Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 1:29 pm 
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Robert Redford in The Old Man & the Gun

NEW YORK MOVIE JOURNAL (Sept.-Oct. 2018)
The title-director line is linked to the longer review where there is one.

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ASAKO I & II/ (寝ても覚めても Netemo Sametemo, "At All Hours") (2018) (Ryunosuke Hamaguchi 2018. A strange story but a little too YA to be worthy of its NYFF Main Slate status or live up to the promise of the director's arresting 317-minute Happy Hour, which brought him, after seven pervious features, to international attention. This one concerns a young woman who falls in love, several years apart, with a wild young man, and a conventional sallaryman, who are identical in appearance, and she wavers hopelessly between them. Her shallowness is awesome. In the Main Slate of the NYFF. Metascore 62.

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ASH IS PUREST WHITE/Jiang hu er nv (Jia Zhang-ke 2018). Jia films his wife/muse Zhao Tao in a relationship with a provincial gangster, over time. She goes to jail, takes a rap for him, then comes looking for him when she gets out. Jia revisits the Three Gorges region of maximum Nineties displacement and change and this becomes a saga of loyalty and loneliness. Devastating and intense, and for me one of his most powerful, a reworking of themes and action of Unknown Pleasures and Still Life. Jia in top form, showing what a great filmmaker he is. Not all agree: Metascore 79. Main slate of the NYFF.

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BURNING (Lee Chan-dong 2018). Based on a 1992 Haruki Murakami story and Faulkner, a brilliantly spun mystery triangle of class, money, and amorality. One of the Main Slate's sure masterpieces. With the Korean American star Steven Yeon, with the equally talented Jun Jong-seo and Yoo Ah-in. Watched in the Walter Reade Theater 4 Oct. 2018. Main Slate of the NYFF. In theaters 9 Nov. Metascore 89.

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COLD WAR/ZIMNA WOJNA (Paweł Pawlikowski 2018). NYFF. Five years later from the director of the memorable and brilliant Ida, this too is a '40's and '50's Iron Curtain era love story, this time of a musical director and a young talented singer who can't quite agree if they want to defect to the West or not. Stunning black and white academy ratio visuals and a lot of music from folk to jazz to French chansons to rock 'n' roll to Bach, the storytelling elliptical and totally assured. He is a master and this won Best Director at Cannes. Watch the changeable Joanna Kulig as the woman, she's remarkable. Watched later in the evening at Alice Tully Hall 8 Oct. as part of the NYFF Main Slate. Coming 21 Dec. to theaters. Metascore 90.

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FAMILY TOUR, A (Ying Liang 2018). NYFF Mainland China forced the indie filmmaker and his little family into insecure exile in Hong Kong six years ago. This first film since then recreates the experience he had with his wife following his wife's in-laws around Taiwan in a Mainland-regimented tour, the only way of seeing them. A sad, delicate, occasionally poetic, funny, or boring, painfully true and precise film where the filmmaker is a woman and the family member visiting is her mother. Watched at a small screening of the NYFF (Elinor Bunin) 3 Oct. 2018.

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A FAITHFUL MAN/L'HOMME FIDÈLE (Louis Garrel 2018). He stars with two beautiful women and a nine-year-old boy who has the best lines, and represents some of his own Freudian issues when his parents split when he was very young. His second film as writer and director, with Jean-Claude Carrière, a very playful plot in the New Wave manner with voiceovers and everything. Louis Garrel was at the Alice Tully Hall Q&A talking a blue streak in his approximate English, speaking very freely and amusingly - that was almost as good as the film. Watched in the NYFF. Watched in the NYFF 7 Oct. It won't be out in France till 26th of Dec.

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HIGH LIFE (Claire Denis 2018).Hardly a sci-fi picture really but in a sci-fi world, a spece experiment of condemned prisoners who don't know they're not coming back, seeking energy sources, something to do with black holes, and lots of sex. With Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson, masturbating and tossing out cryogenically preserved people like old newspapers. Sensual, harsh. Not one of my faves by this director I admire so much, but well received NYFF Main Slate, watched at Alice Tully Hall 4 Oct. 2018. Metascore 81.

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JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS (Susan Field 2018). New comprehensive HBO doc about this impressive but flawed and vulnerable woman. I feel I know most of this story but it's still surprising to see how long and varied it has been. I didn't know she was bulimic and anorexic up till the "Workout," which she used as a recovery method, or that the Workout, which revolutionized video, was done in order to fund her activism with Tom Hayden. The five acts are her three men, Roger Vadim (a story I knew little about), Tom Hayden, and Ted Turner, bookended by her chilly childhood with distant Hollywood icon dad Henry Fonda and a mom who killed herself when she was 14, and "Jane," the last, man-free phase, perhaps the most impressive of all. I knew she was feisty and fun in 70-something acting roles, but not how much an activist she still is, or that she used at least three of her films, Coming Home The China Syndrome, and 9 to 5, to supplement her activism. Good interviews with Hayden, her son and stepdaughter, but the best is with her. Food for thought. Watched at Cinema Village Sept. 29, 2018. Metascore 87.

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MANDY ( Panos Cosmatos 2018). "Screaming, cocaine and battle axes," says one headline. Also blood, beatings, torture, worms, and Nicolas Cage spattered with mud and fake blood. Dark vision, pain and fury on Cage by crazed religious cult members leading to drawn-out, passionate revenge. The sound design and music are impressive and cranked up to the max at IFC Center. This is a quintessential midnight movie (so debuted at Sundance) that provides an immersive experience that demands the big screen and ought to be in iMax or a Dolby special theater. Monotonous yet somehow rich, this unique horror film is not for the faint-hearted, or for most people. I spent a lot of it holding my ears and averting my eyes. But with respect. 121 mins., US release 14 Sept. Reviews are enthusiastic (Metascore 82). Watched at IFC Center 27 Sept. 2018.

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MOYNAHAN ( Joseph Dorman ,Toby Perl Freilich , 2018). "Twentieth century colossus: public intellectual, policy specialist, ambassador and U.S. Senator from New York." "The maverick spirit of Daniel Patrick Moynihan gets the salute it deserves in a doc portrait that looks back at a vanished (and better) political world," says Owen Gleiberman of Variety in his positive review. This is a whirlwind tour of the busy lie of this great American Senator. I wish it had helped us better to understand where he was politically and what he accomplished. But with someone so complex and contradictory that may be asking an awful lot. For political junkies, a must. So also says JB Spins. Watched at Film Forum 4 Oct. 2018, as a chaser for Wings of Desire.

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NEVER LOOK AWAY/WERK OHNE AUTOR/(Florian von Donnersmarck 2018).
Three hours long and starring Tom Schilling of the 2012 A Coffee in Berlin, it traces the life of an artist in Germany from the Thirties to the Sixties and relates to the careers of a number of artists, particularly to Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter. I have to hold my review for theatrical release, either the end of November or early 2019. It is the German entry for Best Foreign Oscar, and it's flawed in a few ways but still great - a splendid film whose treatment of the life of art and the art of the postwar period is worlds beyond the next tumultuous Van Gogh saga, or story of Picasso's women.It's surprising and gratifying to see the great events of the Twentieth Century drawn from the point of view of an important post-war German artist. The subject is nothing less than modern art's fractured search for meaning in a world of exhausted ideas and shattered feelings. Watched at Sony Screening Room 3 Oct. 2018.

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NON-FICTION/DOUBLES VIES (Olivier Assayas 2018). A witty, talky, smart, topical, and very French intellectual farce focused on two criss-crossing couples (with juliette Binoche, Guilaume Canet, and Vincent Macaigne) involved acting, publishing, and the cyber world. Lots of debating about old and new media, electronic and paper that's very up to date. The sexual games are classic. Very enjoyable NYFF film, in French. A Sundance Selects release in the US. Metascore 82. Watched at Alice Tully Hall 2 Oct. 2018 as part of the NYFF.

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OLD MAN & THE GUN, THE (David Lowery 2018). This story of Forest Tucker, a real-life seventyish bank robber with two accomplices, known collectively as "the over the hill gang," reportedly Robert Redford's acting swan song. Tucker's signature is he is a debonair gentleman with a smile on his face, who has robbed many, many banks. He has frequently gone to prison. But he has made sixteen remarkable escapes including from San Quentin in a homemade boat. Based on a story by New Yorker writer David Grann (also author of "The Lost City of Z") which becomes in David Lowery's hands an original piece of laid-back zen minimalism. Danny Glover, Sissy Spacek,Tom Waits, and Lowery regular Casey Affleck round out the fine cast. 93 mins. US release 28 Sept. 2018 Watched at Regal Union Square 27 Sept. 2018. Metascore 80.

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ON HER SHOULDERS (Alexandria Bombach 2018). Documentary about Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman from a village who survived a massacre of the Yazidi people, divided up in refugee camps now. She was enslaved by ISIS, which is responsible for this genocide, and has become a UN Goodwill Ambassador. But but this has all fallen "on her shoulders" against her will. She would rather do simple, fun things, but tragedy has given her an international role. A press screening watched at IFC Center 9 Oct. 2018.


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PRIVATE LIFE (Tamara Jenkins 2018). This satirical picture of a very bourgeois hip white middle-aged couple's dogged but unsuccessful effort to become pregnant is at once jokey and heavy-handedly realistic. It is well acted by Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, but seems a focus now not as fashionable as it was at the time of Jenkins previous film, The Savages but the New York Film Festival debut audience received it warmly. Watched at Alice Tully Hall in the NYFF 1 Oct. 2018. Metascore 83.

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ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón 2018). NYFF. His B&W autobiographical study of a bourgeois family coming apart in 1970-71 and their maid, in the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma. Beautiful, precise, and strangely detached. Men are the villains here, the husband who runs away and the right-wing peasant who gets the maid pregnant and runs away too. Cuarón put a lot into recreating streets and avenues on a vast sound stage, but forgets to give the four children personalities. Watched at Alice Tully Hall 6 Oct.US theatrical release date: 14 Dec. 2018. Metascore: 95.

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SHOPLIFTERS/き家族 (Manbiki Kazoku, "Shoplifting family," Hirakazu Koreeda 2018). A collection of insinuating details enter your mind. An ersatz family of four adults and two children, who are trained to shoplift. But there is also collecting the pension of a dead man, and badly-paying jobs. Siblings, husband and wife, a granny, but we hardly know who they are really, and when the granny dies and the boy gets caught stealing social services and the cops move in, and no more family. Related to Koreeda's disturbing masterpiece of abandoned children, Nobody Knows, and also Kurosawa's Dodeskaden and Dickens' Oliver Twist. It won the top prize at Cannes, the Palme d'Ore, this year. Watched at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in the NYFF 8 Oct. 2018. Metascore 93. US release 23 Nov.

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SORRY ANGEL/PLAURE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE (Christophe Honoré 2018). NYFF. From Competition Cannes and immediate Paris release to raves (AlloCiné 4.2), this is plainly the director's most gay and autobiographical in subject matter and widely greeted as his best work. In fractured form, with three main characters (played by Vincent Lacoste, Pierre Deladonchamps, and Denis Podalidès), a bisexual young man leaves Brittany for Paris for an older man who's HIV positive, seeing friends die of AIDS all round in the Eighties and Nineties, while a still older man must be content with prostitutes. There was so much here I couldn't take it all in on a first viewing, but as a fan of Honoré, I will keep trying. Watched at Alice Tully Hall 30 Sept. 2018 as part of the New York Film Festival. Strand Releasing is the US distributor. Metascore 72.


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A STAR IS BORN ((Bradley Cooper 2018). Version IV features Cooper as the drunken guitar hero and singing star and Lady Gaga the new talent he discovers. I agree completely with Anthony Lane's New Yorker review. The early scenes when they first meet are great. "Ally" (Lady Gaga's character) becomes a star too fast, and Jack (Cooper) goes downhill too fast. Again this is a story of alcoholism. It goes downhill and loses focus in a musical biopic haze midway, and is too long. Too many F-words, and Cooper and Sam Elliott as his older brother grate on you after a while. Lady Gaga is great, natural and authentic and she can really belt out a song. I recommend watching Crazy Heart, a better acted, more focused movie of a similar story, directed by Scott Cooper starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Watched at Regal Union Square 9 Oct. 2018.

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TEA WITH THE DAMES (Roger Mitchell 2018). They brought together four of the greatest living English actresses, Dames (the female equivalent of Knights) Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Aileen Atkins, and Maggie Smith at Plowright's "cottage" and set them to talking, prompting with (somewhat obvious) questions and adding film clips of performances. Since Plowright was married to Laurence Olivier, the founding director of Britain's National Theatre, and all worked there and in classic productions of other plays besides Shakespeare, this provides a run-through of a lot of English theatrical history. And then they got into movies, especially Dench and Smith - Bond, the Marigold Hotel, and Downton Abbey. There is a lot of laughter, but you also feel the Dames are being prodded a bit. Not brilliant filmmaking. They are deaf, and they get tired. "Do you know how old we are?" says Maggie. How can you not love it though? 133 mins., US release 21 Sept. Watched at Quad Cinema 27 Sept. 2018 Metascore 87.

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THE TIMES OF BILL CUNNINGHAM (Mark Bozak 2018). In 1994 Bozak did a closeup interview with Bill Cunningham, the legandary NYTimes street fashion photographer. After his death, he gained access to archives of family and personal visual materials and expands this detailed reminiscence with those. A world premiere presented in conjunction with the NYFF.

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TRANSIT (Christian Petzold 2018). An oddish, disorienting reworking of a 1943 novel about refugees fleeing to the Americas through Marseille as the German occupation closes in. Petzold removes temporal markers and clear references to World War II but keeps the plotline of gloom, desperation, suicides, masks, and betrayals. My loyalty to Petzold is shaken but not lost. Reminded me of Patrick Modiano. NYFF Main Slate. Metascore 73.

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WINGS OF DESIRE/Der Himmel über Berlin (Wim Wenders 1987). B&W. New 4K restoration; preview screening at Film Forum. With Bruno Ganz, Peter Falk, and many extras wandering around postwar Berlin. The "action" is that an angel wants to become mortal when he falls for one. I had never seen this film, having had a feeling it wasn't for me. I was right. The 128 minutes felt like much longer. Elvis Mitchell: " The excesses of language, the ceaseless camera movement, the unyielding whimsy have the ultimate effect of wearing the audience down." Watched at Film Forum Thurs. 4 Oct. 2018. Metascore 79.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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