Vadim has written 5 reviews for films rated ★★★ during 2021.

  • Benedetta

    Benedetta

    ★★★

    A simplistic model of “humanistic” screenwriting complexity is to produce characters who initially seem Good but turn out to Do Bad Things and vice versa; Verhoeven regularly proposes a world with no well- or ill-meaning actors, where everyone’s waiting to take turn to get the upper hand and expose their true, almost invariably malign motives and/or assert themselves via brute violence. These actions are understandable as survival mechanisms within foul matrices (American society, the Catholic Church, righting nationalism); systems are the ultimate villains, but the people within them aren’t that far behind.

    More here.

  • The Card Counter

    The Card Counter

    ★★★

    In American Gigolo, Light Sleeper and First Reformed, redemption gets conflated with sex in the single figure of a romantic interest; saddled with the latest iteration of this unenviable function, Haddish is unprepared to make the leap to her “comic performer shows off dramatic chops” role. But both the hits and misses in Card Counter are irrelevant to its central charm, which is comparing/contrasting how it varies the tropes of Schrader’s self-created genre. Gigolo harvested “Call Me” for two hours…

  • Earwig

    Earwig

    ★★★

    This is Hadzihalilovic’s English-language debut, a pandemic production which began shooting November of last year. These factors aren’t as important as they might be for other filmmakers: she’s never been dialogue-driven, preferring layered atmospheric unease instead, nor aimed for naturalistic performances—in any case, I doubt this has more than 100 lines. The pandemic factor, too, is imperceptible without background knowledge: Hadzihalilovic’s previous studies in isolation make her ideally suited for the production particulars of this moment.

    More here.

  • Blackmail

    Blackmail

    ★★★

    [sound version, the last time I saw the silent one and I can’t believe these can’t be logged separately]

  • Annette

    Annette

    ★★★

    Leos Carax’s Annette begins with a variant on Holy Motors’s “Entrac’te,” now split from one mid-film break into opening and (mid-end-credits) closing musical numbers that set a similarly grimly determined/celebratory tone. The director and his real-life daughter are among the first people seen, leading Sparks and the film’s main cast out of the recording studio and into the world. Adam Driver gets on a motorcycle and zooms into the night to begin his diagetic story proper as confrontational stand-up comic…