The hands of the prisoner

We have to wait until the last images of Happy Times Will Come Soon, directed by Alessandro Comodin, to face the concrete evidence of its declared homage to the bressonian iconography: the hand of the prisoner that holds on to the cell grids. The influence was announced deceitfully here and there, but with this final image, the same gesture endowed with metaphysical expressiveness in Pickpocket (1959), it becomes a frontal and evident mention, a dialogue with a certain cinematographic tradition and, at the same time, … Read more The hands of the prisoner

“Are you rushing or dragging?!”

One of my most cherished memories as an early filmgoer was seeing Buster Keaton dancing in perfect synchronization with himself in The Playhouse (1921). Vaudeville and cabaret traditions in general often depend heavily on a simple attribute: timing. It might sound like an obvious reminder, but when music meets dance it becomes very much about timing as well. Damien Chazelle knows a thing or two about that. His first feature, Whiplash (2014), was made famous for a scene that showed J. K. Simmons’ character throwing … Read more “Are you rushing or dragging?!”

Cool story bro

In one of the very first shots of Sergei Loznitsa’s new movie, a small group of people is waiting. They look like tourists, but there are no clues as to where they are. They could be anywhere at this point in the film: Disneyland, the London Dungeon, a music festival. Out of the small group a young man sticks out. On his black t-shirt reads the following in large white letters: “Cool story bro.’” This affirmation seems to echo the now cult line in French … Read more Cool story bro

The poet is dead; long live the poet

1. At first sight Paterson seems to be a film dedicated to simply tell a story, in its somewhat peculiar way. There’s enough dramatic adherence to not alienate a recently re-captivated audience, despite the conversion being fruit of one of the director’s weakest films – Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). In this new fiction film (simultaneously, the director also released the documentary Gimme Danger), these traditional narrative devices are put on display, as seductive baits to a spectator the film knows very well, and who, … Read more The poet is dead; long live the poet

The other is dead; long live the other

1. A lot of the action in The Unknown Girl takes place in a clinic that, unlike a hospital, functions as a mediator that takes care of the basic health needs of the local residents, or refers them to more specialized treatment elsewhere. It’s the kind of structure that benefits from a bigger intimacy between the physician and their patients, relying on a combination between allopathy and social attention – a service which is also often used as a ladder for more qualified and better paid positions.  … Read more The other is dead; long live the other

The symbolic is dead, long live the symbolic

1. Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada starts with an awkwardly composed shot of an SUV carelessly parked in the middle of the street. Lary (Mimi Brănescu) gets off and goes inside a building, leaving his idling vehicle for a minute or so. The camera doesn’t follow him, left behind with the car, blocking traffic. The shot goes on for a few beats too many, in keeping with the realist observational paradigm of the recent Romanian wave in world cinema, which has in Puiu one of its household … Read more The symbolic is dead, long live the symbolic

The word is dead; long live the word

1. There are three moments in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women that speak volumes about its own central dilemma. The first one happens right at the beginning, in the first of the three short individual stories that comprise the film: Laura (Laura Dern), a lawyer who’s been trying to convince her client (Jared Harris) that he’s not entitled to what seems to be a fair compensation from a previously settled lawsuit, expresses her discomfort after seeing him promptly agree when a male lawyer tells him the … Read more The word is dead; long live the word

A matter of time

When this year’s New Directors/New Films began, Apichaptong Weerasetakul’s latest movie, Cemetery of Splendor (2015), was being exhibited in New York, across the street from one of the festival’s venues, at Lincoln Center’s own Elinor Bunin Munroe center.It is no surprise that, within the festival’s own description, Zhang Hanyi’s first feature is being compared to the Thai master: in different ways, both are heartily embracing life after life and feature a central character having the aptitude to communicate with the other world. The woman in … Read more A matter of time

The desire for the West

  Despite the variety of its international credentials, Britain-based Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari’s feature debut starts from a context of place and time specific enough to be clearly stated in the film’s opening title cards: the Iran-Iraq war which, lasting from 1980 to 1988, became the longest running war in the 20th century. The movie, however, starts not in the actual battlefield, but in the more unbalanced battle one can fight in a non-democratic government’s office, where Shideh (Narges Rashidi) asks for another chance to … Read more The desire for the West

Things money can buy

“It’s breaking my heart to watch you run around ‘Cause I know that you’re living a lie But that’s ok, baby ‘Cause in time you will find What goes around, goes around, goes around Comes all the way back around” Justin Timberlake In his 2011 celebrated short film 5000 Thousand Feet is the Best, prolific visual artists Omer Fast portrayed the life of drone pilots through a staged and written looped interview of an actor playing a drone pilot and actual documentary interview of a … Read more Things money can buy