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:

Screening Room: ‘Things to Come’

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Isabelle Huppert plays a philosophy teacher whose life gets thrown for a loop in Mia Hansen-Love’s brilliant new drama.

Things to Come is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

After taking a detour into the vagabond world of dance-music DJs with the disappointingly blah Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve returns fantastically to form with Things to Come. It’s the kind of urbane, Éric Rohmer-inflected drama that the still-young writer-director has been turning out for a few years now and hopefully will continue to make for decades to come. There are any number of filmmakers who can make stories about Parisians with matters of the world and the heart weighing them down. But few approach them with the kind of questing emotional honesty that Hansen-Løve specializes in…

Here’s the trailer: