Josh Cabrita

Modern Mabuse: On Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales

By Josh Cabrita / March 25, 2021

I suppose now is the time to justify why I thought it worthwhile to begin a piece on Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (2006), whose Cannes cut has recently been released for the first time on home video courtesy of Arrow, with this exegesis of Lang’s final film. It’s not just that both Thousand Eyes and Southland Tales involve obscure conspiracy plots, take place in highly controlled and policed societies (the post-Nazi German surveillance state and the post-Patriot Act US, respectively), or examine complex information and transportation systems.

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The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, Canada)

By Josh Cabrita / December 29, 2019

By Josh Cabrita William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s tenth and longest-serving prime minister, is an emblem of our nation’s repressed, ineffectual masculinity. A staunch centrist and bureaucrat, Mackenzie King accomplished little during his 22 years in office: his main contributions were his ability to win elections despite his apparent lack of charisma, and his power…

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Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft

By Josh Cabrita / September 23, 2019

The prospect of spending an hour and a half with people lacking in notable virtue, alluring vice, or any apparent interest, may seem like an unproductive exercise in forced empathy—but consider this skepticism a function, as opposed to a fault, of these tightly orchestrated, seemingly soporific character studies.

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The Song of Names (François Girard, Canada) — Gala Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2019

By Josh Cabrita  Though the designation of a “late work” is usually reserved for revered masters who in their twilight years distil their style down to its supposedly purified essence, I see no reason why that term couldn’t also apply to a decidedly mediocre (and rarely brilliant) filmmaker like François Girard. Adapted from a book…

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The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers & Kathleen Hepburn, Canada/Norway) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2019

By Josh Cabrita The sad, slow, melancholy words of Joni Mithcell’s “Little Green” feature prominently in a mournful scene from the latest by Vancouver filmmakers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. While East Vancouver hipster Áila (Tailfeathers) speaks over the phone with a female crisis centre, the “extremely pregnant” Rosie (Violet Nelson)—whom the former happened upon…

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Anne at 13,000 ft (Kazik Radwanski, Canada/US) — Platform

By Josh Cabrita / September 6, 2019

By Josh Cabrita Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) With his first two features, Tower (2012) and How Heavy This Hammer (2015), Toronto-based director and MDFF co-founder Kazik Radwanski established something of a recurring archetype: sad, lonely, and horny men whose unpleasant or uninteresting qualities are accentuated by the director’s unrelenting approach of shooting…

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Répertoire des villes disparues (Denis Côté, Canada)

By Josh Cabrita / March 26, 2019

To appreciate the historical scope and layered references of Denis Côté’s Répertoire des villes disparues, we would do well to begin before the film does, at a time when some of the apparitions that haunt Irénée-les-Neiges, the film’s fictional northern Québec setting, would have existed as flesh and bone.

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Everything Transitory Is But an Image: Andrea Bussmann on Fausto

By Adam Cook / September 26, 2018

By Josh Cabrita and Adam Cook “Most people want to be kings and queens, but not enough want to be Faust.” —Jean-Luc Godard, Le livre d’image When Goethe wrote his Faust, adapting the German legend about a scholar who makes a pact with the Devil to attain total knowledge, could he have foreseen how incisive…

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Roads in February (Katherine Jerkovic, Canada/Uruguay) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 16, 2018

  By Josh Cabrita When Sarah (Arlen Aguayo Stewart) arrives in South America during the month of February there is a natural contrast between her original location and eventual destination—for just as her home in Montreal is being lambasted by the flurries of Quebec winter, her grandmother’s village in Uruguay is enjoying the blistering heat…

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Diamantino (Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt, Portugal/France/ Brazil) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Cabrita / September 4, 2018

By Josh Cabrita “The story, all names, characters, and incidents seen here are fictitious. No identifications with actual persons (living or deceased), places, products, genetic procedures or giant puppies is intended or should be inferred. No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” Thus reads the seemingly obligatory, hilariously backhanded legalese that opens…

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Asako I & II (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, Japan/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 4, 2018

By Josh Cabrita Published in Cinema Scope 75 (Summer 2018)   By far the most surprising and satisfying selection of this year’s Cannes Competition, Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Asako I & II sets up and throws out stylistic paradigms faster than you can grab hold of them. As if to maximize the frustration of viewers who prefer…

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Fausto (Andrea Bussmann, Mexico/Canada) — Wavelengths

By Josh Cabrita / September 2, 2018

By Josh Cabrita and Adam Cook Published in Cinema Scope 76 (Fall 2018)   “Most people want to be kings and queens, but not enough want to be Faust.” —Jean-Luc Godard, Le livre d’image When Goethe wrote his Faust, adapting the German legend about a scholar who makes a pact with the Devil to attain…

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Black Cop (Cory Bowles, Canada) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 13, 2017

By Josh Cabrita The inciting central incident in Cory Bowles’ debut feature is an all-too-recognizable altercation between two belligerent, white Toronto PD officers and a hoodie-wearing black man (Ronnie Rowe Jr.) leaving a convenience store mid-run. Starting with the officers’ quasi-congenial attempts to get the jogger’s attention while his earbuds blare, a tumult of racially…

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The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Simon Lavoie, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2017

By Josh Cabrita A tale of a reclusive, degenerate family in rural Quebec in the 1930s, Simon Lavoie’s follow-up to Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (winner of last year’s Best Canadian Feature prize at TIFF) wastes no time shoving our noses into some truly vile shit: an abusive patriarchy, incest,…

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The Crescent (Seth A. Smith, Canada) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Cabrita / September 11, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Seth A. Smith’s perplexing and propulsive The Crescent strips away nearly all exuberance from its mise en scène and presents Nova Scotia’s naturally picturesque vistas in bleak hues. Using the anxieties of a survivalist psyche to radically realign our perception of specific tropes, Smith capitalizes on fears of economic isolation within the…

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Meditation Park (Mina Shum, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 8, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Mina Shum’s first narrative feature since 2002 (following a decade-long stint directing Vancouver-based television) is contained within the few blocks surrounding the intersection of Renfrew and Hastings in East Vancouver, a community largely made up of longtime Asian immigrants. One of these residents is the silently resilient Maria (Pei-Pei Cheng), who has…

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Our People Will Be Healed (Alanis Obomsawin, Canada) — Masters

By Josh Cabrita / September 5, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Now in her 85th year and making her 50th film, indispensable Indigenous documentarian Alanis Obomsawin appears to have fallen into an atypical mood of optimistic self-reflection. In her previous film, the nearly three-hour, Wisemanesque We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice, she chronicled, with deliberate drudgery and opacity, a years-long judicial suit…

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The Square (Ruben Östlund, Denmark/France/Germany/Sweden) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 2, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017) A secular credo patchworked from the Golden Rule and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is engraved on an altar: “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” Before it was a two-hour and 20-minute…

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The Square (Ruben Östlund, Denmark/France/Germany/Sweden)

By Josh Cabrita / June 23, 2017

By Josh Cabrita A secular credo patchworked from the Golden Rule and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is engraved on an altar: “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” Before it was a two-hour and 20-minute Palme d’Or winner, The Square was born…

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Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo, Canada/Spain) — Vanguard

By Josh Cabrita / September 17, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Nacho Vigalondo’s discombobulating rom-com monster movie occupies an awkward middle ground. Neither committing to its darker undertones nor giving itself over to unhinged absurdity, the film shifts between an ironic and forthright treatment of its preposterous concept: that thirtysomething alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is responsible for unpredictable monster sightings and attacks in…

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (André Øvredal, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Cabrita / September 16, 2016

By Josh Cabrita André Øvredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the follow-up to his witty Trollhunter (2011), is bolstered by the clever conceit that a locked-room mystery can be housed in a corpse’s crevasses. Naturally then, our detectives are morticians, Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son Austen (Emile Hirsch), who perform a late-night autopsy…

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Prank (Vincent Biron, Canada) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 15, 2016

By Josh Cabrita There’s a self-reflexive moment in Vincent Biron’s feature debut where a group of delinquents watch Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse (2011) stoned in a backyard. It’s an odd cinephilic reference point for a film that is ostensibly the bastard child of Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009) and Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the…

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Una (Benedict Andrews, UK) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 14, 2016

By Josh Cabrita An indication of what Elle could have been if it wasn’t directed by Paul Verhoeven or led by Isabelle Huppert, Una treads dangerous territory without tact, nimbleness or reflexivity. Certain subjects require more care than others, and when representing sexual abuse on screen, there’s always the risk of trivializing its effects or…

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The Limehouse Golem (Juan Carlos Medina, UK) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 14, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Edgar Allen Poe, the creator of the detective story, and Conan Doyle, its popularizer, conceived their protagonists as psychoanalysts as much as investigators. The framework they established was male-dominated and placed women only in misogynist types. Juan Carlos Medina’s film is a feminist deconstruction of how we record history and a critique…

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Gaza Surf Club (Mickey Yamine & Phillip Gnadt, Germany/Palestine/US) — TIFF Docs

By Josh Cabrita / September 10, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Whether it’s admirable wish-fulfillment or just plain dishonest, Mickey Yamine and Phillip Gnadt’s Gaza Surf Club is a “feel-good” documentary that wants to be—and is about being—distracted from injustice. Focusing on the bourgeoning surfing culture in the Gaza Strip, the film follows three interconnected individuals: a female adolescent who can’t swim because…

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Foreign Body (Raja Amari, France/Tunisia) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 8, 2016

By Josh Cabrita The 2014 Palme d’Or winner Dheepan was torn between being a traditional art-house film about lower-class immigrants and director Jacque Audiard’s genre fixations; the film is boilerplate social realism until it ends with disorienting, internalized violence that recalls the climax of Taxi Driver (1976). Something similar happens in Raja Amari’s Foreign Body.…

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Little Wing (Selma Vilhunen, Finland/Denmark) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 6, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Realizing a tightly telegraphed narrative with on-the-fly camerawork and spontaneous realism, Finnish director Selma Vilhuen’s Little Wing is equal parts sensitive and senseless. The story’s set-up is based on a dichotomy that, thankfully, the film complicates as it goes on. Varpu (Linnea Skog) is a 12-year-old wise beyond her years, and her…

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