Frank Perry – Mommie Dearest (1981)

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Based on the book about Joan Crawford, one of the great Hollywood actresses of our time, written by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Joan decides to adopt children of her own to fill a void in her life. Yet, her problems with alcohol, men, and the pressures of show business get in the way of her personal life, turning her into a mentally abusive wreck seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who unwillingly bare the burden of life that was unseen behind the closed doors of “The Most Beautiful House in Brentwood.”

t is 1939, Joan Crawford is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But she tells boyfriend lawyer Greg Savitt that she isn’t content living in her Brentwood mansion with just her devoted secretary Carol Ann and housekeeper Helga. Greg arranges for Joan to adopt a baby girl. Joan names her Christina and promises “to give her all the things I never had.” But Joan is obsessed with perfection, and Christina finds it impossible to live up to her mother’s standards. Continue reading

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Damián Szifrón – Relatos Salvajes AKA Wild Tales (2014)

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A story about love deception, the return of the past, a tragedy, or even the violence contained in an everyday detail, appear themselves to push them towards the abyss, into the undeniable pleasure of losing control.

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The first ten minutes of Argentina’s Wild Tales, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars, perfectly set you up for the experience you are about to have. A woman boards an airplane, then strikes up a conversation with the man across the aisle from her. It turns out he knows her ex-boyfriend. So does the woman seated in front of him. So does everyone else on the plane. It’s too much to be a coincidence, and it’s not. The guy they all know is the pilot; his passengers are people who have done him wrong. The scene ends with a stunning Twilight Zone-esque twist, then segues into an opening credits sequence set against photos of wild, often predatory animals. Writer/director Damian Szifron grabs you by the throat from the get-go, then proceeds to deliver a dazzling ride. Continue reading

Christian Petzold – Phoenix (2014)

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A smoky duet between double-bass and piano at the start of Christian Petzold’s Phoenix promises a dose of film noir. That promise is complicated, if not exactly broken, by what follows. But then, this is a movie all about disguises, reinventions and deceptive appearances.

It begins with a monstrously tantalising scenario. In mid-1940s Germany, a vehicle is halted at night by US soldiers. A figure is whimpering in the passenger seat, their face concealed by blood-soaked bandages. Perhaps we are in for some Eyes Without a Face-style horror, then, rather than noir? Half-wrong again. Continue reading

Frank V. Ross – Tiger Tail in Blue (2012)

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Christopher and Melody are a couple in the midst of their first year of marriage. Christopher is a writer by day, but by night serves wine and food to people without discerning tastes. Melody is a teacher who finds herself exhausted with instruction, grading, and parent-teacher meetings. Less by choice than by chance (or maybe necessity), they keep opposing schedules that leave little time for one another. As a result, their interactions are abbreviated, sometimes impersonal, and over time their relationship suffers. But perhaps for the better? Continue reading

Claude Chabrol – Les Bonnes Femmes aka The Good Time Girls (1960)

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inette, Rita, Jacqueline and Jane try to find fulfillment and love in their lives. Rita has a fiancé whose family is obsessed with social distinction; Jane has a boy-friend in the army, but does not hesitate to enjoy herself with chance encounters; Ginette has a mysterious passion that keeps her away from her colleagues at nights. Jacqueline is lonely; but who is that mysterious bike-rider who is constantly following her? Continue reading