Vadim has written 32 reviews for films rated ★★★½ during 2014.

  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    ★★★½

    Tremendously odd: in the background, real carpenters are building, from scratch, an honest to goodness actual town of sorts, and the logistics of building a city on-screen while not foregrounding that are awe-inspiring. The set looks like a muddy, slip-and-slide nightmare, yet Altman wrangles everything precariously poised on it and keeps the people moving. What's all this effort for? In the foreground, there's Warren Beatty swaying his arms and muttering to himself, as if a rough draft for Robin Williams…

  • Leviathan

    Leviathan

    ★★★½

    "In this film the TV only appears in two scenes. Discussion about Pussy Riot was happening as we wrote the screenplay, while there was very heated discussion about them. That’s why they ended up in there, but this screenplay has nothing to do with Pussy Riot. The footage was from a murder; someone killed two women, and then wrote 'Pussy Riot' in their blood. In our film, we only hear that there’s some kind of discussion about Pussy Riot, but…

  • 20,000 Days on Earth

    20,000 Days on Earth

    ★★★½

    "The constant subject is art’s ability to let people transcend themselves, and Cave talks about the process of being onstage and channeling that force as what he lives for. These are some of the film’s most interesting sequences, allowing a musician who craves the validation of live performance to articulate what that feels like subjectively without sounding more egotistical than necessary (some of that is needed to achieve the full performative effect) or lapsing into broad emotive cliches."

    Written up over here, along with a director interview.

  • Millennium Mambo

    Millennium Mambo

    ★★★½

    I was surprised to find out that this isn't really considered a Major Hou Film — that basically appears to be the case only for some people I know and Mia Hansen-Løve. (It's not considered as a stand-alone case in Richard I. Suchenski's [excellent] Hou anthology released alongside this touring retro.) Partly that seems fair: this movie's thoughts on fickle shiftless youth aren't really much of anything (they lack Confucian rigor and take drugs!) and some of this notably lags…

  • God Help the Girl

    God Help the Girl

    ★★★½

    Wrote about this over here, along with a Stuart Murdoch interview. Entirely possible I like this way too much for stupid personal factors — all the band chat was straight high school fare, I like the songs, everyone looks "alluring" to say the least — but every day I have to wake up and read about how Michael Mann is a flawless Jesus, so I'm not feeling too apologetic (though I'd probably caution you against watching this anyway). Few scenes this year are destined to make me happier than the "I'll Have to Dance with Cassie" number, messenger dog and all.

  • Two Shots Fired

    Two Shots Fired

    ★★★½

    "I wanted to interview Rejtman when he came to show Two Shots Fired at this year’s NYFF because, as much as I enjoy his films (quite a lot), I was hoping a conversation would clarify what he’s after. Since it’s not a good idea to ask “What exactly do you want from us?,” I stuck to specifics and hoped a larger picture would emerge. Though I’m not sure if Rejtman has an all-out Philosophy of Cinema he’s keeping to himself,…

  • La Sapienza

    La Sapienza

    ★★★½

    "La Sapienza is a marital reconciliation narrative, but it seems primarily an excuse to film the Roman Baroque architecture of Francesco Borromini (who I won’t pretend to have heard of before this). There’s a definite pedagogic function embedded in the lectures delivered by reflexively dour architect Alexandre (Fabrizio Rongione), touring Italy with would-be protege Goffredo (Ludovico Succio), whose company Alexandre reluctantly tolerates at his wife’s request. The camera’s no less attentive to the particulars of the churches under consideration than…

  • Pirosmani

    Pirosmani

    ★★★½

    This is possibly the most modest biopic I've seen, a brief 85 minutes whose prevailing tone is melancholy drollery rather than admiration for an upward trajectory. Pirosmani (Avtandil Varazi) is a nomadic talent with no head for business; he briefly runs a grocery store with a friend but can't maintain. There's a startling cut when he's standing in the doorway yelling at his business partner to get out to Pirosmani standing behind the counter alone: shot-reverse shot is occupied by…

  • Lovable You

    Lovable You

    ★★★½

    How do you get from this to Flowers of Shanghai in 18 years? Not a total mystery; consider the stock-ish prolonged opening shot of a busy urban road. Rather than cutting away to the other usual montage components of Life In The City (crosswalks, mobbed sidewalks et al.), Hou waits for the heroine to pull up in her car and zooms in on her face, as initially uninflected durational observation is rewarded for its patience. There are a few other…

  • Starred Up

    Starred Up

    ★★★½

    Starred Up made me thank my lucky stars I lack whatever part of some men's psyches makes them respond to provocation in kind or actively seek out opportunities to get mindlessly psyched for carnage. I've seen this in action, but lack the instinct to trade taunt for taunt, using words that tell someone to stand down while spitting them out in a way designed to wind the opponent up: this is a visceral externalization of what seeing red all the…

  • City of Pirates

    City of Pirates

    ★★★½

    There are three deliberately unparsable ambiguities before the first minute of the first interior shot is over. It begins with a close-up of a radio; motion is reflected on its glass surface, seemingly to be scrutinized as the introduction of a character or action, but the camera pulls back and destroys the clue, making it impossible to see and rendering that teasing motion irrelevant. Now we can see the whole expanse of a small table as a knife is grabbed…

  • Jealousy

    Jealousy

    ★★★½

    Wrote about this here.