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Showing posts from 2016

The Lobster

It's a jungle out there, lonelyhearts.  Or at least a forest.  Which seems better than the hotel.  But is it?  And the city - it's a cold, cold place.  But we all knew that, right?  The options are daunting for the lonely in search of real connection, those who don't necessarily want to go it alone and for whom couplehood, as it so often presented, seems the least appealing choice of all.  So goes the old story, rendered almost unrecognizably new by director Yorgos Lanthimos in The Lobster.

The Lobster is writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos' first film in English, the first produced outside of his native Greece.  Like his earlier Dogtooth and Alps (as well as Attenberg, by his colleague Athina Rachel Tsangari, a film in which Lanthimos deadpans his way through a secondary role), The Lobster sees human relationships stripped down to their basic truths and conflicts and given absurd projection, a kind of psychological caricature.  The Lobster is what you could call a Europe…

Son of Saul

There are no establishing shots.  No trains arriving at the gates of Auschwitz with their infernal box cars.  No dates.  No body counts.  Instead, first-time director Lazlo Nemes places us right in the midst of the wretched business of the Holocaust.  What we see and what we don't see is a product of the perspective of Hungarian-Jewish prisoner, Saul (Geza Rohrig).
The only bit of overview we are given in Son of Saul is a title card explaining the Sonderkommandos, work outfits at death camps composed of Jewish prisoners, often pressed quickly into service upon their arrival at the extermination centers.  Saul is one such Sondercommando, very likely at the end of his tenure in the special unit (the translation of the term in German) in 1944.  The end of that grim tenure means the end of his life.  The Sondercommandos, the "bearers of secrets," were conducted to their own demise, usually within months, by their successors.
Son of Saul does begin in the midst of the ruthle…

Goodnight Mommy

We have Austrians.  Handsome and blonde Austrians!  And they sing!  Goodnight Mommy begins in such a fashion, a large family (noticeably without father) singing Brahms' Lullaby, the lovely children in black velvet dresses and lederhosen.  At the conclusion of this doctored bit of graininess, a television show that probably never was, the mother bids us a tender, "Gute nacht."  At the conclusion of Goodnight Mommy, the film's main characters, a woman and her twin boys serenade us, arm in arm, with the German hymm, "Weisst Du wieviel Sternlein stehen."  Before you consider Goodnight Mommy for your next holiday film sing-along, know that there's actually very little song between those Austrian idylls that open and close the film.  And what transpires between is much closer in spirit to the Brothers Grimm than the family Von Trapp.  

In counterpoint to the fair-haired wholesomeness on display in Goodnight Mommy, there is quickly established an air of dread.…

Hateful Eight

It's admirable, Quentin Tarantino's continued advocacy of film.  The actual stuff.   As opposed to the digital format which the film industry has pretty well crammed down the throats of moviegoers and any theater hoping to get by.   It's slightly less admirable, the amount of celluloid that Tarantino is expending these days, his stories that are being pressed into that precious film stock.   The director's laudable resuscitation of careers given up for dead by Hollywood also continues to his credit.  Such is the case, to varying degrees, with Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen (the old charisma nearly extinguished) and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the writer/director's latest, Hateful Eight.   Alas, most of Hateful Eight transpires with Ms. Jason Leigh getting more punches (or bowls of stew) to the face than sentences to utter, made to lay about black-eyed and bloodied while the boys in the cast trade the auteur's curiously lifeless dialog, a lot of gas that only rarely …


Only late in the proceedings of  writer/director Tom McCarthy's masterful Spotlight, not long before the two-hour mark of the 129-minute film, does a character really raise their voice.  Only shortly thereafter does the director make what could be construed as his first rhetorical flourish.  Given the drama inherent in Spotlight, that restraint is particularly admirable.  The sexual abuse of children on the part of Roman Catholic priests in the Boston Archdiocese as revealed and conveyed by reporters of the Boston Globe could hardly have been more damning, more outrageous.  The material could hardly be more dramatic.  And yet, a story that would seem to require the dimensions of opera is handled like a precise, heartbreaking piece of chamber music by McCarthy and his uniformly excellent cast.

Sounding beneath Spotlight's slowly-building theme genuine tragedy - we're reminded prior to the closing credits that this was and is a global phenomenon - is an unadorned refrain, l…