• Dogfight

    Dogfight

    ★★★★

    River Phoenix was compared to James Dean during his brief life, and DOGFIGHT evokes a 1950s American melodrama at times. However, it's also fairly stripped-down and hushed, taking place during one night (plus coda several years later), with Lili Taylor dominating the film while she's onscreen. Her character is richly detailed - while Phoenix picked her up looking for a "dog" in competition with his neanderthal Marine buddies, she has thoughts, taste and ambitions that go far beyond his. (The…

  • Girls at 12

    Girls at 12

    ★★★★

    I imagine Laura Dern's SMOOTH TALK character as the California cousin of one of these girls, grown much further into adolescence.

    Ah, 1975! A time when a father could blithely talk about wanting his daughter to get married and becoming a homemaker as though a family relying on income from only one spouse was a real option.

  • Radiograph of a Family

    Radiograph of a Family

    ★★★

    Director Firouzeh Khosrovani's documentary is a bit too timid, and at worst, the filmmaking turns into extended look at her family photo album with voice-over on top, but it covers a fascinating subject: the contradictions of being an Iranian woman in the '70s. Her mother Tayi married a far more liberal man, Hossein, and moved to Switzerland so they could live together while he studied there. But she was uncomfortable with Western ideas of freedom, passing judgment on women for…

  • Taming the Garden

    Taming the Garden

    ★★★½

    TAMING THE GARDEN is beautiful in a bitingly ironic manner. In Variety, Jessica Kiang likened it to both LEVIATHAN (the documentary) & FITZCARRALDO, and I can see why. But former Georgian prime minister Bidizina Ivanishvili's quest to move huge trees from the coast of his country to his private garden is not quixotic or unachievable. We never see or hear Ivanishvili, so he's never granted the charisma of a villain or anti-hero. Director Salomé Jashi frames her film so that it…

  • Monkey Shines

    Monkey Shines

    ★★½

    Capuchin monkey Boo, portraying the murderous Ella, is a much better actor than the humans cast in MONKEY SHINES. Knowing Romero's post-humanist attitude, this is likely deliberate, but imagine how much better this would be with Jeffrey Combs, rather than Jason Beghe, telling Ella "You're slime, you're filth...I'm gonna tear you open and chew out your fucking head." Probably the weakest Romero film I've seen - it had the potential to be his BIGGER THAN LIFE, but it fades out into silliness instead of exploring the concept of the man/monkey mind-melt allowing the man to live out his worst impulses with any passion or believability.

  • Torso

    Torso

    ★★★★

    TORSO hates its own libido, but can't change. Seriously, the cut from a leering shot of a woman baring her breasts (less than a minute after the film has begun!) to a lecture about the aesthetics of an Italian painter's depiction of violent martyrdom suggests that it's well aware of its own sleaziness. Like many giallos, TORSO is a contradictory, bummed-out response to '60s ideas of sexual liberation, leading towards the punitive morality of the slasher movie and the trope…

  • Profile

    Profile

    ★★½

    For a thriller, Profile only really achieves one thing: being as grating as possible. That’s not entirely meant as criticism – it evokes a very contemporary anxiety about online manipulation. Director Timur Bekmambetov produced the Unfriended movies and Searching, all of which were designed to look like they were entirely shot off a computer screen. Adapting French writer Anna Erelle’s non-fiction account of her infilitration of ISIS’ schemes to recruit European women, Profile changes the setting to London. But Profile’s emphasis is its jangled-nerves mood. The film seems smaller than life.

    Full review here: www.nashvillescene.com/arts-culture/film/article/21147356/profile-oversimplifies-modern-anxieties-about-online-manipulation

  • Paris Calligrammes

    Paris Calligrammes

    ★★★½

    Lesbian director Ulrike Ottinger’s body of work can be readily divided into two parts. She began making extravagantly campy and experimental films like “Freak Orlando” and “Ticket of No Return” when the New German Cinema movement was in full swing. While they look and feel much different from the work of male colleagues like Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Werner Schroeter, they draw on a similar well of inspiration from opera and avant-garde theater. In the ‘80s, she developed an interest in…

  • Home of the Brave

    Home of the Brave

    ★★★

    Odd "weekend afternoon lying in bed in an altered state" viewing, but not exactly in the way I expected. Her STOP MAKING SENSE, but far more '80s. Great double bill with Kate Bush's THE TOUR OF LIFE, programmers!

  • Experiment in Terror

    Experiment in Terror

    ★★★½

    Incredible cinematography and direction - even on a laptop, the variations on black and white textures and the depths of shadow created are breathtaking. Blake Edwards was also capable of suggesting so much with a simple close-up or medium shot. But the film is attracted to a perversity it also constantly draws back from. Some of this stems from having been made under the thumb of the Hays Code - and I don't really want to see the '70s version…

  • The Boom

    The Boom

    ★★★½

    With IL BOOM, director Vittorio De Sica and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini reworked the same basic concerns of their neo-realist films in an Italy that had moved on to an aspirational consumerism. (A key scene is set in a shop selling bidets; by the early '60s, Italy was keeping its shit just out of sight.) Like much of the commedia all'italiana genre, this film's rather grim. In fact, its grip on black comedy slips in the second half, when it stops…

  • Limbo

    Limbo

    ★★★½

    The first hour of LIMBO comes close to overdoing the Wes Anderson-style symmetrical blocking and framing, as well as the jokes based on pop culture references. (FRIENDS is a universal language, apparently!) But in an interview with RogerEbert.com, director Ben Sharrock cited Palestinian director Elia Suleiman as an influence, and it's apparent in his direction of the lead actor, Amir El-Masry. El-Masry, playing a Syrian musician stuck in a refugee asylum on a bleak Scottish island, keeps a stone face.…