Wes Anderson – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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Wes Anderson, like so many now-New Yorkers (myself included), grew up far away from the city, and so came to an idealized vision of the metropolis and its sophisticated, complicated residents through literature and movies. His new movie, The Royal Tenenbaums offers up clan of overeducated, old-money, East Coast eccentrics who occupy a house far too grand to have survived the ’80s and ’90s real estate booms without having been turned into multiple condominiums. These magnificent Tenenbaums, however, barely survive the ’00s. Continue reading

François Ozon – Le temps qui reste AKA Time to Leave (2005)

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Diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a short while to live, a successful fashion photographer embarks on one final journey in the second of three films in a trilogy about death and mourning from French director Franחois Ozon (the first entry in the the trilogy was Under the Sand) . After passing out during a particularly grueling photo shoot, high profile shutterbug Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is shocked to discover that his body has been ravaged by a fully metastasized cancer that will soon kill him. Without revealing the cause for his erratic behavior, the shell shocked Romain commences to alienate his entire family and ditch his handsome young boyfriend before connecting with affable waitress Jany (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) at a roadside cafי while en route to his grandmother’s house. Upon arriving at the home of the one family member he knows will be joining him shortly in death, Romain’s naked vulnerability is met with a gentle ear and sound advice. Once again meeting with the kindly Jany on his way to his ultimate fate, Romain and the waitress strike up an unusual bargain. Continue reading

Travis Wilkerson – An Injury to One (2002)

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AN INJURY TO ONE provides a corrective—and absolutely compelling—glimpse of a particularly volatile moment in early 20th century American labor history: the rise and fall of Butte, Montana. Specifically, it chronicles the mysterious death of Wobbly organizer Frank Little, a story whose grisly details have taken on a legendary status in the state. Much of the extant evidence is inscribed upon the landscape of Butte and its surroundings. Thus, a connection is drawn between the unsolved murder of Little, and the attempted murder of the town itself. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Ce jour-là AKA That Day (2003)

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Auspiciously set in the nebulous and indeterminate milieu of “Switzerland, in the near future”, Raoul Ruiz’s eccentric, surreal fable opens to the shot of an abstracted and dotty young woman named Livia (Elsa Zylberstein) sitting on a park bench overlooking a fog obscured dirt road that is curiously located near the entrance of the San Michelle mental health institution. While jotting down a series of random, fleeting thoughts into her journal, she meets a cyclist who is abruptly thrown from his bicycle and, convinced that he is an angel (since, as her idiosyncratic theory goes, all angels on earth have fallen), proceeds to explain that tomorrow is destined to be the best day of her life, or rather – as she corrects herself – the most important day, which she comes to realize is not the same thing. Soon after the encounter, Livia is whisked away by her faithful and devoted servant Treffle (Jean-François Balmer) and brought home to the family’s country estate where a crowd of snide and unscrupulously calculating relatives amass near the front steps awaiting her father, Harald’s (Michel Piccoli) return home to celebrate his birthday. Continue reading

Simon Jaquemet – Chrieg AKA War (2014)

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Masculinity turns against itself in Simon Jaquemet’s teen violence debut

Home is where the hate is in At War, in which a teenager’s boot camp punishment becomes a kind of perverted camaraderie. Filmed in the spirit of gritty Euro-miserabilists like the Dardenne Brothers and infused with the same show-all/judge nothing ethos, the film has a drive and intensity that pushes it compellingly through its first half before descending into predictability as it doggedly brings its inner logic full circle. But there’s enough of interest happening in that first section to ensure that there’ll be more to come from director Simon Jaquemet when War has done its time on the festival frontline. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Mistérios de Lisboa AKA Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

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Raúl Ruiz is one of the great cinematic self-perpetuators, like Louis Feuillade and Jacques Rivette—a film like this gathers a motion and a rhythm that makes it feel like it could on and on, self-generating new stories and new characters ad infinitum.  Based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco (whose writing has been the source for Oliveira’s similarly fatalistic romance,Doomed Love), Mysteries of Lisbon is, to paraphrase a line from one of its many characters used to describe a disastrous relationship he had, a game that turns into a bourgeois romantic drama, to which I would add, that turns into a game.  It starts—as all stories must?—with an orphaned boy questioning his parentage and falling into a fever, and out of that starting point the film evolves less as a story than a cartography of characters crossing points in space and time.  On paper it is indeed all melodrama: identities revealed, lives saved in the past coming back to haunt the saviors, secret connections, loves turns to hatreds. Continue reading

Lucian Pintilie – Un été inoubliable AKA An Unforgettable Summer (1994)

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In 1925 Romania, young Marie-Therese Von Debretsy refuses the flirtatious advances of her husband’s commanding officer. As a result, the cosmopolitan family is reassigned to a brutally bleak and dangerous outpost on the Bulgarian/Romanian frontier whereboth their relationship and humanity are severely tested. Continue reading