NYFF20 REVIEW: Undine [2020]

If you leave, you have to die. Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) laughs when Undine Wibeau (Paula Beer) tells him he can’t leave her lest she be forced to kill him. He laughs because he’s read the myth of sea nymphs sharing her name and the fate those who love them suffer if they ever betray it. That’s not how the real world works, though. Couples fall in and out of love all the time. Men don’t walk to forest lakes and scream her name to satisfy the holes in their heart…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Mandibules [Mandibles] [2020]

What’s in the suitcase? Look no further than the fact Manu (Grégoire Ludig) was given the job to know how simple it was. While he’s a guy who shouldn’t be trusted to operate heavy machinery, tasking him with the no-questions-asked delivery of a suitcase shouldn’t be far-fetched—especially not when he’ll be given a decent payday for his trouble. Manu needs that money too. He’s lost his home and sleeps wrapped up in a blanket on the beach way too close to the water. Any little bit therefore helps and procuring…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Jumbo [2020]

What is it if it isn’t love? Jeanne Tantois (Noémie Merlant) has never been one for people. Besides her mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot) and co-worker Fati (Tracy Dossou), she’d avoid talking to them all. You can’t blame her for this attitude considering what so many do the moment they witness her shyly eccentric demeanor. She closes her eyes in a wince when someone gets too close and they almost always come back with a chuckle or unoriginal playacting of being “scary.” They mock her, ridicule her, and laugh rather than…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Dasatskisi [Spring Blossom] [2020]

I’d give everyone a five. How do you know a relationship sparked with another is truly love and not merely the absence of the listlessness you felt before its creation—a mere distraction? The answer is probably a simple case of seeing with objective eyes and feeling with an unencumbered heart, but those aren’t easy things to possess while the excitement of the moment remains fresh. So sixteen-year old Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) will continue longing for the serious stranger standing outside the theater on her way to school regardless. And thirty-five-year…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Druk [Another Round] [2020]

Have I become boring? If you find yourself needing to latch onto an obscure scientific theory to reinvigorate your energy level and live your life as more than a sleepwalking zombie, you’re probably not ready to actually confront the real problem. We know this to be true of the quartet at the center of Thomas Vinterberg‘s Druk [Another Round] since our first impression of Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and, especially, Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is that they have lost their spark. Sexually, intellectually, physically, emotionally—whatever…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Nuevo orden [New Order] [2020]

Then don’t tell them. Seemingly taking a cue from television, writer/director Michel Franco provides us glimpses of the carnage to come at the opening of his latest incendiary drama Nuevo orden [New Order]. There’s a naked woman with blood dripping down her body in the rain. There’s paint splashed upon a window behind a bride trying on a white lace dress, a giant oil canvas adorning the wall of an affluent family’s home, and fire burning in the distance after thrown furniture shatters into a hundred pieces on the ground.…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: La nuit des rois [Night of the Kings] [2020]

The prince without a kingdom. Writer/director Philippe Lacôte looks to tell a tale of the Ivory Coast and its most recent two decades of civil war and strife with his latest film La nuit des rois [Night of the Kings]. With that also comes a necessity to speak about the youth who’ve recently taken up residence within the confines of his setting: La MACA. This prison—whose under-thirty population is currently hovering around eighty percent—shifts between the horrors of its inherent violence and the magical fantasy conjured when Lacôte was a…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Mila [Apples] [2020]

I don’t remember if I like them. Amnesia is a tragic ailment. To wake up and find yourself unable to remember your name or any other aspect of your life is nothing short of a nightmarish scenario. We fear diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s precisely because losing our memory is akin to losing our very identity and by extension our sense of purpose. So it’s only natural to see the conceit behind director Christos Nikou‘s and co-writer Stavros Raptis‘ film Mila [Apples] as one steeped in horror. It’s unknown why…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: 返校 [Fanxiao] [Detention] [2019]

I don’t remember anything. As a subversive poem (according to the Chinese Nationalist Party that ruled Taiwan under martial law during the period known as the White Terror from 1947 until 1987) read by Miss Yin (Cecilia Choi) to the members of her and Mr. Chang’s (Meng-Po Fu) underground high school book club relates: a tree’s roots never ask to be repaid by the fruit that blooms as a result of their effort. It’s a succinctly beautiful metaphor for the education system and its liberal teachers doing all they can…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Chihuo Quan Wang [Chasing Dream] [2019]

Don’t drown yourself in mistakes from the past. We live in an era where celebrity has become more about fame than talent as those wishing for adulation do what they can to mimic the greats that came before them without ever worrying about proving whether they possess an ounce of originality. You want to impress the judges on “American Idol”? Show them you can be Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna all at once. You want to be the talk of the fighting world by unleashing your strength in the Ultimate…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Fellwechselzeit [Time of Moulting] [2020]

What about final wishes? Young Stephanie (Zelda Espenschied) is utterly alone. It doesn’t matter that she lives with her parents (Freya Kreutzkam‘s Mom and Bernd Wolf‘s Reinhardt) because their physical presence pales in comparison to their emotional absence. And nothing will ever change. It can’t. Stephanie’s mother is too far lost in the past to think about the girl’s childhood when memories of her parents keep her forever longing for the childhood she herself wasn’t afforded. Stephanie’s father is conversely too busy living in the present to worry about anyone…

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