The House


A Separation

A Separation seems to invent itself as it goes along. It doesn't mirror or mock or play minor variations on some timeworn genre or theme. It just pulls you in, instantly and inexorably, to its perfectly life-sized world. If it feels familiar, it's because it's as poignant, precarious, and endlessly complicated as life itself.

We first meet Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) in what appears to be a divorce-court hearing. The camera assumes the unseen judge's point of view, so the couple talks directly to it, making their impassioned arguments to each other or to us. Meanwhile, the judge's disembodied pronouncements provide the first of several male voices of authority, embodying Iran's paternalistic, often repressive social structure and its justice system.

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TAGS: a separation, ali-asghar shahbazi, asghar farhadi, dancing in the dust, leila hatami, new york film festival, peyman moaadi, sareh bayat, sarina farhadi


Dreileben

Most people who come upon Dreileben at the New York Film Festival may immediately think of the Red Riding Trilogy, which screened at the festival two years ago to generally wide acclaim. The Red Riding Trilogy was a series of three made-for-television films that explored corruption in various corners of British society during a yearlong investigation into the murder of a bunch of Yorkshire girls. Though there were consistent plot and thematic threads in all of them, each installment was handled by a different director, with each one bringing a different approach to their respective episodes (each director even chose to shoot their own installment in different formats). Dreileben is a likewise dense and detailed epic, also made for television, that features three different German directors bringing their own styles and themes to more or less the same set of incidents. The end results, as was the case with the Red Riding Trilogy, are, perhaps inevitably, wildly mixed.

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TAGS: beats being dead, christian petzold, christoph hochhäusler, cry me a river, dominik graf, don't follow me around, dreileben, jacob matschenz, jeanette hain, jerichow, luna mijovic, markus busch, misel maticevic, new york film festival, one minute of darkness, rainer bock, red riding trilogy, stefan kurt, susanne wolff, vijessa ferkic


Carnage

The 49th New York Film Festival kicks off tonight with the North American premiere of Roman Polanski's Carnage. For the House's ongoing coverage, click here, and for Slant Magazine's coverage, click here.

Some musings by the Self-Styled Siren on four films playing at the festival.

For Press Play, Josh Ralske assesses Polanski's Carnage.

And for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis chimes in.

For MUBI, Adrian Curry collects the posters of the festival.

X-Files creator Chris Carter is heading back to the small screen, which the female-lead Unique, a mystery police thriller with a supernatural element.

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TAGS: adrian curry, alfred hitchcock, carnage, chris carter, family flot, farran smith nehme, jean renoir, jim emerson, josh ralske, manohla dargis, mubi, new york film festival, paulette dubost, press play, roman polanski, ronald bergan, slant magazine, the new york times, the rules of the game, the x-files, unique


Melancholia

The exterior mirrors the interior and vice versa in Melancholia, Lars von Trier's second consecutive allegorically autobiographical work about crippling depression (after 2009's Antichrist), which he here confronts via the story of a wedding-gone-awry and a subsequent world apocalypse. Those two events are a vehicle for von Trier to explore both emotional and spiritual crisis while also proffering a pitch-black worldview with regard to God and life's meaning, concerns that feature little of the overt glibness that plagued Antichrist, whose provocations and stylistic tics regularly undercut its psycho-horror, but remain issues that the Danish director treats at a frustrating remove. Von Trier still appears to care more for conceptual stunts than actual people and feelings, though at least he tries in this instance, commencing with a gorgeously wrought, if decidedly over-the-top, series of foreshadowing end-of-days tableaus set to Wagner before seguing into the more restrained action proper, in which Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) first glide, then wobble, and finally crash through their nuptials at an opulent and remote estate.

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TAGS: alexander skarsgård, antichrist, cameron spurr, charlotte gainsbourg, charlotte rampling, john hurt, kiefer sutherland, kirsten dunst, lars von trier, melancholia, new york film festival, richard wagner, stellan skarsgård


The Loneliest Planet

If nothing else, The Loneliest Planet, the second fiction film from Russian-American filmmaker Julia Loktev after her 2006 female-terrorist chronicle Day Night Day Night, is a terrific example of a minimalist style employed with near-maximum effectiveness. Here is a film that needs only offhand bits of dialogue, carefully worked-out mise-en-scène, precise editing, long takes, and strategically placed close-ups and camera pans to draw us effortlessly into the emotional dramas of its three main characters. Loktev further challenges us by basically throwing us into her scenario in media res and thus keying us from the start to pick up on details—visual, aural, or otherwise—to help us get our bearings. This is the kind of filmmaking that uses utmost economy of means to sharpen our senses and attune us more carefully to the people and the environments Loktev presents to us—an approach that dares to take an audience's intelligence seriously, at least as far as an audience member's ability to read images goes. Whether the destination is worth the sometimes elusive narrative journey is the real question. I suspect, in the case of The Loneliest Planet, the answer will depend entirely on what a viewer perceives that journey to be.

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TAGS: bidzina gujabidze, day night day night, everyone else, gael garcía bernal, gerry, gus va sant, hani furstenberg, inti briones, julia loktev, maren ade, new york film festival, richard skelton, the loneliest planet


Terius Nash

[Editor's Note: "The Blender" is a series dedicated to highlighting notable new releases in the mixtape world.]

I haven't lived in D.C. for a few years now, but thanks to the Internet I can still vicariously follow its rap scene. And say what you will about D.C.'s rappers, they're both better and more numerous than the one's we've got in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham Metropolitan Area. I've taken up for the underrated Diamond District against more than one critic intent on reducing the city to Wale and the rap-ish skits by the Capitol Steps; this month, Diamond District's Uptown XO drops a solo mixtape called Monumental II, which I can forgive for the ridiculous pun, but not for coming out in September. Because this is exactly the type of mixtape that I love to listen to during the summer, and while I certainly didn't mind taking Returnof4Eva for its three-dozenth spin, Uptown's mixtape could've at least jostled it for playlist space.

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TAGS: 1977, 4trk mind, aristotle, below the heavens, chevy and wiz, domo genesis, exile, how high, intro the outro, monumental ii, plies, rolling papers, terius nash, the blender, the cookout, the love iv, under the influence, uptown xo


Times Square

Times Square is getting a noirish makeover.

Fox Searchlight Pictures, who failed to invite us to press screenings of Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret this week, is being sued for improperly using unpaid interns on the set of Black Swan.

President Barack Obama's administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care law, likely sparking an explosive legal showdown in the heat of the 2012 election.

For Slate, Benjamin Reiss defends the Cambridge History of the American Novel.

Warner Bros. is courting Steven Spielberg to direct Gods and Kings, an epic-sized film about the life of Moses.

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TAGS: a.o. scott, barack obama, benjamin reiss, black swan, cambridge history of the american novel, christina crawford, fox searchlight pictures, gods and kings, jim emerson, michael musto, press play, roman polanski, slate, steven spielberg, supreme court of the united states, the gambler, times square, warner bros.


Carnage

The most striking thing about Carnage, Roman Polanski's adaptation of Yazmin Reza's stiff but satisfying stage play God of Carnage, is how much funnier it is than its source material. Polanski, who co-adapted the film's screenplay with Reza, emphasizes the absurd nature of Reza's blackly comic moral play. His leavening of God of Carnage's bleak sense of humor is apparent just from the way that he replaced loutish but menacing James Gandolfini with patently non-threatening John C. Reilly in the role of Michael, one of God of Carnage's four main characters. In Polanski's hands, what was once a brooding Pinter-esque update of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is now more like a broad comedy. Except instead of sitcom-style humor you get jokes indiscriminately lobbed at the expense of four ethically bankrupt petit bourgeois know-nothings. And these are the film's only protagonists!

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TAGS: chistoph waltz, god of carnage, harold pinter, james gandolfini, jodie foster, john c. reilly, kate winslet, luis buñuel, new york film festival, pawel edelman, roman polanski, who's afraid of virginia woolf, yazmin reza


Andy Rooney

Did you know what Any Rooney is stepping down from his 60 Minutes role?

What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?

Saudi women may be able to vote and run in the 2015 municipal elections, but they still can't drive, argue in court before a judge, travel, or get an education or a job without male approval.

Roman Polanski apologizes to his sexual assault victim.

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TAGS: 60 minutes, andy rooney, dr. sleep, museum of modern art, roman polanski, salon, saudi arabia, seth rogen, stephen king, steve almond, the shining, the village voice, wall street, willem de kooning


Storycraft "You can't teach writing. You expose students to good work and hope it inspires them. Some can write, others will never learn," or so says Woody Allen, portraying Gabriel Roth—famous writer and creative-writing professor—in the film Husbands and Wives. Depending on how you feel about Allen's remark, the rapid increase in creative-writing programs throughout the United States in the past 30 years or so will seem to you either like a hideous rash or a fragrant blossom. n+1 recently described this trend in its fall 2010 issue, in an article title "MFA vs. NYC," and way back in 1988, David Foster Wallace complained about it in an essay for the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

For Wallace, creative-writing programs entailed all sorts of intellectual and spiritual problems that would impede someone trying to write well. One of these problems is that a writing program is going to program its writers to compose in a similarly polished, professional, and boringly unoriginal way. n+1 also complained (in an opposite way) about the ineffectiveness of creative-writing instruction: "MFA programs themselves are so lax and laissez-faire as to have a shockingly small impact on students' work—especially shocking if you're the student, and paying $80,000 for the privilege."

So how does one become a writer? Maybe one of the assumptions behind Allen and Wallace's contempt for writing instruction is that really great and unique writing—be it screenplays or novels or essays or journalism—is spirited and intelligent and honest, and writing that has those qualities can only come from a human being who's also spirited and intelligent and honest. But you can't acquire those essential personal qualities by just listening to someone lecture about them. You need to be born that way, or to spend thousands of hours, day in and day out, taking the risks and doing the work and making the choices necessary to, slowly and painfully, become that kind of person. And as you become that person, your vision would become sharper and you could peer more deeply into the world. To write, then, would be to file reports on all the interesting human stuff that's revealed by such a vision.

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TAGS: david foster wallace, david stabler, e. b. white, georg wilhelm friedrich hegel, horace, husbands and wives, jack hart, john mcphee, n+1, newjack, on writing, on writing well, review of contemporary fiction, rich read, sing sing, stephen king, storycraft, ted conover, the elements of style, the oregonian, tom hallman, tom wolfe, william strunk jr., william zinsser, woody allen







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