Jay Kuehner

TIFF 2021 | Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)

By Jay Kuehner / September 15, 2021

By Jay Kuehner The concept of a Bergman Safari on the island of Fårö is something that not even a Roy Andersson would have conceived of, but it’s a tour bus that many cinephiles have been riding for years, like it or not. The punchline afforded in Mia Hansen-Løve’s faintly brackish, irreverent homage is that…

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TIFF 2021 | Spencer (Pablo Larraín, UK/Germany)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner Come for the Di, but stay for the Pablo. Having followed the moves of the Chilean autor far more than that of any royal family member, I thought the strategy was sound enough to suffer the eternal hors d’oeuvre of crustless sandwiches and acrid tea that is monarchy-watching. If Larraín, in Tony…

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TIFF 2021 | A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner An unexpected insight is proffered in Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero by the maligned creditor Bahram, who speculates whether good deeds have become so scarce in society that they warrant congratulation. Much of Farhadi’s moral tale revolves around the appearance of virtue and all of its attendant deceptions, conjuring a very modern anxiety…

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TIFF 2021 | Three Minutes – A Lengthening (Bianca Stigter, Netherlands/UK)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner Perhaps not since José Luis Guerin’s Tren des Sombres (1997) has a film so exactingly interrogated its source—in the case of Bianca Stigter’s documentary, a short 16mm reel discovered in a Florida attic in 2008 by the maker’s grandson, Glenn Kurtz. The eponymous three minutes of holiday footage (shot in the Polish…

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Azor (Andreas Fontana, Switzerland/France/Argentina)

By Jay Kuehner / June 15, 2021

Mark Twain’s quote that virtue has never been as respectable as money could easily delineate the sumptuously sordid habitat limned in Azor, except that it’s precisely the kind of wisdom that the film’s wealthy habitués and their attendant financiers might invoke with complacent irony from within their insulated milieu of smoky parlours, agapanthus-lined lobbies, manicured hippodromes, and dutifully swept piscinas.

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Impresión de un cineasta: On the Films of Camilo Restrepo

By Jay Kuehner / March 20, 2020

The title of Camilo Restrepo’s breakout short film, Impressions of a War (2015), suggests the anomalies inherent in conceiving of a historical portrait of modern Colombia. A war is not typically thought of as something that leaves an impression; rather, it maims, disables, obliterates, defaces, violates. Nor does its legacy register as a mere impression: the cumulative trauma amounts to nothing less than an indelible scar, both corporeal and psychological, that exceeds reason, conciliation, and memory.

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Collective (Alexander Nanau, Romania/Luxembourg)

By Jay Kuehner / December 29, 2019

By Jay Kuehner As the opening credits of Alexander Nanau’s Collective rolled at a screening at TIFF, a fellow critic leaned to me and whispered, in a mantra-like tone, the name of an indelible Chinese documentary: Karamay. The implied message was tacitly understood: that Xu Xin’s colossal 2010 work on the aftermath of the eponymous…

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Ghost Fleet (Shannon Service & Jeffrey Waldron, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 5, 2018

By Jay Kuehner Apparently they aren’t watching much Errol Morris over at Paul Allen’s Vulcan (the woke producers here), or else The Thin Blue Line has become neglected in documentary programs, lest a telejournalistic “exposé” such as Ghost Fleet, unwittingly indulging its own spurious methodology while attempting to uncover another, be mistaken as meta. Fulminating…

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Cocote (Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Argentina/Germany)

By Jay Kuehner / December 19, 2017

By Jay Kuehner The titular nape of the neck invoked in the word cocote is both a marked corporeal designation and an intimation of something bad about to happen. In Cocote, it represents the site of a beheading and the dreaded aura of imminent retribution. If hacer cogote translates as “to expect something,” then such…

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New York Groove: Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits

By Jay Kuehner / October 16, 2017

By Jay Kuehner MDFF and Cinema Scope co-present a screening of Golden Exits (with Alex Ross Perry in attendance) at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Tuesday, October 17 at 8:45pm, as part of the ongoing screening series MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF.   Geographically not far yet nevertheless a world away from the…

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First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie, Cambodia) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 7, 2017

By Jay Kuehner Can there be any doubt, within the simplified moral terms of cinema as conveniently conscionable entertainment, that Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian project constitutes an act of courage? Any doubts are flagged as cynicism, any detraction deemed insensitive. And yet, for a survival story of such magnitude as Loung Ung’s (from whose memoir Jolie…

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Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, US) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 6, 2017

By Jay Kuehner Greta Gerwig’s debut feature is like something akin to asking a classmate to sign your yearbook and getting a detailed novella in return, or a pink plaster cast scrawled with a poem. It’s also proof that Gerwig is clearly her own muse. The film opens with a cheeky quote from Joan Didion…

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The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, USA) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 5, 2017

By Jay Kuehner “Fairy tales are meant for difficult times” declares Guillermo del Toro, and even though The Shape of Water is steeped in a Cold War-era America of key lime pie (that reeks of racism and homophobia) and teal-finned Cadillacs (fit for assholes weaned on the power of patriarchal thinking), it’s clear just what…

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Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh, USA/United Kingdom) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 5, 2017

By Jay Kuehner A girl and a gun or a boy and a horse? Andrew Haigh adapts Will Vlautin’s cautionary, melancholic neo-Western with a keen eye and ear for regional vernacular and class distinction. Haigh recognizes the potential in the story that Jane Smiley described as a “sheer cinema-vérité detailing of American life,” and hems…

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Darkest Hour (Joe Wright, UK) — Gala Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 4, 2017

By Jay Kuehner A parliamentary drama of considerable pallor (not power), Darkest Hour drops us in on the “action” of the House of Commons floor as the “Phoney War” with Nazi Germany is about to become all too real, and where Winston Churchill’s appointment to wartime prime minister is met with a frenzy of handbill-waving…

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Araby (Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans, Brazil)

By Jay Kuehner / June 23, 2017

By Jay Kuehner An epistolic ode to labour, love, and life on the road, Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans’ Araby opens with a seemingly innocuous sequence that belies its ambition: teenage Andre (Murilo Caliari) pedalling his bike on a mountain road in the southern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, a Townes Van Zandt song on…

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Sundance (II): A Few Useful Details

By Jay Kuehner / March 24, 2017

By Jay Kuehner  At a Q&A after a well-received screening of Eliza Hittman’s film Beach Rats, which earned her the Directing Award in the US Dramatic competition, the Cal Arts grad spoke of the aesthetic need to “de-emphasize story”—an admission that, in the context of Sundance’s high priority for narrative takeaways, might well have constituted…

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RIDM: Recessive Genre, Sublime Hiatus

By Jay Kuehner / February 26, 2017

By Jay Kuehner With the steady proliferation of a particular breed of documentary cinema—call it speculative nonfiction or, as one of its more agile practitioners, Robert Greene, sums up, unfiction—there has been a shift from subject-oriented content to that of orientation itself. The form appears less invested in revealing a given reality than in the…

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RIDM: Recessive Genre, Sublime Hiatus

By Jay Kuehner / February 26, 2017

By Jay Kuehner With the steady proliferation of a particular breed of documentary cinema—call it speculative nonfiction or, as one of its more agile practitioners, Robert Greene, sums up, unfiction—there has been a shift from subject-oriented content to that of orientation itself. The form appears less invested in revealing a given reality than in the…

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Austerlitz (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany)

By Jay Kuehner / December 19, 2016

By Jay Kuehner If poetry after Auschwitz constituted an act of barbarism, then what can be made of curious tourists eating sandwiches, or snapping self-portraits, on the lawns of former concentration camps now repurposed as museums? The question isn’t so much posed as interrogatively embedded in Austerlitz’s conceptual framework, in which “dark tourism” is subjected…

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Locarno (I): Challenges

By Jay Kuehner / September 26, 2016

By Jay Kuehner With its boldly stylized design, looking otherworldly but extracted from the all-too-real, and replete with excess—not least a purring pet cheetah lounging on ornate carpet and riding in a luxury sports car, and a brotherhood of Muslim bikers astride sparkling choppers—The Challenge could double as a wayward film-festival advert. Yuri Ancarani’s Filmmakers…

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India in a Day (Richie Mehta, India/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 17, 2016

By Jay Kuehner Never mind the city symphony—here is the cacophony of an entire country. The “user-generated doc” is enlisted to reveal (or effectively colonize, depending on your view) its own vast territory, in this case the world’s largest democracy, India. By virtue of sheer plurality and simultaneity—and under the dubious tutelage of Ridley Scott…

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Maliglutit (Searchers) (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada) — Platform

By Jay Kuehner / September 16, 2016

By Jay Kuehner There’s something poetic in the notion of an indigenous reworking of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), although it does not appear to be the motivating principle behind Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit, which fashions itself as a western told in an Inuit way. There are of course a host of political/theoretical implications to such…

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The Ivory Game (Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani, Austria/USA) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2016

By Jay Kuehner A “call to action,” a “wake-up call”—call it what call you will, The Ivory Game is stylized broadcast journalism for the Netflix set, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering how smart elephants are; if only they can outlast cinema when it comes to extinction. To be fair, the ivory trade is…

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The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Errol Morris, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2016

By Jay Kuehner As a portrait of a portrait artist, Errol Morris’ framing of Elsa Dorfman is scaled with commensurately intimate and life-sized means, perhaps surprisingly given the director’s predilection for the everyday uncanny (you’d suspect Diane Arbus to be the more fitting subject). Morris drops in on Dorfman’s studio for a guided tour of…

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Mimosas (Oliver Laxe, Spain/Morocco/Qatar/France) — Wavelengths

By Jay Kuehner / September 9, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Jay Kuehner A Sufi western? In the parole of Cannes’ critical taxonomy, the designation bestowed upon Oliver Laxe’s desert-fevered, Semaine de la Critique-winning allegory would seem reductive if it didn’t allude, paradoxically, to the film’s radically expansive nature. This leads one to wonder just what “a Sufi western”…

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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (Joseph Cedar, US/Israel) — Gala Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 8, 2016

By Jay Kuehner Anyone who’s ever felt like a fraud will find much to relate to in Joseph Cedar’s tale of personal bankruptcy, the spectrum of identification spanning the exhilaration of getting away with it to the humiliation of being exposed. The architecture of influence and exploitation is the stuff of which movies are made,…

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By the Time It Gets Dark (Anocha Suwichakornpong, Thailand/France) — Wavelengths

By Jay Kuehner / September 3, 2016

By Jay Kuehner To call what happens in By the Time It Gets Dark a “plot” is to do it a disservice of sorts, such is the beguilingly self-reflexive nature of Anocha Suwichakornpong’s becalmed, trippy, historically conscious fungus of a film. That the film strays from its central conceit—the Thammasat University massacre of 1976, here…

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Mister Universo (Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel, Austria/Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema)

By Jay Kuehner / September 2, 2016

By Jay Kuehner An unfit lion tamer quits his circus and sets out on the road in rural Italy in search of a lost iron amulet, bent by a notorious strongman years before. So goes the wandering premise of Mister Universo—seemingly descended from the stock mythology of Fellini but quite contrarily possessed of its own…

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Mimosas (Oliver Laxe, Spain/Morocco/Qatar/France)

By Jay Kuehner / June 27, 2016

By Jay Kuehner A Sufi western? In the parole of Cannes’ critical taxonomy, the designation bestowed upon Oliver Laxe’s desert-fevered, Semaine de la Critique-winning allegory would seem reductive if it didn’t allude, paradoxically, to the film’s radically expansive nature. This leads one to wonder just what “a Sufi western” might look like, or how it…

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Set Sail With Salt, Return With Sugar: The 10th Punto de Vista Documentary Film Festival of Navarra

By Jay Kuehner / March 24, 2016

By Jay Kuehner Relatively nascent as festivals go, Punto de Vista celebrated its tenth anniversary with an edition predicated upon the concept of time, a programmatically tautological conceit that could too easily lend itself to pejorative claims of plucking low-hanging fruit: all film, somehow, partakes of time. But how to account for, in cinematically specific…

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Il Solengo (Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, Italy)

By Jay Kuehner / March 21, 2016

By Jay Kuehner The talking-head documentary, anathema to the more purposive (i.e., “show, don’t tell”) modes of nonfiction filmmaking, is revived with stubborn, prolix determination by the brood of Etruscan elders who preside over the unassuming habitat of Il Solengo. An award winner at last year’s Docslisboa, the film traces the speculative and spectral existence…

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Two Years at Sea: An Interview with Mauro Herce

By Jay Kuehner / December 21, 2015

By Jay Kuehner A post-industrial trance film set aboard a phantom-like freighter drifting toward shipwreck or oblivion, Dead Slow Ahead materializes its eponymous nautical telegraph into an abstract state of voluptuous inertia. The merchant ship Fair Lady is adrift in unspecified international waters, her crew diminished (if not devoured) by the machinery of the vessel…

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TIFF 2015 | Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/ France)—Discovery

By Jay Kuehner / September 16, 2015

By Jay Kuehner Like its eponymous volcano, Ixcanul smoulders. A lavishly raw ethnographic fiction with documentary elements set among a Kaqchikel Mayan community on the Guatemalan plateau, Jayro Bustamante’s debut follows the rituals of a coffee-farming village in his native country that sits in elemental proximity to an active volcano, the surrounding landscape both blackened…

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TIFF 2015 | Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga, US)—Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2015

By Jay Kuehner Lodged somewhere in spirit between two defining moments of its protagonist’s horrific trajectory into a child-soldier abyss—a swift machete blade etched, thunk, into a suspected enemy’s skull, and a corruptive, charismatic leader’s luring of a young disciple to his abusive lair—Beasts of No Nation holds sway with cogent, putrid effect, at once terrifying and…

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TIFF 2015 | Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, US)—Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 8, 2015

By Jay Kuehner Cinema has a thing for journalism, but any reciprocal adulation must certainly be attenuated by the swift, sensational work that movies make of the press’ labours. No small irony then that Spotlight’s story—about a crack but underperforming team of Boston Globe investigative reporters trying to expose the Massachusetts Catholic Church sex abuse…

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Who Can Tell of the Heroic Deeds of Israel?: Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher

By Jay Kuehner / December 17, 2014

By Jay Kuehner. Films are often described as being “poetic,” but beyond the suggestion of a certain undefined lyricism, it is not entirely clear just what this means. Unrequited love, for example, might be given supple expression through an ambient absence, or the cruel passage of time might be suggested by the fixity of the…

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TIFF 2014 | Rosewater (Jon Stewart, US) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 7, 2014

By Jay Kuehner Political film without a politics of filmmaking, Jon Stewarts’s earnest directorial debut repurposes journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir about having spent 118 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after he was accused of being an American spy into a palatable polemic about Iran’s theocratic rule circa the 2009 elections. The London-based, Iranian-born Bahari…

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TIFF 2014 | Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes, UK/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 3, 2014

By Jay Kuehner Renoir, Chabrol, Oliveira and Minnelli, among a host of others, have all taken a cinematic crack at Flaubert’s realist chef d’oeuvre, but surprisingly, the young French director Sophie Barthes—for whom the book is part of an inherited cultural DNA—is the first woman to adapt the original “modern realist” novel, and not for…

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Stop the Pounding Heart (Roberto Minervini, USA/Italy/Belgium

By Jay Kuehner / June 25, 2014

By Jay Kuehner Faith, so often deployed as narrative substance, is a phenomenon (or noumenon) that’s difficult to represent with film. It is often reduced to milieu, mood, or mere matter: think transcendental styles and stylized transcendance, either abstractly implied or imposed in formulary fashion (Bresson’s ascetic methodology vis-à-vis Malick’s metaphysical morass). A character either…

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Mouton (Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone, France)

By Jay Kuehner / December 13, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved, and Mouton (no, this isn’t another film about sheep) from first-time directors Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone, is the latest in a budding field of beautifully irreducible tales—blessed with the imprimatur of Locarno’s Opera Prima award—that refracts its subject through a prismatic approach to narrative.…

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TIFF 2013 | Bethlehem (Yuval Adler, Israel)—Discovery

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Utterly circumscribed by its political geography, Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem delineates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian teen, Sanfur, who at film’s outset is boldly protesting to his peers that he’s got the nerve to take a bullet to the chest (aided by a protective vest presumably looted from Israeli officers). That…

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TIFF 2013 | Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Pawel Pawlikowski’s return in letter and spirit to his native Poland is an elegiac, quasi-pious hymn (in requisite black and white) to a bygone era of Eastern European filmmaking, and by implication the legacy of Jews after occupation. Orphaned, novitiate nun Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska, a non-actor discovered in a local café) prepares…

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TIFF 2013 | Starred Up (David Mackenzie, UK)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner British. Prison. Drama. Say it and sigh: Where can the genre go, post-Scum, Porridge, Bad Girls, Ghosted, Screwed, Hunger? Nonetheless, David Mackenzie (Young Adam) makes a gritty bid for the pantheon with this initially lean and suitably mean rendering of a typically corrupt prison system where inmates are predestined for internecine feuds and cigarettes, cellphones, and verbal…

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TIFF 2013 | Labor Day (Jason Reitman, US)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Too much sugar ruins the pie! Jason Reitman’s shamelessly saccharine adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel could not have resisted such a bromide, as it was baked into the dough. But the earnestness with which certain hackneyed narrative flashpoints are so handily realized turns whatever latent drama the film might have possessed into…

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TIFF 2013 | The Unknown Known (Errol Morris, US)—TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 9, 2013

By Jay Kuehner The fourth truism derived from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s syllogistic philosophy of foreign policy in Iraq, the “Unknown Known” may be another name for imperviousness, or disavowed belief. If what we don’t know can hurt us, it is what we are unaware of not knowing—the Unknown Unknown—that can terrorize us, brought…

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TIFF 2013 | Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, UK)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 4, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Or, Scarlett Johansson Sleep Walk With Me. Jonathan Glazer’s protracted gestation (nine years) in bringing Michael Faber’s cult novel down to earth and into festivals (theatres would be a reach, as distribution could prove a challenge for this anomaly) signals a perfectionist at work or a project better off abandoned, and Under The Skin equivocally…

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Pilgrim’s Progress: Manakamana

By Jay Kuehner / August 30, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Pilgrimage is premised on the idea that the sacred is not entirely immaterial, but that there is a geography of spiritual power. Pilgrimage walks a delicate line between the spiritual and the material in its emphasis on the story and its setting: though the search is for spirituality, it is pursued in…

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TIFF 2013 | The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard, UK)

By Jay Kuehner / June 24, 2013

By Jay Kuehner “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”―Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray Wherever in cinema there is a proverbial angry young man, there inevitably entails a narrative about redemption. However defiled the milieu, salvation of some sort is not far off.…

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Terror Incognita: Julia Loktev on The Loneliest Planet

By Jay Kuehner / June 24, 2012

By Jay Kuehner Despite the elemental grandeur of its setting and the irony of its title, The Loneliest Planet (2011) hinges neither on the cruelty of nature nor of civilization, but on the betrayals endemic to interpersonal relationships. A deceptively minimal and decidedly haunted pastoral tour that follows a couple of affianced Americans trekking through…

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BAFICI 14: Reviens Vite

By Jay Kuehner / May 13, 2012

By Jay Kuehner There’s a certain poetic justice to the unxpected trajectory—provided by the 14th Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema—of America’s preeminent film critic, who, having been recently laid off from his long-standing post (34 years!) at The Village Voice, now materialized at a festival symposium half a world away to discuss his labour…

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Corneliu Porumboiu

By Jay Kuehner / April 4, 2012

By Jay Kuehner Please note that the director’s familial relation to former football referee Adrian Porumboiu has in no way influenced the consideration of this report; it may be pertinent that the notion of fairness figures prominently in their respective vocations. It should be stated that the work under consideration has, for the purpose of…

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Papirosen (Gastón Solnicki, Argentina)

By Jay Kuehner / December 20, 2011

By Jay Kuehner Genealogy is compelling as a means of accountability: ancestry as an historical index into the past that somehow illuminates the present. The desire for a legible personal history is always hopeful, taking memory as redemptive in its recovery of lost episodes, marginal lives, traumas and triumphs. And yet, for a film that…

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Nana (Valérie Massadian, France)

By Jay Kuehner / September 29, 2011

By Jay Kuehner Consider it a triumph of the medium that soon we may not speak of “in-between-ness” or indeterminacy in cinema (let alone “slow” or “contemplative”), such attributes having become subsumed by and substantive of film itself, commonly deployed to a point of sufficiency. In which case a film such as Valérie Massadian’s Nana,…

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Welcome to Calais: Sylvain George and the Aesthetics of Resistance

By Jay Kuehner / June 28, 2011

By Jay Kuehner The judiciously titled Qu’ils reposent en révolte (des figures de guerres) is prefaced by a crepuscular pan of imposing peaks (Mount Sinai) underscored by a cryptic quote regarding divine violence (from Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence), followed by a negative-stock image of the Pyramids before then cutting to the manicured familiarity of…

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BAFICI 2011: Like Hippo Hunting in Pampas Grass

By Jay Kuehner / April 23, 2011

By Jay Kuehner “I want content, not form!” – Mariko Okada, soliciting a kiss, in Yoshida Kiju’s Mizu de kakareta monogatari (Story Written in Water, 1965) The BAFICI critic be damned. Again. When it seemed that the preeminent South American festival’s stronghold might yield to ongoing budget constraints and a native indie market suffering from…

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Spotlight | Guest / José Luis Guerín

By Jay Kuehner / December 17, 2010

By Jay Kuehner “The film’s theme is those smiles, that shared gaze. This film truly speaks to me about a relationship, a friendship between two people: one in front of the camera, and the other behind. The director is not onscreen, but he is revealed through those images, those smiles, those looks of the characters.…

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Interviews | Keeper of Sheep Lucien Castaing-Taylor on Sweetgrass

By Jay Kuehner / December 16, 2009

By Jay Kuehner ”Baaaaaaah. Bleeeeeeet.” So goes the soundscape of the Western frontier, virtually absent of commentary save for the alternately plaintive hymn and cry of man on the open plain and majestic mountain pass. Could it be that the great American film of the year is a painstaking documentary about…sheep? Roughly 3,000, give or…

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L’heure d’été (Olivier Assayas, France)

By Jay Kuehner / September 12, 2009

By Jay Kuehner ”A bunch of rich people trying to unload their antique shit.” Thus cracked a colleague, after seeing Olivier Assayas’ L’heure d’été, wherein the treasured estate of a spry, discerning widow is bequeathed to her well-heeled progeny. Certainly, the film’s bourgeois milieu lends itself unfavourably to even the most flippant of Marxist critiques,…

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Currency | Belle tojours

By Jay Kuehner / September 4, 2009

Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal/France) By Jay Kuehner When considering the case of indefatigable Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, a likely and illuminating association can be drawn with compatriot writer Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), whose prose masterpiece, The Book of Disquiet, consists of a listless Lisbon bookkeeper’s rueful, digressive meditations on a life not fully…

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Currency | Shining Trench

By Jay Kuehner / September 3, 2009

Shining Trench (Jim Finn, Argentina) By Jay Kuehner As a ticket to peer into the culturally cluttered imagination of artist/filmmaker Jim Finn, take his 2000 photograph Snow and Farm, a faux landscape diorama featuring a model farmhouse and its surroundings that’s unremarkably true to its title but clearly a labour of fastidious reconstruction. Undermining the…

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Web Only | Humpday (Lynne Shelton, US)

By Jay Kuehner / August 21, 2009

By Jay Kuehner The teasingly if rather improbably premised Humpday arrives on the now-engorged scene of romantic comedies—bro, hetero, or otherwise—that revels in tolerable embarrassment as some primary revelation about human nature. Well enough, as comedy often succeeds by mining a shortcut to our basest instincts, bypassing good intentions and cultivated behaviour. If comedy’s cruelty…

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