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Allegorical muddle strangles would-be horror thriller
I find US very disappointing after the thrilling and ingeniously intriguing GET OUT. However, the film doesn't work as a thriller or horror entertainment, though you'd never tell from the critics reviews. Critically,that film was critically greeted with an inflated degree of intellectual seriousness, despite its excesses as a racial allegory in which every white character was a villain. Sadly, in US the allegory envelopes everything; and the attempt is too muddled to allow for the successful horror-thriller entertainment that seems to have been intended to accompany the allegory. Happily perhaps for Peele, the enthusiasm awaiting the allegorical efforts of a well regarded creator seems directly proportional to the incoherence of the allegorical effort. (Skeptical readers are invited to go for their amusement -- or enlightenment-- to Kyle Buchanan's 04-27 NYT presentation of 7 interpretations.) Indecipherable grim nonsense.
Hollow Triumph (1948)
A great doppelganger movie and Film noir
A terrific film somehow transcending the other available works of director Steve Sekely, perhaps because lead and producer Paul Henreid, who here gives his most powerful performance, took a vigorous and skilled hand in the directions, perhaps because of the never excelled doppelganger script by great Brooklyn-trilogy novelist and Criss-Cross script writer Daniel Fuchs, perhaps because of the fine cast including Joan Bennet at her captivating best, perhaop because if the great cinematography of John Alton in peak form. Brilliantly use of the doppelganger theme, here for once with true physical doubles lent a touch of Hitchcockian and Nabakov-like ingenuity and playfulness by the device of the the elusiveness of left and right when complicated by mirror images. A little marred by bad prints but perhaps truly up there with such excellent doppelganger films like DEAD FINGERS, MONSIEUR KLEIN and OBSESSION ( if not VERTIGO) given a worthy print or transfer.
Free Solo (2018)
This film provides access to where skill and challenge, courage and danger, the concrete and the metaphysical fuse and give off light.
Much already said here in detail about the film. Here instead are two relevant tips for its fans.
There's a masterful climbing novel by James Salter entitled SOLO FACES.
There's a slender, sharp extremely strong piton precious for daunting moments dubbed the ROURP -- for Realization of Ultimate Reality Piton.
Todos lo saben (2018)
An Astonishing Dramatization of the Social Consequences of a Kidnapping
The movie, mistaking by many reviewers as an mundanely resolved kidnapping mystery, is instead a drama of the complex cascading results of an ill-time tryst as triggered seventeen years latter by a kidnapling. The drama is simultaneous psychologically true, morally grave, intimately concrete and highly complex yet ever lucid, all at a level equal to that of Farhadi's great Oscar winning THE SEPARATION. Some viewers seem to find the film flawed by its hasty eleventh hour solution to the puzzle of who commit the kidnapping; but the kidnapping is merely the precipitate of, and a scaffolding for, the intense dramatic cascade that constitutes the movies, not the sort of puzzle-to-be-solved that would center the movie were it more than very marginally "who done it." Astonishing writing, acting and direction throughout. Astonishing transfer of Farhadi's deeply social and moral conception of the human condition from its native Iranian terrain to Spain.
The Mule (2018)
Eastwood delivers a masterpiece in his rare but great self-loathing mode
Eastwood in the movies closest to his own cinematic persona that are in his confessional, Yes-I-am-an-Ass**** (HEARTBREAK RIDGE, A PERFECT WORLD) mode as opposed to his more affirmative (Harry Callahan, gunslinger) mode de!ivers some of his deepest and most moving work. This film is best where the self-disgust is manifest, best of all in the great A PERFECT WORLD where the self loathing is most explicit and unqualified -- for example as expressed by the character's response to a police underling's misconceived praise for Eastwood killing his prey: "I don't know a damn thing." But MULE (read "Ass?") is a comparably rich work, though less uncompromising as it allows the Eastwood character to settle into self acceptance after much repudiation of his amoral, narcissistic , socially insensitive, gun-friendly, celebrity-seeking sexist (and broadly "politically incorrect") self-absorbed self. Of course, Eastwood has made great films in the less manifestly personal --almost skilled-hack--mode (MYSTIC RIVER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA). But Eastwood i think that has done no better than he does here, unless it is in the tragically ironic A PERFECT WORLD.
A Neo-realist Epic Masterpiece
ROMA is so not much the luminous recollection of the past stressed by many as a neo-realist panorama intensified by an raptuously detailed recapture of things past. It differed from most neo-realist masterpieces --BICYCLE THIEVES, LA TERRA TREMA-- not only in the radiance imbuing every detail because of obsessive recollection, but in the the social range of its vision, which encompasses all social classes and addresses issues of patriarchal and racial as well as class injustice. It not only delivers on the neo-realist concern for the the details of the physical environment -- the street scenes and work places -- of the social world, but invigorates the neo-realist language with spectacle -- the sportsfield, political demonstration and its police repression, the roar of the sea. One apparent precedent for this combination of rapturous memory, social realism and spectacle is John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, but ROMA is free of the Ford film's sentimental excesses - singing miners that seem ready to parade their way into a Broadway musical, familial intimacy belied by exclamatory performances.
Immersive, instructive, and heartbreaking
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
A Return to the Art Film
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND returns us to the late 1950s and 1960s when viewing a film - HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, JULES AT JIM, LA AVVENTURA, 8 1/2, PIERROT LE FOU, FACES -- appreciatively required an effort of viewer imagination. (Theater aficionados may think Ionesco and Pinter.) At first we are inundated with puzzling images, the cacophony of faces at the film's birthday party ; but that is Welles' way of plunging us into the enigmatic and multiply beleaguered world of protagonist Hannaford, strikingly portrayed by John Huston For further entry into the Hannaford's mind we have the film within the film shown at the party, a projection of Hannaford's obsession beyond what we can piece together from the partiers and Hannaford's facial and verbal responses to them. Throughout engagement is advanced by the rhythms of the film's editing. Ultimately the film movingly coheres as a tragedy of an unusually dark ironic sort, a satire in which the satirized world triumphs over the satirist and the protagonist is the butt of the jokes.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
CANDIDATE's Eugenie Rose enigma solved?
Midway through THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Sinatra character Sam Marco is accosted in a train by the quickly affectionate, blonde Eugenie Rose (Janet Leigh) who addresses him with curious terms (seemingly inappropriate "Chinese" references, deliveries of home address and telephone number conveyed with surprising confidence that Sam will remember them). Later following an arrest of Sam, it turns out he had remembered the phone number and called her to bail her out; and that Eugenie has, without any intervening contact between train and bail payment, turned out to be what seems deeply in love with Sam. Then in the film's final scene, Eugenie is shot (filmed) sitting quietly in the background while Sam speaks some final word in summary of his experience with anti-gay Raymond Shaw. All this has seemed utterly senseless to many commentators on the film without assuming that something more was intended --like the appearance of Eugenie as some sort of intervening agent of one of the film's evil cabals. But this view is not reinforced by any cues that Eugenie has ever acted against Sam's interests.
In the book, details are less cryptic, Eugenie' " good woman" love for Sam is affirmed in authorial exposition and EUGENIE makes appearance in the final scene. Thus, there is no felt enigma, and one's sense of enigma in the film might be viewed as a playful directorial red herring or fallout from a directorial gaffe. HOWEVER, another view comes to mind. Troubled Sam's meeting on the train is reminiscent of a troubled Cary Grant's meeting on train with the quickly affectionate, blonde EVA Marie Saint in Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST, who ultimately turns out to be a CIA agent sympathetic to the Grant character's fight from Soviet and other pursuers (as well as quickly in love with him). This adds a hint of even deeper conspiracy than ever becomes apparent, a protective one!
My hunch is that the cryptic presence of Eugenie is intended to add complexity by evoking some mysterious design, most consistently that Eugenie is an agent of some sympathetic intelligence agency sent to watch over Sam.
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Better than the classic literary source
An interesting aspect of this film is how much the screen writers have enriched Dorothy Hughes' powerfull literary original about a socially detached lone wolf into a tale with historical and sociological resonance by making protagonist Dixon (Bogart) into an alienated Hollywood script writer and rendering his behavior more subtle and his character more ambiguous than in the novel. A great psychological crime thriller becomes in adaptation into film a Hollywood and feminist classic as well.
Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)
Almost as interesting as the IMDB user reviews
More striking to me than the the film itself is its incredibly bi-modal retribution reveiwer scores, ALMOST ALL.NEARLY 1 or 2 OR 10 or 9. This not only strikingly illustrates the ideological/political character of user responses, but the limitations of mean scores as statistical summaries of viewer favor or disfavor. In this case no use, except as a benchmark for the polarized responses.
As for the film itself, think 11/9 is probably the best film of one of our most skilled cinemantic essayist. It's free of Moore's occasional gaffes (e.g. the cruel interrogation of Charlton Heston in Moore's critique of US gun use, the 9/11 shot of joyous Iraqies in Baghdad cafes just prior to Bush-II's military intervention into Iraq). It's polemical but conscientious, if not unselective, in its use of facts. It's a powerful piece of rhetoric, like say the Gettysburg Address or Reagan's "tear down that wall" speech.
An new Hitchcock or a new De Palme?
This landmark delivery of a mystery thriller through imagery and sound presented by means of imagery and sound on e-devices is enthralling and, in good part, culturally revealing and emotionally moving. However, the film shifts in its last ten minutes or so into a mechanically tidied up and incoherently upbeat ending that will deflate the merits of the film for viewers hoping for the great film that seems, until those last minutes, present on more grounds than technically innovativeness and virtuosity.
Eighth Grade (2018)
Dubious realism about a challenged eighth grade girl and her culture
EIGHTH GRADE is by no means as good as such recent coming-of-age films as BOYHOOD or LADY BIRD. The film's dulled by the general dullness and inarticulateness of its protagonists and those around her. Its quite evident effort to impute this dullness of mind and speech to stultifying influences of the characters' social media and, more generally, electronic culture has a thrust that appeals to me, but comes off for me as cover for a lack of insight into nuances of personality and interpersonal interaction that cannot be so absent in any actually existing world as this film suggests that they are.
This is not to say that the movie was not engaging enough to keep me, in the theater or does not occasionally spring to life or that it is without cautionary value for parents, teachers and thoughtful kids.
Red Sparrow (2018)
A blemishes beauty of an espionage thriller
After a uneven first thirty or forty minutes that is half composed of overwrought -- sadistic and nearly pornographic -- sequences about the training of Russian espionage agents called Sparrows, the film emerges as an adroit combination of James Bond like thrills and Le Carre quality spy-world reporting and plotting. The misconceived excesses of the Sparrow-school sequences aside, the direction and writing, casting and acting all shine. Ms. Lawrence 's performance is mesmerizing. One hopes for sequels that will take us through the intricate revelations of the trilogy of Red Sparrow novels, timely allegory of the Kremlin candidate and all.
Addio Kira! (1942)
The best of Ayn Rand based films from her best novel
This is a splendidly produced and directed allegory of Mussolini regime authoritarianism and patron-clientelism, plus then universal patriarchy, in the ostensible terms of a critique of the early Soviet regime powerfully performed -- charismatically by the young Valli and Brazzi. Rand's libertarian idealism engaging their original, biographically grounded authoritarian foils, rather than fantastic conceptions of Progressive Liberalism, yields rich, illuminating drama.
Especially striking to many contrails will be acquaintance with a Valli far more radiant than The Third Man's leading lady and the Brazzi whom the Brazzi of Summertime and South Pacific caricatured.
The film is as strikingly feminist Mizoguchi's Osaka Elegy, Cukor's 1940s Hephburn-Tracy films, or Sturges' Palm Beach Story.