Friday, September 29, 2017

The Current Cinema 17.8

Karl Marx City

Not only does Petra Epperlein's documentary shine a small light onto the cloistered history and political definitions of the East German Secret Police force (STASI) of the 70's and 80's, but it's also a highly personal exploration of her family's own hushed history during the same time. How these two spheres of time and place interact with each other is the central mystery. Intensely moving one second when Epperlein films her own family trying to come to terms with their father's mysterious suicide years ago, and coldly historical the next when interviewing ex STASI agents and how the compartmentalization of state always seemed to overrule their own better human judgement, "Karl Marx City" is the perfect example of utilizing a movable camera to peel back the layers.... no matter how painful they may be.


Go-for-broke cinema. No matter how one chooses to interpret Darren Aronofsky's parable of a tortured woman (Jennifer Lawrence) slowly going insane in a large old house when creatively-stifled husband (Javier Bardem) continually infringes on their partnership, "mother!" is daring and inciting. I choose to read it as a guttural feminist howl as every tiny recess of Lawrence's mind (including jealousy, paranoia, resentfulness and abandonment) is displayed- literally- onscreen. "mother!" represents a harrowing dissolution of family and self, eventually exploding into a carnal out-of-body trip through the violent dissonance of time where every mother's horror comes to inflict pain. Losing sons during war... losing daughters to carnivorous men.... and especially losing yourself in the midst of it all. One of the year's very best films.

American Assassin

Saw this on the same day as the 1997 horror movie "Wishmaster" and sad to report, that film is MUCH better than "American Assassin". I'm sick of the kick-ass mercenary fighting terrorist genre.

Plus, TONS of new reviews at Dallas Film Now including "Columbus", "Trophy", "Gook", "Rememory", "Gunshy" and more.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Recently Seen, Late Summer Leftover edition

1. The Glass Castle (2017) - Destin Daniel Cretton's "The Glass Castle" floored me on several levels. Emotionally, its genuine and heartfelt performances eliminated any hints of embeddd maudlin within Jeanette Walls' acclaimed memoir. Visually, its a carefully designed effort with a mise-en-scene firmly anchored to the mood and tempos of its characters. It's chaotic when the scene is chaotic.... patient when holding on the complex swell of emotions building (or being buried) within its faces... and subtly persuasive at mining the unspoken such as one shot of a young girl (Ella Anderson) framed at the far left side of a car's backseat, anxiously awaiting the reaction of her drunken father (Woody Harrelson) in the front. Adapting a cross cutting effect between time and place- focusing on the now adult Jeanette played to perfection by Brie Larson- could be disastrous in some films, yet here it works magnificently. "The Glass Castle" examines the unintentional bohemian fractures of family in a completely rewarding manner. And, anticipating the big climax between father and estranged daughter is prolonged, so when the moment does come, its impact is that much more powerful.

2. Peppermint Candy (1999)- With just five films (including greats like "Secret Sunshine" and "Green Fish"), South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang Dong has crafted a small but powerful body of work whose films simmer and eventually explode with devastating impact. "Peppermint Candy"- filmed in 1999 and released here in the States in 2001 where it premiered in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's prestigious New Directors/New Films venue that year- crafts the same powder keg sense of disillusionment. Beginning in 1999 with the suicide of an erratic and highly charged man (Kyoung-gu Sal), the film works backwards in time to reveal just why and how he came to this emotionally empty state of being. In the process of illuminating his mental state, from optimistic young love to crashing adult of failed marriages and poor business decisions, "Peppermint Candy" also surveys the entire country of South Korea along with him. This is searing, tough, and heartbreaking cinema of the highest order.

3. Crown Heights (2017) Justice gone horribly wrong. Full review at Dallas Film Now

4. They Were Expendable (1945)- Still working my way through all of John Ford's films. One of the few to touch on WWII directly, this one feels more fatalistic than anything else because it was made right after he himself returned from the war.

5. Salt and Fire (2016)- The great Werner Herzog directs a true dud. Something about environmental disasters, salt flats and blind Bolivian children.

6. Judge Fayard aka The Sheriff (1978)- France's answer to American workmanlike filmmakers such as Don Siegel and Michael Winner was Yves Boisset. This one is reeeaallly good about a determined judge (Patrick Deware) to bring down a shadow organization of ex-Algerian soldiers and money laundering CEO's. Lots of murders, paranoia and tricky French politics.

7. Whose Streets? (2017)- A timely documentary... a true anatomy of a riot that feels microcosmic of our current times. Thoughts at Dallas Film Now

8. Caged Heat (1974)- One of the few Jonathan Demme I hadn't seen. Women in prison cult classic that features more nuance than the usual fare. Also, I really love Crystin Sinclaire. Seems like she only did a few things in the 70's than fell off the cinematic radar.

9. The Sunshine Makers (2016)- Documentary about LSD producers in the late 60's. Kinda makes one want to boil up some LSD... until the prison sentences, hefty fines and forced hibernation to Canada.

10. 31 (2015)- I used to like Rob Zombie horror movies. "House of 1,000 Corpses" is all kinds of funky. This one.... terrible. If psychotic dwarf Nazi's are your bag, then have fun.