Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Cemetery Of Splendour

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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 »

Review: Son Of Saul

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The human face; the ear, provoked. Two of the most powerful tools available to filmmakers are the human face and psychologically suggestive sound design. A couple of quotes, then, in service of glancing at thirty-eight-year-old Hungarian director László Nemes’ death-camp-set debut feature, the unlikely fable of faith “Son of Saul.” First, from French master Robert Bresson’s “Notes on Cinematography”: “The eye solicited alone makes the ear impatient, the ear solicited alone makes the eye impatient. Use these impatiences. Power of the cinematographer who appeals to the two senses in a governable way. Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence.” And from George Orwell, the all-too-familiar “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Perfect Day

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Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa’s grit-bomb comedy, “A Perfect Day” subjects aid workers in the post-war Balkans of 1995 to drip-drip-drip absurdism. An NGO team for “Aid Across Borders,” led by Benicio Del Toro and Tim Robbins (with Olga Kurylenko and Mélanie Thierry along for the bumpy ride) alternate grue, boo-hoo and bountiful bad, loud music choices. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mustang

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“Everything changed in the blink of an eye. One minute everything was fine, then everything turned to shit”: this is the opening narration from the mouth of Lale, the youngest of five headstrong orphaned sisters in “Mustang,” a provocative yet joyous celebration of the power of female agency. A self-conscious fairytale, it’s one of 2015’s smoothest, most confident directorial debuts, superficially a Turkish “Virgin Suicides,” but very much the thirty-seven-year-old Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s own wild creature, drawing upon western European cinematic sensibilities as well as the verdant yet rustic setting in a Turkish backwater, Inebolu, a town on the Black Sea 600 kilometers from Istanbul. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Every Thing Will Be Fine

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Fine Wenders 19_4065-dw

A terrible thing happened to Wim Wenders: he cast James Franco. “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” Wenders’ Québec-set foray into 3D fiction filmmaking, begins with a terrible thing happening to Franco’s chilly novelist, Tomas, who runs over a child on a snowy backroad. Years after that terrible event, still rapt with guilt, he returns to the scene to make some sort of amends with the boy’s mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg, playing perplexity pluperfectly). (Comparisons to Atom Egoyan’s masterful puzzle “The Sweet Hereafter” would be unfair to this puzzling mass.) Across the dozen years of the story, is Tomas profoundly, irreconcilably besorrowed, or is he just James Franco looking haggard and blank? Lush play with surfaces and reflections (accomplished by regular means in Todd Haynes’ “Carol”) suggests complex life where grief-stodged encounters do not. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Horse Money

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horse money


Pedro Costa’s latest film, “Horse Money” (Cavalo Dinheiro, 2014), is ever more austere, stripped down. His ancient avatar from earlier films, the hypnotically present Ventura, is caught in a lifetime’s workings of dream, a ghost bumping through memory elongated into moment and collapsed onto another. The look is penumbra beneath penumbra atop cloacal darks, the fissures of post-colonial Portugal literalized but resistant to interpretation beyond gorgeous, obstinate portraiture. Tableau succeeds tableau, connections elided, meaning elusive. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Youth

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Paolo Sorrentino wants you to love Fellini and homages to Fellini and does not give a stronzo di topo if you don’t like him. (It’s a point of pride with a large number of film critics to consider his work wheezing folly.) With toppling confidence, and an unstoppably lapidary style, candied, swooning, “Youth” follows “8 ½” as surely as his Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” followed “La Dolce Vita.” In a mountain spa in the Swiss Alps, a purgatory of privilege, two friends meet on vacation. Fred (Michael Caine) is a celebrated composer at the end of his career, and his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) a filmmaker in the same lifeboat, of the lucky and self-regarding. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Flowers

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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 »

Review: Noma, My Perfect Storm

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Slick but always sharp in the best contemporary European nonfiction fashion, French-born, Britain-based Pierre Deschamps’ three-years-in-the-making portrait of Copenhagen chef René Redzepi is based in part on Redzepi’s books, “Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine,” and “René Redzepi: A Work in Progress”. But Deschamps also gets into the kitchen and in the fields where the restless chef forages for local produce for his Noma restaurant, named “The Best Restaurant in the World” 2010-12 and 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Macbeth

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Young Australian director Justin Kurzel’s stripped-down, bloody-ragged adaptation of “Macbeth” is not from any page-strapped “Tradition of Quality,” but of a bone-and-rag tradition of muck and mire, steeped in cold, crushing forces of weather and expanses of land rather than petty relations of liege and lord. It’s a world of filthy sensation, rain and smoke-smear, chafe and reek, framed with agility and colored through-and-through with sensation by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (“True Detective,” “Animal Kingdom,” “Top of the Lake”). Kurzel’s earlier film, “Snowtown,” delved into suburban killers of no great loquacity, but of galvanic presence and urge. Fassbender’s Macbeth is in that league, with much of the venturing of his savage ego as off-screen soliloquy. Fassbender wanders this world, a soldier fraught with PTSD, a warrior whose queen (Marion Cotillard) expects more than a broken man from war. The unsettling sensation grows: this story is timeless, this telling is now. Read the rest of this entry »