The Nice Guys
Deconstructive. Self deprecating. Knowingly subversive. Whatever one wants to label Shane Black's "The Nice Guys", I'm all for it. Finally, after so many knock offs, he gives us a stone cold, raucous 'sun noir' that not only dips into the 70's title font bucket, but seems to fall in love with the overall hazy, sun-drenched milieu of the times just as easily. Like the best of the genre (i.e. Altman's "The Long Goodbye", Aldrich's "Hustle", Mulligan's "The Nickel Ride" or Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon" which trust me will make more sense once you've seen both films), Black's film ambles, waddles and hints at so many prevailing winds of attitude, 'hippiedom' and culture clashes that the basic story of two private investigators (Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) trying to locate a missing girl becomes secondary to the effort. It's the oblique journey and not the straight up conclusion that makes this and fellow neo-noirs so compelling and immersive. Like the visual style of the film- which is often more inclined to tail off from the narrative and hover over some Los Angeles landmark or take more joy in the nighttime valley of lights that is hypnotic 1977 Los Angeles- "The Nice Guys" challenges our expectations of a "thriller" and provides us something much more interesting and non derivative. Black's script is tone perfect, darkly humorous (i.e. a man on stilts receiving a very random bullet) and whip smart. Oh, and it does get around to solving the central mystery which is just another satisfactory tentacle to the film's pleasures.
A Bigger Splash
Luca Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" works best in the first two-thirds when it's unmoored from any real narrative drive, its camera careening and tracking and swiveling to follow four aimless, sensational and dance frenzied set of people in the Italian countryside. That two of the people were once lovers (Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes) and the other two include the new boyfriend (Mattias Schoenarts) and daughter (Dokata Johnson) of the ex-pat couple only heightens the slow burn tension. It's in the final act- when all the swirling aspects of jealousy and passive aggressiveness finally rear their heads- that surprisingly "A Bigger Splash" loses its spark. The image of a hidden restaurant carved into the side of a field mountain or the way Fiennes looks directly into the cameras as he preens and dances to The Rolling Stones "Emotional Rescue" give the film an embellished energy that can't be matched in its finale. Yet, like his previous film "I Am Love", Guadagnino's stylish creativity behind the camera reveal a talent who still has some great masterpiece inside him.
The Other Side ( Louisiana)
Italian Roberto Minervini seems to be one of the few international directors burrowing his foreign gaze on the marginal quarters of the U.S. His "Texas trilogy" of films (which includes the well respected film "Stop the Pounding Heart" which I haven't seen yet) will be highly circumspect from a native Texan such as myself, but his latest film "The Other Side" has me curious. Following a family of down-and-out grungy drug users, alcoholics and general roustabouts in the far reaches of the Louisiana bayou, it's a film that claims to be a 'documentary', but I seriously doubt its hybrid approach. Too many scenes feel compromised for dramatic effect... as if its one big bayou freak show put on for the red flashing lights on the camera. Even more dubious is the abrupt tangent the film embarks upon during its final twenty minutes, leaving the family behind and turning its focus on a group of military survivalists teaching each other how to deal with the impending apocalypse. There's plenty of drinking, shooting guns and Obama-swearing as "The Other Side" shifts towards a more radical approach of low-income American miserablism. As if the first half didn't hammer home the idea of suffocated lifestyle in this otherworldly part of the U.S. the second half doesn't provide much hope either. Maybe the whole thing is a Harmony Korine-like hoax.
A film I admire more than like. Review on Dallas Film Now
Belladonna of Sadness
Based on a mid ninteenth century about witchcraft and not released in this country for over 30 years, this "adult" cartoon weaves a heartbreaking and eye-popping tale. Full review on Dallas Film Now.