As a metaphor for the way we respond to the media, and the way our politics are funneled through the media lens, the film succeeds most when it revels in ambiguity.
To dismiss it as simply an act of hipster appropriation is to cop out, because appropriation is the film's thematic meat.
One need go no further than the film's first segment to grasp how little interest the latest entry in the anthology series has in generating chills from the lo-fi.
A knowing mélange of recognizable genre tropes bordering on shopworn cliché, with little else introduced to the equation to justify its existence.
It ends up taking the furious and bitter perspective that powers the narrative's ponderous dramatic core for granted.
The narrative works through the many contradictions brewing inside its main character in the wake of his personal actualization without ever feeling like a dramatic checklist.
True to its title, the film approaches death as both narrative endpoint and formal focus, its initial vivacious mischief giving way to a Manichean fable about the waning of the light.
If the film were to propose a mandate for animation, it would be what the medium's etymology has long suggested: to make the inanimate full of life.
The film refuses to tease us with suspense, overwhelm us with sentimentality, or defy us with nuance.
It's as if Carlos Saura were calling the bluff of spectacle-oriented narrative cinema that necessitates excusing its excesses with characters and plotting.
The film soon settles into a confident, well-staged groove, primarily because of two unambiguously terrific performances.
Once the media caravan departs, the doc meanders, torn between its obligation to reportage and its interest in a town riven by America's thirst for justice.
The mix of blunt sex and brutality on the one hand and equally blunt sentimentality on the other is thoroughly disorienting, though to no apparent purpose.
Florian Habicht unwisely shifts his focus from Sheffield and its unique denizens to the band's personal history, effectively turning the film into an episode of Behind the Music.
Perhaps Sanjay Rawal's most fascinating excursion into agriculture's dark side is the vineyards of Napa Valley, where the practically Eden-like scenery masks a dreary labor model.
There's much more plot floating around during the sequel, all leading up to a climax at the "KEN Conference" that suffers in comparison to Silicon Valley's mockery of the same milieu.
Of Bennett Miller's many directorial feats, his canniest is his depiction of the precariousness of bonds, and how those bonds can shift, drastically yet almost imperceptibly.
It shrugs off the bigger questions about Iranian politics its first half appears to raise, falling back instead on a gestalt of the eternal, Kafkaesque regime, wherever the viewer may find it.
If there's any ambiguity to be found in the film's prolonged last gasps, which reach for tragedy, but only sow more epistemic confusion, it's of a mawkish and unpalatable variety.
By rooting Noni's self-image issues in a controlling mother, the script provides the film with a tame, melodramatic structure that dulls the thorny matters of identity and expression at its center.
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