James has written 8 reviews for films rated ★★★½ during 2020.

  • Kenneth Anger - Magier des Untergrundfilms

    Kenneth Anger - Magier des Untergrundfilms

    ★★★½

    Amazing that this doc crew was on-hand for the filming of Lucifer Rising, illuminating so much of Anger’s methodology - particularly just how scrappy and nearly single-handed these productions were. Really makes the imagery therein all the more impressive.

    I wish the doc had chosen to subtitle Anger’s interview portions, rather than have the narrator dub over the translations. That’s really the only gripe I have with this, otherwise this is a must for fans of KA. Would love to see this restored at some point.

  • Fear of Fear

    Fear of Fear

    ★★★½

    MoMA, 35mm

    Saw this a long time ago and found it a little too mean-spirited, even by RWF’s standards. Glad I revisited though, as those feelings weren’t as resonant this time around. Margit Carstensen’s Margot has a bit more of a defiant posture than I remembered, though still trapped between playing the role of an efficacious spouse and maintaining her agency.

    Has anyone donned a pair of gloriously bulbous 70’s headphones so gracefully?

    Anecdotally, in terms of scale, it’s often…

  • Chinese Roulette

    Chinese Roulette

    ★★★½

    Film Forum, 35mm

    Been putting this one off for a long time - one of the three or four RWF films I haven't seen.
    A bit of a minor piece, but still plenty of twisted fun to be had here, watching a crippled child torture the parents that wish her dead.
    Wish more had been made of the dueling feminine energies of Anna Karina and Margit Carstensen, but sadly that dynamic never amounts to much. In fact, Karina doesn't really…

  • Man's Castle

    Man's Castle

    ★★★½

    A tender and deceptively simple slice of depression-era life and love in New York city. Tracy’s hustling lunk-with-a-heart-of-gold paints a complicated love interest - his disposition teeters between hot-headed, impulsive oaf and wholly dedicated, passionate lover…it’s a great dualism, but much of his misogyny (and Loretta Young’s submissiveness) won’t play too well for contemporary audiences. But that’s what’s rich about this character - he’s not exactly a great person, but he’s ultimately sympathetic.

    Would like to see a better-preserved version…

  • The Scar

    The Scar

    ★★★½

    MoMA, DCP

  • Io Island

    Io Island

    ★★★½

    Film at Lincoln Center, DCP

    Not quite the enigmatic fever-dream that you'll find in some of Ki-young's other 70's work like PROMISE OF THE FLESH or THE INSECT WOMAN, but pretty damn close. A time-shifting, psychosexual rural folk horror that features necrophilic insemination. WTF else do you want?

  • Totally Fucked Up

    Totally Fucked Up

    ★★★½

    MoMA, 16mm

    That's right, Gregg Araki on beautiful 16mm. Not my favorite of his films, but all the quintessential GA elements are here - existential despair, subcultural exhibitionism, garish 90's aesthetics, and of course James Duval.

    Perhaps America's most misunderstood auteur. If we're allowing TV series on Letterboxd now, consider this my petition for the excellent and overlooked Now Apocolypse.

  • The Lighthouse

    The Lighthouse

    ★★★½

    It's not that Pattinson is bad per se, but against Dafoe he's borderline embarrassing. Doesn't help that Dafoe gets to deliver dialogue is so impressively crafted in that salty, Eugene O'Neill-esque dialect.

    Anyway, the first hour of this was great, but the second half goes through motions that confirm that yes, this is exactly what you expected going in: men drink and fight, someone has a secret, and someone dies a gruesome death.

    I've got no beef with Eggers though.…