AFI Fest 2017: Loveless

Zvyagintsev’s films are often described as critiques of modern Russia, but I’m beginning to accept his constant denials of that interpretation, his assertions that he is apolitical and only interested in the human condition. Yes, his films are set in contemporary Russia and track the moral compromises and lack of justice in the lives of his characters, but surely Russia is not the only country in the world with such imbalances? It’s partly why Leviathan (2014) is my favorite of his films—simultaneously his most political (in its examination of small town corruption) and his most allegorical (alluding as he does …

Read more

AFI Fest 2017: Happy End; Call Me By Your Name; Milla

Happy End

Would Michael Haneke throw a party were Europe to collapse in chaos? The event would likely prevent him from making any more movies—although the clever Austrian does have a way of attracting producers and even Hollywood admirers—but it would confirm all of his worst fears that he’s been packing into every movie he’s ever made, except for his American-set remake of Funny Games. Yet it isn’t difficult to detect in his new movie, Happy End (oh Herr Haneke and his sarcastic/ironic titles), that the whole notion of Continental Drift toward yet another Armageddon is beginning to bore …

Read more

Los Angeles Needs Its Own Wavelengths

I had begun writing about my viewing experience of TIFF’s Wavelengths section for Film Journey with the customary introduction and mini-history of the section and its crucial importance to the world’s largest film festival, followed by reviews/analyses of each of the key films in the program.

Then I looked at what I had written, and thought, “Nah. Scrap that.” It needed something else. I needed to consider this differently. Because I was looking at things differently. Part of this stems from my own work as a writer. Until recently, I’ve devoted my writing to cinema, which I’ve done consistently (and …

Read more

The Underworld Story (1950)

The latest issue of Cineaste features an extended excerpt on 1950’s powerful The Sound of Fury (I wrote about the recent restoration here), part of a forthcoming biography on director Cy Endfield, whom author Brian Neve claims is the “least well known of the American filmmakers who came to Europe in the early Fifties to circumvent the Hollywood blacklist.” It’s mostly a historical overview of the production, but hopefully it will help convince some enterprising DVD/Blu-ray distributor to take notice.

Tomorrow, Angelenos can see Endfield’s other film from 1950, The Underworld Story, as part of the annual Noir

Read more

Ceylan’s Winter Sleep

The festival is over, and the best films from Cannes embody what truly matters: the ability to move backward and forward, projecting a sense of the moment, live bulletins of a country’s pulse and state of mind. With his scalding and magisterial new work, Winter Sleep, the great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan walked off with the Palme d’Or.

In his acceptance speech, Ceylan dedicated the film to the young people of Turkey who have lost their lives in the last year protesting the country’s unnerving political repression and withholding of essential freedom. Because of its three-hour and 16-minute …

Read more

Grading the Cannes Competition

This year’s Cannes Film festival, the 19th I’ve covered and written about, showcased a strong competition. The trajectory was like a bottle rocket, blasting off with superb work by Abderrahmane Sissako (Timbuktu), Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep), flattening out with an uneven stretch before picking up and soaring with strong new works by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) and French master Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria).

Curatorially, the main competition was tighter than normal (with just 18 films). Only seven of those are given what I …

Read more