REVIEW: Oh Lucy! [2018]

“Meow. Meow. Smooch.” I saw Atsuko Hirayanagi‘s short film Oh Lucy! back in 2014 and thought it to be a bona fide charmer. It told the story of a lonely woman named Setsuko who does her niece a favor by recouping the cost of English classes the cash-strapped girl had decided quit. The American teacher […]

REVIEW: Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Audacity to be Free [2016]

“Become who you are” There’s a great line spoken by an aged Lou Andreas-Salomé (Nicole Heesters) to new friend and potential biographer Ernst Pfeiffer (Matthias Lier) upon his praise-fueled declaration that the way she lived her life—her freedom—was a touchstone for modern feminism. Her reply is, “Nonsense. What’s changed for us women since then?” It’s […]

REVIEW: Incubo sulla città contaminata [Nightmare City] [1980]

“That sounds like science fiction” There’s a scene between Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) and his wife Anna (Laura Trotter) about two-thirds of the way through Umberto Lenzi‘s Incubo sulla città contaminate [Nightmare City] where they speak about the perils of technology. After an hour of murder, death, and exposed breasts, suddenly the screenwriters decide to […]

REVIEW: 大鱼海棠 [Dayu haitang] [Big Fish & Begonia] [2016]

“Without happiness, what’s the meaning of longevity?” In 2004, directors Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang created a Flash animation for an online contest. From there they would expand it into a feature length film steeped in Chinese supernatural legend. And despite some funding snags over its twelve-year production schedule, 大鱼海棠 [Dayu haitang] [Big Fish & […]

REVIEW: Aala Kaf Ifrit [Beauty and the Dogs] [2017]

“What law forbids a human being from seeing a doctor?” Fear should never be underestimated as a means for oppression or motivation because there are few emotions more potent. This is why totalitarian regimes use it as a weapon to silence those who dare find the courage to stand up for their rights. They sow […]

REVIEW: Sing Song [2017]

“I’m looking for my eyes in your eyes” For Dutch teenager Jasmine (Georgiefa Boomdijk), her homeland of Suriname (a northeastern South American country) is a footnote. She knows little about it or the mother she and her father Winston (Maurits Delchot) left behind sixteen years previously. He refuses to talk about anything pre-Netherlands so her […]

REVIEW: Hannah [2018]

“He’s not coming” To see the titular character (Charlotte Rampling) at the start of Andrea Pallaoro‘s Hannah is to see someone like any other. She rides public transportation to her eccentric acting class, cooks dinner, and enjoys a quiet evening beside her spouse. The film’s start is ostensibly a silent one with only the noises […]

REVIEW: November [2017]

“The two of you with your frozen souls” What is the point of having a soul if everyone around you doesn’t? I think that’s the central question asked by Rainer Sarnet‘s November, a bleakly told Estonian fairy tale tragedy adapted from Andrus Kivirähk‘s novel Rehepapp. At its core is romance—the kind based in unrequited love […]

REVIEW: La passion de Jeanne d’Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] [1928]

“His ways are not our ways” The history of Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s masterwork La passion de Jeanne d’Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] is almost too perfectly attuned to the subject matter itself. Here was a renowned director hired to craft a movie about France’s most famous Catholic despite being neither French nor Catholic. […]

BERLINALE18 REVIEW: Les rois mongols [Cross My Heart] [2018]

“They’re good guys doing bad things” While you can debate the success of politically motivated events like 1970’s October Crisis in Quebec, Canada, you can’t question their danger removed from the cause. The media reports the carnage whether terrorist bombings or kidnappings and murder. They provide an objective account of what’s happening—in this case the […]

BERLINALE18 REVIEW: Cobain [2018]

“My little man” There’s a scene in Nanouk Leopold‘s Cobain where the titular fifteen year-old (Bas Keizer) tells his estranged, junkie mother Mia (Naomi Velissariou) that he wants to help. Her response is to ask whether she cares about what he does, the answer tragically understood before his mouth utters the word “No.” To watch […]