Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Current Cinema (at home) 20.2

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Filmmaker Eliza Hittman seems especially attuned to the vagaries of adolescent torture.... as if this cesspool of emotions and stunted psychology doesn't get its fair share of examination. But with her latest film, "Never Rarely Sometimes Often", she scrapes away at the trauma of a teenager (Sidney Flanagan) not only dealing with a major life choice, but setting her afloat in the concrete jungle of New York with little compass or means besides her cousin (Talia Ryder) who tags along for support. Both young actresses give astounding performances, where confused glances and pursed lips say more about their pained understanding of the uncaring world than any dialogue ever could. Filmed in hectic, handheld bursts whose images seem fleeting but ultimately tell just the right amount of story, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" tackles complicated themes without compromising its characters. Like she did for male anomie in her previous (and also wonderful) "Beach Rats", Hittman has fashioned a lean, acute oeuvre of young outsiders struggling and coping with some heavy stuff. That all her films come off as bracingly honest is the highest praise one can receive.


"Tommaso" is Abel Ferrera's most personal film since tearing the sheets from James Russo and Madonna in "Dangerous Game" (1993) and revealing the existential/psychological hell that is making a movie. And since one of his previous films explored the tortured landscape of legendary Italian filmmaker "Pasolini" (2014), this time around Ferrara simply re-calibrates the idea as his own tortured landscape. Starring Willem Dafoe, "Tommaso" portrays a burned-out filmmaker living in Europe with his wife and young daughter (Ferrara's own wife Cristina Chiriac and Anna Ferrara), filmed in Ferrara's own home, and refusing to follow any major narrative thoroughfare simply observing the man as he confronts the stasis and paranoia bubbling beneath the surface. There are moments of weakness and infidelities. There are unsubtle bouts of madness. And there's one especially magnificent scene as Dafoe confronts a screaming homeless man beneath his loft window- and it hardly goes where one expects, creating one of the most absorbing scenes of the year so far. "Tommaso" is ragged.... unruly.... unconventional.... and a brilliant progression of Ferrara's frenzied creative output that, hopefully, will continue to avoid the hypnotic stagnancy put forth in this autobiographical stunner.

Recent reviews at Dallas Film Now:

My Spy:  Uneven family comedy with a plot rehashed from a 90's Arnold Schwarzenegger pilot.

7500:  It's not long before the cockpit in this action thriller becomes exhausting. And not in a good way either.


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