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: ‘Cafe Society’

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Jesse Eisenberg goes to 1930s Hollywood in Woody Allen’s latest time machine romantic comedy. All the outfits are fantastic and the jazz (of course) is hot.

cafe-society-Theatrical Poster_rgbCafe Society is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

Café Society is nearly done before it gets off a halfway decent joke. Not that it’s been trying too hard before then to be funny, or anything much in particular besides reheat some old Allen material and stir it around before calling it a day. You get the sense that he was already plotting out his next film while still dashing off dialogue for this one…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in 'Clouds of Sils Maria' (Sundance Selects)
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:

Trailer Park: ‘On the Road’

There are just under a million ways that a film of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road could go wrong. And not just wrong but bad in an eye-rollingly painful manner. That being said, there are few people one would trust more on such a windy and spacious piece of work than Walter Salles, who showed with The Motorcycle Diaries how to turn the personal and rambling into something epic and transformative.

So: on the plus side: Salles directing, Coppola producing, and Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs, who the ever-tricky and extra-literate Viggo seems born to play). On the con side: the appearance of the ever one-note Kristen Stewart, and a previously quite morose Sam Riley playing the ebullient force-of-life Sal Paradise.

In any case, the film opens late in December and we’ll see then. Good luck, folks.

You can see the trailer here:

DVD Tuesday: ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’

My full review of the DVD / Blu-ray release of the gorgeous but strangely Twilight-esque Snow White and the Huntsman is available at PopMatters:

Like the original Snow White tale, although romance is ultimately involved, the film is truly more concerned with the fight between beautiful young Snow White and the slowly withering old hag Queen Ravenna. (The gender politics are none too subtle here, with Ravenna’s monstrousness keyed to her sensuality, as she is practically the only character in the film to show any evidence of a sex drive.) The Huntsman, a drunk who only took the Snow White job so Ravenna could use her dark arts to raise his dead wife back to life, supposedly falls for the princess on the run but there’s little evidence of that on screen…

You can see the trailer here: