In Review: Nine Days

Feature debut director Edson Oda melds science fiction and spiritual drama into one sensuous whole with Nine Days, a new film on bruised matters of the heart and soul. Unimposing, but with a tangible and wholly conceived vision of otherworldly things, this is an increasingly rare type of ambitious independent American cinema with a wide scope. A film about the human experience that takes on not the afterlife but the before, Nine Days captivates the head and heart, taking on grand themes of what it means to face life’s pain and beauty, avoiding pretension and oversentimentality thanks to Oda’s confidently delicate touch. 

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In Review: Never Gonna Snow Again

A satirical fable of brilliantly converging tonal specificity and sharp point of view, Never Gonna Snow Again marks another contemporary film examining class, privilege, and the immigrant experience. But under the collaborative perspective of director duo Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert, this feels like a different kind of film under a too-often-reduced narrative umbrella in cinema of recent years. To examine the isolating, consumption behaviors of the well-off towards the less fortunate, Szumowska and Englert lend a haunting and occasionally quite funny gaze that makes the film less a polemic and more of a despairing chamber piece. It’s lovely, patiently vicious, and refined.

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In Review: Old

Cresting onto the summer season like the sun on our face and waves at our feet, M. Night Shyamalan brings us the kind of high concept schlock that has been missing since the post-pandemic return to theatres has offered little big scale entertainments outside of franchises. This oasis of scary silliness is Old, a beach-set ensemble piece where nothing is at first what it seems—even the telltale warning signs of some of the director’s worst habits. Adapted from Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters’ graphic novel Sandcastle, the film first appears like another Shyamalan bomb on the level of The Happening’s groaningly stilted dialogue and lack of trust in the audience’s intelligence to surmise what’s going on as we watch it. However, Shyamalan quickly finds a stride that results in an all-together fun and touching dose of genre storytelling. 

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In Review: Swan Song

In Swan Song, Udo Kier’s image alone is too divine for words. As the “Liberace of Sandusky”, Kier stars as Pat Pitsenberger, a once flamboyant hairdresser now silently stowed away in a depressing cinderblock nursing home. He coasts by in his sweatpants, hiding cigarettes and living as the vaguest shadow of his brightest self. At the chance to style the hair for one of his wealthiest former clients, Pat sneaks off for an odyssey through the town, reclaiming pieces of himself along the way and nursing the grudges that came with the end of his salon. By the time he dons a mint pantsuit and chandelier on his head, we feel Kier’s Pat coming into an exalting reemergence, the complete vision we’ve been told he once was. Except, sadly, the film around him can reveal to us much more about him.

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In Review: Pig

Marking an auspicious debut for Michael Sarnoski, Pig is like a sad vigilante film where graphic violence is replaced with food porn and black market food distribution. Yet another grief meditation to come out of American independent cinema, this one shines with a meditative central performance from Nicolas Cage, one that undercuts and reinforces his current screen persona in equal measure. As with Cage’s performance, the film finds specificity in its sparseness, achieving measured success with simple story beats that make more room for psychological depth than story convolutions. It is a much more emotional film than you might expect, given its brooding vein that runs throughout.

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