Wednesday, October 25, 2017
"'War is war. Life is life. You can’t lump them together,' says a burly construction worker early on in Valeska Grisebach’s Western, immediately invoking the dichotomy between civility and savagery at the heart of the genre referenced by the film’s title. The seasoned audience member will recognize the hollowness in such a statement, as the most ageless westerns have proven time and again that violence—physical and otherwise—is the engine of civilizing progress. And though blood is scarcely spilled in Western, the film nevertheless teems with nervous tension as a German construction crew descends on a modest Bulgarian village to conduct work on a hydroelectric power plant in the hills nearby. In a supremely understated style, Grisebach sets this all-too-modern scenario in motion and charts the ways in which power and privilege unconsciously manifest themselves, turning a boilerplate engineering initiative into a loaded culture clash."
Full review of Valeska Grisebach's recent NYFF competition title, Western, continues at Slant Magazine.
Monday, October 16, 2017
"Like In the Shadow of Women, Lover for a Day is shot in widescreen black and white by Renato Berta, staged in a prosaic suite of bedrooms, cafés, and side streets, and narrated in a terse short-form prose style. But in contrast to Garrel’s last film, which diligently plucked away at the morose self-importance of its male lead, the wise French dramatist’s latest foregrounds the malleable spirits of its young female characters, leaving Gilles something of an implicit gravitational force rather than a subject of sustained consideration. In doing so, the film adopts an unbiased lucidity. Instead of the wry, pitch-perfect assessments of human behavior contained within In the Shadow of Women, we get a hushed sense of awe and empathy as Garrel ruminates on the burgeoning womanhood of his daughter, here cast for the first time in a lead role under his direction, by way of the character she inhabits."
Full review of Philippe Garrel's latest film continues at Slant Magazine as part of the site's annual coverage of the New York Film Festival.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
"Making liberal use of inner monologue to give form to Salinger’s feverish stop-and-go writing process, Strong ties the epiphanies and crushing disappointments of the author’s life to key passages within his body of work. In doing so, Holden Caulfield becomes less a spontaneous fictional creation than the logical sum of Salinger’s romantic frustrations, his run-ins with hectoring authority figures, and his scarring visions of Nazi death camps (realized on budget here as blue-tinted glimpses of gaunt silhouettes and hands clutching past barbed wire). The whole affair suggests dramatic Tetris, and it leeches the artist and his process of any mystery."
I reviewed Danny Strong's boring-ass J.D. Salinger biopic over at Slant Magazine.