Didactic, overly-sentimental, exploitative, and thinly constructed from a thematic perspective, Geremy Jasper's Patti Cake$ is a film full of narrative plodding and little else, unintentionally trumpeting the notion that success and artistic achievement are intrinsically attached to financial success and mainstream appeal.
Transversing the corporate America satire with a healthy dose of horror, violence, and depravity, Joe Lynch's Mayhem is a entertaining, albeit slight social commentary and escapist experience, one which asserts the need for a better balance in society between one's personal interests, and career obligations. Absurdist, violent, and playful, Lynch's film subverts the idea of objective morality through its use of vile, corrupt, exaggerated corporate antagonists, setting up a playground for its main protagonists, one in which murder and death are celebrated when done at the hands of the main protagonist
An intoxicating neo-noir reverberating with low-key style and a moody, neon-soaked atmosphere, Aaron Katz's Gemini is a thoroughly engaging murder mystery which will be sure to confound many viewers due to its assured, ambiguous nature in which clearly defined answers are a fleeting ideal. Taking place in the heart of Los Angeles, Gemini is very much a Los Angeles story, one about a Hollywood actress and her beloved assistant, a film which reflects on a city in which structures related to celebrity create privilege and power. While the narrative of Gemini itself, a who-did-it style mystery, is tense and alluring, the film's thematic assertions, while beguiling are endlessly intriguing, as the film deconstructs the power and privilege associated with celebrity and acclaim, showcasing the capacity it can have over others and the oppressive nature it can create over those individuals outside of the cultural zeitgeist, whether it be those who operate adjacent to, void of, or thirsty for attachment to this hierarchy of cultural power.
Mohammad Rasoulof's A Man of Integrity is a piercing character drama and smoldering study of the cold rigid mechanism of government. Following a good man in a corrupt world, the film exhibits how power and authority are often wielded through corruption and used to gain unfair advantages or suppress dissenters. While A Man of Integrity isn't anything you haven't seen before, with its a man of integrity in a corrupt world story, Mohammad Rasoulof's film is thematically more interesting than most films of its ilk, being a highly effective and compelling film from start to finish.
Expressive, impressionistic, and excessive at every turn, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani's Let The Corpses Tan is another assault to the senses by the Italian filmmakers whom make films in a style that is perhaps best described as a kaleidoscope of images and sound. A heist film, of sorts, shot more in the vain of a highly stylized Italian Giallo, Let the Corpses Tan uses an abundance of experimental techniques to craft one of the most singular film's of the year. While it's more coherent than their last film, The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani's latest remains a visceral assault full of stylish creativity, reminding the viewer that their are no rules when it comes to cinema, just an artist's own restraint.
Full of ingenuity and creativity, Benson and Moorhead have built a career off low-budget horror/science fiction films, ones that don't look their budget and are full of intriguing and original ideas and concepts, The young filmmakers continue their streak of intelligent, creative science fiction/horror with The Endless, a film which effectively builds an aura of intrigue and mystery. While the characterizations work in the sense that you holistically believe these actors to be brothers, the film's emotional tension related to them trying to find the right balance in their relationship falls largely flat, albeit does support the thematic thread centered around individualism. From a daunting omnipresent force, to a plot centered mostly at a suspected cult, and the paternal instincts of the older brother, The Endless has something to say about authority and conformity. Fusing horror atmospherics and thrills with a commentary on individualism, the film showcases a person's struggle to find a purpose of self outside of anything other than within. It is a story of self-determination vs. authority, which effectively sculpts a horror film around the primal nature of this internal conflict.
An exquisitely crafted documentary offering an intricate look into the world of body building, Denis Cote's intoxicating documentary focuses on the human element, accentuating the artistry of his subjects as they work to perfect their craft. Like any great documentary, Denis Cote's A Skin So Soft crafts a story in examination of its subjects, bringing zero judgement or preconceived notions to these men who sacrifice a lot for external platitudes. Featuring an observant lens which in awe of its various subjects, A Skin So Soft exudes a sense of wonderment about the human form, with the director's appreciation for these men's commitment being felt in every frame, showcasing the sacrifices these individual make internally and externally. There is an aura of shared humanism and individualism in how Cote documents his subjects, showcasing both their shared experiences, such as the strain it puts on those they care about, while also focusing on their individual struggles, singular to each of them in their shared pursuit of physical perfection.
Michel Franco's April's Daughter is a story that if explained without subtext would sound much like what one may find on a daytime soap opera. It's a sharp film, one that sets the viewer up, playing into the tropes of it's adolescent pregnancy archetypical story before revealing its subversive nature. As much a subversive horror film as it is a story of family, April's Daughter follows a malevolent mother whose self-centered nature wrecks havoc on his daughters. It's best to go into knowing very little, but just know that Franco's film aims for discomfort, as it subverts ones expectations, eventually revealing itself as a story of a young woman whose path to responsibility and empowerment is forged through her mother's selfish acts.
An intricate character study which is expansive yet intimate in scope, Valerie Massadian's Milla is a soulful meditation on life and death, remembrance and fortitude, and the precious, fleeting nature of life itself. Though the film deals with complex and weighty issues, focusing on a soon-to-be mother whom is forced into a place of emotional solitude and isolation after the untimely death of her companion, Massadian"s Milla manages to subvert expectations, tonally remaining grounded in a state of promise and hope. The film is assertive in it's convictions that in spite of all the sorrow and turmoil this young woman has experienced things will work out due to her fortitude, with the film managing to be genuine, emotionally poignant, heartfelt yet hopeful, injecting moments of levity into a somber narrative which covers the whole range of human emotion.
An angry film that is tonally inconsistent, Holland's Spoor is a beguiling film entrenched in nature-induced mysticism. Spoor is endlessly intriguing in it's thematic examination of mankind's destructive nature yet too uneven in it's narrative lynchpins to truly excel, relying entirely on its bristling creativity and singular vision to engage the viewers. Part revenge story, part subversive eco-thriller, Spoor feels too forced in it's assertions at times, coming off too much like a P.S.A., being far too blunt and dramatic for it's thematic assertions centered around humanities detachment from nature and the need for us as a society to return to a place of nature and nuture among animal kind.
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