Browsing: Reviews

Never look away is, first and foremost, the story of an artist who struggles to find his voice under the pressure of state and society’s imposed restrictions. As such, it is one of the most relevant films for this time—and for that matter, probably any time. This is the story of the people who challenge the dominant discourse—whether it is imposed by the state, the society, the media, or the professionals—and the price they pay for it. At the same time, through the life of a doctor, the film depicts how the lying powerful could stay in power, as they…

ASKED about the movie we’d just seen, one patron suggested there was ‘a lot to digest’ – wow, did she get that one right. When you’ve seen the main characters eat their fair share of worms, maggots and assorted bugs, you might find things hard to digest. Or even keep down. Border is that kind of movie; whatever that kind of movie is. As director Ali Abbasi makes clear, he’s no genre guy and this is no genre film. You could try horror, crime, romance, myth, but you’d be more or less missing the point – whatever the point is.…

Two women of different generations are involved in a traditional ceremony, preparing the younger woman for something. This is how Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) starts—Colombia’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film in Oscar that has made it to the shortlist. Soon, we find out that the young woman (Zaida) has officially become a woman and her mother (Úrsula) is making her ready for the announcement and taking a man. Rapayet, from another family, asks for her hand, but two issues work as barriers for him: one, his family, that is considered lower than Zaida’s, and second, money, to…

What makes a family? Love? Blood? Both? Neither? This is the central theme of Shoplifters, another great drama by Kore-eda Hirokazu and the winner of Palme d’Or in 2018. The film has a tendency to reveal the information to the audience gradually. What looks like a complete family in the beginning, a family that tries to give shelter to a little girl, step by step turns out to be a group of people who have gotten together to “form” a family, a family they want, not one they were born into. Some of the characters explicitly state their thought about…

Among other things, the film showcases how the campuses in Tamil Nadu are widely demarcated among the student population based on caste. Pariyerum Perumal (God Who Mounts a Horse) is a very strong film. It invites a society, which is entrenched with casteist prejudices, for a debate and asks people to rethink these extreme forms of incivility. It takes us through the highly emotional struggles of a scheduled-caste youth who aspires to become a spokesperson of dignity and human rights for his community. He thus wishes to become like his role model, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, an unparalleled revolutionary leader of modern…

Last year, now-infamous producer Harvey Weinstein was still attending the Toronto International Film Festival. This year, making its world premiere at the festival he once frequented is “This Changes Everything,” a documentary highlighting the systemic sexism that has permeated Hollywood for the past century. In the year since a report by the New York Times alleged decades of abuse by Weinstein, he’s pled not guilty to sex-crime charges, including rape, and an array of powerful men have been similarly accused of various forms of misconduct. While it was hoped the ensuing uproar might give Hollywood a chance to shed it’s…

Like the recent Brazilian film Araby, Dominican writer-director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias’s Cocote grafts a fictional narrative onto the sturdy stock of documentary filmmaking. Here, the story concerns Alberto (Vicente Santos), a gardener for a wealthy upper-class family in Santo Domingo who’s forced to return to his remote rural hometown of Oviedo when he receives word of his father’s recent murder by decapitation in retaliation for unpaid debts. (The film’s title refers to the nape of the neck, thus to the wounds inflicted on Alberto’s father.) Tensions quickly arise within Alberto’s family due to the moral and theological conflicts between Alberto’s…

Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature is so worked out that you know that every nuance is pointed and intentional. Jalilvand’s formal craftsmanship and attention to detail are accomplished, though his self-consciousness has a way of drying out the drama for the sake of socially minded sermonizing, which is frequent in Iranian imports inspired by Asghar Farhadi’s live-wire parables. Farhadi isn’t without a didactic streak either, but he’s a wizard of movement and performance, fostering a mysterious kinetic energy that often enriches and transcends the parables themselves. Jalilvand’s direction here belongs more firmly and routinely to the tradition of the moral procedural,…

The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (a.k.a. Grandeur et Decadenced’un Petit Commerce de Cinema), from 1986, never received a release in theatres, in part because it was made for French television but also due to fears by distributors following the controversy and protests over Hail Mary, Jean-Luc Godard’s “blasphemous” 1985 feature. Yet, the director’s follow-up venture was much less overtly edgy: As if to make up for Hail Mary, a deliberately provocative critique of the Catholic Church, The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company is comparatively light, quirky and insular, at least in its initial portions. In fact, the maverick filmmaker…

Filmmakers Laura Collado and Jim Loomis’ Constructing Albert, a release from Juno Films,follows Albert Adrià as he brazenly launches five different restaurants in Barcelona from 2013 to the end of 2016, hoping to forge his own food empire and get out of the shadow of big brother Ferran, the wunderkind behind Spain’s world-class eating mecca elBulli. While this culinary-themed doc offers a little kitchen sizzle and artistically plated tastings (a delicious shrimp dish sautéed, a daring soy sorbet, etc.), the film has more of a scattershot, look-at-me Facebook feel. We experience Adrià onscreen or via voiceover as he nonstop shares—whether with journalists,…

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