Screening Log: September

Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence

My thoughts on TIFF14, where most of September’s screenings took place, have been posted here. Some of the films below are discussed.

20,000 Days on Earth (Forsyth/Pollard, 2014, B) (review)
“All of this adds up to a rapturous finale, a staggering, endlessly energetic live performance that brings all the contextualized elements behind the music together and leaves the audience with 20,000 goosebumps on their arms.”

The Call (Anderson, 2013, C+)
Sure, little sophistication and a whole lot of suspension of disbelief is required, but this would actually have been great popcorn entertainment had it not been for the blatantly redundant final two minutes. 

Stop the Pounding Heart (Minervini, 2014, B) (review)
top the Pounding Heart is at once restrained and tactile, the work of a silently observant filmmaker who is as compassionate as he is critical. The likes of this subtle religious study are all too rare in modern American cinema.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Takahata, 2014, B+)
A romantic fable steeped in Japanese tradition elevated to enchanting, graceful bliss on screen.

The Look of Silence (Oppenheimer, 2014, A)
An intimate, complex portrait of personal traumas and social, familial fractures still unhealed. Oppenheimer turns The Act of Killing‘s camera 180° to observe the victims in The Look of Silence. The result is even richer and more resonant.

99 Homes (Bahrani, 2014, B+)
Overwrought, overdirected and overcooked, with screaming bright colors for emotional beats. Also, pretty darn great.

Silvered Water, Syria Self Portrait (Mohammed/Bedrixan, 2014, A-) (thoughts)
Pushing the limits of cinematic possibility in the digital age to paint a harrowing picture of the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime, and a testament to the resilience of its people.

Far From Men (Oelhoffen, 2014, B+)
An old-school Western, transplanted to colonial Algeria. A muscular film with an equally muscular turn from Viggo Mortensen.

Jauja (Alonso, 2014, B/B+)
Hypnotic, strange and gorgeous. The first half isn’t for everyone, but final payoff is immensely handsome. Viggo Mortensen and cinematographer Timo Salminen (Aki Kaurismaki’s regular collaborator) are standouts.

Maidan (Loznitsa, 2014, B+)
Loznitsa’s raw look at the Ukrainian protests feels vital, with none of the urgency of the events lost in translation.

Girlhood (Sciamma, 2014, A-)
As keen an observational study on growing up as we’ve come to expect of the director. A vibrant and joyous film, with a wondrous debut performance by Kadija Toure.

Horse Money (Costa, 2014, C-)
Akin to reciting one line from a beautiful, resonant poem over and over and over again.

Tales (Bani-etemad, 2014, B)
Bites off more social issues than it can chew, but some segments are near masterpieces as self-contained works.

Goodbye to Language (Godard, 2014, D+)
If you look carefully, you can see Godard’s smirk as he cums on your 3D glasses.

Timbuktu (Sissako, 2014, A) (thoughts)
Timbuktu is a powerful film, with formal ambitions that well exceed the requirements of its narrative. Gorgeously shot and finely acted, Sissako offers a compassionate look at the struggles of Malian people without ever resorting to schmaltzy humanism.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Andersson, 2014, B+)
Alternates between uproariously funny and regrettably (though purposefully) dull. Warm, perceptive and typically articulate for the director.

Felix and Meira (Giroux, 2014, B-)
A deceptively simple look at the complexities of challenging Orthodox beliefs in secular societies and inter-faith relationships. Hadas Yaron is the real deal.

Duke of Burgundy (Strickland, 2014, C+)
(Very polished) turd.

Red Rose (Farsi, 2014, B)
Suffers from age old pitfalls of Iranian political cinema, but is otherwise frank and incisive, particularly with its sexual politics.

Miss Julie (Ullman, 2014, D+)
“I’m so tremendously tired” says Chastain at one point. Well, so are we, Jessica.

Today (Mirkarimi, 2014, B+)
Mirkarimi does as Mirkarimi always does, building momentum from seemingly nothing to an unforgettable emotional punch. Parastui’s performance as the director’s archetypal reticent hero is a thing of compassion and beauty.

Heaven Knows What (Safdie Brothers, 2014, B+)
A never ending rush of emotions. Visceral, truthful, disturbing and alive.

Mardan (Ghobadi, 2014, D-)
A film about the struggle for Kurdish independence, which will surely be achieved before this insufferable film is over.

Phoenix (Petzold, 2014, C-)
Production values and performances are solid, but it’s impossible to escape such an agonizingly daft premise. Phoenix is at once hokey and flat.

The Princess of France (Pineiro, 2014, B+)
Mesmerizing, majestic opening sequence and only slightly less impressive after that. Pineiro’s latest jewel-cut Shakespearean adaptation is an intricate marvel.

Eden (Hansen-Løve, 2014, C)
Curiously joyless and monotone for a film about such thrilling music. The procession of club scenes, only interrupted by miserable conversations with interchangeable girlfriends leave the film with virtually no hook.

Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas, 2014, B+)
Assayas as complex, versatile and warm as ever. Unsure about the boldfaced epilogue but everything that precedes it is superb, most particularly the pas de deux between Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.


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