CANNES21 REVIEW: El Empleado y El Patron [The Employer and the Employee] [2021]

I’m sorry about what happened. All relationships are to some extent transactional, but none more than that between employer and employee. One provides capital and the other labor. This dynamic would be symbiotic in a perfect world since one can’t exist without the other: a boss cannot acquire the capital necessary to run a business without workers on the ground and those workers cannot live without a job with which to earn a steady wage. Even so, the disparity between them has grown exponentially throughout the past few decades. Executives…

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REVIEW: La Dosis [The Dose] [2020]

Important decisions are never easy to make. Despite being a film about euthanatizing ICU nurses at a provincial hospital in Argentina, Martín Kraut‘s directorial debut La Dosis [The Dose] actually begins with a miraculous attempt to bring a patient back to life after doctors had already declared her dead. That’s the kind of man Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is, though. On the job for two decades and counting, he knows when someone is beyond help and when their time has yet to arrive. He therefore grabs the paddles, shocks her two…

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REVIEW: El Agente Topo [The Mole Agent] [2020]

But don’t make that spy expression. After spending four months alone since his wife passed, Sergio Chamy is ready for change. Did he or his children think that meant the eighty-year-old would answer an ad in the paper to infiltrate a nursing home and spy on its employees to discover whether or not elder abuse was occurring? Not even remotely. That the private investigator (Romulo Aitken) who hires him on behalf of a client (who suspects her mother is being mistreated and robbed) has to teach Sergio how to use…

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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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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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REVIEW: El hoyo [The Platform] [2019]

Obviously. We say the same thing whenever a new dystopian vision is released: it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was said when Brazil bowed and again with Snowpiercer and High-Rise after. And now it’s director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia‘s turn as El hoyo [The Platform] hits the zeitgeist in the middle of a pandemic that’s revealed empires to be as naked as Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor. Will we band together in the face of widespread adversity and recognize—sometimes for the very first time—that we must protect the most vulnerable…

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REVIEW: Saria [2019]

No more stupid questions about love. Tragedy struck the Guatemalan orphanage Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in March of 2017 as forty-one teenage girls perished as a result of a preventable situation. Some survived to tell their side of the story: the rampant physical and sexual abuse by their custodians, the protests and attempted escape leading to their quarantine, and the possibilities of how the fire that killed their compatriots began. Writer/director Bryan Buckley has taken these accounts and the establishment’s history to weave a gritty drama out of…

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REVIEW: Dolor y gloria [Pain & Glory] [2019]

Compassionate and controlled. A lot has been said about Pedro Almodóvar‘s latest film Dolor y gloria [Pain & Glory] being autofiction, but the director says it best himself when explaining that the character (Antonio Banderas‘ Salvador Mallo) “wasn’t me, but was inside me.” There’s power to that statement because it accepts the notion that everything an artist creates is born from within. So the comparisons are unavoidable as a rule regardless of whether or not you write your script to be about a director who then lives in a set…

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NYFF19 REVIEW: Así habló el cambista [The Moneychanger] [2019]

Enjoy every penny earned and spent. Mr. Schweinsteiger (Luis Machín) ran a good game in Uruguay by helping unsavory folks launder money through him for a percentage. He was smart too, refusing to work with politicians knowing they’d eventually screw something up and drag his name down with them. Unfortunately, however, the man he willingly took under his wing as a logical successor and future son-in-law proved greedier than he was intelligent. Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler) did what Schweinsteiger wouldn’t because the dollar signs were too attractive to be ignored…

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REVIEW: Jauja [2014]

The desert devours everything. Colonialism, Manifest Destiny, and any other act by a foreign nation to claim the land of an indigenous people as its own are performed with a desire for power and prosperity. It’s about ego and entitlement—the search to create a mythology that glosses over genocide for the “heroism” of a brute that stumbled upon something he didn’t like to think wasn’t automatically his to own. So while Jauja itself is a fabled city of riches and happiness, writer/director Lisandro Alonso uses the word to describe conquest…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Ema [2019]

You’ll forget all this. There’s a lot to unpack in Pablo Larraín‘s dance film Ema. From two lead characters as unreliable to the plot as they are fickle with each other to an elaborate scheme preying on the weaknesses of man and the pleasures of flesh, it’s tough to know what the director wants us to laugh at: the wildly unorthodox situations he’s created or the sociopathic characters within. I think his hope is the former as his talk after the screening heard him admitting he didn’t like the reggaetón…

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