A meditative pathos enraptures Memory Exercises, an experimental documentary in which natural world aesthetics are transposed into a personal, yet expansive elegy of the loss and suffering felt under the oppressive dictatorial regime of Alfredo Stroessner. The personal and the political are intertwined, memory and historical record juxtaposed, with Encina's film being one in which the sound of silence speaks volumes in capturing the expansive nature which state sponsored violence and oppression have on the social nature of our world. Children & Nature are major components of the film's tranquil aesthetic - the innocence of the young, the natural anarchic ways of world - both subjugated by the political might of a tyrant.
Stylistically more restrained than Swiss Army Man and a superior film in almost every way, The Death of Dick Long has a far more consistent rhythm to its evocations, exuding major Coen brother vibes in its genre blending tale of criminal incompetence. This deliciously perverse crime caper is taut, comedic, and littered with moments of emotional poignancy, moments which are effective due to the film's genuine empathy towards its characters, regardless of their flaws. There is not a better moment from last year in cinema than in 'The Death of Dick Long' when the score crescendos, the lens fixates on its main protagonist with soft-focus close-up, and the line "Comet fucked him to death" is uttered. Also, why the hell did A24 dump this movie?
Dil Se (1998) - Mani Ratnam
Radical politics exhibited through a intricate, subversive love story in which the pervasiveness of the male gaze is implicitly explored. The metaphysical supplants the material world when it comes to loves warm embrace. A complex, fascinating tapestry this film is.
Kamikaze 89 (1982) - Wolf Gremm
The dystopian archetype in which the totalitarian world-building is done with neon-soaked panache, Kamikaze 1989 is a pleasurably schlocky effort but one which doesn't differentiate itself much from other films of its ilk. The narrative of Kamikaze 1989 is borderline inconsequential, as the film seems to become increasingly incoherent as it progresses,and yet the film has its pleasures, featuring beautifully manic production design and art direction, as well as memorable performance by R.W. Fassbinder. All I know is I want Fassbinder's leopard jacket and that one goon's superman phone.
Silly!!! Impressionistic in its formalist and aesthetic designs, The Lighthouse evokes a sense of bitter isolation and impending dread from the onset which feels palatable but ultimately vapid. Clearly influenced by Eastern European cinema but the whole thing feels like a hollow aesthetic exercise that is quite over-directed. Works best when seen as an allegory for sexual repression, though that's probably a stretch. #AMarriageStory
1917 (2019) - Sam Mendes
An intense, gripping experience but one intrinsically detached due to its technical achievement. Thin but visceral, and while it's monotonous in a sense, at least it's a streamlined jolt which doesn't have any overwrought dialogue or exposition. An experience, and please stop calling this "a video game" what a lazy and silly critique.
Sono straight up fleeced Netflix to make an unhinged work of unrelenting nihilism in which the gonzo's thematic multitudes - Sadomasochism, exploitation, grief-scarred trauma, the male gaze - are thrown into a blender. Reminiscent of Teorema due to its 'nefarious, mysterious stranger motif", though Sono's film is far more abrasive and direct, The Forest Of Love is a maelstrom of gonzo artistry, one which doesn't always work but it's never anything less than engaging in its frantic evocation of emotional trauma. Punk in its narrative and formalist sensibilities, The Forest of Love is a nihilistic story of depravity and degradation, one which manages to offer up scattered moments of tenderness and poignancy between its manic construction.
Sweeping formalist styling invoke a spiritual experience, one in which Malick's often ambiguous modes of existential examination are subverted and replaced with a more precise worldview rooted in stoicism and Aristotelian individualism. Through this true story of Franz Jägerstätter- an Austrian farmer whom refused conscription by the Nazis during World World II - A Hidden Life quietly tears down collective notions of identity and morality. Astute in its recognition that the sheer idea of collective forms of identity is a socially constructed fabrication, Malick's spiritual work exhibits how this perspective is not only facile but susceptible to tribalism, creating a binary around any moral or ethical implication, breeding an us vs. them mentality. For Malick, internal introspection is paramount, and while free will can be treacherous when it comes to self-preservation it is also illuminating, stripping away the abstract concepts of the social and political and providing a clear, sustainable morality, one in which Franz manages to hold onto despite his loss of life when it comes to the material world. A poetic, spiritual experience for those willing to let go.
Moving with a brash, rhythmic intensity which is admirably intoxicating, Sye Raa Narashimha Reddy is 171 minutes of historically inspired mayhem, one in which factual precision is discounted and largely disregarded, supplanted instead by an awe-inspiring spectacle. Turbocharged formalist designs project this blood-soaked historical epic into an adrenaline-inducing cinematic experience, one in which emotionally-charged melodrama, extravagant mise-en-scene, and dynamic action coalesce into an unforgettable, patently absurd, and beautifully rendered ode to Indian independence from the barbarism and absurdity of British colonialism.
Fast Color (2019) - Julia Hart
A salient example of a film which deserved far better, Julia Hart's Fast Color is an accessible piece of filmmaking which traverses its genre with grace, eschewing familiar tropes of the supernatural thrillerarchetype due to its fervent attention to detail when it comes to character, relationships, and human connection. A story about hope and fortitude in times of crisis told through a multi-generational family drama in which superpowers happen to exist, Fast Color is unfortunately the latest depressing example of a film which got completely screwed due to external factors - marketing departments don't know how to approach anything that isn't derivative.
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