James Lattimer

Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)

By James Lattimer / September 20, 2021

might leave a bigger scar. The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) and Synonyms (2019) already flirted with autobiography, but his fourth feature pushes forward into full autofiction, sending a director named Y. (Avshalom Pollak) to the Arava desert for a screening of one of his films, only to discover that open discussion of its content is frowned upon.

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TIFF 2021 | Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2021

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) Nadav Lapid continues to take a scalpel to contemporary Israel in Ahed’s Knee, although this particular dissection might leave a bigger scar. The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) and Synonyms (2019) already flirted with autobiography, but his fourth feature pushes forward into full autofiction, sending a director…

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TIFF 2021 | Ste. Anne (Rhayne Vermette, Canada)

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2021

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #86 (Spring 2021) When navigating the as-yet-unknown films of a festival program, nationality still provides a persuasive point of reference for some, a feeling underlined by the proud declarations issued by national funding organizations, promotional bodies, or particularly partisan members of the press once titles have been announced.…

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Canadiana | Reading Aids: The Good Woman of Sichuan and Ste. Anne

By James Lattimer / April 5, 2021

When navigating the as-yet-unknown films of a festival program, nationality still provides a persuasive point of reference for some, a feeling underlined by the proud declarations issued by national funding organizations, promotional bodies, or particularly partisan members of the press once titles have been announced. This year’s reduced Berlinale Forum lineup also invites tenuous lines of this kind to be drawn (two films from Argentina, two films from Canada!), although the three Franco-German co-productions shot elsewhere say far more about how films are made in 2021.

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The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili, US)

By James Lattimer / September 22, 2020

The role of past insights in (still) present-day struggles is at the heart of The Inheritance, a playful, erudite, and boundary-blurring examination of what performing Black theory, literature, music, and testimony in a contemporary Philadelphia commune might set in motion.

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TIFF 2020: The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili, US)

By James Lattimer / September 13, 2020

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #84 (Fall 2020) The role of past insights in (still) present-day struggles is at the heart of The Inheritance, a playful, erudite, and boundary-blurring examination of what performing Black theory, literature, music, and testimony in a contemporary Philadelphia commune might set in motion. Given even greater topicality by…

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This Dream Will Be Dreamed Again: Luis López Carrasco’s El año del descubrimiento

By James Lattimer / March 20, 2020

Luis López Carrasco’s dense, devious El año del descubrimiento confirms his reputation as Spain’s foremost audiovisual chronicler of the country’s recent past, albeit one for whom marginal positions, materiality, everyday chitchat, and the liberating effects of fiction are as, if not more, important than grand historical events.

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Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle (Frank Beauvais, France)

By James Lattimer / December 29, 2019

By James Lattimer For a film that reveals its formal conceit from the outset and never deviates, Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle is remarkably complicated. Frank Beauvais’ first feature-length work opens with a simple intertitle, stating that he watched over 400 films between April and October 2016 and that the footage to be…

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And That’s Exactly How it Was: The 72nd Locarno Film Festival

By James Lattimer / September 23, 2019

The 72nd edition of the Locarno Film Festival—the first under the artistic direction of Lili Hinstin—was notable for the strength of its documentary offerings, albeit hardly in the conventional sense. Within a solid line-up whose names and general tone didn’t deviate all that much from recent years, the films that stood out most were the ones that tapped into the realm of nonfiction—which isn’t to say they were necessarily documentaries.

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143 Sahara Street (Hassen Ferhani, Algeria) — Wavelengths

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2019

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) Hassen Ferhani’s crowd-pleasing second feature is an example of a familiar format being executed with such intelligence and clarity that you wonder why it happens so rarely. The entire film is built around a woman almost as formidable as Vitalina Varela, and just as much…

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Endless Night (Eloy Enciso, Spain) — Wavelengths

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2019

By James Lattimer Eloy Enciso’s third feature unfolds as a series of conversations conducted at various locations within an unnamed city, most of which are public: outside a church, in a bus, at the bus station, in the bar, in the office of the prospective mayor. These conversations revolve around the current state of life,…

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Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, Brazil) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2019

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) Kleber Mendonça Filho’s ongoing quest to sound out the tensions of contemporary Brazil takes a turn at once more strident and more oblique in Bacurau, an exhilaratingly jittery mash-up of genres and moods co-directed with Juliano Dornelles, the production designer for his two previous features.…

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Transit (Christian Petzold, Germany/France)

By James Lattimer / September 28, 2018

By James Lattimer Christian Petzold’s progressive drift away from realism gathers pace in Transit, another melodrama of impossibility and despair that unfolds in a hyper-constructed amalgam of past and present as unstable as it is seamless. Yet the deliberately unresolved tension between ’40s Marseille and today is hardly the only element of slippage in the…

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The Most Beautiful Couple (Sven Taddicken, Germany/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2018

By James Lattimer Without the joys of coincidence and bad decision-making, The Most Beautiful Couple would barely have a plot, even if the film fails to commit to them sufficiently to go all-out trashy. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Sven Taddicken’s perversely entertaining drama surrenders to silliness, although an ill-advised third-act cover of Radiohead’s…

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Screwdriver (Bassam Jarbawi, Palestine/US/Qatar) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2018

By James Lattimer Screwdriver burns through so much narrative in its first 20 minutes that the various steps in how Ziad (Ziad Bakri) goes from being an innocent child to a world-weary adult feel more like a blur than a necessary psychological foundation. Yet even when the pace lets up to focus on his attempts…

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The Black Book (Valeria Sarmiento, Portugal/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2018

By James Lattimer From Amour Fou to The Death of Louis XIV to Zama, revisionism has been applied so successfully to the costume drama of late that it almost feels like something is missing when a director plays it straight. Veteran Chilean director Valeria Sarmiento’s The Black Book is a case in point here, a…

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Working Woman (Michael Aviad, Israel) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 5, 2018

By James Lattimer Much like its protagonist, Michal Aviad’s Working Woman appears to be in control until things get more complicated. Although Orna (Liron Ben Shlush) takes to real estate like a duck to water, her confidence is progressively undermined by her manipulative, lecherous boss Benny (Menashe Noy), just as the film’s own sense of…

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Winter Flies (Olmo Omerzu, Czech Republic/Slovenia/ Poland/Slovakia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2018

By James Lattimer The only truly pressing question that comes to mind when watching Olmo Omerzu’s Winter Flies is who exactly such a film is supposed to be targeting, as its competent, strangely listless blend of genres fails to extract much urgency or specificity from any of them. Does making yet another coming-of-age road-movie comedy…

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Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke, China/France/Japan) — Masters

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2018

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope 75 (Summer 2018) It speaks to the richness of Jia Zhangke’s oeuvre that Ash Is Purest White already feels like a career summation, even though the Chinese director has yet to turn 50. Transition has always been at the heart of Jia’s work, but this, his twelfth feature-length…

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Transit (Christian Petzold, Germany/France) — Masters

By James Lattimer / September 1, 2018

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope 76 (Fall 2018)   Christian Petzold’s progressive drift away from realism gathers pace in Transit, another melodrama of impossibility and despair that unfolds in a hyper-constructed amalgam of past and present as unstable as it is seamless. Yet the deliberately unresolved tension between ’40s Marseille and today is…

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L. COHEN (James Benning, US) — Wavelengths

By James Lattimer / August 31, 2018

By James Lattimer Since leaving celluloid behind around a decade ago, James Benning has become ever more invested in the durational opportunities offered by digital formats, with his numerous recent landscape films in particular often stringing together a mere handful of sustained shots or even just unfolding across one. L. COHEN continues this tradition while gently…

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Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke, China/France/Japan)

By James Lattimer / July 2, 2018

By James Lattimer It speaks to the richness of Jia Zhangke’s oeuvre that Ash Is Purest White already feels like a career summation, even though the Chinese director has yet to turn 50. Transition has always been at the heart of Jia’s work, but this, his twelfth feature-length film, explores the theme across three carefully…

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The Motive (Manuel Martín Cuenca, Spain) — Special Presentation

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2017

By James Lattimer Watching The Motive is akin to hearing an artist expound at length on the tedious specifics of their process, a feeling made all the more wearying by the blinkered nature of said approach. The opening scene of Manuel Martín Cuenca’s film shows its protagonist, wannabe writer Alvaro (Javier Gutiérrez), practically crying with…

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Princesita (Marialy Rivas, Chile/Argentina/Spain) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2017

By James Lattimer Some day, there’ll be a film about cult membership that doesn’t draw on the same hoary old clichés, but until then we have Marialy Rivas’ Princesita, whose glossy, vaguely queasy take on the standard narrative of male power figures and helplessly ensnared women is so overfamiliar that it feels stretched at a…

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Makala (Emmanuel Gras, France) — TIFF Docs

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2017

By James Lattimer For all the recent criticism of Cannes’ reliance on the same big names, perhaps the bigger problem is the festival’s continuing failure to find new ones to replace them, as the chances of making a real discovery on the Croisette seem to dwindle further with each passing year. French director Emmanuel Gras’…

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Scaffolding (Matan Yair, Israel/Poland) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 8, 2017

By James Lattimer While understatement is usually preferable to shouting, it can also become too much of a good thing, as Scaffolding (not to be confused with Kazik Radwanski’s new short film, the far better Scaffold, which screens in Wavelengths prior to Denis Côté’s Ta peau ti lisse) neatly illustrates. While Matan Yair’s debut feature…

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The Florida Project (Sean Baker, USA) — Special Presentations

By James Lattimer / September 6, 2017

By James Lattimer As in many of Sean Baker’s films, The Florida Project’s final destination doesn’t quite captivate as much as the journey taken to get there. Baker’s sixth feature is first a merry wander, then a desperate gallop through the plastic fantastic environs of central Florida, where each motel is more garish than the…

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The Garden (Sonja Maria Kröner, Germany) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2017

By James Lattimer The only element of The Garden worth marvelling at is the amount of money seemingly lavished on its production design, as upmarket thrift stores the length and breadth of Germany appear to have been raided in an attempt to capture the spirit of ’76. But while chintzy patterns, vintage cars, and space…

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Western (Valeska Grisebach, Germany/Bulgaria/Austria) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 1, 2017

Originally published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017)   By James Lattimer Why would anyone claim to be something they’re not? For Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), the protagonist of German director Valeska Grisebach’s long-anticipated second feature, it’s a way to get himself out of a scrape. Wedged in a car at night with a group of…

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At the Frontier: Valeska Grisebach on Western

By James Lattimer / June 22, 2017

By James Lattimer Why would anyone claim to be something they’re not? For Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), the protagonist of German director Valeska Grisebach’s long-anticipated third feature, it’s a way to get himself out of a scrape. Wedged in a car at night with a group of people he can’t understand, Meinhard declares that he was…

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150 Milligrams (Emmanuelle Bercot, France) — Special Presentations

By James Lattimer / September 13, 2016

By James Lattimer Even if Emmanuelle Bercot’s stultifying biopic 150 Milligrams weren’t based on a true story, its outcome would anyway be clear from the outset: when feisty provincial doctors take on the system, convention demands that they must win. Bercot doesn’t seem to have a problem with embracing total predictability however, given that she…

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Soul on a String (China, Zhang Yang) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2016

By James Lattimer The amount of enjoyment to be derived from Soul on a String hinges on one’s tolerance for heavily processed images. While all the shots of vast natural vistas, tastefully furnished interiors, and portentous encounters have been painstakingly composed, each and every frame of Zhang Yhang’s Tibetan epic has been flushed through a…

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The Road to Mandalay (Midi Z, Taiwan/Myanmar/France/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2016

By James Lattimer Like most things in The Road to Mandalay, the border crossing happens quietly: a small group assembles at a rural meeting point, a girl named Lianquing takes the front seat and the men the trunk, they drive through the night, a deal is made at the checkpoint, and by the next morning…

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Home (Fien Troch, Belgium) — Platform

By James Lattimer / September 7, 2016

By James Lattimer Is giving a film an abstract noun as its title ever a good idea? Shorn of context, words like “love,” “happiness,” or indeed “home” automatically become grand statements of intent, attempts to speak to the universal nature of things that all too often land closer to the blunt or the facile rather…

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Apprentice (Boo Junfeng, Singapore/Germany/France/Hong Kong/Qatar) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 5, 2016

By James Lattimer It’s rare to come across a film as utterly, ruthlessly plot-driven as Apprentice, particularly in the at least theoretically rarified environs of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section. Boo Junfeng’s second feature tells the wearingly predictable story of Aiman, a buff young ex-army officer who has taken a job at a Singapore prison…

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Godless (Ralitza Petrova, Bulgaria/Denmark/France) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2016

By James Lattimer When is winning the Golden Leopard a hindrance and not a help? You can’t blame Godless for the Locarno jury’s decision to award it the main prize, nor for the fact that their decision links first-time director Ralitza Petrova to such an illustrious list of recent prizewinners that expectations are almost bound…

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Marija (Michael Koch, Germany/Switzerland) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2016

 By James Lattimer Even without all the many handheld tracking shots that trail the eponymous heroine of Marija through the streets of Dortmund, the parallels to the work of the Dardennes would still be impossible to ignore: a post-industrial setting that’s seen better days; a protagonist in such desperate economic straits that nothing is taboo;…

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