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: ‘Knight of Cups’

In the newest Terrence Malick indie, Christian Bale is a screenwriter undergoing a romantically attractive existential crisis amidst the Hollywood demimonde.

knight-of-cups-posterKnight of Cups is playing now. My review is at PopMatters:

Like the deck of tarot cards that provides its narrative spine, Knight of Cups is shuffled up and dealt out with a witchy randomness. Making a mockery of Syd Field’s rules of screenwriting (where’s the inciting incident?), the film offers stories of sprawling entropy. Whether that’s enough to sustain an entire movie will be decided by the viewer’s appetite for moony maundering in gorgeous settings…

The trailer is here:

Screening Room: ‘Boom Bust Boom’

Terry Jones: What are we missing?
Terry Jones: What are we missing?

Ever wonder why every time there’s a bubble in the economy, nearly all market-watchers and economists seem to say, “Don’t worry about it, because This Time It’s Different”? Monty Python’s Terry Jones’s nifty new comedic documentary Boom Bust Boom tries to find out why.

My review of Boom Bust Boom, opening this week in quite limited release, is at Film Journal International:

Wearing the dashingly ironic grin of a BBC host who just can’t wait to let you in on a real cracker of a story, Terry Jones starts off his musical-theatre economics lecture by pointing to what he calls “the Achilles’ heel of the economy.” What he’s referring to is the fact that most economies are irregularly plagued by seemingly random and unpredictable crises. This is despite the fact that universities pump out a steady stream of newly minted economists who one would imagine would be able to focus their well-trained brains on preventing the next such crisis…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Child’s Pose’

Luminita Gheorghiu schemes in 'Child's Pose'
Luminita Gheorghiu schemes in ‘Child’s Pose’

childspose-poster

Winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, Child’s Pose is playing now in limited release, and is worth seeking out. My review is at Film Racket:

“A mother’s love” has rarely felt more dagger-like or malevolent than in the chilling morality thriller Child’s Pose. Part anatomy of a villain and part crime procedural, Calin Peter Netzer’s film follows what happens after a domineering upper-class Bucharest mother finds out her coddled son has been accused of running down and killing a young boy from the outskirts of town. It’s another in a series of European films (Italy’s The Great Beauty, in particular) that have served as X-rays of societies riddled with corruption like mold veined through a hunk of old cheese. What makes Child’s Pose even more affecting is that many of its characters come off as spiritually corrupt as the society at large. And the rot comes from the top…

Here is the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Detropia’

“We are here at a critical time!” shouts a tent-revival preacher somewhere in the gloom of a rapidly downsizing Detroit. His is one of the many frightened, brave, saddened, still-fighting voices that Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady include as a chorus of the forgotten in their tragedy-tinted but clear-eyed look at what happens when a city’s reason for being up and leaves. Unfortunately, though the city is inarguably at a crisis point—in 1930, Detroit was the fastest-growing city in the world, and it’s shrunk by over 25 percent in the last decade alone—Detropia doesn’t show any evidence of a consensus on the solution…

Detropia opens this week in limited release and goes wider around the country over the next few weeks. My full review is at Film Journal International.

New in Theaters: ‘Sleepwalk with Me’

With its can-you-believe-this? story, slacker protagonists, and rueful gravitas, Sleepwalk With Me could easily have been This American Life: The Movie. That it’s not, even though writer, star, and co-director Mike Birbiglia is a longtime favored TAL performer, is a testament to his multifaceted appeal. The movie doesn’t quite translate that appeal, just as it doesn’t translate the original bit’s conversational stage format to a narrative…

Sleepwalk with Me is playing now in (very) limited release; it should be expanding much wider through the fall. My review is at PopMatters.

You can see the trailer here:

DVD Tuesday: ‘A Separation’

The metaphor doesn’t get any clearer than this. As battling spouses shout at an invisible judge sitting where the camera is, the message is undeniable: they’re not just fighting over a relationship, but over a country, one that has both abandoned and entrapped them. The wife doesn’t want to stay with her husband, but it’s more their circumstances that she’s fighting to escape from with their daughter. Not that she, or Ashgar Farhadi’s film, comes out and says this. Iranian writer-director Farhadi’s subtle but explosive domestic crime story, dancing nimbly around censorship rules, makes a ringing statement as clear as the injustice witnessed in each of the main characters’ eyes…

A Separation comes out today on DVD; it was one of the most potent, unforgettable films to hit screens in 2011—foreign or domestic. My full review is at AMC Movie Database.

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Chicken with Plums’

 

Anybody seeking a well-rounded love story featuring emotionally secure individuals should stay far, far away from Chicken with Plums. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic novel focuses on Nasser-Ali (Mathieu Amalric), a violinist living in late 1950s Iran. He plays like an angel, but suffers from an overwhelming moodiness. In the film’s first few scenes, he buys a violin and returns it almost immediately, screaming at the shop owner that he’s been cheated. In fact, life has cheated him…

Chicken with Plums is playing now, and makes for a certain kind of fantastic date movie. My full review is at PopMatters.

The trailer is here:

 

New in Theaters: ‘Cosmopolis’

Adapted by David Cronenberg from Don DeLillo’s prescient 2003 novel, Cosmopolis is set in a fantastical New York of the present or near-future, a nebulous universe that feels like a recent William Gibson novel—this might be the future, but it’s barely five minutes hence. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a 28-year-old wizard of some species of speculative, quantitative finance who has made his billions and now can’t seem to wait to set his entire universe on fire. He drifts through the city in a white limo that looks outside like all the others, but inside is a fully wired and soundproof command center that keeps him wired to his empire while sitting in traffic on the way to get a haircut…

The deadpan, crazed Cosmpolis opens tomorrow in limited release; seek it out when it comes to your town, there’s nothing else like it.

My full review is at Film Journal International.

The trailer is here:

New in Theaters: ‘La Source’

In this short, gleaming little gem of a documentary, a Princeton janitor devotes seemingly everything to the cause of bringing fresh water to his Haitian village. It’s the rare example of an issue film that lets its subjects sell the story instead of having it thrust upon them…

The very rewarding La Source (narrated by Don Cheadle, with music by Sigur Ross) is playing now at the Docuweeks festival in New York. My full review is Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘360’

Fernando Meirelles’s new drama 360 looks on the surface to be another of those broad tapestry films like Babel and Crash—set as it is in multiple cities from Denver to London to Vienna and packing enough thespian firepower for one of those off-year Woody Allen misfires. But except for an unnecessary voiceover at the opening and climax, which tries to tie a loose ribbon around what we’ve just seen, it’s not nearly so self-important or desperate. Because of that, it will also (perversely) probably be much less popular than the films mentioned above, even though there’s life practically bursting out of every pristinely shot scene…

360 is opening today in limited release but should expand around the country fairly soon, given the Oscar firepower in the cast. My full, mostly positive review is at Film Journal International.

Check out the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Trishna’

It’s a shame that Michael Winterbottom thought to set his modernized Tess of the d’Urbervilles in India instead of in England, or another Western nation. This isn’t because he doesn’t know how to use South Asia as a setting (he does) or because today’s India doesn’t provide a highly relevant analogy for many of the class issues in Thomas Hardy’s novel (it does). But by shifting Hardy’s story from England 1891 to a developing nation, it lets viewers off the hook…

Trishna is playing now in limited release, and while it definitely has its faults is still an undeniably gorgeous and effective romantic melodrama of the kind that don’t seem to get made that much anymore. My review is PopMatters.

New in Theaters: ‘Unforgivable’

A writer of historical potboiler novels, Francis (André Dussollier), arrives in Venice determined to do research for his next book. As Unforgivable (Impardonnables) begins, we see that although he is well advanced in years, Francis is a fierce competitor for just about anything, and so has no nervousness about making overtures to his much younger real estate agent. Judith (Carole Bouquet), an ex-model who seems initially to be well past foolish fancies, turns out to be susceptible to his charms. In short order, Francis is set up in a characterful old villa on the picturesque island of Sant’Erasmo, just across the water from Venice, with Judith as his helpful and chic wife…

Andre Techine’s Unforgivable is an unlikely and curiously engaging thriller that’s in limited release now. My full review is at PopMatters.

New in Theaters: ‘Collaborator’

The rage of a disillusioned America gets a cool and ironic probing in Martin Donovan’s Collaborator. A chamber piece about a playwright on the skids who is taken hostage by a troubled neighbor, the film alludes only indirectly to the reasons for both men’s anger and dissatisfaction. Donovan’s spare script provides an airy and open-ended structure, but the film, his first as a director, makes its own definite contribution to the national dialogue, the one where everybody is always shouting past each other, unable to hear what anyone else is saying…

Collaborator is playing in limited release, check it out. My full review is at PopMatters.