Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Current Cinema 15.10


I said it last year after seeing his complete oeuvre, but Paolo Sorrentino is the finest European director working today and with his latest film, "Youth", that definitive statement still rings true. It's starting off point is the mundane relaxation stay of two life long friends Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, but Sorrentino's penchant for specks of life and perfectly coiffed image making soon become a visual poem all to itself. As if the men were trapped in a haunting purgatory full of ghosts past and present, "Youth" is certainly not an ironic title. It's a film that understands life and art sometimes should be messy and beautifully unkempt. And its dedicated to the great Francesco Rosi. How beautiful is that?

The Danish Girl

I have nothing against Eddie Redmayne. Seriously, I don't. It's just his last two films (this one and "The Theory of Everything" which garnered him an Oscar) feel like real acting from someone who knows he's really acting. Plus the fact "The Danish Girl" deals with themes of transgender identity that are front and center in both the cultural and political arena these days, and it all feels a bit much. Every smirk or canvased grin he flashes feels premeditated and actually dishonest. The best moments, such as when the film focuses on the intimate struggle for identity between Redmayne and wife Alicia Vikander, are overshadowed by the need to check mark every big drama plot point. External prejudice in the form of gay bashing? Got it. Weepy sentimentalism in the final reel? Check. Cloistered period piece atmosphere? Yep. "The Danish Girl" is a film that understands its weighty significance and then hammers the point home every chance it gets.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A documentary that focuses on the curator rather than the creator. Full review here.


While not all of Spike Lee's latest film, "Chi-Raq" is successful, one can't deny the very angry and potent place it derives from. The opening- with the lyrics of its self titled song sprayed across the screen in bright red letters followed by a foghorn warning of "this is an emergency" - certainly places one in the uncomfortable framework of a conscientious filmmaker trying to change something... anything... in this fucked up society. By grafting a Greek tragedy, poetry dialogue and all, onto the shoulders of a gang war in modern day Chicago, it takes some getting used to at first, but the lead performance of Teyonah Parris soon commands attention as she tries to lead her fellow women in a sex strike until the bloodshed ends. Social satire, Lee's continual breaking of the fourth wall and straight up comedy blend into a fascinating mess that signals Lee hasn't quite given up on utilizing his cinema for more than entertainment.

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