Sunday, December 23, 2012

Links of Limited Posterity

But here they are nonetheless:

Eve Sussman's Cinematic World Without End
I wrote about Eve Sussman's amazing installation piece, whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, which was on view at the Walker Art Center this past summer. Despite the amount of time spent watching this piece, the above is a still I never saw once.

Surreally Yours: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cinematic Journey
The Walker commissioned a piece from Apichatpong for the Walker Channel, entitled Cactus River, and we were also presenting the area premiere of Mekong Hotel. All good excuses to write about one of my favorite filmmakers.

Rise of the Guardians review
Why? Why not. I've been in abstentia from In Review Online, and, although this was a strange way to jump back in, it felt good.

Consuming Spirits review
Chris Sullivan's animated film is some kind of crazy masterpiece. Don't miss it.

Last and probably least, I have an account on Letterboxd.

Happy Holidays! Be back soon with multiple end of the year lists and reviews.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Studio Ghibli at the Lagoon Theater Nov 16-29

There are few films nearer and dearer to my heart than the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli—animated masterpieces bursting with creativity, beauty, action, drama and unadulterated joy. Starting today and running for two weeks, the magic of Studio Ghibli takes over one screen at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis with new 35mm prints of 14 titles.

Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 after the success of Miyazaki’s debut feature Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (a film later adopted into the Ghibili family.) Miyazaki joined forces with fellow animator Isao Takahata and film producer and influential editor of Animage magazine Toshio Suzuki. Although Miyazaki and his beloved Totoro have long been the face of Studio Ghibli with such features as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, Takahata has directed his fair share of gentle dramas under the Ghibli name—most notably Grave of the Fireflies (sadly absent from the Lagoon retrospective), Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and the stylized family satire My Neighbors the Yamadas. The series offers a sampling of Miyazaki and Takahata's work, as well as a few other animators who took on directing at Ghibli.

Although I have seen all of these films, some multiple times, I’ve only seen a few on the big screen and I relish the thought of seeing them all over the next two weeks. Below is a detailed schedule of the screenings with information on whether the screenings will be dubbed or subtitled in English. You'll have at least three chances to see each film, and no excuses!

Not to be missed: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, My Neighbors the Yamadas, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Fri, Nov 16, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00 and 9:30pm
Sun, Nov 18, 5:00pm

If I had to choose one film in this series to see, it would be Nausicaa: one of my favorite Miyazaki films that begs to be seen on larger-than-life format. The story itself is a vivid and harrowing portrayal of the ecological concerns that would be echoed 13 years later in Princess Mononoke. In a post-apocalyptic setting, the young princess Nausicaa puts everything on the line to keep the natural balance between the Toxic Jungle and her own Valley of the Wind. Tragically edited and dubbed when it was originally released in the US in the 80s, Nausicaa has since made a comeback in its original form and is largely seen as one of Miyazaki's greatest films. Do not miss this opportunity to see this gorgeous and heartfelt film in all its splendor—the perfect film to kick off the series!   

Spirited Away (2001) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Sat, Nov 17, Noon, 2:30 and 7:30pm
Sun, Nov 18, 2:30 and 7:30pm

Spirited Away was the film to bring Miyazaki's artistry to a much wider audience worldwide. As with many of his other films, Miyazaki bucks the subconscious assumptions in regards to the notion of 'hero' and casts Chihiro, a young waifish girl, in the position to save her parents and restore harmony in the spirit world. When she and her parents take a wrong turn, they are suddenly trapped in a realm of ghosts (which is all of the sudden reminding me of Murakami's Cat Town.) The potpourri of fantastical characters are some of Miyazaki's best, including a giant and temperamental baby named Boh, who helps Chihiro in her uphill battle to make it home.

Howl's Moving Castle (2004) directed by Hayao Miyazak

All screenings in English
Sat, Nov 17, 5:00 and 10:00pm
Sun, Nov 18, Noon and 10:00pm

Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle was rescued by Miyazaki when director Mamoru Hosoda pulled out as director. The fact that it is not Miyazaki's own source material nor his own project may point to some of the reasons that Howl's is not one of his best. The images are nonetheless beautifully and imaginatively drawn, and this is especially the case for the lumbering, breathing castle of the title. As Miyazaki's unintended follow-up to Spirited Away, it received a full-fledged US release including the well rounded English language dub used for this screening.

Pom Poko (1994) directed by Isao Takahata

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Mon, Nov 19, 2:00 and 7:00pm
Tue, Nov 20, 2:00 and 7:00pm

Takahata's adorable yet sobering story is a cautionary anthropomorphic tale that taps into the folklore of the tanuki, or raccoon dog, a mischievous and absentminded critter with the ability to shapeshift. (One of the legendary traits of the tanuki include large testicles that symbolize financial luck—no, I'm not joking—and Takahata has worked this into his character designs of the cuddly little devils.) These modern era takunis in Pom Poko are facing a cultural crisis as they slowly start to lose their will to transform and as humans encroach upon their native land. The tanukis decide its time to fight back, but it might be too late.

My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) directed by Isao Takahata

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Mon, Nov 19, 4:30 and 9:30pm
Tues, Nov 20, 4:30 and 9:30pm

More than anything, I love the simplistic and expressive character designs found in My Neighbors the Yamadas. The Yamadas is less of a feature length film with a full narrative arch than a string of vignettes focusing on the daily lives of this six member family: mother, father, grandmother, 13 year-old son, 5 year-old daughter and family dog Pochi. Despite being a satire on family life, Takahata's portrait is both acutely aware and poignantly honest. Like most films in this series, this  incredibly charming and infectious film has something to offer everyone regardless of age.

Ponyo (2008) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in English
Wed, Nov 21, 2:00 and 7:00pm
Thurs, Nov 22, 2:00 and 7:00pm

Miyazaki's most recent film is also purportedly his last (although we've heard that before.) Made for and based on his grandson, Ponyo strays away from the epic gravitas of a film like Princess Mononoke but it is nonetheless a visual, if not slightly saccharine-coated, treat. Taking a cue from the everlasting mermaid myth, the story follows Ponyo, an earnest and joyful goldfish who, after drinking the blood of a human boy, falls in love and wants to become a two legged creature herself. The plot spirals into multiple side and sub plots, but culminated in the most amazing rip-roaring sea storm you are likely to see, animated or otherwise. The English dub is fine, but unfortunately a little overacted by the young star voice actors. But don't let that stop you: Ponyo is a feast for the eyeballs.
Castle in the Sky (1986) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles 
Wed, Nov 21, 4:15 and 9:15pm
Thurs, Nov 22, 4:15 and 9:15pm

Miyazaki's first official film under the Ghibli umbrella is a worthy follow-up to Nausicaa. A full-on fantasy adventure, Castle in the Sky tells the story of Sheeta and Pazu who join forces in search for a long lost city in the sky called Laputa. Drawing inspiration from the story of Gulliver's Travels and the landscape of a Welsh mining town Miyazaki had visited, the film explores the power of myth with lush visuals and rich storytelling. Castle in the Sky was Miyazaki's first collaboration with composer Joe Hisaishi, who has scored every Ghibili film since.

Porco Rosso (1992) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Fri, Nov 23:  at 4:30 and 9:15pm
Sun, Nov 25, 4:30pm

Miyazaki’s sixth feature has a little bit of everything—history, action, adventure, humor, charm, nostalgia, romance, imagination—but lacks the unbridled fantasy that he is best known for in films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away. Firmly grounded in a specific time and place, the story unapologetically indulges simultaneously in adult sentimentality right alongside youthful thrills. Porco may be uncharacteristically conservative, but it has visual vitality that has become Miyazaki’s trademark. Set between the two World Wars, Porco Rosso is a flying ace who makes his home with his seaplane on a picturesque island off the coast of Croatia. Once a fighter named Marco with the Italian army, he has since quit the army and lives as a pig under the famed moniker Porco Rosso—the Red Pig, an obvious reference to the Red Baron.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Fri, Nov 23, Noon and 2:30pm In English
Fri, Nov 23, 7:00pm In Japanese with English subtitles
Sat, Nov 24, 2:30pm In English
Sat, Nov 24, 7:00pm In Japanese with English subtitles
Sun, Nov 25, 2:30pm In English
Sun, Nov 25, 9:15pm In Japanese with English subtitles

There is a lot of love for Totoro in the world, but I'm still convinced that no one loves Totoro more than me. This incredibly endearing film is a pleasure that I don't feel the least bit guilty about. And regardless of multiple viewings, it never fails to move me with its effortless honesty and exuberance for life. A father and his two daughters move to a house closer to where their mother is recovering in a hospital. In the forest near their new home, the two young girls discover a tree where a small, medium and large totoro live. The elusive and playful creatures emerge to help the girls with their anxieties about their ill mother, busy father and an uncertain future. Totoro is a film for all ages, and the Lagoon offers both the English dub version as well as the subtitled version. 

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Sat, Nov 24, Noon and 7:00pm
Sun, Nov 25, Noon and 7:00pm

Years before Harry Potter re-imagined the wizardry of flying on a broomstick, there was Kiki. A witch in training, Kiki sets off alone for a required one year apprenticeship with the aid of her flying broom and her quick-witted black cat. Using her flying skills, Kiki develops a delivery service to earn a living and a little respect from her new neighbors. A heartwarming coming of age story, Kiki's Delivery Service was a huge success in Japan, further adding to Ghibili and Miyazaki dynasty.

The Cat Returns (2002) directed by Hiroyuki Morita

All screenings in English
Mon, Nov 26, 2:30 and 7:00pm
Tues, Nov 27, 2:30 and 7:00pm

The Cat Returns, directed by animating veteran Hiroyuki Morita, is adapted from Aoi Hiiragi's manga about a schoolgirl's adventures in the drama of a hidden cat world. Haru is a girl who one day saves the life of a cat while on her way to school. The cat is Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom, who takes Haru to the Kingdom of Cats to thank her. And so I find myself back in something like Murakami's Cat Town, where Haru is trapped, unable to return to the human world. This is another film in the series that retains its English dub from theatrical release that includes Anne Hathaway, Andy Richter, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, and Elliott Gould.

Whisper of the Heart (1995) directed by Yoshifumi Kondō

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Mon, Nov 26, 4:30 and 9:00pm
Tues, Nov 27, 4:30 and 9:00pm

Written by animation master Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his protégé Yoshifumi Kondo, this film is a simple story about falling in love and learning to believe in yourself. If that sounds a little too cliched, think again—this is exactly the kind of narrative that Ghibli turns into gold with the kind of sincerity that makes you blush. Suzuku is a shy and self-conscious girl who harbors big dreams. Invisible her family when she probably needs them the most, Suzuku finds a kindred spirit in the boisterous dreamer Seiji.

Princess Mononoke (1997) directed by Hayao Miyazaki

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Wed, Nov 28, 1:45 and 7:00pm
Thurs, Nov 29, 1:45 and 7:00pm

Certainly one of Miyazaki's best films and also one of his darkest. Princess Mononoke is a heartbreaking parable about the damage that humans have done to the natural world, spun into an incredible period adventure of mythic grandeur. Rife with violence and conflict, Princess Mononoke was to be Miyazaki's final statement as an animator. That, of course, didn't happen, as Miyazaki would break out of retirement for three subsequent films, but Mononoke is nevertheless a bold punctuation point. Ashitaka, cursed by a demon, sets off to find a cure and to "see with eyes unclouded." What he finds is a land in turmoil that has pitted humans against nature, and, as a result, nature against humans.

Only Yesterday (1991) directed by Isao Takahata

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles
Wed, Nov 28, 4:30 and 9:45pm
Thurs, Nov 29, 4:30 and 9:45pm

Takahata's follow-up feature to his devastating Graveyard of Fireflies is dramatic wonder that falls well outside of what most considered "anime" in 1991. Moving back and forth from the present in 1982 to Taeko's girlhood in 1966, this poetic animated film (loosely translated as Memories of Falling Teardrops in Japanese) captures the grave and magical essence of childhood defined by schoolgirl crushes, a changing body, the stern judgments of others and the occasional simple pleasures of life. Takahata's film is also a glimpse at the difficult road for girls and women who do not conform to the well-behaved, studious model of proper femininity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


There is an introspective pall hanging over Memories Look at Me that goes naturally with the thematic territory of visiting home as an adult. But Song Fang’s debut feature tackles the mixture of nostalgia, sadness, and regret with a very easy to swallow tenderness, worlds away from exaggerated bromides of middle-aged self pity. Using the comfort of her own family—mother, father, and older brother—Song scripts a documentary out of a visit to her parents' home in Nanjing. Her outward concern for their physical health is matched by their oblique inquiry to her unmarried status. Painted with the cool tones of ambient light, the film is a slow train of casual conversation and delicate confessions that all carry a substantial emotional vibration.

Song Fang, who both stars and directs, will look familiar from her role in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 2008 Parisian rondeau Flight of the Red Balloon where she stars opposite Juliette Binoche as a filmmaker working as a nanny. Born in China, she studied film first in Brussels and then in Beijing. There might be something prophetic about being cast by Hou, but there is also something very prescient in catching the eye of Mainland master Jia Zhangke, who produced Memories under the wing of his production company Xstream. Song, already a young director that seems to be working in an inner circle, has created a film that rubs elbows with the fiercely independent work of Chinese director Liu Jiayin and the grand mono no aware elegance of Yasujiro Ozu. This caliber of names is simply a testament to how special a film this is.

This unaffected film slides comfortably into a modern depiction of filial piety in a society where Confucius is little more than an apparition. Although she inspects her parent’s lives as a visitor, Song also cleans her father’s ears and plucks her mother’s eyebrows as if she has always been their caretaker. There is a unique generosity with the time that everyone takes in listing to one another—a quality mirrored in the patience of the camera. The finality of life and the struggle to make the most of the time left gently leaves an impression on every scene. When Song suddenly starts crying, her mother asks, “What’s on your mind?” She replies that she’s not sure, even though it is perfectly clear she is thinking bout her parents’ eventual death. To the film's credit, the implication is there without diving headlong into melodrama.

Memories Look at Me is an unpretentious film, shot almost entirely inside one apartment with static middle range shots, and sparsely lit beyond ambient lighting. Despite its modest attributes it is already pulling down awards, earning Best First Feature Award at the Locarno International Film Festival earlier this year. In Vancouver, it was nominated for the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, but came up short to the experimental narrative of Emperor Visits the Hell. It is also receiving praise at the New York Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival where it recently screened. One can only hope that this healthy festival attention will bring it further recognition and possible distribution, especially in the States. Without a new feature from Jia or Liu, Song Fang’s moving film fills a low-key void in what we are seeing from the Mainland this year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

VIFF 2012: Jang Kun-jae's SLEEPLESS NIGHT

After the wave of New Korean Cinema hit the world like a slap from the back of a hand in the late 90s and early 00s, certain expectations were set from the most prominent films to rise from that era. South Korean film, even in its most subtle form, became the cinema with big shoulders, represented in the slick action, emblematic vengeance, soju swagger, unapologetic brutality, and brash humor. For this reason, an assured yet unadorned drama like Jang Kun-jae’s Sleepless Night is actually more surprising than the latest go-for-broke revenge flick to come down the pike. 
The film opens in a small town at night, where the sound of the crickets is louder than the teenagers horsing around on the sidewalk. We finally settle on our protagonists, a couple sitting in front of the TV, each enjoying a glass of beer, chatting about their day. They sit close in a tiny love seat barely meant for two; he has his shirt off, she has her pants off. He mentions that he has agreed to work on Sunday as a requested favor to his supervisor; she’s concerned, only because it seems he’s being taken advantage of; he considers it, and realizes that she is probably right.
The couple, married for two years, has an ease with each other that is instantly endearing. He works in a factory, she’s a yoga instructor, and their companionship, which dominates the short but sweet 65-minute anti-drama, exudes authenticity. The snapshot of their relationship, as they face the pressures of parenthood and the realities of their income, is unapologetically sprinkled with their mutual adoration and consideration for each other. As clichéd as that sounds in writing, it feels wholly unconventional on the screen.
Sleepless Night is Jung’s first film since winning the Dragons and Tigers Award in Vancouver three years ago for his debut Eighteen, a film that also gives careful consideration to the veracity of its characters. Sleepless Night is similarly slight by design, where excessiveness is simply not in its vocabulary. The drama, modest as it is, occasionally segues into fantasy without warning—a skip of the needle into a parallel universe where the couple’s simple and happy lives are disrupted by the melodrama that the film so effortlessly eschews. By introducing scenes where they argue and bicker, Jang is not only pointing out the avoided potential within their marriage, but also the avoided potential within his own film.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Society has a way of demanding that we find our career path early and stick to it, not only as a definition of character but also a bogus demarcation of success. Sigríður Níelsdóttir, a woman who started making music at the age of 70 to become something of a phenomenon, tosses that conventional idea right out the window. Armed with a mighty Casio keyboard, a dual cassette deck recording and dubbing system, and the same noisemakers everyone else has in their house, this plucky septuagenarian set up her studio in her kitchen and started her musical career with nothing else in mind other than the infectious joy of creating.

And as if reading our minds, the lyrics in the song that opens Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigríður Níelsdóttir announces, “That’s right. It’s never too late to start doing what you want.” A resident of Iceland, by way of Germany and Denmark, Níelsdóttir created 59 CDs and over 600 songs between the ages of 70 and 77 with little training. Although she studied piano for three years, she readily admits that she can’t read music, and that she has to edit out her mistakes. “That’s cheating, isn’t it?” she laughs. By the time we see Níelsdóttir pull her doily off her keyboard for a demonstration and show us her array of clever sound makers—recorded by plugging a mic into that dual cassette recorder—the film’s work is done. We are charmed. We are inspired.

Unfortunately, the film coasts on this irresistible personality and fails to draw out the storyline that hovers just below the surface. There are a fair amount of bells and whistles employed, namely hand drawn collages assembled into stop motion animation theatrics, but it feels like a diversion from the innate charisma of the subject. Hidden within the questions never asked are clues to why, at the age of 70, this idiosyncratic woman became absorbed in making music.

Directed by three musicians who forged a friendship with Níelsdóttir before deciding to shoot this humble and impressionistic portrait, Grandma Lo-fi is less of an in depth tell-all of a cult musical wonder than it is an inventive tribute to a late-in-life artist who passed away last year. In keeping with the analogue textures of Níelsdóttir music, the doc was shot primarily on Super 8 and 16mm, embellished with a conscious flicker and grain that comes with the format.

The music in question has a naïve magic combined with compulsive creation ala Wesley Willis. But unlike Willis, Níelsdóttir has a much more varied palette tapping into her Casio’s endless combinations of canned rhythms, beats and sounds and layered with a mix of her own vocals, sounds of her own invention, as well as ambient recordings from her everyday life. All of this gets dubbed and edited on cassette and mastered on CD, at which point Níelsdóttir creates handmade covers, and delivers to the record store. And it is very clear that she lives for every minute of it.

Interspersed throughout the film’s short 62 minutes are a number of Icelandic musicians who step in front of the camera to either sing to or play along with one of Níelsdóttir’s tune. And although we don’t see Björk or Sigur Rós, the musicians and bands nonetheless represent a sort of who’s who of indie Icelandic music: Sin Fang, múm, FM Belfast, Mr. Silla, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Mugison, and Kría Brekkan—all a testament to grandma lo-fi’s status in this influential bubble of society.

Níelsdóttir’s celebrity is never quantified, but it resides in the individuals that discovered her unassuming creativity, one person at a time. Its viral proliferation was no doubt as DIY as her art and music, relying on a more physical social network like good old fashioned word-of-mouth. At one point she looks at the camera and says, “Do you know how to make campfire sounds?” Even in the off chance that we might know, Níelsdóttir intends to share her own personal triumph with everyone. Although Grandma Lo-fi parries with more style than substance, there is nonetheless a feeling of gratitude in having been introduced to this unique and heartening individual, even if it is just a handshake.

Friday, October 12, 2012

VIFF 2012

The Vancouver International Film Festival has come and gone, and this is what I have to show for it: 52 films of varying length, many of which will never ever land in a theater near me. Follow the links to the various films I have written reviews for, and, over the next month or so, I will toss out some left over reviews from the fest, as well as chip away at writing about those that topped out my experience. Here's a list of that 52, ranked in order with my favorites at the top.

1. Leviathan, Lucien Casting-Taylor, Véréna Paravel (USA/France/UK)
2. Three Sisters, Wang Bing (China/France) 2x
3. Tabu, Miguel Gomes (Portugal)
4. Neighboring Sounds, Kleber Mindonça Filho (Brazil)
5. Walker, Tsai Ming-liang (Hong Kong)
6. Emperor Visits the Hell, Li Lou (China) 2x
7. Capsule, Athina Rachel Tsangari (Greece)
8. The Last Time I Saw Macao, João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata (Portugal)
9. No, Pablo Larrain (Chile)
10. When Night Falls, Ying Liang (China)
11. small roads, James Benning (USA)
12. In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire (Thailand)
13. When the Bough Breaks, Ji Dan (China)
14. Long Tou, Gu Changwei (Hong Kong)
15. Memories Look at Me, Song Fang (China)
16. Lawrence Anyways, Xavier Dolan (Canada)
17. Barbara, Christian Petzold (Germany)
18. Reconversão, Thom Andersen (Portugal)
19. In Another Country, Hong Sang-soo (South Korea)
20. People’s Park, J.P. Sniadecki, Libbie D. Cohn (USA/China)
21. If It’s Not Now, Then When?, James Lee (Malaysia)
22. Egg and Stone, Huang Ji (China)
23. Dust, Julio Hernández Cordón (Guatemala)
24. A Fish, Park Hong-min (South Korea)
25. This Ain’t California, Marten Persiel (Germany)
26. Sleepless Night, Jang Kun-jae
27. My Way, Ann Hui (Hong Kong)
28. McDull: The Pork of Music, Brian Tse (Hong Kong)
29. Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day, João Pedro Rodrigues (Portugal)
30. The Love Songs of Tiedan, Hao Jie (China)
31. The Metamorphosis, Yun Kinam (South Korea)
32. Leones, Jazmín López (Argentina/France/Netherlands)
33. Mystery, Lou Ye (China/France)
34. Together, Rox Hsu (Taiwan)
35. Amour, Michael Haneke (France/Germany/Austria)
36. You Are More Than Beautiful, Kim Tae Yong (Hong Kong)
37. Like Someone in Love, Abbas Kiarostami (France/Iran/Japan)
38. Reality, Matteo Garrone (Italy)
39. Paradise: Love, Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
40. Something in the Air, Olivier Assayas (France)
41. Camel Caravan, Gao Feng (China)
42. Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta (Canada/India)
43. Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigridur Nielsdóttir, Orri Jónsson, Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir (Iceland)
44. All Apologies, Emily Tang (China)
45. Design of Death, Guan Hu (China)
46. The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)
47. Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg (Canada)
48. Werewolf Boy, Jo Sung-hee (South Korea)
49. A Story for the Modlins, Sergio Oksman (Spain)
50. Garden in the Sea, Thomas Riedelsheimer (Mexico/Germany)
51. As Luck Would Have It, Álex de la Iglesia (Spain)
52. Nameless Gangster, Yoon Jong-bin (South Korea)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Best Films Directed by Women

It’s a man’s world, and this is especially true when it comes to film directing. The 2012 Cannes Film Festival received well-deserved criticism for pandering to a boy’s club mentality where no female directors were in competition, and, maybe more to the point, where the quality of the films in competition (directed by men) was in question. Sight and Sound’s recent Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time poll, which includes only one female director, sparked the discussion again. My criticism is not with Sight and Sound's poll (it's an unavoidable reality that the historical odds are stacked against women, even in my own personal top 10.) My complaint is with the post-poll scramble to fill the gap and chronicle the best films directed by women. I’m not going to name any names, but some of these lists were pathetic. (Yentl? The Kids Are Alright? Really?)

Let’s broaden our horizons a little bit, as I try to dig just a little bit deeper into the great films brought to us by the women fighting the odds. My 21, listed chronologically from most recent:

Meek’s Cutoff (2011) Kelly Reichardt
Father of My Children (2009) Mia Hansen-Løve
Oxhide (2005) and Oxhide II (2009) Liu Jiayin
The Way We Are (2008) Ann Hui
Mukhsin (2006) Yasmin Ahmad
Sharasojyu (2003) Naomi Kawase
La Cienega (2001) Lucrecia Martel
Fat Girl (2001) Catherine Breillat
Beau Travail (1999) Claire Denis
Ratcatcher (1999) Lynne Ramsay
The Piano (1993) Jane Campion
Hearts of Darkness (1991) Eleanor Coppola
An Autumn’s Tale (1987) Mabel Cheung
Born in Flames (1983) Lizzie Borden
Variety (1983) Bette Gordon
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Chantal Akerman
Destroy, She Said (1969) Marguerite Duras
The Connection (1962) Shirley Clark
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) Agnès Varda
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Maya Deren
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) Lotte Reiniger

And finally two directors who should be acknowledged, even if I’m ill equipped to do so:

Daniele Huillet
Alice Guy-Blaché

Monday, August 6, 2012


(This review has been kicking around on my hard drive for a while. Check out the film on Fandor.)
When a church bell rings, China’s extreme northeast is probably the last thing on your mind. This is the image, however, that director Zhao Liang leaves us with at the end of Crime and Punishment, an oblique yet searing portrayal of power and oppression in a sleepy, ordinary town. Hymns are heard coming from the quaint church, nestled among the snow-covered hills, as a line of unconcerned people carrying a couch, a dresser and a bed make their way across the frame in the foreground. The shot not only sparks an association with the moral deliberations of the film’s literary namesake, but also adds a sharp contrast to the seemingly unprincipled malaise we just watched.
China is a bundle of contradictions and opposing forces, and, in this respect, it is no different than any other country. But as it gains international prowess, both economically and politically, and it sheds its xenophobic skin, Western perception runs rampant with grand proclamations, broad assumptions and demonizing stereotypes—none of them necessarily true and none of them necessarily false. The burgeoning new documentary movement in China takes very bold vérité stabs at humanizing, if not allegorizing, the social paradoxes, one film, one person, and one shot at a time.
Crime and Punishment, Zhao Liang first feature length documentary, is an observational powerhouse. Bringing direct cinema back from the ashes, Zhao adds another dimension to China’s dichotomies by focusing on a small forgotten corner of this rising superpower. Situated on his home turf, Zhao is given unprecedented access to a local police station along the North Korean border. Mean streets these are not. Instead we have life on the margins where ambitions of any kind have left this town behind. The police are candid, the situations are often defy logic, and the arrests add up to little more than harassment masquerading as control. Even moments of idleness seem to be cloaked in an aura of base tedium: cleaning a gun, fiddling with a pair of handcuffs or a bout of wrestling in the snow.
The people detained are less hardened criminals than they are the pettiest of thieves push by dire financial circumstances. A deaf man suspected of stealing a cell phone is drubbed for a confession that he verbally can’t give. A mother is berated for her mentally handicap son who called the police with a false report of a dead body.  A gambling room is busted and their Mahjong pieces confiscated. An elderly scrap collector is nicked for not having a permit to do so. And at a routine checkpoint, four men are caught with illegally harvested timber. That the men were probably going to use the wood to either heat their homes or earn a little money makes little difference to the police officers. Although forced into a plea of guilt, it is subsequently overturned by a complaint of police brutality from a savvy wife who nearly chases the officers away from her house. Many of the verbal maneuverings here would fit well in an absurdist play.
With a hands-off approach, Zhao draws a very fine line between the oppressed and the oppressors and quickly reveals a somewhat desperate attempt to maintain a certain amount of authority and self-respect within a low-lying hierarchy. Crime and Punishment opens quietly with a ritual where the policemen fold their bedding into an impossible cube. If you detach yourself, this formality strikes very close to pure performance art, but as a prescribed duty this meticulous detail is indicative of the systematic subservience expected from the officers. You don’t see it when they are nonchalantly castigating their fellow comrades, but the veiled pressures lie just bellow the surface, causing these men to kick a dog when it’s down, figuratively and quite literally. Just another cog in a repressive regime, these latent bullies hide their vulnerability behind their uniform. When some are dismissed in a callous bureaucratic downsizing, the rug that is pulled out from beneath these young men is written all over their faces. One officer’s depressed drunken diatribe, perhaps realizing that he will soon be no different than his former detainees, lays bare an unexpected fragility and tenderness.
Which almost brings us back to the church, but not before a figurative act of violence is enacted on a powerless, abused creature. Jokingly referred to as a sacrificial killing, a cursory slaughter is underscored with a disturbing edge of pitilessness. Although shocking—especially to Western eyes where animals are killed by someone else’s hand behind closed doors—the scene is used to connect the dots that add up to larger implications. Much like Dostoyevsky’s novel, Zhao’s documentary is less about specific crimes and punishments (or lack thereof) than it is about internal transgression and the hypothetical collective question of, where do we go from here? Zhao’s answer is open-ended, with the Currier and Ives portrait of the church humorously disrupted by a transient reality.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Theo Angelopoulos Collection: Vol 1

Theo Angelopoulos, one of the world’s most celebrated and revered contemporary directors, passed away earlier this year from being stuck by a motorcycle. It was only then that I realized I had only seen one film by Angelopoulos, a filmmaker many consider a master. Although there is no one to blame but myself, I nonetheless also hold US distributors partially responsible for my failure. Of Angelopoulos’ thirteen feature films, only a scant few are available commercially in the US: Landscapes in the Mist (1988), Eternity and a Day (1998), and The Weeping Meadow, my one blissful theatrical success. All are probably available to those who are clever with a computer (that’s not me) and those perfectly comfortable with subpar quality (also not me), but the point is that for 42 years much of Angelopoulos’ oeuvre has been ignored stateside.
My solution, combined with a modest goal, is to make this right through the power of the free market. Artificial Eye recently released three box sets in the UK that include all of Angelopoulos’ features, the third and final set coming a mere two months after his accidental death. (The possibly that these releases, 13 DVDs in all, were in anticipation for Angelopoulos’ final chapter in his trilogy on modern Greece, The Other Sea now languishing unfinished, is just another reminder of the loss.)
Volume 1, which includes his debut The Reconstruction, as well as the three films Days of ’36, The Traveling Players, and The Hunters, landed recently in NE Minneapolis. Here’s a rundown of the first four films of this dearly departed visionary and film craftsman.

The Reconstruction (1970)
It’s hard not to get hyperbolic with a debut like The Reconstruction, a film where traditional narrative structure and typical camerawork is abandoned for vanguard innovation. Angelopoulos uses a story ripped from the headlines much like Nagisa Oshima—as a static impression filtered with creative prowess. In this case, Angelopoulos maps a crime of passion from cerebral free-form ingenuity. Made in 1970 and shot in black and white, the film is set in Tymphaia, a town that is described in the introduction as having a population of 1250 in 1939 and a population of 85 in 1965. In this sleepy small town there was an absent husband, an illicit affair, and, upon the husband’s return, a murder.
Angelopoulos sets his thesis in motion from film one, exploring the patience and profundity of the long shot and meddling with the pliant nature of time in storytelling. Patterned with the failed attempt to conceal the crime and the eventual police interrogation, the action reveals method and madness, but very little passion from the earthy adulterous couple. Cleverly, The Reconstruction steers clear of melodrama, knowing that the most titillating factor of true crime is never really knowing what happened. The massaging of the details around the edges of the murder becomes a setup to the film’s last, elegant and ultimately overpowering final shot.

Days of ’36 (1972)
Theo Angelopoulos’ second film is a tougher nut to crack, mired in Greek politics to the point where my own historical research sent me back for a second viewing. Even then, I had a hard time grappling with the subtle political implications traversing the era in the film and of the film. 1936 was, from a scholarly standpoint, a precarious time in Greek history. In reality, it was no doubt chaos, built on years of war that left the country financially devastated and coup leading to counter-coup and another counter-coup and yet another. The result was a fragile monarchy, halfheartedly supported due to the threat from a Fascist Italy, which nonetheless led to the Mextaxas Regime, a fascist authoritarian leadership in and of itself. To say that people were exhausted and divided would probably be an understatement.
But that was ’36. In 1972, Angelopoulos found himself trying to make politically relevant films under the rule of a military junta. And his film, underscoring the government’s humiliation delivered by one man, silently addresses censorship, corruption, and ultimately the weak foundation the government’s power is built upon (critiques for dual eras.) Days of ’36 takes a documentary approach to the story of a man wrongly arrested for the assassination of a union leader. When the prisoner takes a Greek official hostage, the reverberations throw a giant monkey wrench into the wheels of authoritarian control. The camera never gets too personal with its characters, and Angelopoulos deploys some brilliant tracking shots, one specifically that culminates in the scenarios inevitable tragedy. The subtle political riddles are tantamount to understanding the film (which I can’t claim), but its tangible atmosphere of uncertainty is nonetheless something to revel in.

The Traveling Players (1975)
The proportions of The Traveling Players, with an epic runtime of 220 minutes, are equally matched by Angelopoulos’ artistic ambitions, elegant yet tortuously bleak. Following a traveling theatrical troupe, this meandering film chronicles the tumultuous years between 1939 and 1952 in Greek history. Punctuated by the troupes repetitive performance of the folk play “Golfo the Shepherdess,” mostly in the form of false starts interrupted by the calamities of reality, The Traveling Players critically confronts the seeds of contemporary Greece through the tri-tumult of the Metaxas dictatorship, German occupation, and the Greek Civil War stimulated by the apathetic Allies. While the politics of the film are a web of convoluted specificity, not unlike Days of ’36, the bitter cynicism is loud and clear. So loud and clear that many were perplex about how Angelopoulos managed to get the film made right under the nose of the regime he was not so obliquely criticizing. But both the personal and the political become intertwined in this time capsule microcosm, the wounds open and raw.
The structure and process that Angelopoulos has laid out is rigorous and Brechtian, but also enthralling and graceful. Angelopoulos and his cinematographer, Giorgos Arvanitis, are less concerned with the movement of the camera than the movement within a (mostly) steady frame, which often starts out as empty and is organically activated and populated. The tragic layers to The Traveling Players are enunciated with stylistic specificity—muted dusty tones, skewing amber, and precise, patient camerawork. Many of the shots are unblinking acknowledgements of time, with unadorned takes that refuse yield until the minutes pile up. And sometimes a character stares right back at the camera with a historical monologue. One such moment appears about midway through the film when a woman picks herself up from the side of a river after a brutal beating and rape from the night before to approach the camera and let the audience know that, for Greece, things get much worse before they get better. It’s an unsettling historical soliloquy that resonates far after the film ends, where the country’s post-war woes are tinged with an aftertaste of savagery.

The Hunters (1977)
Taking place in the present, a group of hunters stumble upon the body of a guerrilla fighter killed 28 years earlier but with wounds still fresh, like a teleported omen from Greece’s divisive past. Angelopoulos redefines the possibilities of cinematic language that is able to traverse time and parables seamlessly, sometimes all in one shot. The hunters, all Right leaning elite, and their ruminations over the dead body create an epilogue to the maelstrom of Days of ’36 and The Traveling Players. They drag the body, his wounds bleeding despite being dead for 30 years, to the lodge where they are staying with their wives. Through an inquisition, the film delves into their personal reflection, guilt, and misunderstanding of the historical implications of the cadaver.
The Hunters rivals The Traveling Players—its formal innovation in capturing layers of a collective unconscious through complex sequences that look deceptively simple is matched, on those same levels, by its narrative. It’s a two and a half hour surreal trial of the conscience, effortlessly dissolving back and forth between flashbacks, with only fantasies of an eventual conviction. In the end, the hunters have had enough, and they take the body, the unwanted harbinger of compunction, back out to the snowy field and frantically bury it back where they found it. The Hunters is easily one of the most amazing films I have ever seen, audacious and surprising in its absolute patience and steady vision.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hong Sang-soo's NIGHT AND DAY: DVD

Any US release of a film by Hong Sang-soo is cause for celebration, even if it is completely devoid of bells and whistles. In this case, Hong’s eighth feature from 2008, released earlier this year on DVD, throws us into Parisian exile with the socially inept Kim Sung-nam, a middle aged painter fleeing his wife and his home after being pegged for drug possession. Night and Day opens with this  prologue—explaining that he was smoking marijuana "for the first time" with exchange students from the US—while plying the dramatic overtures of Beethoven’s 7th. This immediate contrast between narrative and score is reiterated in the contradiction that Sung-nam, an artist, is bored and apathetic in one of the most artistic cities in the world. The only catalysts for stimulation in the City of Lights for Sung-nam are, of course, women: an ex-girlfriend who he meets coincidentally and two art students introduced to him by a friend at his guesthouse. Emotionally lost, Sung-nam mimics a sense of purpose by randomly obsessing over these women while proving his manliness through drinking and arm wrestling.
Hong creates another subtle masterpiece out of combative drinking, failed flirtations and an atmosphere of passive-aggressive ennui in a Paris lockdown. Kim Yeong-ho is the burly stand in for Hong’s alter ego in Night and Day—his physical masculinity in direct contrast to his emotional immaturity. Although this may sound like Hong Sang-soo du jour, Hong sustains Sung-nam’s lackluster days with a surprisingly long runtime of 2 ½ hours and also throws in a surreal dream sequence that forces the viewer to question nearly every event in the film. What parts were simply feverish dreams of an uncomplicated man? Foreshadowing Hong’s more recent The Day He Arrives, Night and Day emerges as a film of possibilities within a narrow scope of one man’s psyche. Zeitgeist Films delivers only the film to DVD with no supplements, but considering that less that half of Hong’s films are available in the US, this is good enough.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Best of 2012 so far

Yes, it's that time again. The year is half over and I need to do a little housekeeping. The year has been good so far, be little ol' me has some catch up to do in the next six months. Here are the top ten films I've seen that have received a US release in the first half of 2012, in cop-out alphabetical order, subject to change.
The Day He Arrives

4:44 Last Day on Earth dir Abel Ferrara 
Attenberg dir Athina Rachel Tsangari
The Day He Arrives dir Hong Sang-soo 
Elena dir Andrei Zvyagintsev
I Wish dir Hirokazu Koreeda 
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia dir Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Patience (After Sebald) dir Grant Gee
Post Mortem dir Pablo Larrain
This Is Not a Film dir Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
The Turin Horse dir Bela Tarr

(You could assume that I haven't seen Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, but you would be wrong.)

Honorable Mentions: Bernie, The Color Wheel, Damsels in Distress, Deep Blue Sea, Kill ListLet the Bullets Fly, A Simple Life, Whore's Glory
Best Rep Screening: The Gang's All Here at the Heights

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cannes Blowback

The Cannes Film Festival came to a close yesterday, with Michael Haneke taking home his second Palme d’Or for his new film Amour. I feel good about this. I like Haneke, and from my distant but watchful perspective from Lake Wobegone, this is probably a solid, yet somewhat safe, choice. (Although, Haneke? Safe? Whatever.) Some other people won some awards too, but, honestly, if you want a rundown on that you should be reading a post from one of the hard working wordsmiths who spent the last week and a half plying the caverns of the Croisette with “no guts, no glory” tattooed to their foreheads. (That may sound like romance, but it’s mostly admiration for the chaos that critics dive into at Cannes.) 

Thoughtful analysis of the Cannes Film Festival is not what you will find below, but instead knee jerk reactions of anticipation and apathy as filtered through my pounding juvenile film libido.   

Here are my most anticipated films among the 22 in competition at the 65th Festival de Cannes:

Post Tenebras Lux directed by Carlos Reygadas (Teaser trailer)
As soon as the critical love/hate line was drawn in the sand, this film jumped into my top spot of interest. Visual, non-narrative feature length films with crazy beautiful stuff, which may or may not accurately describe Post Tenebras Lux, are my kind of thing. It might be also worth saying that Carlos Reygadas films are my kind of thing as well. Battle in Heaven had its flaws, and although people sometimes feel the need to goad for my love of Silent Light, hopefully we can all agree that Reygadas’ debut, Japón, is something special if not a masterpiece. Reygadas won Best Director for Post Tenebras Lux—which translates to “after dark, light”—and there was no shortage of sneers, jeers and bravos, or at least that is what I have garnered from Twitter and various coverage. This only intrigues me more. Because what kind of film is it that can take a litmus test from a respectable swath of the film community and come of with half red and half blue? This fascinates me. Post Tenebras Lux is wagging around without US distribution as of yet, but someone will hopefully step up to the plate.

Holy Motors directed by Leos Carax (Trailer)
Listening to the Cannes natter one is led to believe that Holy Motors director Carax and star Denis Lavant were unjustly shut out of the awards at Cannes. Never you mind that, Holy Motors caused enough of a stir to match or better any award it could have muscled. From what I can surmise, this film is off the crazy chart and it stars Kylie Minogue. I'll take it. Holy Motors was picked up for US distribution by Indomina, a genre label that can hopefully make good on getting this film out to us yonder folk.

In the Fog directed by Sergei Loznitsa (Clip)
Loznitsa’s got my attention. My Joy was a shock to the narrative system, and really really really dark. Until he belly flops, I will always look forward to this guy’s films.

Reality directed by Matteo Garrone (Clip)
The skill in which Garrone adapted Roberto Saviano’s surreal and troubling book Gomorrah has earned him lifetime achievement for my admiration. Garrone’s Reality has a reality television subtext, something Italy probably knows about even more than the US. Reviews were generally not good for this film, but, again, it will take some time to convince me that Gomorrah was a fluke. Reality won the Grand Prix at Cannes and has been picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope.

Like Someone in Love directed by Abbas Kiarostami (Trailer)
Kiarostami continues to reinvent, this time in Japan. Like Someone in Love was picked up by Sundance Selects/IFC.

I’m also looking forward to Cristian Mungiu’s latest Beyond the Hills, Resnais’ big finale You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Hong Sang-soo’s tandem bike ride with Isabelle Huppert In Another Country, and of course Haneke’s Amour.

A big thanks for those in the trenches delivering the good the the sad sacks at home. You know who you are and you know who we are.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sion Sono v. Mayhem

News broke the other day that Japanese director Sion Sono has plans to take on the saga of Norwegian black metal bad Mayhem. The story, reported on by the Playlist, focused on the fact that Sono was in talks with Ezra Miller, the young actor who played the bad seed in Lynn Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin. Far more interesting, however, is contemplating Sono's mad genius combined with one of the most fascinating annals in the history of metal music, and one that would forever stigmatize the entire genre.

When people say that metal is the music of the devil, they are ostensibly talking about Mayhem. In the 80s, the black metal scene was owned by two Norwegian bands: Mayhem and Burzum. Mayhem guitarist Øystein Aarseth "Euronymous" (most likely the person Miller will be playing) and Burzum leader Varg Vikernes aka "Count Grishnackh" where the undeniable kings in this dark underground world where fans fueled the fire of their crazed egos. First friends and then adversaries, Aarseth and Vikernes seemed to be in a competition of who could be the most committed to being a psychopath, resulting in church burning, celebratory suicides, and the eventual murder of Aarseth by Vikernes.

  Øystein Aarseth v. Ezra Miller

The sordid details of what really happened before Aarseth's death are murky and have, at this point, taken on some urban legend. Until the Light Takes Us (2008) attempted to chronicle the history, but ended up being convoluted and completely unfocused. Personally, I wish Errol Morris would take this story on, but in the meantime I am willing to see what Sono might come up with. Who knows, maybe Sono's fictional take on Mayhem will be closer to any truth we've heard yet on the band.

Mayhem still tours with two remaining original members, although they have lost their spark. Vikernes was released on parole three years ago and and has demonstrated with two releases of new material, one out just last week, that musically he still has something to prove and maybe even offer to the world of black metal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Look ma! A blog update!

Because of a jab about my stagnant and uninteresting blog (Oops! I was sitting at the table!), here's what I have been up to, in between stoking the fires at the Walker Art Center and the Trylon microcinema.

MSPIFF is over. Congrats to the Film Society of Minneapolis and St Paul for another successful year and daunting slate of films. There were 20 films in the line-up I had seen prior to the Fest, and I'm glad to say that I caught 28 more during the Fest. Of the ones I saw at the Fest, there were a number of standouts, most notably Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust and Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights, but I also greatly enjoyed Nuit #1, Target, Oslo Ausust 31, and Whore's Glory. Check them out if you get a chance.
 (A film with a fantastic opening sequence.)

If you used either VitaMN or the Star Tribune to make your choices on what to see at MSPIFF, it's possible that you are either cursing or praising my name. I turned in eleven capsules for films that I mostly liked. I know it's a little late, but as a matter of record that I'm not as lazy as my blog implies, here are the links the my mini reviews:
The worst film I saw during the fest? V/H/S. Holy mother of God. Why?

I also put in a few full-ish reviews of films I saw at the Festival with In Review Online.
  • Keyhole Disappointing, but not terrible. 2 stars.
  • Whore's Glory Glawogger has something going on. 3 stars.
Look for a Festival wrap on In Review Online. Who knows, maybe I will even blog about that.

I also wrote an essay about the digital conundrum facing cinemas and the upgrades taking place in the Walker Cinema right now. In the Walker magazine and online here: Cinema Renovation Pushes the Future, Preserves the Past 

My blog, maybe still not interesting, but updated!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ready-set-go! MSPIFF begins!

The thrill of 200 plus international films over the span of a couple weeks right in my backyard will never dull. Despite its humble mid-western stature, the Minneapolis/St Paul International Film Festival, year after year, never ceases to amazing one of the toughest cinephilic customers in town: moi. This year's huge selection is no different. I've seen approximately 20 of the films going into the fest, but there are also plenty I am looking forward to seeing theatrically in the bustling atmosphere of this once a year event. How to navigate? Head first! Here are my recommendations and anticipations. (Follow linky-dinkies on dates and times to MSPIFF schedule, and on titles for my mini Strib reviews when available.)

Highly Recommended

Kill List (Ben Wheatley) UK  
Sa Apr 21 10:00pm, Tu Apr 24 9:45pm
Enter at your own risk! This divisive horror film has teeth and brains. Fascinating an infuriating stuff.

Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari) Greece 
Sa Apr 14 9:30pm, Su Apr 15 6:30pm
Forget Dogtooth and forget ALPS - Attenberg is the Greek hero in this group. 

Bestiaire (Denis Côté) Canada
M Apr 30 5:00pm, Tu May 1 9:30pm
Bestiaire is not for everyone. Some will try and make it into an animal rights doc, but Côté's concerns are for more formal, both on an aesthetic level and a philosophical level.

The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo) South Korea
M Apr 16 9:45pm, W Apr 18 9:10pm 
Hong Sang-soo is one of the most under-appreciated directors in the world, and The Day He Arrives is a perfect example of his satirical humor and somber drama. 

Elena (Andrei Zvyagintsev) Russia
Su Apr15 8:45pm, Th Apr19 7:15pm 
Third feature is certainly a charm for this Russian director. Brilliantly paced and beautifully shot. (Read my review of Elena on Twitch.) 

Grey Matter (Kivu Ruhorahoza) Rwanda
W Apr 18 9:00pm, Su Apr 22 6:00pm
A recent viewing that knocked my socks off. Some of the most inovative filmmaking come from the most unassuming places. 

Headshot (Pen-Ek Ratanaruan) Thailand
M Apr 30 9:45pm, W May 2 9:45pm
A genre film with more subtlety and more darkness - literally. Plot points of A, B and C are nothing new in this Thai crime drama, but the devil's in the details what's in between makes it unique. (Read my review of Headshot on Twitch.)
Effective drama that makes better use of the space of a car than Kiarostami. 

The Prize (Paula Markovitch) Argentina
Child actors reign supreme in this somewhat minor film. Sumptuous use of cloudy coast atmosphere and a sparse and interesting soundtrack.
Plays on expectation and assumptions and temps cliche and irony. I'm hoping to check this film out again. This film is dangling out there without US distribution, so see it while you can!

A Simple Life (Ann Hui) Hong Kong
F Apr 27 7:20pm, Th May 3 2:30pm
Ann Hui does what she does best (makes beautiful and heartfelt films) with the aid of superstar Andy Lau. (Hui's 2008 The Way We Are is one of the best films in the past 20 years.)

Worth a Look 

Las Acacias (Pablo Giorgelli) Argentina/Spain

Dreileben x3 (Christoph Hochhäusler, Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf) Germany

Alps (Giorgios Lanthimos) Greece

The Salt of Life (Gianni Di Gregorio) Italy

Michael (Markus Schleinzer) Austria
Highly Anticipated (I don't care what people say...)

 Faust (Alexander Sokurov) Russia
Su Apr 15 3:30pm, Tu Apr 17 7:00pm Both at the Heights! DCP! 

Whores' Glory (Michael Glowagger) Germany/Austria/Thailand
W Apr 18 4:45pm, Su Apr 29 6:30pm 

Keyhole (Guy Maddin) Canada
W Apr 18 7:30pm, M Apr 30 9:00pm 

Compliance (Craig Zobel) USA

Together (Zhao Liang) China

Target (Alexander Zeldovich) Russia

Arirang (Kim Ki-duk) South Korea

Smuggler (Katsuhito Ishii) Japan

The First Man (Gianni Amelio) France/Algeria/Italy

The Woman in the Fifth (Pawel Pawlikowski) France/Poland/UK

Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold) UK
Sa Apr 28 7:10pm

Turn Me On, Dammit! (Jannicke Systad) Norway

Oslo August 31st (Joachim Trier) Norway

Play (Ruben Östlund) Sweden
Have fun! See you at the Fest!