Four disgraced, abusive Roman Catholic priests live quietly by the remote seaside in “The Club” (El club), the latest drama from Chilean director Pablo Larraín (“Tony Manero,” 2008; “No,” 2012). Guilt and denial about Chile’s past and the predations of Pinochet run deeply through Larraín’s work and the hothouse atmosphere, steeped in tragedy and in darkest comedy, open another door to a society’s dark past. Read the rest of this entry »
The fleet dreams of Joachim Trier’s three features, “Reprise,” “Oslo, August 31st” and now “Louder Than Bombs” define the Norwegian director as one of the most cinema-savvy of contemporary filmmakers. Playing with formal qualities while also baring the darkest emotions, Trier’s style, allusive as literature, elusive as lyricism, accomplished with a regular crew of collaborators that include co-writer Eskil Vogt and cinematographer Jakob Ihre, is virtuosic but intentionally, intrinsically ragged. First, you think, how is this moment, this shot, this patterning, this music cue, so beautiful, so odd and then so true, and often so emotionally devastating? Read the rest of this entry »
Master filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has a seventh feature in post-production, but the director of “The Past” and “A Separation” has had a welcome, if uncommon high profile in American art-houses, with a first theatrical release of 2009’s “About Elly” last year, and now his third feature, 2006’s “Fireworks Wednesday” (Chaharshanbe-Soori). Farhadi’s superb directorial attributes include immaculate production design, the blocking of actors inside lovingly detailed locations and a sure sense of suspense, which often simmers when the most commonplace of gestures is mistaken for the deepest betrayal. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
“It’s all just a clusterfuck for them,” writer-director Jeremy Saulnier says of the fate of the young punk-rock protagonists of “Green Room.” Or as Darcy, the blunt neo-Nazi club owner played by Patrick Stewart puts it: “Things have gone south. It won’t end well.”
Denis Dercourt’s “In Harmony” (En équilibre) pits a willful stuntman (Albert Dupontel) who loses use of his legs after a fall from a horse against a woman, an insurance adjuster, who had intended to be a pianist (Cécile De France) but was thwarted early. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s some nocturnal dread for you. Seething paranoia in the form of slow-burn tension marks “The Invitation,” Karyn Kusama’s scalpel-sharp Hollywood Hills dinner party-gone-wrong chamber drama where agendas overlap and bite. Read the rest of this entry »
The cumulative impact of “No Home Movie” is of being slammed against a brick wall. Full stop. The great Chantal Akerman’s final feature, at the age of sixty-five before taking her own life, is a bittersweet testament about the final years and last spaces of her beloved mother’s life. A Holocaust survivor and recurrent figure in Akerman’s work, Natalia is the subject of moments that Akerman calls “rough-hewn,” “raw material.” Her poetic filmmaker’s statement about her essay film continues, “The film wanders without our really knowing where it’s going. And yet, it can only lead us to one thing, death.” Read the rest of this entry »
Working from Benjamin August’s debut script, which attempts Hitchcockian scrappiness and “Memento”-like pathos, Atom Egoyan’s revenge thriller “Remember” is one of his most peculiar pictures in a roller-coaster career of three decades, but boasts a central performance of the most unlikely plausibility but the most thrilling particulars. Christopher Plummer plays ninety-year-old Zev, a man of failing faculties, a widower of only a few weeks, who is dispatched by his wheelchair-using retirement home compatriot, Max (Martin Landau) to carry out the execution of a guard who had murdered their families at Auschwitz. Read the rest of this entry »
Naomi Kawase’s “Sweet Bean” (An) is an understated drama of community and friendship (and flavorful red bean paste served between pancakes) that quickly takes a historical swerve. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
Thematically, Arkansas-born writer-director Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature draws capably from the models of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.” and “Starman,” as well as Nichols’ own affinity for spare widescreen compositions akin to Clint Eastwood movies of that filmmaking era.
“Midnight Special” is a shaggy God story, withholding secrets without being precious, and hardly ever explaining. A boy is taken from the compound of a religious sect led by a patriarch (Sam Shepard) who’s convinced that eight-year-old Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is a vessel for languages and numbers from God. The boy also has a tendency when disturbed to disrupt everything around him through blue light that shoots from his eyes. The abductor is his father, Roy (Michael Shannon, bringing a taciturn, complex characterization to a Nichols film for the fourth time), and an accomplice (Joel Edgerton). The layers of reasons for their cross-country escape are slowly revealed, including meetings with his mother (Kirsten Dunst) and a quizzical NSA agent (Adam Driver) also curious about Alton’s talents or origins. Visually, dramatically, things stay cool, at a distance or middle distance. Like ”Close Encounters”’ Roy Neary, this father takes a son on a journey to an unknown place, a proving ground.