‘Gueros’ (Kino Lorber)
Style doesn’t go out of style. That’s why directors around the world are still aping the French New Wave, in good and bad ways.
Güeros is a grab-bag of the right and wrong ways to appropriate the Nouvelle Vague’s stream-of-conscious plotting and jazzy rhythms. It did the festival circuit last year and is now getting a limited release. My review from the Tribeca Film Festival is at PopMatters:
[Güeros] gets a lot of traction from its mainly directionless young protagonists. They wander through Mexico City through a couple formless days backgrounded by worries about the future and uncertainty about their place and purpose in the present. It’s a film riddled and with questions and switchbacks, circling in on itself time and again…
Here’s the trailer.
Young Cobain (HBO Films)
Even though it was produced in association with Kurt Cobain’s family, the new documentary about his tragically short life has a bracing honesty that makes it required viewing.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is playing now in limited release and also on HBO. My review is at Film Racket:
Brett Morgen’s deft and fascinating documentary about America’s last true rock star is shot through with inevitability. But that never detracts from the raw emotional power of a film made up mostly of Kurt Cobain’s nakedly confessional journals and recordings. The film’s story can’t help but carry a mythic quality. That doesn’t mean that Morgen, working with the authorization of Cobain’s family, created a worshipful monument to genius. It’s true that to appreciate Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, it certainly helps to at least approve of a Nirvana song here and there. But this isn’t a fan’s valentine. At times it feels closer to hate mail from the artist himself…
Here’s the trailer:
Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ (Sundance Selects)
In Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, a venerable actress with a prickly assistant agrees to play the older character in a play that made her famous when she was in the younger role, now cast with a Lindsay Lohan-esque up-and-comer. It’s a rich dramatic environment, suggesting a marriage of Persona and All About Eve.
Clouds of Sils Maria opens this week; my review is at Film Racket:
In this richly satisfying film about age and art, a battle of wills over a new production of a classic play becomes a Rorschach test for two women’s friendship. It’s another subtext-laden drama from Olivier Assayas, whose best work has dug into the simmering tensions of long-term relationships and come up with melodramatic gold. Clouds of Sils Maria won’t be counted among his greater achievements like Summer Hours. But it’s a return to form for a director whose more recent films (Carlos, Something in the Air) have been packed with energy but lacking heft…
Here’s the (somewhat misleading) trailer:
‘White God': The dogs are coming (Magnolia Pictures)
Ever year the Cannes Film Festival awards the Un Certain Regard prize to a standout film. For 2014, that film was Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo’s White God, which is not about race or religion, but rather about what happens when people push dogs a little too far. Yes, it’s a metaphor.
White God is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. That hasn’t always proven correct with some performers, who could look forcefully into a camera and still reveal nothing about themselves or the character they are inhabiting. The same problem presents itself in Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, only this time the eyes in question aren’t those of human actors, but canine ones. Eyes are important in this film because the story has so little to offer; about all that’s left to engage with are the dogs who spend a good amount of time peering soulfully out of the screen. And that’s before they rise up against their human oppressors…
The trailer is here:
Viilbjørk Mallin Agger and Viggo Mortensen in ‘Jauja’ (Cinema Guild)
Jauja, a ghostly pseudo-Western set in the wilds of late-nineteenth century Argentina and starrting Viggo Mortensen, is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:
Given a précis of what Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja is ostensibly about, some might imagine they’re in for a South American updating of The Searchers. But even John Ford—who would have been happy to have a stolid leading man like Viggo Mortensen in his company—at his pokiest was never this unconcerned with story. Alonso is happy to let his scenes spool out at their own unhurried pace, captured in the old-fashioned boxy Academy framing. This can lead to some gorgeously observed tableaus but also stretches of dry tedium, hemmed in by a layered and mannered aesthetic…
Here’s the trailer:
This is what lies look like: ‘Merchants of Doubt’ (Sony Pictures Classics)
How do you get people to believe in a lie. Well, when it’s something like climate change, it helps to have a well-paid mini-industry of fakers and dissemblers to help spread the mistruths. Whatever the subject, there’s plenty of so-called “experts” who will tell people what they want to hear.
That’s the subject of Robert Kenner’s new documentary Merchants of Doubt, which opens tomorrow in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:
This is an ugly film, though it has an upbeat spirit. Director Robert Kenner starts off with magician Jamy Ian Swiss giving a deft performance in close-up magic. “My expertise is in deception,” Swiss says with no small amount of pride. Kenner features Swiss so prominently, and laces the film with visual nods to card tricks, because as Swiss states about magicians, “We are honest liars.” The professional charlatans Kenner profiles later would be hard put to make such a claim. The tragedy of the film is that depressingly few people get the difference…
Here’s the trailer:
Robert Pattinson looks properly mystified in ‘Maps to the Stars’ (Focus World)
It was probably only a matter of time before director David Cronenberg and novelist Bruce Wagner found some way to work together. Cronenberg’s love of festering wounds (both physical and psychological) and Wagner’s bleak and blackened comedies of Hollywood soul-deadness would seem somehow made for each other. That’s how we, unfortunately, ended up with Maps to the Stars.
After a short, awards-qualifying run late last year, Maps to the Stars is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:
There is a moment when satire turns into pure spleen. That moment comes pretty early in David Cronenberg’s disjointed Maps to the Stars. Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), a child star with the dead but predatory eyes of a middle-aged addict, lashes out at his manager. Benjie lets loose a stream of insults notable for being not just petty but anti-Semitic and homophobic to boot. It’s a terribly clumsy moment (see how awful actors can be), the satirical equivalent of a punch to the nose. Much of the film that follows is played in much the same key of bilious hate, the only variant being the talent of those spitting out the lines…
Here’s the trailer: