Aesthetically constructed and composed in a way which evokes the meandering, inscrutable idling of an upper class teenager, Martin Rejtman's Rapado is thematically ambiguous, expansive, yet ephemeral in detailing the odd exploits of its main protagonist. A story of class privilege and repression, despondence and intrigue, the film remains detached from any form of assessment or verdict on its character's intent, instead offering up a dead-pan story in which many forms of interpretation have credence. Intentions are unclear and curiosity abounds despite the slight nature of the film's overall narrative designs, as Rapado delivers an oddly vibrant experience in which the audience finds themselves along for a ride that feels completely unplanned or orchestrated, attached to the whims of a teenager whom is sent on a trail of uncertainly after the class-based space he inhabits is ruptured by an outside entity- the member of a different class.
A melancholic space odyssey of introspection and poetic resolve, James Gray's Ad Asta is a salient amalgamation of intimacy and spectacle in which the vastness of space serves as perfect setting for the film's ontological aspirations and existential designs. Ad Astra is a story about idolization and glorification in which the paternal relationship between father and son is used as a fulcrum thematically to explore the prescient question of existentialism - what in fact makes life worth living? The central protagonist of this story is a man whose followed in his father's footsteps, instilled with the same work ethic and rigor for perfection which made his father a legendary hero for all of mankind. These notions of bravery and sacrifice for the greater good left an impression on his son that is borderline celestial, driving this now adult man to pursue the same macro-level view of human progress intellectually, despite experiencing first-hand the emotional trauma and dehumanizing effect such pursuits can have on those one loves. Through this paternal relationship - one which leads our central protagonist down a path of internal conflict, confronted with harsh truths about this father he idolized - Ad Astra is revelatory, encapsulating the contentious aspects of intellectual pursuit and human progress, specifically passive reflection vs. aggressive notions of change. Through these notions of human and technological progress, space exploration, and the pursuit of extraterrestrial life, Ad Astra reveals the dehumanizing nature of such grand designs, showcasing how such perspectives breed detachment, with the precious nature of life itself becoming simply another piece of the puzzle, another cog in the machine of "progress". The facade of paternal perfection is juxtaposed with a the similar facade of grandiose notions of human progress, with Ad Astra being a beautiful reminder that the social - personal relationships and emotional connections of day-to-day life - is what makes life worth living.
Minimal, effective, and efficient, Alexandre Aja's ecological horror film is lean-and-mean, a motion picture which delivers precisely what it promises over 87 minute run-time: Tension, suspense, and a healthy dose of gnarly crocodile-induced macabre. With its general conceit, the filmmakers wisely avoid any sense of pretension or desire to deconstruct the genre, offering up instead an 87 minute high-concept horror film which understands what its audience wants from a killer crocodile movie - unadulterated, brutal fun.
Aptly infuriating, Manuscripts Don't Burn is precise and economical in its aesthetic design, featuring a style which largely adheres to ascetic sensibilities outside of a few carefully-curated moments of impressionism which astutely accentuate and evokes life under state-sanctioned repression. The film's poetic and quite genial style provides a strong, tactical juxtaposition with its narrative arch and thematic intentions, drawing a harsh and important dichotomy between 'the people' and 'the state', persuasively capturing how the state apparatus, by-nature, in the modern epoch obfuscates dissent though subversion and bifurcation of the people, with any and all who could be a threat to it's absolute, dogmatic authority suffering. A masterful work which exhibits the deterioration of morality under authoritative rule where freedom of expression and discourse are prohibited due to the threat they pose to power.
A strange and alluring film, Agusti Villaronga's Moon Child brings stylish exuberance and brooding atmospherics to its supernatural narrative designs with great results, early on. The plight of a young telekinetic child who finds himself adopted by a shadowy cult with ambiguous intentions, the opening act of Moon Child exudes intrigue and mystery, soon evolving into a prophetic archetype, one which unfortunately features a bit of the ole white savior motif. The general conceit combined with Villaronga's precise direction was extremely welcome to me at first - knowing nothing about this film going in and being quite found of Depalma's underrated The Fury - yet Moon Child fails where that film succeeds, struggling to maintain sustain itself over its two-hour running time. Being unsettled about what exactly is the root of the problem with Moon Child's back half, it feels rooted in self-indulgence, as the first half of the film's ambiguous nature and aesthetic precision become displaced in the second half, a displacement in which the film's engaging take on a somewhat familiar archetypal story vanishes. When the film's prophetic formalism takes control in the back half, Moon Child is stripped of its ambiguity which hurts the film significantly, playing out the tedious motions of its narrative designs while removing what makes the film quite transfixing in its first act - a foreboding sense of intrigue and the potential for a multitude of thematic readings which are waiting to be uncovered by those viewers who wish to look for a deeper meaning. Early on, I questioned if the film was a commentary about the heinous nature of eugenics, scientism, or central planning; this shadowy cult engaging in social engineering, hiding behind the veil of "science"! Yet again, once the film gets into its back-half prophetic narrative it becomes formulaic and less appealing which is unfortunate given the skill of the filmmakers involved.
A well-intentioned effort in which the film's intentions are firmly expressed in the film's opening prologue, In Between readily establishes itself as as a film more interested in passionate polemics than nuanced discourse when it comes to the personal autonomy of woman under this repressive society. Detailing the plight of three woman, each with their own unique path in which they navigate the oppressive spaces in which they inhabit, In Between plays with the juxtaposition between harassment and outright assault, detailing the fine-line which exists between the two while also exhibiting the profound differences which can exists between liberal and authoritarian-cultural societies. The film is deeply humanist and emotionally effective yet it shows too much restraint in its decision-making, whether explicit or not, never fully willing to the commit to an expose of intricate tentacles that intermingle and overlap between the social, political, and economical aspects of these two cultures - Palestine & Israel. Personal autonomy for woman is the film's sweeping plea, and it's effective in its ability to exhibit how authority, even when it hides behind the veil of "protection" is oppressive and destructive towards any notion of agency let alone liberty.
Managing to evoke a rare sense of intimacy through methodical aesthetic and formalist designs, Ulrich Köhler's In My Room employs the 'last man on earth' narrative archetype to deliver incisive observations of the human psyche, exhibiting how cognitive compartmentalization is intrinsic to the human condition, particularly when afflicted with emotional distress or trauma. While film's 'last man on earth' formalism heightens the thematic intentions in its final denouement, In the Room is largely subversive with its familiar narrative, the plotting being tactical but largely irrelevant to its underlying virtues of this story centered around a man struggling to grapple with his feelings. Graceful in its execution, In My Room's main character is flawed but incredibly sympathetic, with Köhler's meticulous sensibilities offering glimpses of the underlying infliction within this character who resists being seen as vulnerable, despite the corrosive implications it routinely has on his personal relationships.
An alluring debut, one in which ambiguous designs and astute aesthetic sensibilities declare Yui Kiyohara as a talent worth keeping an eye on. A whiff of mystery and intrigue encapsulates this low-key ambiguous ghost story, and while the film doesn't coalesce into the fully-formed work, Our House remains an intriguing meditation, one in which mental desolation, unspoken trauma, and mystical intrigue are orchestrated with efficiency while never feeling overwrought with stylish flourish. While the influence of her protege's work is readily apparent - with Our House certainly being indebted to Kiyoshi Kursosawa - this debut effort manages to stand on its own in spite of tonal similarities, announcing a new voice which exhibits an understanding of atmosphere-inducing aesthetics, and more specifically negative space.
A sensual depiction of a budding romance which feels doomed due to external forces, much of Liliom finds Frank Borzage employing magical realism to detail the incalculable, intangible nature of love when placed against the vast tangibles- material and otherwise - which exist in any functioning society. Throughout Liliom's aesthetic and narrative formalism the intangible nature of love is presented with such a sweeping sense of omnipresence, one in which Borzage exhibits the world with ethereal sensibilities, evoking the power which love and passion can have on the individual, doing so without any sense of forced sentimentality or melodramatic depictions of romance. Liliom's construction places love as the fulcrum to leading an ethical life, exhibiting in its love story two characters who find their relationship tested by various external forces placed on them by modern life. The degradation which poverty places on the psyche of those affected, this faux socially-embedded belief in meritocracy and the corrosive effect it can have on any good natured and morally-just individual is thoroughly explored, with Borzage expressing how the social, political, and economic aspects of life often conflict and constrain the purity of love due to their disparate nature in modern society. The two lead characterizations - each having their own autonomy and individualistic desires- are nuanced, detailed, and complex; They come from different backgrounds, yet this sense of yearning for one and other unites them and gives them warm from the cold, hard unknown nature of everyday life. Their passion for one and other is undeniable and yet the social expectations related to class and status placed on them by larger society subverts and strains their relationship, breeding insecurities within them. The economic and social pressures placed on this relationship specifically drive it towards division and tragedy, with the central relationship suppressed and destroyed, at least when viewed through the lens of the material world. Aesthetically speaking, high contrast black-and-white cinematography evokes the dualism of light and dark with that of love and hate. The bright lights of the carnival - a central location in this story - piercing through the darkness of the night sky evokes the film's thematic intentions, a symbolic depiction of how these two individuals shared passion for one and other provides their a sense of guidance in an otherwise, dark, class-driven society in which love is often is confronted and contested by either social, economic, and political capital. In the end, Liliom is a salient example of the magical nature of the cinematic craft, a film which evolves from the material world to the metaphysical, astutely recognizing the intrinsic nature of selflessness necessary for love but perhaps more importantly detailing how no individual action, even those out of love or selfishness, is never completely disparate or detached from larger social subversion which societal expectations can evoke.
The film opens with a bang, centered around exhibiting how terrifying this updated version of Buddy would be given the general technological progress and the conceit of the story, juxtaposing the invasive nature of technology against the modern day convenience it grants. We see how much Buddy can do - he can control everything! your drones! your car! His patented quick learning technology only aids in him servicing you! The film is explicit in its satirical placation, yet the narrative in the very next scene sells the film short, making the decision to have Buddy's origin be rooted in a conscious act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee. In doing so this was not some destiny-laced error unforeseen by the technocrat but a calculated act by a disgruntled employee, a odd decision which largely undercuts the film's potential for any deeper themes centered around privacy, the invasive nature of technology, etc. This all occurs in the opening prologue of the film, before the title card, with Child's Play going through the relative motions from there, delivering a more respectable remake than many film's of its ilk, given its respect to the source material, understanding the subversive horror necessary to achieve something truly disturbed - unconditional love and servitude which transgresses into macabre. Has a few memorable horror sequences - particularly a few creative acts of macabre - but the film's narrative trajectory leads itself down a path which aims are more towards spectacle than constrained horror, with a finale which becomes unnecessarily unhinged relative to what up to that point had been, by-and-large, a quiet, creepy horror remake which updated and did the original justice.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.