Wednesday, March 29, 2017
"In prior efforts, Serra has shown a penchant for degrading his iconic subjects and passing the result off as humanizing historical realism—dwelling on Casanova as he admires his own excrement or shovels heaps of animal meat in his face, for instance. That tendency isn't fully abolished in The Death of Louis XIV, but it's tamed. The emphasis is where it should be—which is to say, not on the Sun King's increasingly black, gangrenous left leg, but on the leader's face, and the faces of those around him, as he sluggishly succumbs to his undoing. The humanity of the situation, rather than the grotesquery, is Serra's focus here, which is already a promising recalibration of his sensibility."
Review continues at Slant.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
"If conventional narrative cinema grammar has trained us to understand scenes taking place prior to the broadcasting of a film’s title as build-up to the story proper, a whetting of the palette for the more significant events to come, then how do we negotiate the import of Ji-hyeon’s tale, remarkably slight as it seems? This is just one of the gentle perplexities of Autumn, Autumn, a deft realist miniature that operates as both a record of everyday spaces and a document of the emotionally charged, albeit ephemeral, human dramas that pass through them. When the film abandons Ji-hyeon after its delayed title card to resume a different narrative thread, it becomes apparent that Jang’s conception of storytelling isn’t linear but delicately cubist, and rooted less by human agency than by a fixed time and place."
Full review of Autumn, Autumn, now showing at New Directors/New Films, continues here.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
"In the end, Song to Song has next to nothing of consequence to say about the music scene in 2017, just as Knight of Cups's gloss on Hollywood deal-making and networking was nothing if not incidental. Though the film features dozens of musical cues from artists ranging from Bob Marley to Sharon Van Etten to Julianna Barwick, its snapshots of big-venue machinations and backstage antics comprise only a fraction of its content. Instead, the music industry—as a combustible, always-moving collaborative enterprise in which nothing's guaranteed—provides the textural backdrop for another long-form, free-associative investigation into the highs and low of romantic love, and one that arguably constitutes the most rewarding of Malick's recent output."
Full review of my favorite Malick film since The Tree of Life continues at Slant Magazine.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
"Running 148 minutes and encompassing four chapters (portentously titled along biblical lines, such as 'Exodus' and 'Retribution'), the film returns over and over to scenes of frontierswomen being ruthlessly degraded by vile men; in a recurring scenario, Koolhoven frames the agonized faces of victims being dealt blood-drawing belt whippings. That Brimstone ultimately postures as a feminist yarn is unsurprising given the current market demand for Strong Female Leads, but its bid for social correctness—manifested most plainly in a last-minute uplifting voiceover—does nothing to make the film’s juvenile and numbing fixation on brutality any more palatable."
Full review at Slant Magazine.