Spotlight

Alter Egos: On A Woman Escapes 

Alter Egos: On “A Woman Escapes”

The primary pleasure offered by A Woman Escapes is seeing how these exchanges push each co-director (or, rather, the style we would associate with them) out of their comfort zone, compelling them to respond, adapt, and eventually evolve in ways that would have been difficult to imagine without the benefit of this experiment.
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The Adventures of Gigi the Law (Alessandro Comodin, Italy/France/Belgium)

The Adventures of Gigi the Law (Alessandro Comodin, Italy/France/Belgium) 

Not since Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective (2009) has a cop movie been so sublimely uneventful as Alessandro Comodin’s The Adventures of Gigi the Law, a slack portrait of an affable officer in Friuli’s polizia locale. Pier Luigi Mecchia (a.k.a Gigi)—the director’s real-life uncle, effectively playing himself—performs his perfunctory patrol in the town of San Michele al Tagliamento, but Comodin’s film is more modern pastoral than police procedural.
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The Maiden (Graham Foy, Canada)

The Maiden (Graham Foy, Canada)

we don’t see anyone die in The Maiden, a ghost story wherein the dead are less gone than misplaced (even a lifeless cat appears to survive the cosmic wash cycle). While one may occasionally take issue with the film’s determinedly elliptical approach to its central subject, Foy always remains both formally and narratively fastened to the amorphous, ugly, and insoluble reality of grief.
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Poet (Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan)

Poet (Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan)

Poet underlines the permanence of this condition by alternating between two narrative timelines: one set in the present, and the other stretching from 1846 to 1974. Consistent with Omirbaev’s abiding interest in representing his characters’ subconscious, the latter timeline plays out in Didar’s imagination.
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The Natives Are Restless: Cannes’ Diamond Jubilee and Albert Serra’s “Pacifiction”

By Mark Peranson The 75th anniversary celebration of Cannes was very much a “celebration of cinema,” a my-God-it’s-full-of-stars-studded affair intended as a show of power that, rightly, would make any other such movie-based event jealous. As witnessed by its anniversary trailer, which added (seemingly via Photoshop) the names of Cannes-branded auteurs like Federico Fellini, Xavier…
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Stars at Noon (Claire Denis, France)

After waiting 34 years to return to the Cannes Competition, Claire Denis deserved a warm welcome back. Instead, she got to be the chosen victim of the Brown Bunny Syndrome, the annually recurring compulsion among festival attendees to proclaim a film as the worst ever to compete for the Palme d’Or. Although she received some vindication from the jury, who awarded her the Grand Prix (ex aequo, but still…), the critical vitriol is baffling.
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EO (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Italy)

When Jerzy Skolimowski cancelled his press commitments at Cannes to promote his new feature, EO, he denied critics and cinephiles an explanation behind the festival’s most mystifying entry. All but engineered to prompt bemusement, the film, a bold, modern-day reimagining of Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966),is one whose mysteries are in fact part and parcel of its allure.
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El Gran Movimiento (Kiro Russo, Bolivia/France/Qatar/Switzerland)

By Jay Kuehner The tacit assumption of the “city symphony” is of a metropolis invariably harmonious, conducive to and cooperative with the machinations of both camera and director, the coalescence of an industrial apparatus. Kiro Russo’s native La Paz defies any such arrangement in El Gran Movimiento, which channels the inherent dissonance and manifest disparity…
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A Night of Knowing Nothing (Payal Kapadia, India/France)

The sleep of reason produces monsters—or so said Francisco Goya, who used the phrase as the title of an aquatint published in 1799. The words appear as if etched into the side of a desk, atop of which a male figure slumps in slumber. From behind him, the menace comes: bats, owls, and cats emerge from the darkness with petrifying gazes, crowding around the man.
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Outside Noise (Ted Fendt, Germany/South Korea/Austria)

In 1984, the American philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto articulated a theory of the end of art. His claim—entirely distinct from declarations of the death of art—was not that art would no longer continue to be produced, but rather that there was no longer any “special way works of art have to be.”
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The Tsugua Diaries (Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes, Portugal)

2020 may go down as The Year From Hell, but at least it gave us The Tsugua Diaries. Rudely interrupted by the COVID pandemic in proceeding with not one, but two productions—Savagery and Grand Tour—Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes opted to do exactly the opposite of what everyone, including undoubtedly the Portuguese Film Commission, expected: they went and made a movie, deciding, just like the NBA, to create a bubble environment (at a farmhouse compound near the Atlantic coast) and hope for the best.
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France (Bruno Dumont, France)

the seven years since P’tit Quinquin, it has become impossible to continue tagging Bruno Dumont with the longstanding clichés of Bresson criticism. Epithets like “ascetic,” “severe,” “punishing”—already limited descriptors of his first two works, La vie de Jésus (1997) and L’humanité (1999)—have only become more obviously incapable of describing Dumont’s recent films, from the carnivalesque contortions of Ma Loute (2016) to the musical extremes of his Jeanne d’Arc movies.
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Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)

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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Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

The erotic history of the car in cinema extends back nearly to the dawn of the medium: there’s Chaplin, in 1914, asserting in his first film that he’s a more enticing view than the soapbox derbies at the Kid Auto Races (no engines yet).
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Cannes 2021: L’empire contre attack

France this past July, the answer is a resounding “no.” And thankfully it was a sweltering summer, for if an event like the one Cannes mounted was to take place mostly with indoor dining, the film world would see numbers the size of Florida.
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Sundance 2021: In the Year of COVID

Now that the cinema world was a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, what movies would be done and available? Would anything premiering be worth a damn after sitting on the shelf for nearly 12 months? Were the good movies being held back in the hope that actual festivals would kick back into gear by, oh, late spring? (Hope springs eternal.) That last question was the one that really mattered, one that pestered the fall festivals of 2020 to a degree but which has now come down hard on festivals in early 2021, as the feeling (is it just a feeling?) grows that the pandemic is coming to the beginning of the end.
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Best of the Decade: Jodie Mack

The rigorous and vibrant visual rhythms of Jodie Mack’s cinema were first impressed upon me in 2009, when I premiered a short film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in a section titled “Feminist Travelogues.” I was fortunate to have been programmed alongside Jodie, who was screening a 28-minute stop-motion animation musical epic titled Yard Work Is Hard Work (2008). During the screening I sat completely dazzled as I watched an intimidating wall of meticulously cut images pulled from catalogues perform intricate designs, which, in combination with acrobatic camera movements and an original soundtrack, told an allegorical story of the disillusionment of married life. I was overcome by the film: I found that it was suffused with an aura of isolation and defeat; it was impressively impenetrable.
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Best of the Decade: Corneliu Porumboiu

In Porumboiu’s films, I see a connection to the use of “factual” elements in my own work. I often work with non-actors and have used re-enactments of what may seem like insignificant administrative protocols in a few of my films. In one particular instance, while interviewing a caseworker for a film project in Toronto, I came upon a type of document I had not seen before: a court referral for a man who was charged for refusing to appear in court after being caught stealing.
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Best of the Decade: Sergei Loznitsa

I first encountered Sergei Loznitsa’s work at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Though I was busy watching student films and shorts as president of the Cinefondation jury, I found some time to steal away and watch some other work in the Official Selection. Loznitsa’s feature My Joy was in Competition.
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Best of the Decade: Jafar Panahi

What would Harry Lime say about today? It feels like the time of the Borgias, but without the Renaissance. Oppression, trauma, and war are omnipresent—and that’s just on my list of the decade’s top films, which includes reflections on the scars left by conflicts past (Christian Petzold’s Transit, 2018; Miyazaki Hayao’s The Wind Rises, 2013; Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War, 2017), portraits of traumatized soldiers (Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men and War, 2014; Valeska Grisebach’s Western, 2017; Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, 2012), and works that bear witness to atrocities (Wang Bing’s Dead Souls, 2019; Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, 2012,and The Look of Silence, 2014).
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Collective (Alexander Nanau, Romania/Luxembourg)

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

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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The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, Canada)

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

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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Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, France)

I’ve exited the last several Bruno Dumont films wondering—only somewhat in jest—whether or not their maker had gone completely insane. Until 2014, Dumont was notorious for his straight-faced, neo-Bressonian, severely severe dramas that interrogated the intersection of spiritualism and material form.
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Parasite (Bong Joon Ho, South Korea)

Precisely a decade after his last film shot and produced in South Korea, Bong Joon Ho returns to a place that feels both familiar and unfamiliar with his Palme d’Or-crowned Parasite. Moving beyond the ambitious, overly conceptual, and uneven international co-productions Snowpiercer and Okja, Parasite feels like a movie that only could have been made after such an awkward foray into globalized filmmaking.
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Our Time (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Germany/Denmark/Sweden)

By Blake Williams  For whatever thematic heavy-handedness or structural deficiencies Carlos Reygadas’ films may consistently and inevitably fall victim to, the man sure knows how to open a movie. Information, images, forms arrive from somewhere as something undefined—stars shining from who knows how far away; a small child lost in a field as day loses…
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A Land Imagined (Yeo Siew Hua, Singapore/France/Netherlands)

By Lawrence Garcia  About 20 minutes into A Land Imagined, the nominal protagonist, Detective Lok (Peter Yu), tells his partner of how, on his travels to various locales, he realized that he’d been to all of them before—in his dreams. “The strange thing is, I never saw those places as a child. How is this?”…
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Nervous Translation (Shireen Seno, Philippines)

By Erika Balsom  Why is it that, when destined for adult audiences, narrative films about children so rarely accord their diminutive protagonists the privilege of inhabiting a world of their own? Place a child at the centre of a film, and type will frequently take hold, dictated by the law of genre: either he is…
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Shoplifters (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan)

By Mallory Andrews There was a distinct feeling in the air at this year’s Cannes that the Competition jury was under far more scrutiny than usual. The Cate Blanchett-led, female-majority group illustrated a gesture by the festival towards gender equity and a commitment to making structural changes in one of the industry’s most prestigious institutions.…
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Cannes 2018: The Debussy Cramp

By Mark Peranson Like all Cannes film festivals, the 71st began brightly for this correspondent with the highest of hopes and expectations—and by that of course I am referring to Paulo Branco’s lawsuit against the Festival de Cannes to block the closing-night screening of Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Say what you…
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Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke, China/France/Japan)

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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Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany)

By Celluloid Liberation Front Far removed from any realistic pretence and yet intimately connected to the ineluctability of the present and the obstinacy of the past, Alice Rohrwacher’s latest film unfolds in a state of fantastical rarefaction. No longer bound to the earthly naturalism of her previous two features, Rohrwacher seems to have found in…
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The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, US/Canada)

By Lawrence Garcia That Guy Maddin’s feature-length follow-up to his most monumental work to date—the staggering mise en abyme of The Forbidden Room (2013)—would be The Green Fog, a 63-minute, found-footage video reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), is entirely apropos (and a rather Maddin-esque sleight-of-hand) when one considers the fanfare with which The Green…
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Madame Hyde (Serge Bozon, France/Belgium)

By Blake Williams “It’s a cry echoed by a thousand sentinels An order relayed by a thousand heralds A beacon flaring up a thousand citadels A call to hunters lost in the great woods…” — Charles Baudelaire, “Les Phares” (1857)   “A woman of fire makes no sense.” — Madame Hyde (Isabelle Huppert)   In…
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Cocote (Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Argentina/Germany)

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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3/4 (Ilian Metev, Bulgaria/Germany)

By Jordan Cronk A modest work of considerable grace and insight, Ilian Metev’s 3/4 quietly stands as one of the most accomplished narrative debuts of the year. Genuinely compassionate, the 36-year-old Bulgarian’s directorial voice echoes forth confidently from the opening frames of this most understated of family dramas. Following the Semaine de la Critique fêted…
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The Square (Ruben Östlund, Denmark/France/Germany/Sweden)

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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An Element of Danger: Josh and Benny Safdie on Good Time

By Dan Sullivan Cinema Scope: Good Time has a propulsive feeling of forward momentum, a kind of punchiness, which was also present in flashes in Heaven Knows What (2014). Your work has always been marked by a chaotic energy—but here it’s so consistent and sustained. Was that always the idea for the film, and how…
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Cannes at 70: Bad Times, Good Time

By Mark Peranson To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Cannes aggressively, yet clumsily, inserted itself into all kinds of contemporary debates over that age-old question: What is Cinema? The first answer to this question: the cinema is Cannes. On the organizational side, this was evident in the reworking of the festival trailer that runs prior to…
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The Day After / Claire’s Camera (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea)

By Andréa Picard With its wonderful Whitman-inspired title, On the Beach at Night Alone gave us one of the year’s most indelible images, so crushing, mournful, and beautiful in its abandon: Kim Minhee’s character Younghee lying forlorn in the sand on a cold beach. The solemn distress and physical destitution occasioned by Liebeskummer was palpable…
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At the Frontier: Valeska Grisebach on Western

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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Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc (Bruno Dumont, France)

By Jordan Cronk Pitched somewhere between Straub-Huillet and Headbangers Ball, Monty Python and Messiaen, Bruno Dumont’s new feature Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc marks an unexpected and near-perfect synthesis of the French iconoclast’s many disparate interests and obsessions. Although by now it’s convenient to read Dumont’s robust corpus through the categorical extremes of his early,…
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24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)

By Blake Williams The first segment of Abbas Kiarostami’s final, posthumously completed video piece, 24 Frames, is a simple rendering of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting The Hunters in the Snow. Staring, for a Cageian four-and-a-half minutes, at the familiar wintery scene—its composition exemplary of the Dutch master’s decentred, multitiered narrative designs—we witness Kiarostami’s…
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Rat Film (Theo Anthony, US)

By Jordan Cronk Searching society’s margins for cultural lifeblood is a timeworn trait of nonfiction cinema. With Rat Film, director Theo Anthony goes one step further, looking to the gutters of Baltimore, Maryland, for evidence of the city’s muted pulse. Aptly premiering in Locarno’s Signs of Life program, Anthony’s debut feature takes as its nominal…
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Kékszakállú (Gastón Solnicki, Argentina)

By José Teodoro From the start of Gastón Solnicki’s Kékszakállú it seems like a boy’s boy’s boy’s world. In the opening moments three boys bound off a high diving board, followed by a girl whose hesitation is so prolonged the scene ends before we learn whether she follows suit or opts for retreat. We see…
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Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, Canada)

By Adam Nayman How in the world did Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves) win the Best Canadian Feature prize this year at TIFF? I’m wondering this not because I think the film is unworthy, or necessarily…
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Austerlitz (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany)

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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La mort de Louis XIV (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal)

By Blake Williams With birds singing above, a 71-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud sits dressed as the 76-year-old Sun King, pale and powdered under his big wig, nobly stationed amid a twilit rose garden in his wheelchair, finally bidding to his two eager valets: “Onward.” Thus begins Albert Serra’s fifth and most classically beautiful feature, La mort…
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Termite Art: Kleber Mendonça Filho on Aquarius

By Robert Koehler The Year of Trump now has its movie. In Kleber Mendonça Filho’s second feature Aquarius, a property developer tries to force the last resident to move out of an old but hardly decrepit apartment building on a prime beachside lot. The tenant is Clara (Sonia Braga), a respected 65-year-old music critic and…
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Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu, Romania/France/Bosnia and Herzegovnia/Croatia/Republic of Macedonia)

By Jordan Cronk At the dawn of the decade, a brief break appeared in the first wave of New Romanian Cinema. Though of similar historic and cinematic concern, a number of the films produced during this period—including Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game (2013), Cristi Puiu’s Three Interpretation Exercises (2012), and The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu…
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A Battle of Humour: Maren Ade on Toni Erdmann

By Mark Peranson Cinema Scope: Everyone Else premiered in Berlin in 2009, and now seven years later your third film is finally receiving its debut in Cannes. What took so long? Maren Ade: Directly after Everyone Else, I started working as a producer. I have a company called Komplitzen Film with Janine Jackowski and Jonas…
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Cannes 2016: Gentlemen, We’ll Do Better Next Time

By Mark Peranson “Messieurs, nous ferons mieux la prochaine fois.”—Fagon, Le mort de Louis XIV The already established conventional wisdom is that 2016 saw a strong Cannes Competition ruined by a set of awful awards from a dunderheaded jury of circus clowns led by third-time’s-a-charm George Miller—and while I certainly agree with the latter contention,…
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Mimosas (Oliver Laxe, Spain/Morocco/Qatar/France)

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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Sundance 2016: Good Grief!

By Blake Williams Two heavily pulled quotes from Sundance 2016’s opening press conference, both spilled from the mouth of the festival’s founder and director Robert Redford—“I’m not into the Oscars,” and later, when asked what he was most looking forward to at this year’s edition, “The wrap party”—were endearingly and unexpectedly clear-eyed enough (considering the…
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A Cinema of the Margins: The Curious Case of Claudio Caligari

By Ruben Demasure At this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the three directors who received tributes was mostly ignored. Adachi Masao and Pere Portabella were in the spotlight with much-anticipated premieres, while the first international retrospective of Claudio Caligari’s work remained in the shadows—an appropriate fate, as the margin was both Caligari’s subject…
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Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, Japan)

By Michael Sicinski It’s a strange film that calls to mind both Out 1 (1971) and Sex and the City. But Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Happy Hour is defined by that odd tug between spacious, undirected improvisation on the one hand, and an incident-driven examination of the ups and downs of four women friends on the other.…
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Kaili Blues (Bi Gan, China)

By Shelly Kraicer The protagonist of Kaili Blues, Chen Sheng, is a small-town medical practitioner and ex-con. He bought his practice in Kaili, in southwestern China’s Guizhou province, with a small inheritance after his mother died while he was in jail. He’s not exactly a doctor; he’s more of a dreamer, a poet, and a…
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Blood of My Blood (Marco Bellocchio, Italy)

By Blake Williams Back in 2006, Marco Bellocchio sent the Rome Film Festival a project called Sorelle, a curious 68-minute whatsit he shot over a six-year period with a MiniDV camcorder. He made it in collaboration with several film-school students in Bobbio (Bellocchio’s hometown), but, with a cast that includes his son (Pier Giorgio), daughter…
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Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece)

By Samuel La France It’s an irony surely not lost on Athina Rachel Tsangari that her Chevalier won the “Best Film” prize at the London Film Festival, considering that its story is built upon an obsessive quest to attain an even greater superlative. But even though the film finds six mostly well-off, middle-aged-and-up males pursuing…
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The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan)

By Jordan Cronk The sounds of silence reverberate loudest in The Assassin, Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien’s first feature in eight years. The film’s opening image, of a donkey quietly grazing in a field, immediately suggests an acute awareness of natural ambience. This impression manifests itself as the most frequently felt resonance in a work largely…
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Son of Saul (László Nemes, Hungary)

By Richard Porton Dennis Lim’s Artforum dispatch from Cannes pauses briefly to ponder the merits of László Nemes’ Son of Saul and concludes that, either despite or because of Nemes’ “showboating” tendencies, it’s a film that will “spawn a thousand think pieces.” If the ruminations that follow will, I’m afraid, constitute one of the first…
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Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK/France/Germany/Malaysia/Thailand)

By Kong Rithdee Midway into Cemetery of Splendour, Jenjira Pongpas visits the Shrine of the Two Goddesses with her American husband to make offerings: she gives the goddesses a cheetah figurine for blessings on her bad leg, a gibbon for her strong limbs, and a tiger for the strength of her new son, Itt, one…
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Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino, Canada)

By Jason Anderson Almost 90 per cent of Canada is uninhabitable. Of those who live in the rest, the overwhelming majority live within 500 miles of the US border. So maybe it’s not so surprising that the nation’s filmmakers—themselves largely clustered in the same few square miles of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal—regard the hinterlands with…
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Cannes 2015:  My God, It’s Full of Stars!

By Mark Peranson Well, at least the weather was good. Every year another leak threatens to spring in the dam, but the Festival de Cannes is not going to die a death of a thousand, or even a million, cracks. I started to vomit up the Kool-Aid at least a decade ago, and harbour no…
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Italians Abroad: Youth, Mia Madre, Tale of Tales, The Other Side

By Celluloid Liberation Front “To support Italian cinema is a crime against humanity.”—Franco Maresco Even more provincial and mediocre than the three Italian films in the Cannes Competition was the reaction of the mainstream media in Italy when they woke up to what they perceived and reported to be an unforgivable affront. None of their…
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Letters to Max (Eric Baudelaire, France)

By Leo Goldsmith “I am writing you this letter from a distant land,” begins Chris Marker’s epistolary essay film-cum-travelogue Letter from Siberia (1957), establishing—from this neo-genre’s very first moments—those elements of distance and dialogue that will come to define the “letter film”: a direct address from an almost alien world, bridging gaps and perspectives through…
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Episode of the Sea (Van Brummelen & De Haan and the inhabitants of Urk, Netherlands)

By Daniel Kasman One of the most original films at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Hann’s ethnographic documentary Episode of the Sea reveals, if not declares, its antecedents immediately. This was not unexpected, since the filmmakers’ previous short in Wavelengths, and one of the best films of 2012, View…
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The Iron Ministry (J.P. Sniadecki, US/China)

By Jordan Cronk Issues of transit, dispersion, and the commercial and cultural tides precipitating each successive wave of Chinese migration have preoccupied filmmakers for decades. But as an influx of nonfiction work concerned with such sociological conditions continues to permeate international cinema, it’s clear that the relationship between artistic and industrial progression is anything but…
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Heaven Knows What (Josh & Benny Safdie, US)

By Sean Rogers The opening sequence of Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1948) depicts the warmly lit faces of soon-to-be lovers Bowie (Farley Granger) and Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell) hovering close to one another, looking to the other for comfort or reciprocation or heaven knows what, while music burbles and swells on the soundtrack. As…
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Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, France/US)

By Andrew Tracy “Ingmar Bergman once said that he makes a film with full consciousness that it will be shown on a screen that showed a Western the week before and will show a romance the week following, and that he likes this situation,” wrote the late Stanley Kauffmann in 1981, apropos of Spielberg’s nostalgia-plundering…
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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson, Sweden)

By Jason Anderson Filmmakers have a variety of reasons for enlisting non-professionals for their casts, but often what they seek is a rude, unvarnished vitality that actors can only simulate. Roy Andersson, however, works hard to dull any such spark from his chosen performers. First among his favoured tactics is the makeup that leaves their…
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Cannes 2014: Who Let the Dogs Out? 

...another Cannes film festival whose lineup reads like it could have been cobbled together by a computer programmed with Frémaux DNA...
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Cannes 2014 | Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

By Blake Williams. The first on-screen text in Toutes les histoires (1988), the first chapter of Histoire(s) du cinéma, reads (as translated), “May each eye negotiate for itself.” Presented while Godard pronounces another maxim (“Don’t show every side of things; allow yourself a margin for the indefinite”), this text effectively prepares us for the spectatorial…
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Cannes 2014 | Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Mexico/Denmark/France/Germany/USA/Brazil)

By Quintín After the completion of his “Lonely Men Trilogy” of La libertad (2001), Los muertos (2004), and Liverpool (2008), people started to say that Lisandro Alonso should do something different. Jauja answers that request: it’s a film with an international star (Viggo Mortensen), features characters who speak in full sentences, and boasts a script…
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Cannes 2014 | Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Germany/France)

By Jordan Cronk Seemingly preordained, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s overdue Palme d’Or win provided a nonetheless satisfying conclusion to a rather undramatic Cannes film festival—and, further, to a closing awards ceremony of otherwise empty gestures and mostly uninspired selections. A two-time recipient of the Grand Prix for Distant (2002) and Once Upon a Time in…
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Cannes 2014 | The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy/Switzerland/Germany)

By Tom Charity For those “in the know,” the Grand Jury Prize accorded to Alice Rohrwacher’s second film was the one surprise on a night where Jane Campion’s jury otherwise played things safe and sure, dispensing awards with dutiful nods to all sides. (Libération described it as the one prize with the flavour of a…
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Cannes 2014 | Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonello, France)

By Boris Nelepo “Names, no doubt, are whimsical draughtsmen, giving us of people as well as of places sketches so unlike the reality that we often experience a kind of stupour when we have before our eyes in place of the imagined, the visible world (which, for that matter, is not the real world, our…
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Festivals | Rotterdam: M for Mellow

By Calum Marsh Dissonance was in the air in the Rotterdam. There persists, of course, a contradiction at the heart of every international film festival: thousands are asked to converge together in a city so that they may spend their time alone in the dark, which is a bit like wasting a tropical vacation watching…
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Festivals | Berlin: Black Coal, Thin Ice

By Shelly Kraicer There are aspects of present-day Chinese reality so bizarre that only surrealist-tinged genre films can come close to capturing them. In the press kit for the brilliant noir-mystery-arthouse mash-up Black Coal, Thin Ice, which won the Golden Bear in Berlin, director Diao Yinan observes, “There’s a lot going on in China these…
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Festivals | Berlin: The Forma of Things to Come

By Robert Koehler Amongst the certainties of every large festival, three are more certain than the others. One, every large festival shows many bad movies. Second, no two people (unless they’re attached at the hip) see remotely similar lineups of movies and can’t see enough of them to get the truly big picture on the…
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Redemption (Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Italy)

By Max Nelson Miguel Gomes is in a tricky position: three features into his filmmaking career, he’s already developed a remarkably consistent and well-rounded personal style, stretched it to the breaking point, and then whittled it back down. Tabu, Gomes’ 2012 breakout, felt like a triumphant fusion of elements from his previous two features, borrowing…
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Mouton (Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone, France)

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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La jalousie (Philippe Garrel, France)

By Blake Williams At one point in Philippe Garrel’s La jalousie, eight-year-old Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) asks Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), the new girlfriend of her father Louis, whom she thinks her father loves more. Claudia’s answer: “His father.” In one sense, of course, this reply is an evasion of the question Charlotte was actually asking—i.e., “Does…
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Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland/Denmark)

By Jerry White Ida marks Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s first feature film in Polish—the director immigrated to the UK with his parents in the ’70s, and subsequently built his career there—but just what kind of Polish film it is proves a rather tricky question. There are, to be sure, several national-cinema standbys on order: it’s…
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Hard to Be a God (Aleksei German, Russia)

By Olaf Möller Now it’s been delivered, the last work of the late Aleksei German. On Wednesday, November 13th, 10:30 a.m., during the Festival internazionale del film di Roma, his 14-years-in-the-making Hard to Be a God (Trudno byt’ bogom)—for some time called History of the Arkanar Massacre (Istorija Arkanarskoj rezni)—got its first public screening. It…
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Cannes 2013 | Histoire(s) de profondeur: 3x3D

By Blake Williams First, bless Charles Tesson for having the balls to acknowledge that experimental cinema exists, no matter that its manifestations at Cannes are still ghettoized to a damp auditorium in the gaudy Miramar hotel, located somewhere around the halfway point to Antibes. The fact that Tesson has spent his two years as artistic…
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Cannes 2013 | Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, Philippines)

By Boris Nelepo Nothing is true. Morals are dead. There are no more laws. The end of history is nigh. So says Fabian (Sid Lucero), a law-school dropout who sees no point in legislation in a world devoid of reason. Permanently in debt, he whiles away the hours gabbing and griping about the humiliation his…
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Cannes 2013 | Genocide Party Day: Death March, The Missing Picture, The Last of the Unjust

By Christoph Huber Daily reporters at film festivals dread few demands from otherwise uninterested editors as much as “the festival’s overarching theme”: along with weather reports, these requests crop up with dispiriting regularity. As if a limited selection of movies (circumscribed by all kinds of necessities and strategic manoeuvers, at times more than artistic merit,…
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Cannes 2013 | Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark)

By Kong Rithdee Handcuffed to Ryan Gosling in the nightmare that is my home city, let me walk you through the checklist. Elephant: Yes.  Eastern mysticism: Yes. Muay Thai: Yes. Monks or monk-like figures: Yes. Nocturnal Bangkok in the claws of neon light, in a lesser-Lynch lurid trance: Yes. Flummoxed foreigners lost in a labyrinth:…
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Cannes 2013 | A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, China)

By Robert Koehler Jia Zhangke is not an artist who normally trucks in anger. In an era when film criticism and programming have been steadily shifting away from a focus on nationalist tendencies, led by filmmakers who’ve become globalized along with the rest of us, Jia has maintained a steady bead on his native Mainland…
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Cannes 2013 | Lovers in a Dangerous Time: La vie d’Adèle—chapitre 1 & 2, Inside Llewyn Davis, L’inconnu du lac

By Mark Peranson Yeah, you’re thinking to yourself, where does our correspondent go now? Will he make an at-long-last about-face and christen the S.S. Frémaux with a bottle of Dom Perignon, to celebrate, after 13 years of puddling about in the shallow waters off the Côte d’Azur, its maiden voyage into the high seas of…
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The Cheshire Cat Quinzaine

By Robert Koehler It was either a sign of the measure of the complete revulsion felt by those who had worked with previous Quinzaine des Réalisateurs director Frédéric Boyer, or an expression of relief that the 44th edition was coming to a conclusion (or both), that new director Eduoard Waintrop was thanked from the Theatre…
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Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico)

By Tom Charity Hand it to Cannes: where else do art films get booed? On the rest of the planet, your typically well-adjusted art-house aficionado understands to appreciate whatever challenges the filmmaker has set…or the viewer walks out. To be sure, there are walkouts here too, but a good many hardier souls take it upon…
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Holy Motors (Leos Carax, France)

By Dennis Lim The media gauntlet is so much a part of the Cannes infrastructure that Leos Carax’s decision to withdraw from it was both bold and telling. Despite having one of the most talked-about films at this year’s festival with Holy Motors, Carax granted no interviews, and his public pronouncements were confined to a…
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Cannes 2012: The Forecast Calls for Pain

By Mark Peranson This year’s 65th anniversary Festival de Cannes provided the only logical answer to one of the persistent questions in any veteran journalist’s go-to kit: How can Cannes get any worse? Festival-wise, we have a rough idea of what we’re in for under the decade-long reign of Thierry Frémaux: a parade of (mainly)…
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Amour (Michael Haneke, France/Austria)

By Christoph Huber Besting Bille August by a year, it has taken Austrian director Michael Haneke only four to join what we cynical film critics like to call the Emir club: the allegedly prestigious circle of two-time Palme d’Or winners, hitherto occupied only by Kusturica (1985, 1995), August (1988, 1992), and the Dardennes (1999, 2005).…
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Papirosen (Gastón Solnicki, Argentina)

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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Slow Action / Sack Barrow / Two Years at Sea

By Robert Koehler When we first found fire, we had our first movie. Once the flames began to curl around the wood, building up heat and its own thermal momentum, the fire took hold, and began to capture the imagination of those staring into the constantly flickering light, with stories and images emerging. For millennia,…
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