Spotlight

The Tsugua Diaries (Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes, Portugal)

By Robert Koehler / September 20, 2021

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)

By Lawrence Garcia / September 20, 2021

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)

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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Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

By Phil Coldiron / September 20, 2021

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

By Mark Peranson / September 20, 2021

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

By Robert Koehler / March 25, 2021

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

By Sofia Bohdanowicz / March 20, 2020

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

By Antoine Bourges / March 20, 2020

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

By Atom Egoyan / March 20, 2020

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

By Hugh Gibson / March 20, 2020

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 / 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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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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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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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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Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, France)

By Blake Williams / June 27, 2019

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)

By Adam Cook / June 24, 2019

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 / January 2, 2019

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 / January 2, 2019

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 / December 21, 2018

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 / July 2, 2018

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 / July 2, 2018

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

By Celluloid Liberation Front / July 2, 2018

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 / December 19, 2017

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 / December 19, 2017

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 / 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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3/4 (Ilian Metev, Bulgaria/Germany)

By Jordan Cronk / December 19, 2017

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

By Dan Sullivan / June 23, 2017

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 / June 23, 2017

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 Andrea Picard / June 22, 2017

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

By Jordan Cronk / June 22, 2017

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 / June 22, 2017

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 / December 19, 2016

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 Jose Teodoro / December 19, 2016

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 / December 19, 2016

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

By Blake Williams / June 27, 2016

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 / June 27, 2016

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 / June 27, 2016

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 / June 27, 2016

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 / June 27, 2016

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 / 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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Sundance 2016: Good Grief!

By Blake Williams / March 21, 2016

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 / March 21, 2016

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 / December 21, 2015

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 / December 21, 2015

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 / December 21, 2015

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 / December 21, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / June 23, 2015

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 / December 18, 2014

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 / December 18, 2014

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 / December 18, 2014

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 / December 18, 2014

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 / December 18, 2014

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 / December 18, 2014

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? 

By Mark Peranson / June 25, 2014

…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 / June 25, 2014

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 Quintin / June 25, 2014

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 / June 25, 2014

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 / June 25, 2014

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 / June 25, 2014

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 / March 20, 2014

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 / March 20, 2014

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 / March 20, 2014

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 / December 13, 2013

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 / 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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La jalousie (Philippe Garrel, France)

By Blake Williams / December 13, 2013

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 / December 13, 2013

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 Moller / December 13, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2013

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 / June 24, 2012

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 / June 24, 2012

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 / June 24, 2012

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 / June 24, 2012

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 / June 20, 2012

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 / 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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Slow Action / Sack Barrow / Two Years at Sea

By Robert Koehler / December 20, 2011

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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La folie Almayer (Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France)

By Eva-Lynn Jagoe / December 20, 2011

By Eva-Lynn Jagoe At the end of Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly, the title character, a benighted Dutch trader at a failed Malaysian outpost, is deserted by his beloved half-caste daughter Nina and determines to forget her before he dies. “He had a fixed idea that if he should not forget before he died he would…

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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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It’s the Earth Not the Moon (Gonçalo Tocha, Portugal)

By Robert Koehler / September 28, 2011

By Robert Koehler The lure of islands, their fundamental thereness, their separation from, and fragile connections to, the rest of civilization, their existence as an ideal metonym for individual identity but also for the world as a whole—all these, and more, make islands powerful places for filmmakers to land upon. When they do, they’re hopefully…

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Policeman (Nadav Lapid, Israel)

By Olivier Pere / September 28, 2011

By Olivier Père It’s been a long time since a first feature has displayed such masterly direction as Nadav Lapid’s Policeman (Hashoter), such a sense of connection to the films of Godard, Bresson, Fassbinder, Kubrick, and Haneke, and giving those more perceptive viewers such a conviction of witnessing the arrival of an outstanding filmmaker while…

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Crazy Horse (Frederick Wiseman, France/US)

By Mark Peranson / September 28, 2011

By Mark Peranson Over the last decade, I’ve realized that Frederick Wiseman devotees are incapable of critical thinking when it comes to their master. They fail to see (or refuse to acknowledge) that in composing his career-long grand narrative analysis, Wiseman sometimes loses sight of the particularities of the institution under observation; at times, he’s…

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A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, Canada/Germany)

By Richard Porton / September 28, 2011

By Richard Porton The title of Russell Jacoby’s 1983 polemic, The Repression of Psychoanalysis, suggests that the radical implications of the Freudian tradition have become muddled in an era where nothing seems more safely middle-class than a session on the couch with the shrink of one’s choice. In evoking a juncture at the turn of…

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Cannes 2011 | Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Miike Takashi, Japan) and Guilty of Romance (Sono Sion, Japan)

By Christoph Huber / June 28, 2011

By Christoph Huber Programmed in typical Cannes fashion as almost overlapping screenings, the double feature consisting of the press show of Miike Takashi’s competition entry Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and the sole Quinzaine “special screening” of Sono Sion’s Guilty of Romance made for an instructive lesson in festival reception. On the most superficial level,…

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Cannes 2011 | Melancholia (Lars von Trier, Denmark)

By Richard Porton / June 28, 2011

By Richard Porton “The purpose of provocations is to get people to think,” declared Lars von Trier in Stig Björkman’s documentary Tranceformer—A Portrait of Lars von Trier (1997). By those standards, the provocation von Trier masterminded at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which, in reference to the concomitant Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair that monopolized the television…

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Cannes 2011 | This Is Not a Film Festival

By Mark Peranson / June 28, 2011

By Mark Peranson Cannes, France, Planet Melancholia—“We have a saying in Iran,” said Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, referring to the impetus for his not-a-film made with banned director Jafar Panahi, “that when hairdressers get bored they cut each others’ hair. That is what we were doing: filming one another.” My friends, yet again you are about to…

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Spotlight | Paraboles (Emmanuelle Demoris, France)

By Gabe Klinger / December 17, 2010

By Gabe Klinger In a crowded, tiny room lined with packaged goods, a woman prepares a meal. The TV is on. Sitting below a window is a man in a plastic garden chair. He watches an Egyptian comedy show intently. The woman serves the food. An ellipsis. She pours tea. The steam wafts through the…

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Spotlight | In the Shadows (Thomas Arslan, Germany)

By Christoph Huber / December 17, 2010

By Christoph Huber “Soccer has to be generous with the viewer.” Thomas Arslan once quoted César Luis Menotti’s “harsh criticism of boring efficiency-football,” adding, “Actually also a fine dictum for filmmaking.” Arslan’s own work is a perfect example of that spirit, which may be one of the reasons he’s been somewhat neglected, especially internationally, even…

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Spotlight | El Sicario Room 164 (Gianfranco Rosi, France/US)

By Mark Peranson / December 17, 2010

By Mark Peranson The contemporary rebirth of the documentary is surely a reaction to the failure of the media to engage in proper investigative journalism (WikiLeaks aside). But most of these newly celebrated works—far too obsessed with content over form—fail to distinguish themselves aesthetically from the television they seek to one-up. The point at which…

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Spotlight | Essential Killing (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Norway/Ireland/Hungary)

By Andrew Tracy / December 17, 2010

By Andrew Tracy One of the more interesting of the teapot tempests that erupted at Toronto this year was the slightly botched press screening of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing, assigned to a noticeably low-capacity theatre that left several clamouring journalists shut out. What’s interesting is not the habitual logistical miscalculations familiar to any festival, but…

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Spotlight | The Erotic Man

By Michael Sicinski / December 17, 2010

Spotlight | The Erotic Man (Jørgen Leth, Denmark) & Dialogues (Owen Land, US) By Michael Sicinski This fall in Toronto, 73-year-old Danish cultural institution Jørgen Leth world-premiered The Erotic Man, a nubile skinscape of the developing world based on his controversial 2005 autobiography, The Imperfect Man. (That title, of course, is meant to simultaneously conjure…

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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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Spotlight | Foreign Parts (Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki, US)

By Robert Koehler / September 21, 2010

By Robert Koehler The street—if the patch of 39th Avenue in the Willets Point section of New York’s Queens borough can be termed a street at all—looks stomped on by some giant, angry beast. When the rains come, the street, lined with junkyards, auto-repair shops, auto-body shops, and auto-parts shops turns into a flood zone,…

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Spotlight | Robinson in Ruins (Patrick Keiller, UK)

By Michael Sicinski / September 21, 2010

By Michael Sicinski Robinson in Ruins, the latest essay film/experimental landscape study/cinematic state-of-the-union address from the great British avant-gardist Patrick Keiller, is many things. It’s the conclusion to a trilogy that even most hardcore cinephiles may not have known was in progress. It’s the articulation of a failed politics of “dwelling” and landscape use in…

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Spotlight | Oki’s Movie (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

By Andrew Tracy / September 21, 2010

By Andrew Tracy Much of the best cinema today almost seems discontent with the idea of being only cinema—or “cinema” in the sense of an immersive narrative world contained within the durational boundaries of a single feature film. The distrust of classical narrative evidenced by many of the best contemporary filmmakers corresponds with their efforts…

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Spotlight | Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, US)

By Scott Foundas / September 21, 2010

By Scott Foundas We’re all just playing our parts now. This was written long before we got here. —dialogue from Meek’s Cutoff “A road movie without the road” reads, in part, the tagline to Kelly Reichardt’s debut feature, River of Grass (1994), a screwball neo-Breathless about a bored housewife and a hapless momma’s boy on…

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Spotlight | Poetry (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)

By Robert Koehler / June 18, 2010

By Robert Koehler Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry asks no less remarkable a question than this: Can the onset of a person’s loss of language also be the beginning of a new state of consciousness? If poetry can be termed as the elimination of all but the most essential words to convey the most perceptive thoughts, then…

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Spotlight | Les amours imaginaires (Xavier Dolan, Canada)

By Jason Anderson / June 18, 2010

By Jason Anderson Though Justin Bieber beats out all other contenders when it comes to starting riots at shopping malls, Canada has developed a surprising new forte for producing well-coiffed young media sensations who seem to travel everywhere accompanied by adoring crowds. Alas, the Canadian reporters who eagerly disseminated the news of the lusty response…

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Spotlight | Ghost in the Machine: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Letter to Cinema

By Mark Peranson / June 18, 2010

By Mark Peranson and Kong Rithdee CINEMA SCOPE: Let’s begin by contextualizing Uncle Boonmee within the multi-platform Primitive project. The project seemed to be moving you in a more explicitly political direction. Even if in Uncle Boonmee, one can—and I do—argue that the politics is always there in the background, that the communists are always…

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Spotlight | Des hommes et des dieux (Xavier Beauvois, France)

By Christoph Huber / June 18, 2010

By Christoph Huber Of the handful of promising filmmakers to emerge from France in the ‘90s, not many have withstood the test of time. While quite a few contenders seemed to disappear from view during the last decade, the star of Xavier Beauvois, who debuted in 1991 with the impressive semiautobiographical family drama Nord, has…

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Spotlight | Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France)

By Andrea Picard / June 18, 2010

By Andréa Picard “The triumph of the demagogies is fleeting. Ruins are eternal.” —Charles Péguy “What appears before us is an impossible story; we are confronting a sort of zero.”—Film Socialisme “It takes strength and courage in order to think.”—Film Socialisme LIBÉRER FÉDÉRER Those words, in big, blocky white letters, lingered with me three weeks…

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Spotlight | Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, France/Italy)

By Richard Porton / June 18, 2010

By Richard Porton The lukewarm critical reception accorded Abbas Kiarostami’s Cannes Competition entry, Certified Copy, can be attributed to several factors. Some critics appeared taken aback by Kiarostami’s recasting of some of the themes featured in sober, melancholy films such as Close-up (1990) and The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) in what doubtless appeared to…

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Spotlight | Cannes 2010: The Year We Made Contact

By Mark Peranson / June 18, 2010

By Mark Peranson As violent 30–foot waves were crashing along the shores of Nice and Cannes, destroying fancy beach-side restaurants and flooding the streets, the Icelandic volcano continued to spew airplane-averting ash into the lower atmosphere, wind gusts blowing the cloud closer and closer towards southwestern Europe; this oddsmaker listed Eyjafjallajokull as the early favourite…

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Spotlight | Ruhr (James Benning, Germany)

By Mark Peranson / December 16, 2009

James Benning is not quite Stravinsky, and his first high-definition video (and first film shot outside the US) is not exactly the Rite of Spring, but a trip to the heart of the Ruhr Valley for the premiere of Ruhr at the Duisberg Film Week carried a certain nervous anticipation. After years of shooting on…

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Spotlight | Petropolis: Aerial Perpectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (Peter Mettler, Canada)

By Jerry White / December 16, 2009

The French première of Peter Mettler’s new work Petropolis at the scrappy Festival OFNI in Poitiers (this year devoted to Canada) took place at a planetarium, in what the organisers called “un lieu scientifique.” How right they were. Shot on HD video, Petropolis is comprised entirely of aerial images of the landscape surrounding and comprising…

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Spotlight | Between Two Worlds (Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka/France)

By Robert Koehler / December 16, 2009

When video games and the American war machine met in an unholy alliance of cultural Armageddon called Desert Storm, the separation between war-making, war games, and war movies eroded and finally dissolved, with its black apotheosis on 9/11, the day New York, in that sickening phrase, felt like a movie. By that point, the notion…

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Spotlight | La Pivellina (Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, Austria/Italy)

By Jon Davies / December 16, 2009

La Pivellina, which translates as “the little one,” is set against the grey and grubby milieu of San Basilio on the outskirts of Rome—in the winter, no less. But while this cold, garbage-strewn setting would typically engender a harsh story of angst, brutality, or exploitation, co-directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel have instead captured a…

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Spotlight | Lebanon (Samuel Maoz, Israel)

By Andrew Tracy / December 16, 2009

Whatever else it might be, the high-concept festival film is a wonderful labour-saving device for the harried critic, its provocatively sellable 25-words-or-less concept handily reducing criticism to bare surface description plus an appropriate adjective. “Gripping” was the mot en vogue for the appreciative critical ranks filing out of my screening of Lebanon, which took the…

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Spotlight | The Unbroken Path: Ben Russell’s Let Each One Go Where He May

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2009

By Michael Sicinski Ben Russell’s newest film, Let Each One Go Where He May, is the culmination not only of certain aims and tendencies within the filmmaker’s own impressive body of work. It actually represents the culmination of a particular tendency—or energy—that has been at work for a long time within experimental cinema, but has…

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Spotlight | Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch

By Scott Foundas / September 12, 2009

By Scott Foundas Like The Sound of Music without the music, Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch opens in a present-day convent, where the eponymous young novitiate—a girl of about 20—has run afoul of the mothers superior. She confuses abstinence with martyrdom, they say, as evidenced by her acts of starvation and self-mortification. And she has taken the…

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Spotlight | Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers

By Dennis Lim / September 12, 2009

By Dennis Lim It is perhaps redundant to call Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers a provocation. For starters, the title is meant literally. Korine’s fourth feature—his second after emerging from the widely documented downward spiral that nearly ended his career, and his first to be shot in his hometown of Nashville since his 1997 debut, Gummo—chronicles…

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Spotlight | Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos, Greece)

By Andrew Tracy / September 8, 2009

By Andrew Tracy For filmmakers as for comedians, dying is easy—creating is hard. Those with the good sense to opt for a tragically early departure can gain much from the transaction. Not only does their work acquire a coherent narrative line and a tangible set of clichés for their immortalizers to endlessly dissect (think Pasolini,…

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Spotlight | Sundance: Fall From Grace

By Scott Foundas / September 4, 2009

By Scott Foundas There may have been no hotter ticket at this year’s Sundance Film Festival than the press screening of Deborah Kampmeier’s Hounddog. It was the kind of cavalcade of critics and “industry reporters” behaving badly—pushing, shoving, and clawing their way into an undersized hotel screening room while yelling death threats at harried publicists—which…

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Spotlight | From Sundance to Berlin: More Films About Buildings and Fools

By Mark Peranson / September 4, 2009

By Mark Peranson The overwhelming sensation resulting from a jaunt through the major premiere-heavy festivals of winter 2007 is that originality is a precious commodity. One could pick a through-line of Sundance and Berlin films that dealt with, say, crazy Christians (a trend easily readable as a liberal reaction to the perception of the current…

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Spotlight | Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, US)

By Jerry White / September 1, 2009

By Jerry White Whoever thought that Gilles Deleuze and the Discovery Channel would come together to tell us something about the state of modern cinema? And yet here we are, presented with Werner Herzog’s newest film, the Discovery Channel-produced Encounters at the End of the World on our screens (well, some of our screens), and…

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Spotlight | Death in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, The Philippines)

By Robert Koehler / September 1, 2009

By Robert Koehler Time, it’s on Lav Diaz’s side. “Malay time,” he said after the Toronto screening of his nine-hour-and-five-minute Death in the Land of Encantos. “I’m a Malay as much—maybe more—than I am a Filipino. We Malays are governed more by space and nature than conventional time.” What underlies the shattering and disturbing reality…

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Spotlight | Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani, US)

By Jason Anderson / September 1, 2009

By Jason Anderson Besides offering travel opportunities for the lazy, agoraphobic and/or chronically under-funded, cinema confirms our ideas about what the world’s supposed to look like. As soon as a site appears on screen, we place it somewhere in our mental geography, depending on whether we read it as familiar or novel, developed or developing,…

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Spotlight | The Axe in the Attic (Ed Pincus and Lucia Small, US)

By Livia Bloom / September 1, 2009

By Livia Bloom A living-room sofa balanced on the roof of a truck; a school bus stopped by a massive barge; a pair of ranch-style homes entwined. Startling physical juxtapositions abound in The Axe in the Attic, the new documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by Ed Pincus and Lucia Small, contributing to what…

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Spotlight | Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)

By Christoph Huber / September 1, 2009

By Christoph Huber Right from the buzzing, symptomatically absurd opening shots of Mafiosi getting tans in the confines of a solarium, Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah grabs you with a strong sense of visual expressiveness and never ceases to let go: the film is nothing short of a pile-up of images powerful in both concrete and metaphorical…

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Spotlight | Entre les murs (Laurent Cantet, France)

By Richard Porton / September 1, 2009

By Richard Porton Schoolroom films appeal to both mainstream and radical filmmakers because the setting often functions as a laboratory for—to use the current buzzword—change. Whether in fiercely independent films such as Jean Vigo’s  Zéro de conduite (1933) or Hollywood boilerplate on the order of Blackboard Jungle (1955), or even Dangerous Minds (1995), classrooms invariably…

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Spotlight | El cant dels ocells (Albert Serra, Spain/France)

By Robert Koehler / September 1, 2009

By Robert Koehler When discussing Honor de cavalleria (2006) in Cinema Scope 29, Albert Serra offered an argument that “a film without errors is a bad one.” And then, rather ominously, he added a general point with the specific example of Aki Kaurismaki: “And every director gets tamed…” This is not completely true; directors as…

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Spotlight | When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves, US)

By Michael Sicinski / August 29, 2009

By Michael Sicinski One of the principal experiences of viewing When It Was Blue has to do with its fleeting character, the multi-perspective, double-projector film-performance as a particular kind of “rush” that will not necessarily slow down for contemplation. What’s more, there is an anxiety for the viewer that this or that image missed will…

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Spotlight | Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, Chile)

By Quintin / August 29, 2009

By Quintin Tony Manero is a strong film. By “strong” I don’t mean a good film, not even a solid film. It’s strong in the sense that it could not pass unnoticed. In the first place, this is because it comes from a rather unnoticed country in terms of film production—that being Chile. There is…

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Spotlight | Revanche (Götz Spielmann, Austria)

By Robert Koehler / August 29, 2009

By Robert Koehler “Tales from the Vienna Streets” might be the umbrella title for the films of Götz Spielmann, who has crept his way, slowly, surely, to the centre ring of Austrian cinema through two decades. And quietly. In North America, at least, Spielmann is an obscure figure, while in Europe he’s been part of…

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Spotlight | Cannes 2009: Stupid, Adjective

By Mark Peranson / August 28, 2009

By Mark Peranson To begin with cliché: At the same time, Cannes is a physical and a mental place—a dinky fishing village that for two weeks turns into, depending on one’s perspective, if not the day, a manifestation of Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. In 2009, what is regularly a demoralizing fortnight of the year’s so-called…

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Spotlight | Raya Martin

By Alexis Tioseco / August 28, 2009

By Alexis A. Tioseco The brand of social realism espoused by the better films of Lino Brocka (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975; Insiang, 1976; Orapronobis, 1989), has become the dominant form of socially conscious filmmaking in the Philippines over the past four decades. This form of filmmaking was important for its time: when…

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Spotlight | Marco Bellocchio

By Scott Foundas / August 28, 2009

By Scott Foundas A couple of years ago, while serving on a jury at a small Italian film festival sponsored by an organization devoted to promoting “spiritual cinema,” I was asked by a couple of eager volunteers to name my favourite living Italian filmmakers. When I responded “Ermanno Olmi,” the choice was met with approving…

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Spotlight | Corneliu Porumboiu

By Mark Peranson / August 28, 2009

By Mark Peranson Cinema Scope: What did you learn between making 12:08 East of Bucharest and Police, Adjective? The two do seem related to each other: How did the first lead to the second? Corneliu Porumboiu: I believe that Police, Adjective is related to 12:08 in that both stem from my obsession for words, how…

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Spotlight | João Pedro Rodrigues

By Dennis Lim / August 28, 2009

By Dennis Lim Is there still such a thing as queer cinema? On the one hand, Cannes 2009, where every other movie seemed to have a gay character, theme, subtext, or sensibility, could be seen as a reflection of a “post-gay” cultural climate, where onscreen homosexuality is so ubiquitous that its existence barely seems worth…

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