REVIEW: Family Romance, LLC [2020]

We can only do what we really are. Leave it to the Japanese to create an industry where you hire actors to fill-in for every occasion. The father of the bride can’t attend the wedding due to illness? Hire a performer to take his place so the absence isn’t noticeable (no sitcom antics a la headsets via “Arrested Development” or motorized computers via “The Big Bang Theory”). Unable to relive the excitement you felt upon winning the lottery? Pay someone to randomly surprise you as though you’ve won again to…

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REVIEW: La vérité [The Truth] [2019]

You can’t trust memory. Despite the title of her autobiography being La vérité [The Truth], it takes a while before Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve) says what we know to actually be true. Her stories about being a loving mother in text are just that: stories. Despite being a screenwriter, not even Fabienne’s daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) could conjure an anecdote that bore any resemblance to such an idyllic façade if she tried. But while everything boils down to what the aging actress finally expresses during a defensive fit of anger,…

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REVIEW: Selvmordsturisten [Exit Plan] [2019]

Life never stops. Life is forever. Max (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is an insurance adjuster who just told his latest client that her claim wouldn’t be approved since her husband’s six-month disappearance isn’t confirmation of death. It’s a revelation that leaves her distressed not because she won’t be getting the money, but because she’ll have to continue living with the possibility he might still be alive. She wishes for a body because it would provide answers. She wishes Max would sign-off on the plan anyway because doing so would supply a legal…

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REVIEW: Le daim [Deerskin] [2019]

Meet the beast. This is a mid-life crisis. Strike that. This is a mid-life crisis in a Quentin Dupieux movie. I add that clarifier because most people don’t turn into serial killers when buying a high-priced item or having an affair will suffice. But most people aren’t like Georges (Jean Dujardin)—he does all three. Well, strike that from the record too. We don’t actually know if he’s had an affair. All we know for certain is that his wife never wants to see him again. Withdrawing 7,500 euros from the…

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REVIEW: Vitalina Varela [2019]

Fear can also get to Heaven. When Pedro Costa knocked on Vitalina Varela‘s door in Lisbon, he was looking for a house in which to shoot some of his latest film Horse Money. What he got instead was an impossibly tragic story about how her long-awaited arrival from Cape Verde happened three days after her estranged husband’s death. Apart for decades and forever holding out hope for the promise of one day reuniting, fate intervened at the eleventh hour to leave her in a new country with nobody she could…

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REVIEW: Los tiburones [The Sharks] [2019]

Did you catch anything? When we first meet fourteen-year old Rosina (Romina Bentancur), she’s running away from her actions. Down through the trees she goes, heading towards the beach as someone chases behind. We soon learn that her pursuer is her father (Fabián Arenillas‘ Joaquin) and her crime is hurting her sister Mariana (Antonella Aquistapache). She says it was an accident and he believes it was, but we can tell she’s speaking more about the injury than the deed. No one wants to maim a sibling no matter how frustrated…

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BERLINALE20 REVIEW: La déesse des mouches à feu [Goddess of the Fireflies] [2020]

I feel like I’m wasting my life. Die-hard grunge fan (and drug dealer) Fred (Noah Parker) tells Catherine (Kelly Depeault) she can’t play her Hole cd because Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain. It’s a remark that was probably half joke and half memorial that leads into Keven (Robin L’Houmeau) dropping the necessary wisdom of knowing Love wouldn’t have been able to stop him if she tried. Cobain wasn’t a victim. He lived hard and walked a road of his own making to an end he ultimately embraced enough to pull…

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REVIEW: Les misérables [2019]

Never sorry. Always right. You have to give Ladj Ly credit for seeing the potential in expanding his acclaimed short film about a trio of Anti-Crime Brigade cops outside of Paris in Montfermeil while also knowing it wasn’t perfect. There was a lot packed into Les misérables that could use some room to breathe, but the narrative itself needed tweaking too since the character he and co-writer Alexis Manenti chose to have a horrific mistake the first time around wasn’t necessarily the correct one. So the two joined with Giordano…

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REVIEW: Les misérables [2017]

We’ll shake down Cosette. How do toxic traits shared by plenty of police officers around the world (they exist regardless of whether they’re exceptions or the rule depending on your viewpoint) manifest? Is the attitude that your fraternity trumps abuse taught? Or is it learned? Because we want to believe that this brotherhood only goes so far as protecting a compatriot from the collective danger they face together every time they walk the streets. To continually watch it spill over into this prevalently unwritten code of protecting them from the…

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SUNDANCE20 REVIEW: And Then We Danced [2019]

It’s the spirit of our nation. To be a Georgian male is to be masculine—especially in dance. Merab’s (Levan Gelbakhiani) teacher Aleko (Kakha Gogidze) demands that he stand straighter and stronger, a monument that can withstand any blow. While his country’s aesthetic had allowed for a softer tone, conservative tradition prevailed a half century ago to move things back to the rigid separation of gendered movement and the complete erasure of sexuality. How Aleko’s dancers perform becomes a visual metaphor for their nation. It will not be defeated. It will…

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REVIEW: Mémorable [Memorable] [2019]

Don’t let go of me. Animation allows an artist so much more room to breathe than live action—especially when confronted by issues we can’t see with the naked eye. Bruno Collet‘s topic is dementia and his short film Mémorable [Memorable] depicts it with a stunning beauty via post-modern styles. As Louis’ (André Wilms) falls further behind reality, his view of the world gradually degrades into visions of melting objects (surrealism), disfigured visages (cubism), and a decrease in detail until he himself becomes smoothed out along the edges (impressionism). He begins…

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