors, and when his characters do venture into the great outdoors, they spend most of their time in dense pine groves that effectively block off Iceland’s picturesque vistas."

Full review at Slant.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Son of Joseph (2016) A Film by Eugène Green


"This principle of elimination—why provide surplus aural and visual stimuli when two or three pieces of information will do?—informs every scene here, from a literary cocktail party that Vincent crashes to a dinner date between Marie and Joseph, both of which play out in a minimum of punctiliously arranged frames and share a blatant disregard for naturalistic ambiance. In many ways, Green's work runs directly counter to the show-don't-tell mode of cinematic thinking that valorizes 'leaving space' for the viewer's imagination. Instead, Green outlines his character's feelings and motivations in dialogue, ensures that nothing interrupts the transmission of the sentiments, and points his camera directly at his character's faces, those apparent vessels of truth—and yet, a sense of psychological complexity, even mystery, remains."

I wrote about Eugène Green's latest film, showing at the New York Film Festival, for Slant Magazine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gabe Klinger Interview


I interviewed writer/director/critic Gabe Klinger at the Zurich Film Festival for Filmmaker Magazine, in which we discussed his new film Porto, its unique use of various film gauges, and its debt to Manoel De Oliveira, among other things. Here's one of my favorite bits:

"Klinger: When I’ve been in romantic relationships and they’ve run their course, I think there’s still a little bit that you can salvage from whatever’s left. You always ask the person, 'don’t you remember the good moments?' But more often than not, the bad things cloud those things. And it works the other way around, too. The irrational side of us always wants things to stay as they are, but if you’re not in love anymore, you can take the rational posture, which is also kind of irrational, because love isn’t a coherent thing. So the person who wants to stay in the relationship becomes the crazy person and the person who wants to leave the relationship because it’s 'for the best' becomes the rational one, but actually you’re both irrational. There’s no clear-headed way to summarize what happened to you."