Most musicals create a heightened reality as part of a prerequisite for the genre, and then there is Annette. The first film in nearly a decade for Leos Carax, the wild risk-taking auteur behind such form-pushing provocations as Holy Motors and The Lovers on the Bridge, Annette is as tortured, joyous, and swooning a work as those in his filmography. His return marks a significant occasion for arthouses, and he meets that sense of event with a film to be tamed during and after one watches it. Annette infuriates and enthrals in equal measure, undeterred by how much of the audience it loses with its one-of-a-kind spectacle. Carax is back and making stylistic leaps as bold and uninterested in the rational as ever, but he reemerges with his greatest sense of reflective humanity.Continue reading “In Review: Annette”
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.Continue reading “In Review: Never Gonna Snow Again”
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.Continue reading “In Review: Pig”
The films of Pedro Almodóvar have always been personal. His fascinations have becomes their defining characteristics, their anguishes an extension of his beautiful soul bent on provocation, their wit his own distinct and invaluable point of view. They are of him, beyond even his often audacious queer perspective unmatched for its invention and breadth across decades. His films have an identity that is all their creator, impossible to extricate from how we interpret the artist himself.
But his newest film, Pain and Glory, is something much more emotionally raw and revealing without the artifice of interpretation. And with good reason – even for a filmmaker unafraid to use aspects of himself in his art, this film represents a soul-bearing. If we thought we knew Almodóvar, Pain and Glory is him claiming a persona as bruised and introspective as it is vibrantly alive with feeling. Any guard that was previously there before in his coy narrative has been stripped.
In a year where so many films have plumbed the depths of dire mental health to visceral effect – Annihilation, Tully, and even Hereditary – perhaps the most punishing of them all is Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Placing us squarely into the devolving headspace of Ethan Hawke’s tormented priest, Schrader’s film is a battering ram to the body and the spirit. But where those other films gaze into the abyss and find some semblance of an answer, First Reformed finds only deeper and deeper emptiness. It’s grim stuff, but it’s also convincingly profound.