Browsing: Film Reviews

Rob Garver’s documentary on Pauline Kael is not just a portrait of a single personality, nor an elegy for the glory days of film criticism, but a contemplation of the joys of opinion and of a time when opinion mattered. In the age of Rotten Tomatoes and multitudes of YouTube pundits, it’s hard to imagine a time when a single voice such as Kael’s could make and break, or at least dent, reputations. But What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael – note that vital word ‘art’ –  also shows how the shock waves from Kael’s brilliant, sometimes immoderate or contrarian opinions,…

Never look away is, first and foremost, the story of an artist who struggles to find his voice under the pressure of state and society’s imposed restrictions. As such, it is one of the most relevant films for this time—and for that matter, probably any time. This is the story of the people who challenge the dominant discourse—whether it is imposed by the state, the society, the media, or the professionals—and the price they pay for it. At the same time, through the life of a doctor, the film depicts how the lying powerful could stay in power, as they…

ASKED about the movie we’d just seen, one patron suggested there was ‘a lot to digest’ – wow, did she get that one right. When you’ve seen the main characters eat their fair share of worms, maggots and assorted bugs, you might find things hard to digest. Or even keep down. Border is that kind of movie; whatever that kind of movie is. As director Ali Abbasi makes clear, he’s no genre guy and this is no genre film. You could try horror, crime, romance, myth, but you’d be more or less missing the point – whatever the point is.…

The camera accompanies a man down several stories in a rickety elevator. As he leaves the building, we stay inside, watching through cracked, dirty glass as he kicks a car and attacks a woman wearing a chador. We can’t quite hear or see what’s happening—is this the wife who’s been trying to catch him out in an affair with their neighbor? A group of bystanders gets involved, and we glide helplessly back up in the elevator, watching the dramatic climax slide out of reach. That’s a scene from an early film by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, Fireworks Wednesday (2006). It’s also a signature…

Tyler has left his family to have a weekend with a friend and his friend’s buddies. Tyler quickly finds out that he is the only black person in the crowd. The white crowd gradually turns out to be made up of anti-Trump liberals with racist and sometimes homophobic and transphobic biases. (The name of the film actually comes from one of those friends calling him Tyrel instead of Tyler, establishing the lack of connection from the very beginning.) The theme of “racist liberal whites” has been at the center of a few films, especially over the past two years, since…

What makes a family? Love? Blood? Both? Neither? This is the central theme of Shoplifters, another great drama by Kore-eda Hirokazu and the winner of Palme d’Or in 2018. The film has a tendency to reveal the information to the audience gradually. What looks like a complete family in the beginning, a family that tries to give shelter to a little girl, step by step turns out to be a group of people who have gotten together to “form” a family, a family they want, not one they were born into. Some of the characters explicitly state their thought about…

Academy isset to announce the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film on December 17.For me, personally, this has always been the most exciting category, where Ican find some of the best films of the year. However, we should understand thatto win on Oscar or even get a nomination, a film needs a powerful USdistributor with the will, money, and connections to get the Academy members’attention and draw them to vote for the film. So, while films like Roma,Girl, Cold War, and Shoplifters are consideredfrontrunners, I would like to take the chance here to discuss and possiblycelebrate some films submitted to…

If you thought daring, genre-bending Iranian filmmaking peaked with Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire spaghetti western, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night or Asghar Farhadi‘s Oscar-winning The Salesman, think again. Iranian-born Danish writer-director Milad Alami’s The Charmer reinvents the classic, stranger-in-a-strange-land immigrant tale as a sexy, slow-burn erotic thriller with a heartbreaking twist. Co-written by Alami and Danish screenwriter Ingeborg Topsøe, Charmer’s title, like many of the events taking place in the film itself, grossly oversimplifies the depth and complexity of this hugely compelling drama. For while the lead character, Esmail, played by handsome newcomer Ardalan Esmaili, is indeed charming, the soulful sadness in his eyes belies…

No Date, No Signature, the new movie from director Vahid Jalilvand, is an engrossing family drama that feels quite similar to Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the Oscar and may prove prophetic come awards time this year. Both Iranian films detail gripping tales involving families that become undone by bad luck and human frailty. In Jalilvand’s film, the car of Dr. Nariman (Amir Aghaee) hits a family riding on a motorbike. The accident causes the mother and father on the bike (David Mohammadzadeh and Hediyeh Tehrani) to begin an argument and check the health of their two children, who were…

Few would have dared touch Delphine de Vigan’s bestseller, Based on a True Story, with a ten-foot pole. Hailed as gloriously “un-adaptable” – warning off salivating directors everywhere – translating the introspective ‘autobiographical novel’ to the big screen seemed tantamount to career suicide. That is, for lesser filmmakers than Roman Polanski. And he’s coaxed quite the thrill-fest out of the original. Crippled by writer’s block after the double-edged response to her last book, Delphine is on the brink of depression when she crosses paths with L, a bewitching ghostwriter. The parasitic woman wastes no time in making herself insidiously indispensable by…

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