Monday, February 23, 2015

Young Bodies Heal Quickly (2014) A Film by Andrew T. Betzer

"Suiting its self-consciously strange, decidedly non-commercial bent, Young Bodies Heal Quickly aims to function more as provocation than big statement, but its lack of dramatic specificity places it in a precarious middle ground between exacting character study and ethereal parable. Like so many road movies before it, the plot jerks into motion with a murder, the accidental result of just another day horsing around in rural Maryland. The older brother picks a fight with a pair of young female four-wheelers, and the younger brother, attempting to stop the violence, lands a wooden bat on the backside of one girl's skull. It's an arresting scene in its sense of ferocious randomness, captured with more deliberate handheld sloppiness from seasoned low-budget DP Sean Price Williams, but what follows quickly reorients the movie's approach, shifting it from vérité to Bressonian remove." Full review at Slant Magazine.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) A Film by Billy Wilder

"In the credit sequence of Billy Wilder's scathing sex comedy Kiss Me, Stupid, the chauvinist performance of tipsy swing vocalist Dino (Dean Martin) is intercut repeatedly with a group shot of male bartenders laughing hyena-like at his sexist jokes. The message—men are a predatory and cowardly bunch—is clear and the tone-setting mode of address even clearer: caricatured, repetitive, and pitched right at the threshold of burlesque humor and discomfort. (It takes a small cognitive leap to consider how David Lynch, an admitted Wilder fan, took this approach and ran with it in his own discomfiting suburban nightmares.) Things get pointedly faker from there." Full review of Wilder's misunderstood flop and Olive Films' new Blu-Ray release of it is over at Slant.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Old Fashioned (2014) A Film by Rik Swartzwelder

"As polemic, the film is obnoxiously diagrammatic, but it's no more tolerable as a love story—the mode it settles into once recent divorcée and spunky free spirit Amber (Elizabeth Roberts) rolls into town and leases an apartment above the antique shop. It's hard to imagine a less desirable prince charming in recent memory than Clay, a stiff prude with an undisciplined mop of dirty-blond hair and a rotating gallery of baggy sweatshirts that would have made him quite the heartthrob in seventh grade circa 2003. (His defining past indiscretion is heading up a bootleg Girls Gone Wild-esque enterprise, which squarely figures him—and Swartzwelder's feel for the zeitgeist—as unfortunate relics from the turn of the millennium.)" Contemporary cinema may need a team huddle after this to figure out how to collectively recover. My report from the front lines can be found here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Timbuktu (2015) A Film by Abderrahmane Sissako

"In Timbuktu’s sand-swept expanses, you’re either willfully complicit in the butchered standards of the Muslim authorities or you’re a dangerous dissident. Via a loose, ensemble-based, anecdotal narrative style, the film’s undertaking is to pinpoint scenarios in which this binary proves incompatible with living a pleasant (no sports or partying) or even functional (mandatory gloves for females, even those selling fish) life." Continued here.