Crime and Style
August 13, 2008
A Very British GangsterAnywhere RoadBoy AThe Weinstein CompanyThe base, the very source, of many documentaries is not often acknowledged-- the confidence that the people in the film have in the director. In A Very British Gangster, a criminal named Dominic Noonan, notorious in the extreme, talks on camera about his career with almost complete frankness. Murder he evades, though not the murders he has threatened. Everything else he talks about in a chatty way, as if he were discussing a conventional life.
July 30, 2008
The Last Mistress (IFC) Trumbo (Samuel Goldwyn and Red Envelope) The French director Catherine Breillat uses plentiful sex in her films. This is notable not for its candor, a quality that is nowadays general, but for its cunning purpose. Her easy, open attitude toward sex makes the viewer wonder (this seems to be Breillat's plan) what the difference is between her films and pornography. So we consider the context of those naked scenes even more thoroughly, and we decide that the context gives her films a thematic texture that pornography never has.
June 25, 2008
MongolPicturehouseThe Edge of HeavenPyramidWhen Did You Last See Your Father?Sony Pictures ClassicsTolstoy was the source of an earlier Sergei Bodrov film, Prisoner of the Mountains, a subtly shaded drama about two Russian soldiers. Bodrov's new film, Mongol, could hardly be more different.
Wealth and Woes
June 11, 2008
Savage Grace (IFC) Sangre de Mi Sangre (IFC) The Battle for Haditha (DreamMachine) Rich people are the center of Savage Grace. This is not only a fact, it is the mode of the film's being. From first moment to last, the film breathes the attar of richesse. The rooms designed by Victor Molero, the costumes by Gabriela Salaverri, the lapping of them by Juanmi Azpiroz's camera--all these confirm that we are leagues above any pleasure-limiting care. This is not a historical film where extravagance is expected: Savage Grace begins in New York in 1946 and continues through a couple of decades.
May 28, 2008
Roman de GareSamuel Goldwyn Stuff and DoughMitropoulos Up the YangtzeZeitgeist The leading man in Roman de Gare is middle-aged and short, with a jutting jaw. His presence in a role that is supposed to be magnetic and sexy is an immediate clue that something odd is en route. Another quick clue: the title translates as Train Station Novel (something like our phrase "airport novel").
May 07, 2008
Tuya's Marriage Music Box Flight of the Red Balloon IFC Jellyfish Zeitgeist Surprising things happen in Tuya's Marriage. A herd of sheep pushes across the screen, then the herdsman rides in--on a camel. We learn that the herdsman is actually a woman. Later, she rides out on that camel in a snowstorm to find her son, a storm that has been reported to her by radio. For a party in a big town, this woman, who lives in a crude house, goes to a luxe hotel whose name is displayed in English.
April 09, 2008
Alexandra (Cinema Guild) The Unforeseen (Cinema Guild) Frownland (Frownland, Inc.) Galina Vishnevskaya, the renowned singer who is now in her eighties and who has hitherto acted principally in opera, plays the leading role in the Russian film Alexandra. Possibly this came about because the previous film by this director was a documentary on Vishnevskaya and her late husband, the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. That director is Alexander Sokurov, a man with a heavyweight reputation.
Films Worth Seeing
April 05, 2008
Alexandra. With surprising frankness, this Russian film explores the barbarities of war, especially in Chechnya (unnamed). The picture is much heightened by the performance of a former opera star as a grandmother who visits her soldier-grandson at his army base. (Reviewed 4/9/08) Body of Work. A documentary about an American soldier drastically wounded in Iraq and his life thereafter.
March 12, 2008
Chop Shop (Koch Lorber) Paranoid Park (IFC First Take) Laments about the decline of cinephilia are familiar, and in the main they are just. Little is left of the film frenzy that embroiled college generations through the 1960s. But that is the view from the audience side; there is a different view that contests the decline. Cinephilia is not declining at its roots, because new film-makers of quality continue to appear. The waning of the so-called Film Generation has not affected them.
Fame and Blame
February 27, 2008
The Duchess of Langeais -- IFC Summer Palace -- Palm Who is Jacques Rivette? The question would stump many regular filmgoers, but for those who are intemperately close to film history, the name will chime. Born in 1928, Rivette was a leader of the postwar Nouvelle Vague and is still working.