By Ray Pride
A movie about movies and about butterflies and two lovers deep in the woods, dense with influence, about decadence and desire, the third feature by Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio,” “Katalin Varga”), “The Duke Of Burgundy” dabbles as well in entomology, taxonomies, field recordings, roleplaying and domination. In a European never-neverland (shot in Hungary, largely in a fancy, secluded turn-of-the-century house), the apparently dominant Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, “Borgen”) and the seemingly submissive Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) occasionally venture into a larger world confined to the presentations of butterfly scholars, but mostly remain at home, engaging in ritualistic sadomasochistic roleplaying.
“Burgundy” is a keen pastiche of 1970s Euro-sleaze and high art, and looks amazing on the big screen, calmly florid, precise yet bonkers, bristling with detail. It’s preposterous, delirious and delicious. “It’s great to get it into the cinema, such a short life in the cinema these days, isn’t it?” Strickland says in his firm, fast British accent at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in November 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
The city’s most teemingly eclectic film festival attains its majority with its eighteenth edition: sixty-one new features from twenty-seven countries. Highlights include the Oscar-submitted films from six nations, including Hungary’s expressive canine fable, “White God” and entries from Austria, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Spain. New work by established directors like Ettore Scola, Jessica Hausner, Bruno Dumont and Christian Petzold are scheduled. Other highlights: “The Life Of Riley,” which may not be shown otherwise in Chicago, the final film by the great Alain Resnais, released when he was ninety-one, is another one of his meta-theatrical, semi-surrealist japes. Read the rest of this entry »
Flamboyant yet controlled, paced yet shocking, and all about the feeling of letting go in pure, unbridled revenge, Damián Szifron’s six-story omnibus has the fancy and fury of a fine Almodóvar picture. “Wild Tales” (Relatos salvajes) is a pitch-black comedy, with a pre-credits sequence that raucously sets the tone for the gloriously preposterous complications to come. (It’s a contender for the best foreign language Oscar, and if the Academy doesn’t love “Ida”…) It would be foul to give away the rocket blast of those opening five minutes, but let’s say its premise mingles Buñuel, Almodóvar, contemporary Argentine comedy and the contours of a dream where figures of your past assemble but, undreamlike, the dreamer takes control, arriving at the source of all of his problems with wondrously shocking finality. The stories aren’t linked except by Argentine locales high and low, captured crisply and colorfully. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomm Moore’s deliciously illustrated “Song of the Sea” is his Oscar-nominated follow-up to “The Secret of Kells,” nominated in 2009. Circling the Irish legend of the Selkies, mythical creatures that are seals in the sea but human once onshore, Moore finds further fodder in Celtic magic, with lush, lovely watercolor animation that worships the dance of light (and Studio Ghibli) to hold the eye even as characterization and storytelling become cute. Read the rest of this entry »
Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu,” shot in Mauritania but set in northern Mali near the title city, is a lovely, cogent, melancholy, quietly damning portrait of radical religious fundamentalists arrogantly, clumsily taking over a small town. Inspired by a 2012 murder by jihadists of a couple in their thirties by stoning, Sissako keenly observes cruelty, folly and tenderness during the year-long occupation and its wave of irrational destruction. “The film, through the couple Kidane and Satima, insists on one essential point,” he writes, “that violence will never be able to kill love. You can kill a man, but you cannot kill the love he has for his daughter, his wife. This is fundamental, and is the key to victory over barbarity. It is how we defy extremism. They will not have the last word. Beauty and dignity will triumph.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” is not Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor,” but it’s in the same mulish, rarified league.
While the 2015 Oscar announcements led to much journalistic handwringing, online and off, with a dearth of nominations for women and people of color—overlooking the systemic issue of the dearth of mainstream movies being financed and produced for women and people of color—there’s not as much clamor about the handful of white male filmmakers who are presently productive into their eighth decade.
Michael Mann turns seventy-two in February, Sir Ridley Scott is seventy-seven, and while we’re at it, Jean-Luc Godard is eighty-four. “Blackhat,” “The Counselor” and “Farewell to Language” are all discernibly, definitively, obstinately, obdurately, the work of old men. Artists of a certain age, to be sure, but also personal, auteurist, in the most classic fashion. Late films by Alfred Hitchcock have been a subject for such discussion for decades, and Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris tweeted that “Blackhat” may well be Mann’s “Marnie,” that is, a movie that at first glance seems hermetic, compacted, a concatenation of images, fixations and stylistic devices. Read the rest of this entry »
(Adieu au langage 3D) Roxy Miéville: superstar. With querulous, dark, liquid eyes, and a torso that extends from the back of the screen and a long, aquiline nose that juts out over the audience and nearly to your fingertips to be petted, the sleek, sniffulous mutt owned by Jean-Luc Godard is the most lustrous of special effects in his hectic, cryptic 3D provocation, “Farewell to Language.” Working with cinematographer Fabrice D’Aragno over the course of four years, the now-eighty-four-year-old Godard wreaks multidimensional effects other filmmakers wouldn’t dare, often created with only a couple of small consumer cameras strapped together and wielded by the filmmaker himself. Read the rest of this entry »
For their first collaboration with a well-known actor, Belgium’s Dardenne brothers have exceptional fortune with the harried but haunting features of international star Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night.” Tremulous, troubled, visibly still recovering from a breakdown, Sandra finds her employers at a solar panel factory have told the other workers they can make do with one less employee, and if she’s let go, they each get a bonus that they can all use. Capital aligns worker against worker and a depressed woman must seek the sufferance of her colleagues if she is to keep her job. It’s quiet violence, pitting worker against worker. Over the course of the weekend, before a Monday meeting she manages to prompt, Sandra has to approach each of her equals to make the case she needs the job more than they need the extra euros. Community or the individual? The dramatization of the conflict is pungent, but Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance (of a different register than her equally accomplished work in 2014’s “The Immigrant”) is the shining center of “Two Days.” Jean-Pierre Dardenne has said, “What was important for us was to show someone excluded because she is considered weak, because she doesn’t perform well enough. The film praises this ‘non-performing’ character who finds strength and courage through the fight she conducts with her husband.” Quietly, surely bruising, “Two Days, One Night” is a story from behind the headlines and beneath the figures on the financials of businesses worldwide. 95m. (Ray Pride)
“Two Days, One Night” is now playing at the Music Box.
Bearing a mantel of authenticity as heavy as rain itself, the allegorical weight of “Leviathan” is both lyrical and blunt, compacted experience suggestive of many things, some mystical and some merely sodden, and not entirely drawn from the book of Job. The grimness of Putin’s post-Soviet project is draped upon the shoulders of one honorable auto mechanic whose family home on a prime stretch along the Bering Sea is about to be taken by a drunken, corrupt politician. Andrey Zvyagintsev hardly bothers to disguise his momentous, taut allegory of world-weariness in contemporary Russia, nor his interest in ever larger, ever-unanswerable questions. Tempers simmer, imbibe, combust, with righteously apocalyptic fury. Did I mention that it might also be the year’s most accomplished black comedy? Read the rest of this entry »
“Winter Sleep,” the great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s mesmerizing fifteen-years-in-conception Cannes Palme d’Or-winning chamber epic doesn’t waste a breath in its 196 minutes. Ceylan (“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia,” “Climates”) is as loving in painting panoramas of the Turkish landscape as in detailing the contours of the intense psychology of its characters. Aydin, an hotelier in the ruggedly beautiful central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, has a dissatisfied younger wife, and his sister is staying with them after a divorce. Winter arrives. Shelter is tenuous, the landscape demanding, conversations ensue, persist, roll on with the beautiful power of an ancient stream. Read the rest of this entry »