Screening Room: ‘A Fantastic Woman’

The Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman, directed by Chile’s great Sebastian Lelio (Gloria), is playing now in limited release.

My review is at PopMatters:

The most romantic element of …  A Fantastic Woman comes early and its absence is never quite filled. Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a 57-year-old Santiago businessman with a gentle sort of gravitas, is finishing up his day at the office and heading out to meet his girlfriend. Walking into a dinner club, he pauses to listen to the beautiful singer of the mediocre band. As she croons a tart little ballad about how “your love is like yesterday’s newspaper”, Orlando watches with eyes that simply drink her in like someone newly smitten…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Insult’

In the new film from Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri (West Beirut), a simple fight over a rain gutter escalates into a seismic eruption between Christians and Palestinians that lays a painful history bare.

The Insult is playing now in limited release. My review is at The Playlist.

Here’s the trailer.

Screening Room: ‘Foxtrot’

The new Israeli movie Foxtrot is a masterfully surrealist black comedy that is as confounding as it is fascinating. Calling it a Catch-22 for the era of eternal warfare isn’t far off the mark.

Foxtrot is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

There’s no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Commune’

In the 1970s, communal living was all the rage in parts of Scandinavia. That’s the backdrop for The Commune, a drama about the ensuing entanglements and confusions from Danish director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt).

The Commune opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

I’m bored,” Anna (the superb Trine Dyrholm) says to her husband Erik (Ulrich Thomsen). “I need to hear someone else speak.” There are subtler ways to communicate middle-aged ennui to one’s husband, but that’s how the characters tend to speak in The Commune; if they’re not repressing themselves, they’re erupting. The movie follows what happens after Anna’s spur-of-the-moment declaration. Things go sideways, of course, but not in the ways one might imagine…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘After the Storm’

The newest movie from Hirokazu Kore-eda, After the Storm, opened this week in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

When is success or hunting for it a trap? Is it better to have dreamed of great things and fallen short or to have never had ambitions at all? Those are a couple of the questions that Hirokazu Kore-eda’s TV-like melodrama about wayward fathers and disappointed women After the Storm tangles with. Fortunately for the viewer, Kore-eda leaves those questions mostly hanging in the air and not verbalized, leaving the screen to a group of characters who are less like a family than a house of cards just waiting to be blown down by the typhoon everybody is waiting for to strike…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Personal Shopper’

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Equal parts behind-the-scenes fashion narrative, thriller, and improbable ghost story, Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper is one of more curious and rewarding movies of the spring.

After playing a few festivals last year, it’s opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

The year is young still, but you probably won’t see a wiser, more headlong dive into the world of high fashion and celebrity than Olivier Assayas’ slippery, darkly glamorous Personal Shopper. With a cool and yet intimate approach, Assayas shows a deeper awareness of the seductive, boundary- and identity-blurring compromises than other more surface-sailing chroniclers of the beautiful life like Nicolas Winding Refn or Sofia Coppola. He also manages to string a taut thread of tension through the unlikeliest of narratives for this generally straightforward filmmaker to tackle: a ghost story…

Here is the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Neruda’

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In the newest film from Pablo Larrain (whose Jackie just opened), Gael Garcia Bernal plays a cop hot on the heels of the titular Chilean poet.

Neruda is opening this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

Pablo Larraín has said flat-out that he didn’t want to make a biopic of Chile’s hero poet Pablo Neruda. And that’s a wise decision. Compressing Neruda’s incident-packed life, which whipsawed from writing yearning and experimental poetry to traveling the world in the diplomatic service to pursuing a career in domestic politics and spending years on the run as a political exile, into a single film would have produced fatigue, confusion, or at the very least severe neck injuries…

The trailer is here: