Depressed, drunk, Falstaff-bellied philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) takes a gig at a small-town Rhode Island college, where his mumbling recitations of platitudes of 1950s collegiate existentialism curricula woo the women, including married Rita Richards (Parker Posey) and undergraduate Jill Pollard (Emma Stone). But he’s shit in the sack, unoriginal in his thinking, and ready to Russian roulette his way into readily forgotten campus lore. He’s an oblivious, serene sociopath. (Phoenix finds a walk for Abe that’s part Chaplin, part Mr. Potato Head.) Read the rest of this entry »
You want obsession? Obsessive, obsessive obsession? Sanguinary intimacy? Fabrice du Welz, Belgian director of 2004’s “Calvaire” goes blissfully bloodily bonkers with “Alléluia,” a lusciously lurid based-on-fact tale of a shy single mom, Gloria (Lola Dueñas) who falls in love with womanizer-cum-hustler Michel (Laurent Lucas). (It’s based on the 1949 history of “lonely hearts killers” Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, whose crimes have inspired other films, including Leonard Kastle’s blanch-and-white 1970 singularity, “The Honeymoon Killers” and Arturo Ripstein’s stodgier 1996 “Deep Crimson.”) The more Gloria learns about Michel’s perversity, which has its own substance, the more thrilled, the more fixated she becomes. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
“Tangerine” is a brash, vivacious screwball comedy of West Hollywood street life, told in the course of several blocks across several hours as Christmas Eve moves from day to dusk to dark of night and ache of heart.
Sean Baker’s masterful, vividly gritty follow-up to 2012’s “Starlet,” shot entirely with iPhones, is also a bold, intimate challenge to mild-mannered contemporary notions of independent filmmaking. There are camera moves you’ve never seen before, but the characters are even more gratifying: The opening line, “Merry Christmas Eve, bitch!” is one of the raucous story’s politest bursts of frank language. Read the rest of this entry »
Wistful yet muscular late Ken Loach, “Jimmy’s Hall” tenderly massages the biography of Jimmy Gralton, an innate, indefatigable Irish rebel who was driven from his County Leitrim home during the Civil War, and again ten years later, when he returns in the spring of 1932. Jimmy’s sin in both instances, met with hate, hysteria and obstruction by the Church and police, was to erect a meeting place outside the tight societal strictures of the time, a place where poetry and dance and a dash of politics could be communicated. For this, he’s labeled a “communist,” and later, with his compatriots, “antichrists.” But the sense of community is rich, deftly sketched, defiantly progressive. The sense of landscape is gentle, and Loach’s eye is still avid for supple imagery. And even in a scene where Jimmy (Barry Ward) rallies his friends after they’ve taken back the home of a dispossessed family from a wretched landlord, and he speaks in spirited cadence about timeless idealism toward economic justice, the battle of labor versus big and bigger money, Loach and the great cinematographer Robbie Ryan (“Wuthering Heights,” “Red Road,” “Fish Tank,” “Ginger and Rosa”) position him in a calm frame, imploring in middle distance against a backdrop of a wood, of greenery waving gently, everlastingly, history rustling a timeless landscape. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
Asif Kapadia’s enveloping, harrowing, even revelatory second documentary with a posthumous subject is a musical, a tragedy, and a major mash-note to the too-soon-gone talent of Amy Winehouse. “Amy” also portrays a woman who was not so much an addict as someone consumed by feelings, the need to express them, and by brutally intense sensations of love.
Kapadia chose not to shoot video of Winehouse’s friends and family and collaborators. “Previously, I’d made a film called ‘Senna,’ done in the same way,” Kapadia tells me on a Chicago visit. “So it’s like a development, a continuation of that style. The only interviews where I took a camera along, it’s only a couple, it’s people like Tony Bennett and [music producer] Mark Ronson. Everybody else, it was just audio. The intention was to never use the picture. Also, these people have never spoken before. Most of the friends and her first manager and the band members, ninety-five-percent of the people have never been interviewed, never sold a story, never written a book or been on TV. The process was quite long, and a quite painful process for them. It became almost a therapeutic process, just me in this room, a microphone on the table, just the two of us talking, turn the lights down. The worst thing in the world would have been to turn up with a camera crew. But it’s the first time they’ve spoken, you can hear the emotion in the voices.” Read the rest of this entry »
Eric Rohmer: where to begin? How about with an offhanded masterpiece, 1984’s “Full Moon in Paris,” the most elegant of the splendid miniatures that constitute his cycle of “Comedies and Proverbs” romantic comedies? Louise (Pascale Ogier) is the bright center of his tale, an artistic young woman working in a design firm who abandons an older lover for a sequence of flings and affairs that have consequence by virtue of their very inconsequence. The slender but electric Ogier is a natural screen presence, and she beguiles her men (and the audience) with her angular, even aquiline features, her quick smile, her 1980s hair piled high, large-lidded wide eyes taking it all in with gentle bemusement and modest befuddlement. Read the rest of this entry »
“I’m losin’ hope in tomorrow.” Man, those words murmured by Al Pacino in what may be his finest performance in far too long, they’re bittersweet. David Gordon Green’s quiet character study of a lonely, lovelorn small-town Texas locksmith, “Manglehorn,” was written by Paul Logan, a childhood friend of Green’s, who was also a driver on Green’s “Prince Avalanche.” As written by Logan, and with letters to a lover lost decades early, heard in voice-over, partially improvised by Pacino, A. J. Manglehorn’s wistful want for love in his late years holds no less ache than that of Green’s young lovers in “All The Real Girls.” Manglehorn meets a younger woman (Holly Hunter), a teller at his local bank, and his mood lightens, if not the brood of his long-nurtured wounds. Along with his usual knack for finding privileged moments of behavior, Green also expands on his use of expected, near-surreal images to gratifying effect. (Spontaneous public singing; a strange roadside accident out of a particular Godard movie; earthquakes.) Manglehorn is surprised by nothing, no matter how odd: this becalmed man lives fully in his head and Pacino plays him quietly, a magnificent loser. Read the rest of this entry »
With her fourth feature, the dreamy, low-key “Eden,” Mia Hansen-Løve continues to work in a different style that suits the subject at hand. Based on a screenplay she wrote with her brother, Sven Hansen-Løve, who is also a deejay, her film follows two decades in an unaging young deejay’s life in the Parisian electronic dance scene of the 1990s. Based partly on Sven’s experience, as well as those of Daft Punk, “Eden,” simmers in music and mood but the floppy-haired cipher of a male lead (Felix De Givry) is her least interesting protagonist yet, especially in light of the sharply drawn, nuanced figures of the middle-aged male protagonist of “Father of My Children” (2009) and the young girl center-screen in “Goodbye First Love” (2011). Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
“Heaven Knows What” is an unabating horror movie, superficially a story about heroin and homelessness, filled with wakeful terrors, but it’s about something far worse, far more toxic.
Harley is a young woman, an unfinished child, on the streets of modern-day New York City. She’s wide-eyed, more than a waif, but lost to a terrible addiction: a crude brute of a boy named Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones). Love and heroin: which is Harley’s worse addiction? The opening of Josh and Benny Safdie’s third feature finds her on the street, lost to a kiss, but soon in need of help. What could kill her? What she believes: that she has a freighted case of true and fated love, or at least a willful misapprehension that nothing matters more than him. Read the rest of this entry »
“I’m, like, innovatively stupid,” says the protagonist of coy Sundance sensation “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,” amid clever details and a teeming plethora of semi-self-aware verbal asides. But Wes Anderson movies and “Napoleon Dynamite” should require adult supervision before going on any more dates. Chatty and simmering with simple charms, Jesse Andrews’ adaptation of his Pittsburgh-set young adult novel putters along at a dullish roar, nearly likable, not quite causing an annoying itch. Of course other high schoolers would ignore a kid who says things like, it’s “literally like trying to have lunch in Kandahar”! And for a boy like “Me,” there will always be “the part where I panic out of sheer awkwardness.” Read the rest of this entry »