8 items from 2016
The late Ingmar Bergman brought an unprecedented force of philosophical clarity to cinema. From The Seventh Seal to Wild Strawberries to Persona, he crafted some of the most fascinating and seminal work — not just out of Sweden, but the world of film at large. The feature that has stuck with me the most from him, The Hour of the Wolf, is a haunting, hallucinatory journey that is completely mesmerizing and utterly unshakeable. Bergman could apply dream logic to scenarios in the most unexpected and terrifying ways, blending them with “real” moments until you questioned which was which. His films have a towering presence and energy, and his visual vocabulary stands as a testament to the power of images — singular in their capacity as conduits of ideas, emotions, and story.
- Mike Mazzanti
Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film, The Neon Demon, has earned both pans and raves, which has started to seem like the inevitable critical response to a new film from Refn—part of the promise that it delivers on, if you will. And, as Justin Chang notes at the Los Angeles Times, if nothing else, The Neon Demon very much delivers on the promise of being a Refn film:Even if you were to somehow miss the elegant “Nwr” monogram in the opening credits, you would be safe in assuming that Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film is a self-indulgent exercise in style. But what self-indulgence, and what style! A surreal urban fairy tale, “The Neon Demon” unfolds in a murderously debauched corner of the Los Angeles fashion industry, one prowled by predatory beasts, silky-smooth operators and gorgeous blonde vampires on stiletto heels. Languorously paced and literally dressed to kill, the »
Anticipation is an easy thing to have at a film festival, and it’s safe to say that the mood of what-is-he-going-to-do-now? that preceded the Cannes premiere showing of “The Neon Demon,” the new film from Nicolas Winding Refn, was at a particularly high tingle, and for good reason. Refn can be a filmmaker of extravagant humanity, as he proved in “Drive,” and also of extravagant inhumanity, as he proved in “Only God Forgives,” the voluptuous and ludicrous fantasia of revenge that was roundly despised when it played at Cannes in 2013. Nutty as it was, however, “Only God Forgives” did have a few indelible moments (like Ryan Gosling dolefully submitting to getting his hands chopped off), and it suggested that Refn might just possess the operatic fearlessness to create a spellbinding horror film.
A horror film is what “The Neon Demon” is (sort of). It’s set in the Los Angeles fashion world, »
- Owen Gleiberman
An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall, a series opening today at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and running through May 1, is "an unapologetic, unmitigated, mesmerizingly diverse assembly of 23 feature-length movies and 25 shorts that constitutes a kaleidoscopic portrait of self-discovery and shame," writes Wesley Morris in the New York Times. "This gamut covers a lot of ground, too: the winking mannerism of Alfred Hitchcock (Rope), the dimensional experimentalism of Gregory Markopoulos (Twice a Man, with a young Olympia Dukakis), the serene classicism of Vincente Minnelli (Tea and Sympathy), the icebox psycho-expressionism of Ingmar Bergman (Persona)." We're gathering previews. » - David Hudson »
My original review of Wild Strawberries This film was the last role by legendary Swedish actor Victor Sjöström, who directed The Phantom Carriage You can’t fly directly from Stockholm to Lund these days, you have to go to Malmö and drive. It takes about two hours total A flight from Stockholm to Sydney, Australia takes almost 24 hours, so a bit longer Ingmar Bergman was having an affair with his leading lady Bibi Andersson during the making of this film Norwegian Black Metal and Swedish Death Metal are two things that I associate with Scandinavia A Mitzvah is a good dead, and a Mensch is someone who does them Virtually every Bergman film was »
- Arik Devens
Hitchcockian doubles from Hollywood’s lowest rungs retreat to Big Sur for a weekend of hiking, drinking and mutual torment in “Always Shine,” a psychological thriller that feels like “Persona” by way of “Single White Female.” With her confident second feature, director Sophia Takal (“Green”) takes on Tinseltown misogyny and the toxic rivalry between friends, but that’s mere prelude to a gonzo meta-fiction that deconstructs itself nearly to death.
Amid all the turmoil, Mackenzie Davis, the ascendant star of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire,” pulls focus with a mesmerizing turn as a never-will-be actress and Caitlin FitzGerald is equally good as her passive-aggressive friend/doppelganger. “Always Shine” reps a gleaming showcase for their performances, but its overabundance of ideas presents a murkier commercial prospect.
Working from a script by Lawrence Michael Levine, Takal makes it immediately clear that while Davis and FitzGerald play struggling actresses, their own bonafides are beyond dispute. »
- Scott Tobias
He’s only been making features for the last decade, but Joachim Trier is the rare example of a director whose voice felt fully formed upon his debut (Reprise). That’s, of course, not to discredit room for growth — his follow-up, Oslo, August 31st was proof enough that he can expand and deepen his skills. This week sees the release of his third feature, the impressive drama Louder Than Bombs, which premiered in competition at Cannes last year. For the occasion we’ve dug up his ballot for the 2012 Sight & Sound poll (taken around the release of his second feature).
Featuring some of the more obvious touchstones by Kubrick, Fellini, and Hitchcock, a few picks display where he clearly borrows influence for his dramatically piercing work, including Resnais’ debut, and classics from Antonioni and Tarkovsky, as well as his sense of comedy, from Scorsese and Allen. Perhaps most noteworthy is »
- Jordan Raup
Asghar Farhadi‘s films don’t strike me as having much of a cinematic precedent, which is not at all to suggest they aren’t “cinematic.” Consider, rather, the fact that his master’s thesis concerned world-class dramatist Harold Pinter, and think of his screenplays’ dramatic properties — an incident, an involved party, the people around him or her, and further incidents that will then gradually, inevitably emerge. Perhaps I consider him a great, great writer first and a very great visual strategist second, or simply take those roles as 1a and 1b, respectively.
In short: it’s little surprise that his Sight & Sound list is filled with movies about families and their calamitous issues (sometimes “just” emotional), or at least movies heavily concerned with the reverberations of actions. It’s also a fine collection of cinema as is, save for Sun Yu‘s The Road, which I’m only excluding »
- Nick Newman
8 items from 2016
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