The Conjuring 2
Following a tried and true horror formula, director James Wan carries forward his 'off-shoot' franchise of famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren with "The Conjuring 2". Transitioning to England in the late 70's (immediately after they assisted on the infamous Amityville horror case), part 2 establishes much of the same shock and awe any Wan devotee will recognize- that being a disconcerting soundtrack, voices and eerie sounds cranked up to propulsive levels and an acute eye for jump scares. Thankfully, the theatrics are far from cheap thrills, stringently earned by the atmosphere. Mix in some genuine character sympathy (in the case of young possessed Janet, played by Madison Wolfe), a truly demonic evil spirit in the form of an electric-eyed nun, and a reflexive sense of humor and "The Conjuring 2" paints a nightmarish palette whose images and sounds won't diminish inside your head for awhile.
Beginning as immigrant drama where Dheepan (Jesuthasan Anthonythasan) and his make-shift 'family' struggle for survival in a French slum, things soon turn very "Taxi Driver"ish as their congenial existence is routinely threatened by the nearby violence and poverty of the local gangs. In the hands of French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, "Dheepan" is a modulated study of eroding morals and trust, featuring a score of authentic, sensitive performances... none moreso touching then the way he frames a woman and child in two dimly-lit apartment windows, begging for their father figure to return home. As he did in his masterpieces, "Rust and Bone" and "A Prophet", the sly affection for these outsiders slowly creeps up on the viewer. If the finale seems overtly jarring in its violence, its only because a parable about immigration such as this can only result in baptism through fire.
Andrzej Zulawski's final film is, sadly, his most labored and strained. Punctuated by tangents that play like a cross-patterned puzzle of his greatest thematic hits, "Cosmos" spins and whirls and digests itself into a pretentious mess. There's the country estate setting ala "The Blue Note" where everyone's fears, paranoia and repressed lust plays out in hysterics. There's the attention to weird linguistics that gave "Mad Love" a truly manic feel. And there's the beautiful Lena (Victoria Guerra) at the (partial) center that sets young Witold (Jonathan Genet) into a confused tizzy of stumped creativity and obsessive reasoning as to why various animals are being hung around the house. Guerra- and pretty much every one here- lacks the inner sultriness that Sophie Marceau brought to so many of Zulawski's pained efforts about the ineffectiveness of personal connection. It's as if Zulawski tried to merge his collective concepts into the 21st century after his long hiatus, but ended up with a hollow recreation at best.