Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Master of Melodrama: The Films of Teuvo Tulio

"In one of the most exciting rediscoveries of the year, BAM’s retrospective of Finnish auteur Teuvo Tulio offers four masterpieces of melodrama, all made between 1938 and 1946, whose cinematic grandeur will be nothing less than magnificent on the big screen. With a painter’s eye, Tulio can turn an idyllic country landscape into an earthly heaven or a frenzied nightmare — and often his films fluctuate between those two extremes."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Billy the Kid (2007)

Unlike the exaggerated characters in even the best high school movies, there’s something unshakably authentic to this fifteen year-old-kid from Brunswick, Maine with a rat tail who wears trucker t-shirts with cut-off sleeves. And it’s not just because Billy the Kid is a work of non-fiction, but rather that director Jennifer Venditti has managed the incredible feat of both finding and conveying cinematically a character who is absolutely singular and unique, and at the same time exists as an “everyman” who sums up our collective adolescence.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Night and Day (Bam gua nat) (2008)

"Hong’s latest film, Night and Day, extends his career-long preoccupation with the confused male psyche—though, at this point we could almost say that Hong’s films are exercises in ritual emasculation: social experiments in which his male protagonists are given center stage to exercise their libido, only to expose (or, in some cases, to reaffirm) their impotency and inadequacy. At the start of Night and Day, several successive intertitles set up the context for the story: Sung-nam, a forty-something Korean artist, smokes marijuana (for the first time) with an American exchange student, who is subsequently arrested and divulges the artist’s name. Fearing incarceration, the artist abandons his wife and flees to Paris, where the film begins."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

"The span of the film is an entire soccer game, yet the camera never diverts its gaze from the French soccer phenomenon Zinedine Zidane. Eschewing the God-like perspective of broadcast sports, the film zeros in on Zidane, voyeuristically watching him watch the game. Unlike conventional biopics, Zidane appears less a character than a series of gestures and movements. Directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno do not seek explanations so much as exhibitions, and their film is thankfully less of a soccer genre-pic than a deconstructionlist essay-film."

Read my full review of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait here at The L Magazine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Troubled Water (2008)

"Norwegian director Erik Poppe’s third feature, Troubled Water (De Usynlige), garnered both the Jury and Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature at the 2008 Hamptons International Film Festival. Well deserving of both, it’s an arresting probe into morality and forgiveness that leaves one stunned not only by its emotionally stark performances, but also by the film’s complex, musical structure that quietly underlies the narrative and binds everything together..."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Curse of Bigfoot (1976)

"Seemingly a cinematic Frankenstein’s Monster, the film feels like parts of several unfinished movies that were strung together using bits of stock footage and excessive voice-over narration. The title is certainly misleading: only a fraction of the footage has to do with Bigfoot, and there isn’t a curse anywhere to be found. Missing from the title are: a zombie; a mummy; a movie-within-a-movie; an educational lecture; an archeological dig; and Canadian logging… lots of logging, and all of it purportedly in Canada."

Read my full review of The Curse of Bigfoot here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'm Gonna Explode (Voy a explotar) (2008)

"I’m Gonna Explode is a playful concoction from the blender of cinephile/director Gerardo Naranjo—a little Pierrot le Fou, a dash of Badlands, a hint of Harold and Maude, and garnishes from a slew of other entries in the lovers-on-the-run genre. But there’s also something else in there, something unique to Naranjo, and it’s what saves the film from drowning under its many references. In fact, I’m Gonna Explode magically floats on top of a wave of teenage angst, ecstasy, and rebellion. Naranjo abides by the same blend of impulsiveness and uncertainty that the characters live by...."

Read my full review of I'm Gonna Explode (Voy a explotar) here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Lola Montes (1955)

"Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès: the cinematic analog to Charlie Parker with Strings or, better yet, the second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 32 (when a whimsical 19th-century sway glides into a heavy ragtime swing, long before such a genre was even around). Like those two musical works, Lola Montès is a near perfect marriage of classicism and modernism. The real-life rise and fall of an aristocratic femme fatale who ends up as a circus attraction (literally), the film’s formal elegance has rarely been matched, and yet the borders of its expansive CinemaScope frame can scarcely contain the director’s kinetic visuals. With every frame saturated with unreasonable grandeur, Lola Montès is nothing short of an Ophüls-explosion..."

Read my full review of Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès here at The L Magazine.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Last Command (1928)

The Last Command stands on the precipice of two auteurs. On the one hand, it is distinctly the vision of director Josef von Sternberg, with his overly romantic sense of narrative expression, which privileges style above all else. At the same time, the film is undeniably under the influence of its star, Emil Jannings... He came to represent a dying breed, the final remnant of classical German respectability that had been disappearing since the country's loss in World War I and the ensuing economic depression... Change was blooming and so was Jannings’ career—his characters, however, were most certainly wilting.

Read my full review of The Last Command here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

The Dead Don't Die (1975)

"It’s a hybrid of the wrong-man convicted story á la Cornell Woolrich (in which a relative of the incarcerated has to prove them innocent) mixed with Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked With a Zombie (voodoo lore and cheap sets masked by dark lighting and excessive fog). And as charming as the precision-timed fade-outs are – lingering shots of an actor’s face wearing the expression of shocking, new information, meant to cue intrusive commercials – The Dead Don’t Die is far more than just a piece of retro TV ephemera."

Read my full review of Curtis Harrington's The Dead Don't Die here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.