In Review: The White Crow

After 2011’s Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus and 2013’s look at the love affairs of Charles Dickens The Invisible Woman, Ralph Fiennes returns to the director’s chair with The White Crow. The film is a biopic of the legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (played by Oleg Ivenko), detailing his early creative struggles and ultimate defection from the Soviet Union. But once again, Fiennes delivers a flatly watchable, if indistinct directorial effort that reveres its subject without ever really lifting off the ground.

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In Review: Shadow

After the colossal creative disappointment that was The Great Wall, master filmmaker Zhang Yimou returns to the wuxia genre in his typically visually stunning fashion with Shadow. Here is another tale of duality, this time set during third century China between Commander Ziyu and his proxy body double Jingzhou. As the country descends to war and secret palace romances bloom, the expected role reversal between Ziyu and Jingzhou brings about a fateful final battle. Cue some really cool shots of fancy ancient umbrellas and some terrifying knives, and Shadow is a salve for a certain kind of action seldom served to western audiences in very recent years.

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In Review: Peterloo

The luckiest period films are sometimes remembered for how we feel like can reach out and touch them – its fabrics, its realized era details, the life given to figures we’ve known solely through the distance of history books. However, Mike Leigh’s Peterloo is one to by known by its odor, and in the best possible way. Here the typically idiosyncratically observed director gives us a massive textbook with the dust clouding off of it as he slams it in our laps, reeking of the kind of appealingly pungent book mold that immediately promises something austere and of a bygone time. But most importantly, it also instantly appears substantial.

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In Review: Little Woods

A stark but auspicious feature debut arrives with Nia DaCosta’s Little Woods, a tale of two sisters stuck at the bottom on the economic food chain. In the depressed Dakotan landscape, DaCosta finds a spiritual abyss for abandoned souls, with its two central women risking the law to improve their lives by marginal degrees. The film is spare, its narrative stripped to its very dry bones in quintessentially American piece of traditional storytelling. But the film’s success lies in how underneath the oppressive coldness it reveals in our society, burns a will to prevail that spites our limitations.

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In Review: Under the Silver Lake

David Robert Mitchell previously turned pastiche into high terror with It Follows, a quasi-giallo horror film that used sexual metaphor to both reinforce and solidify genre. His follow-up Under the Silver Lake does the same and then some, this time setting its sights on film noir traditions and even the slacker comedy. This time, Mitchell is ambitious without abandon, crafting another grimey piece of thoughtful genre exercise but miring it in intentional obliqueness. For better or worse (and there are equal doses of both qualifiers), Under the Silver Lake feels like Mitchell prematurely cashing in on all of his earned credit.

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