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 »
Never lost, but seldom seen, Jacques Rivette’s “Out 1,” the justifiably legendary twelve-hour-fifty-five-minute epic of post-1968 Paris has been digitally restored, supervised by cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn. Previously seen only via a single 16mm print circulating to cinémathèques (including a Memorial Day weekend Siskel showing in 2006), it is now being shown around the country prior to a January 2016 Blu-ray release. Its extended form, divided into eight episodes, anticipates the phenomenon of “binge-watching” by decades, and that 2007 showing in the company of a raft of cinephiles old and young was a fantastic communal experience. Read the rest of this entry »
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s movies teem with tactile glories, eddies of visual strophes, the stillness of faces, the tension of bodies transfixed, the swirl of color upon color, the seething heat of regret settled into the body. “The Assassin,” the sixty-eight-year-old Taiwanese master’s first feature since 2007’s “Flight of the Red Balloon” is warm to the touch but cool with intellect. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
There’s no official number of how many film festivals there are in Chicago, or even a readily agreed-upon definition of how many films and events constitute a true “festival,” but in its thirty-third year, Reeling, the Chicago “LGBTQ+” International Film Festival, is definitely one of the most resilient (and the nation’s second oldest, after San Francisco’s Frameline).
“Film festivals not only continue to be relevant, despite the onslaught of choices for entertainment,” founder and executive director Brenda Webb tells me. “In some ways, they are more relevant than ever because of their curatorial role and promotional functions.”
An example of that is how small films that debut on Netflix (not heavily advertised and hyped series) never gain social traction, there’s little conversation in the larger culture, only cold, cryptic algorithms guessing what will satisfy every given view. Webb agrees. “There may be many more choices of films to see online and on television than ever before, but given the noise of overwhelming choices, audiences need to tune into which films to spend their time seeing.” Read the rest of this entry »
A generic title to suit a generic result, seventy-six-year-old Peter Bogdanovich’s seventeenth feature, “She’s Funny That Way,” was once entitled “Squirrels to the Nuts,” a reference to the film “Cluny Brown” that’s repeated like the dropping of an anvil about fifteen times in the finished product. (The press kit repeatedly cites “Lubitch” as the director of that film, a misspelling that suggests a clever, if frustrated intern back at the production office.)
They all yawned: “SFTW” is a brave, if eminently foolhardy try to recapture a lengthy career, as Bogdanovich leans for his first feature in fourteen years on a screenplay written at least a dozen years ago, for John Ritter, by himself and his ex-wife, Louise Stratten. A dozen or so characters want to fuck, but are prevented by meretricious complication atop meretricious complication, from fucking the ones they truly want to fuck. Owen Wilson, a playwright whose character names run to “Hal Finnegan,” pulls a favored stunt with Izzy, a cartoon prostitute played by a likably eager Imogen Poots. He has a history of relating a dumb story about “squirrels to the nuts” and “nuts to the squirrels” to his escorts, then gives the young women $30,000 if they’ll forsake the profession. Uh-huh. Poots’ New York accent is insufferable, part Judy Holliday, part Bogdanovich impersonating Judy Holliday, with more than a soupcon of Linda Manz, and oh, the Scarlett Johansson from Woody Allen movies. The backdrop for the marital militating and sexual slavering of the oh-too-many characters is the casting and rehearsal of a banal, 1970s-style sex farce. Bogdanovich strains for screwball, with indifferently blocked physical action in wide frames, and much repetition of the patter of puss-pokes by femme-fists upon put-upon men.
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With “Digging For Fire,” Joe Swanberg extends his run of intimate backyard moviemaking to an actual backyard at a summer rental, where a gun, a bone and a telescope set intrigue (and extended conversation) into nifty (if slow-burn) motion. Mid-thirties-life-crisis strikes for Tim (Jake Johnson), a teacher still not settled into the truth that he’s been a father for three years. Rosemarie Dewitt plays his witty wife, Jude Swanberg the son, natch. The estimable critic Bérénice Reynaud has aligned the latest Swanberg with Rohmer, and “Digging” extends his streak of pictures that stream with genial dialogue, superficially breezy, yet where emotional currents deepen. Read the rest of this entry »
Christian Petzold’s precision—architectural, spatial, emotional—works again with surgical economy as Nina Hoss once more stars for him, this time as Nelly, a German-Jewish nightclub singer disfigured by a bullet while in a concentration camp who searches doggedly for clues to how she got to where she is in 1945 postwar Berlin. Reconstructive surgery gives Nelly a new face, and a new name, Esther, allowing her to return to the nightlife without being recognized, where she takes risks to find out who might have betrayed her, perhaps even her ex-husband who does not see her face in her face. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
In James Ponsoldt’s magnificent, minimalist “The End Of The Tour,” Jason Segel plays a writer named “David Foster Wallace.” Not, David Foster Wallace. A modest caveat before offering praise after reading objections from the late writer’s estate.
I’m taking this character as “Dave,” instead, if I may: truths may be obtained in this bittersweet, tender simulacrum of a few days in his life. A little while after the 1996 publication of “Infinite Jest,” Rolling Stone assigned novelist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) to spend five days on the road, at the end of his book tour, with David Foster Wallace. Rolling Stone didn’t run the article, but Lipsky eventually published transcripts of the recordings between pesky journalist and sensitive author as a book, “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” which is the basis for the dense, delicious screenplay by Donald Margulies (“Dinner with Friends”). It’s a remarkable distillation of so many writerly phases of perception and self-deception, of ego and self-abnegation, of assertion and unyielding, inexorable doubt. Read the rest of this entry »