One of the most charming and recurrent of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s statements in the past decade about his progressively more ethereal features, shorts and art installations is that it’s perfectly alright, even appropriate to nod at some point, waking at an indeterminate later moment when the world has changed (or obstinately remained the same) for his dreamers and sleepwalkers. In the latest simmering surrealism by the School of the Art Institute graduate who likes to be called just “Joe,” “Cemetery of Splendour” (Rak ti Khon Kaen), he literally engages a sleeping sickness, based on a true story, with a cast of soldiers confined to a clinic that stands atop a burial ground for Thai royals. A rich melancholy pronounces itself more readily than any apprehensible allegory. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
Michael is a weary middle-aged man, a motivation expert who flies overnight to Cincinnati to address a customer service convocation, where the attendees know him for his most recent book, “How May I Help You Help Them?” Charged moments come from the seemingly commonplace: A perfunctory call to his wife back in Los Angeles, an impulsive call to an ex and an ill-advised drink, meeting a sweet, younger, seemingly uncomplicated younger woman, a baked-goods customer-service rep named Lisa (a tenderly winsome Jennifer Jason Leigh) who’s admired him from afar. Simple, except that “Anomalisa” is stop-motion animation, turned to the very adult means of fleshing out a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman that began as a staged “radio play” for three voices. The combination of simplicity and intricacy make the strange, thrilling “Anomalisa” discernibly a Charlie Kaufman object, as refined and diamond-dense as his directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York” was sprawling. We talked about the movie a few weeks ago, along with his co-director and animator Duke Johnson.
The group I saw the movie with was ecstatic afterward. How exuberant and joyous have people been talking to you about the movie?
Kaufman: Many people weep. Read the rest of this entry »
An unhappily married woman’s life shifts when she begins to receive a weekly anonymous gift of bouquets in Spain’s official Foreign Language Film submission, Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga’s moody, broody “Flowers” (Loreak). Their story of three women who pine for a particular man is the first fracture in a convoluted narrative, beautifully shot (by Javi Agirre Erauso), engagingly acted, mostly inert. Read the rest of this entry »
Do. Or do not. There is no try. Take your money, they shall. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” J.J. Abrams’ best movie by fourteen, well, maybe twelve parsecs, will satisfy most and annoy few. “Force” is a sleek machining of a platonic ideal of a memory of George Lucas’ original trilogy, after pleasure seeps into recollection and over generations becomes warm vapor, pop-cult hallucination. Any twinges of nostalgia are countered with bittersweet awareness of the ravages of time and the leaving of life.
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By Ray Pride
What if it had been good?
What if it had been a movie?
“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is the product placement of all time, the runestone, the grail, the altar upon which billions of dollars of cash will be placed in the next few weeks, and its surge of activity in the economy, coursing from fan-hand to Hasbro or Galoob bank, from T-shirt sweatshop to Lucasfilm coffers, may be more instrumental in lubricating the economy than any amount of e-commerce day-trading in Internet stock ever could. The Force is money. The movie is crap. Read the rest of this entry »
Oh so pretty. Oh so plain. Oscar-season filmmaker Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Misérables”) relates the true, 1926-set story of a Danish man who was the world’s first to undergo sex reassignment surgery. A pair of Copenhagen painters live in seeming bliss: Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) is provided a more flattering backdrop for his distinctive, pale ginger beauty than “Jupiter Ascending” earlier this year, and Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”), as the wife who stands behind him and offers gentle nudges as he transforms into Lili Elbe, is mesmerizing, at once translucent and grounded in her flickering gestures, a perfume floating above the commonness of the storytelling. Lucinda Coxon adapted David Ebershoff’s book, and the pacific pace of the film obscures at first that the story is more about wife than husband. Read the rest of this entry »
Guy Maddin goes more madly Maddinesque than ever in “The Forbidden Room,” an eye-popping, mind-throbbing palimpsest of film-historical apocrypha, co-directed with Evan Johnson and aided and abetted by elder poet John Ashbery. To attempt synopsis would be to tempt word salad at apex, swirling into its ever-concentric concatenation of vivid, vibrant visions of forms of filmmaking that resemble fever dreams past, but exist only within its own cloud of visual perfume across two hours of unceasing melodramatic phantasmagoria. Maddin and Johnson frame their stories with an Ashbery ditty about bathing, then moving on to seventeen or so tales-within-tales including a doomed submarine crew chewing the oxygen out of flapjacks, child soldiers, lumberjacks, vampires, wolf men, volcano sacrifices, a teeming array of intertitles and the expected digital experimentation with the lovingly lousy look of the lowest, boldest rungs of twentieth century moviemaking. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
“Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me. I’m thinking of the days, I won’t forget a single day…” are words sung in an emotional crescendo near the end of “Until The End of the World,” a Kinks song sungalong in the middle of the night on the bottom of the planet at what a raft of characters believe is already of the end of civilization as they know it, as Wim Wenders and his co-writers Peter Carey and Solveig Dommartin anticipate. Read the rest of this entry »
Gifted Irish child actress Saoirse Ronan earns a simpler descriptor with her tender performance in “Brooklyn”: gifted actress. Her features refined, along with the instincts seen onscreen, Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a woman who travels from Ireland to New York City in the 1950s. She leaves behind a complicated life in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, but America, with new opportunities for work, and for romance, and then an emergency return home complicates things further. Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s fine bestseller by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About A Boy”) with elemental grace, and directed by theater-trained John Crowley (“Intermission,” “Boy A”), “Brooklyn” is old-fashioned in its care for craft and basic compassion for the emotional quandaries facing its emigrant characters. Read the rest of this entry »
While the Music Box isn’t showing Gaspar Noé’s newest provocation in its intended 3D, the sex act and concomitant fluids are still going to be in your face in “Love.” The simpler, more elemental Noé’s films become, the more touching they are, especially in this puppyish idyll of fucking as everyday transcendence, rather than transgression. Noé’s sweet heart melts on screen without the vibrant visual innovation of “Enter The Void” or the brutal punishing-of-the-innocent of “Irreversible.” Read the rest of this entry »