Browsing: Film Reviews

The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (a.k.a. Grandeur et Decadenced’un Petit Commerce de Cinema), from 1986, never received a release in theatres, in part because it was made for French television but also due to fears by distributors following the controversy and protests over Hail Mary, Jean-Luc Godard’s “blasphemous” 1985 feature. Yet, the director’s follow-up venture was much less overtly edgy: As if to make up for Hail Mary, a deliberately provocative critique of the Catholic Church, The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company is comparatively light, quirky and insular, at least in its initial portions. In fact, the maverick filmmaker…

Filmmakers Laura Collado and Jim Loomis’ Constructing Albert, a release from Juno Films,follows Albert Adrià as he brazenly launches five different restaurants in Barcelona from 2013 to the end of 2016, hoping to forge his own food empire and get out of the shadow of big brother Ferran, the wunderkind behind Spain’s world-class eating mecca elBulli. While this culinary-themed doc offers a little kitchen sizzle and artistically plated tastings (a delicious shrimp dish sautéed, a daring soy sorbet, etc.), the film has more of a scattershot, look-at-me Facebook feel. We experience Adrià onscreen or via voiceover as he nonstop shares—whether with journalists,…

Max Angely’s (Jean-Paul Bacri) birthday is not going well. Having spent the morning with “complicated clients” attempting to downsize their luxury downtown Paris reception for about the fourth time, the wedding planner has now relocated to the 17th Century Chateau setting of some seriously lavish nuptials, only to find virtually everything in disarray. Down a wait-staff member, he’s had to replace the original band, is stuck with the photographer (Jean-Paul Rouve) nobody else will hire and is having to bite his tongue while the early-arriving pretentious groom (Benjamin Lavernhe) informs him that they will have adjust the evening’s schedule to accommodate…

At the end of Eva Husson’s “Girls of the Sun,” a female peshmerga fighter enjoins a French journalist: “Write the truth.” The problem, unrecognized by Husson, who also wrote this pedantically commonplace drama, is that there are multiple ways of telling the truth: One brings to life three-dimensional people who respond to based-on-fact situations in ways that reflect the messiness of being human. “Girls” could be used as a case study for the other type of truth telling, the kind that studies real events and then packages them for mass consumption in ways that, while mimicking the facts in their barest…

The mixture of plot twists and moral shading, the focus on flawed characters and irresolvable pasts: Fans of writer-director Asghar Farhadi have come to cherish these trademark elements in his films. But when you become known for your topsy-turvy stories—for intimate dramas often embedded with startling surprises—the challenge becomes trying to outdo your previous narrative shockers (which risks pushing your movies further and further into implausibility) or simply repeating yourself (which risks becoming known as a dramatist of diminishing returns). Everybody Knows wrestles with this dilemma, ultimately successfully, while perhaps acknowledging that the two-time Oscar-winner can’t knock us off balance the way…

A number of years ago, the Brazilian writer-director João Moreira Salles discovered amateur footage of a 1966 group tour his mother filmed in China during the inception of the most radical phase of the Cultural Revolution. As Salles describes his mother in the narration for his documentary “In the Intense Now,” she was a “dilettante in search of the beauty of the country.” That she, a 37-year-old art historian, found beauty at this particular time in China testifies to her ability to perceive what was enchanting in the landscape and the faces of the people. But Salles also disparages, albeit…

Here’s a pithy pullquote for Godard Mon Amour’s posters and trailers: “Boy, it sure is French!” Its language, of course, is French, as one would expect from a biopic about Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky. Itsideology is French, whether the ideology orbits around politics or cinema. When characters argue about either, they argue with confidence that ignores rationality and passion that defies gravity. Most of all, the film’s emotional temperature runs French, in the sense that happiness and melancholy tend to be virtually indistinguishable from each other and anger is a dialect unto itself. Hell is being stuck in a car…

In more ways than one, “Ismael’s Ghosts” immerses us in the headspace of a gloriously undisciplined movie director. At the center of this sad, funny, sprawling and fragmented story is Ismael Vuillard (Mathieu Amalric), an unruly French filmmaker with a very strange family history. His latest picture is a thriller about a globe-hopping spy named Ivan Dédalus, a heavily fictionalized version of the younger brother he hasn’t seen in years. But the more glaring absence in Ismael’s life is that of his wife, Carlotta, who vanished 21 years earlier and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Complicating matters still…

Shahab Hosseini, who deservedly won recognition for his intense performance in Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, offers a nuanced study in acting minimalism with this melancholy portrait of a man living in exile in London, never quite beyond the reach of his own troubled past. It’s a feature debut for Iranian artist-turned-writer-director Mitra Tabrizian, whose background in still photography perhaps explains the crepuscular cinematography. https://youtu.be/4ObR4sCxrBo Hosseini plays Gholam, a taciturn immigrant who works as a minicab driver by night and mechanic by day in a garage owned by kindly Mr Sharif (eminent Iranian actor Behrouz Behnejad). At the cafe run by his…

Wine helps the emotions flow, but so, apparently, does winemaking in Cédric Klapisch’s absorbing family drama “Back to Burgundy,” a film so rich and pleasurable you’d be forgiven if you thought about it each time you have a glass of red. Set in the picturesque winemaking region of France with a lot of time spent among the vines, the film recounts the uneasy reunification of three siblings after their father’s death, their efforts to keep the winery going under the threat of a hefty inheritance tax that might force them to sell. Jean (Pio Marmaï), who hated his father, has…

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