A reflection on the spatial insignificance which can exist between love and hate, creativity and destruction, and good and evil when it comes to organic life, Lar Von Trier's The House That Jack Built is a singular vision of a serial killer, one which features a grand host of intricate assertions about art and the existential nature of humanity itself. A work that is complex, thought-provoking, blunt, yet spiritual, The House That Jack built's epoch is not temporal but existential, a film which is bound to stir up discourse, offering a host of possible interpretations. Vexatious in nature, Trier gives this misogynistic, violent psychopath a meaty disposition, one that challenges the sheer definition of altruism, moralism, and art itself, reflecting on societies' penchant for discourse, description, and examination instead of simple being is challenged with though-provoking rigor through this heinous man. The film's reflection on contemporary American society is its least interesting aspect, as its nothing we haven't seen before, but what Lars Von Trier has created with The House That Jack Built is a film which should be discussed, whether it be through disdain or praise, for years to come; isn't that what Art is all about?
An engrossing, humanistic, yet subversive examination of family, Koreeda's Shoplifters is a brazen, refreshing take on parental-child dynamics, a film which recognizes that even authority wielded by parents can be destructive and oppressive. Shoplifters asks what constitutes a family, examining a group of individuals whom through the lens of contemporary society are delinquents yet Koreeda shows little judgement, viewing them through a humanistic lens which attempts to understand them first, before judging them. Great, complex cinema
A pensive study of grief and general turmoil which strikes the right chord, brooding with pathos and levity. The best character study of the year - complex, compelling, never sentimental, yet brutally honest about a character struggling to stop his unraveling life
Starts strong but loses its luster a bit in the middle, with the last segment specifically being quite strong. Coen brothers penchant for blending genre elements seamlessly is of course the film's strength, oscillating between comedy and tragedy, visceral chaos and quiet moments of levity. Extremely clever when it comes to traversing the various tropes of the Western genre and era in American history itself.
Transcendental in its ability to subvert traditional melodrama and narrative conventions related to the paternal father/daughter narrative archetype, Leave No Trace is a revelation in its ability to tackle a host of complex issues related to family, community, individualism, and authority, doing so with a laser-tight focus full of astute observations. Emotionally resonant and incredibly astute, Leave no Trace is a complex examination of the oppressive nature of authority, something which restricts the autonomy of an individual, whether through the artifice of religion, the state, or the parental figure. While so many "smart" films these days conflate community and socialization with state authority, Leave No Trace maturely deconstructs the complexities of modern society, never taking the easy way out when it comes to philosophical assertions, recognizing that anything compulsory is oppressive. Epistemic in approach, Leave No Trace is simply put, one of the best films of the year and probably the decade-- a crowning achievement that should be seen and discussed for years.
Technically sound but intellectually shallow, First Man touches on a host of interesting themes but never explores any of them in depth. It's a character piece of a passive character in which the drive of the whole film is simply historical relevance, everything else is vapid at worst, half-baked at best. Chazelle wields a claustrophobic lens throughout, with isolation being paramount to the introspective drive of this main protagonist- a man who himself feels alone, constricted, isolated not only from family but from society itself due to the nature of this mission. The film simply put, doesn't know what it wants to be, oscillating between thematic assertions with little respect for exploration of them, resulting in a film that relies solely on half-baked melodrama far too often.
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