Festivals (#110 of 1053)

Tribeca Film Festival Thirst Street

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Tribeca Film Festival: Thirst Street

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival: Thirst Street

Nathan Silver tackles melodrama in Thirst Street, fusing its emotional bigness with his unique form of quotidian portraiture without one cancelling the other out. Silver takes one of the most politically disreputable of subgenres—the film in which a female stalks a male, embodying each person's respective, stereotypical fears of rejection and obsession—and turns it upside down, stretching it so that we understand the stakes driving all parties. Paradoxically, the film is so empathetic that one doesn't know where to place their empathy, and Silver's mastery of tone recalls other filmmakers who've mixed tragedy and comedy to unmooring, exhilaratingly ambiguous ends, such as Alan Rudolph, Pedro Almodóvar, and Claude Chabrol.

Tribeca Film Festival Review Flames

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Tribeca Film Festival Review: Flames

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival Review: Flames

Early in Flames, we see the film's co-writers, co-editors, co-directors, and co-stars, Zefrey Throwell and Josephine Decker, in the first of many compromising positions. Decker's hanging off a bed upside down and naked, while Throwell, standing right-side up, has comically unglamorous sex with her, his pumping ass facing the camera while they both laugh. We're seeing a real side of sex that Joe Swanberg explored in his early films but that's not often acknowledged by cinema (which usually offers erotic and romantic titillation that's self-seriously sanitized): its potentialities as a hang-out activity, when one's grown so comfortable with a partner that self-consciousness eases and pleasure deepens. Knowledge that one doesn't have to elicit an orgasm per minute from their partner is freedom—a step toward lovers allowing themselves to be human in one another's company.

Tribeca Film Festival Review The Departure

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Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Departure

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Departure

Death hangs over The Departure in grandly cosmic fashion. Lana Wilson's documentary is a portrait of Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest in Japan who's devoted his life to preparing people for death and trying to talk people out of taking their own lives. The film's opening sequence captures in detail one of Nemoto's workshops, in which, among other things, he has his followers write down on small pieces of paper various things they feel they can't live without, and then proceed, in stages, to crumple most of them up and throw them away. This establishes not only the film's thoughtful approach to death, but also its calm aesthetic, with its long takes and wide shots inducing a sense of serene reflection wholly appropriate to its eternal subject matter.

Tribeca Film Festival Review The Family I Had

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Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Family I Had

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Family I Had

Charity Lee occupies the center of one of those true-crime stories that's so operatically atrocious it's impossible to comprehend. In 2007, Charity's 13-year-old son, Paris, savagely murdered her four-year-old daughter and his half-sister, Ella, strangling and beating the girl, stabbing her 17 times with a kitchen knife. Katie Green and Carlye Rubin's documentary The Family I Had opens with Charity's recollection of hearing of Ella's death, which is initially presented as a terrifyingly arbitrary incident. We hear the recording of Paris's call to 911, in which he sounds remorseful and panicked, as if he's snapped out of a slumber and is describing an act committed by another person.

Tribeca Film Festival Review Dog Years

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Tribeca Film Festival Review: Dog Years

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival Review: Dog Years

It's unseemly watching Burt Reynolds, one of the greatest movie stars, beg for sympathy in Adam Rifkin's Dog Years. The film bears a resemblance to Daniel Noah's Max Rose, as both are vehicles for their stars to explore their own legacies within a thinly fictional framework. But in Max Rose, Jerry Lewis had the sense not to overtly soften his character's crustiness, maintaining his dignity and reminding viewers that he was still a vital actor despite the production's pervading mediocrity. Reynolds still has his characteristic comic-masculine force, and he can still throw a line away with masterful panache, but he allows Rifkin to enable his self-pity.

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival

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The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival

Edward M. Pio Roda

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival

Almost by definition, any festival dedicated exclusively to the treasures, glories, and the occasional folly of the past is likely to be visited by ghosts, and the spirits of the dead are practically a staple at the TCM Classic Film Festival, which held its eighth gathering in the heart of Hollywood this past weekend. The memory of the late Debbie Reynolds, who had made several in-person appearances at TCMFF over the past eight years, was invoked through yet another screening (the festival's third) of the indisputable classic Singin' in the Rain, in which Reynolds made her first big Hollywood splash back in 1952, and at a screening of Postcards from the Edge (classic status somewhat more disputable), before which Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher, were remembered fondly by Todd Fisher, Reynolds's son.

Even though he wasn't represented at the festival on screen, Don Rickles, who passed away on April 6, the festival's opening day, couldn't be ignored. Rickles's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located on Hollywood Boulevard across the street from the Chinese Theater complex, and as I made my way through the usual crush of tourists, desperadoes, and TCMFF pass holders toward my first screening on Thursday afternoon I wasn't surprised to see the little square of sidewalk devoted to Rickles surrounded by flowers, curious bystanders, and entertainment reporters trolling for soundbites, and even adorned by one fan's thoughtful memorial: a brand-new hockey puck.

The ghost that made its presence felt at almost every turn of this year's festival belonged, of course, to TCM's beloved host Robert Osborne, who died one month to the day before the launch of this year's festival. Osborne began his Hollywood career in the early 1950s as an actor; his highest-profile moments were uncredited, blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances in Psycho and Spartacus. But his heart was never in it, and at the encouragement of Lucille Ball he abandoned acting and combined his love of movies and journalism to concentrate on writing and documenting Hollywood history, eventually becoming the genial, knowledgeable, silver-haired host who won the allegiance of TCM fans worldwide.

Berlinale 2017: On the Beach at Night Alone Review

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Berlinale 2017: On the Beach at Night Alone Review

Berlinale

Berlinale 2017: On the Beach at Night Alone Review

A melancholy air blows through every haunted frame of Hong Sang-soo's On the Beach at Night Alone, and it's a feeling wholly appropriate to evoking the headspace of its main character, Young-hee (Kim Min-hee). A former actress currently taking a professional break after an affair with a married filmmaker ended badly, Young-hee is seen in the film's first part wandering around Hamburg with an older friend, Jee-young (Seo Young-hwa), talking about their romantic desires and regrets with remarkable frankness. And the second part sees Young-hee meeting with various friends back in her home city of Gangneung, in a series of scenes which reveal the character's volatile mix of burning resentment and brutal self-awareness.

Berlinale 2017: The Other Side of Hope Review

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Berlinale 2017: The Other Side of Hope Review

Berlinale

Berlinale 2017: The Other Side of Hope Review

The elaborate visual gags. The sharply ironic one-liners. The astutely poised compositions. The willfully undemonstrative acting. Those have been the familiar signposts of Aki Kaurismäki's style since the Finnish auteur burst onto the world-cinema scene in the 1980s. And if his latest, The Other Side of Hope, feels as fresh as it does, it's because of the memorable set pieces, gags (like a restaurant employee wiping what turns out to be a nonexistent window), and grace notes that spring forth from within the confines of a familiar aesthetic template. The wry and wistful are intertwined throughout the film, as in a scene where a Syrian asylum seeker says, “I don't understand humor,” when a fake-ID creator asks him if he's a man or a woman.

Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

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Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

Sony Pictures Classics

Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

Those put off by the aesthetic flashiness of Luca Guadagnino's prior two features, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, may be surprised by Call Me by Your Name's relative stylistic restraint. The film, based on a 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, traces the maturation of Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), but the story's coming-of-age arc is so delicately rendered that audiences may not even realize the growth Elio has made until they've had time to reflect on his behavior after the credits have rolled.

Romantic desire, both acted-on or sublimated through gestures, was the subject of I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, one that Guadagnino reflected through his impulsive filmmaking style. The roving camerawork, the lurid colors, and the operatic soundtracks all served to viscerally evoke passion, so much so that the characters at times barely needed to say any words to each other for us to grasp how they felt at any given moment.

Berlinale 2017: El Mar La Mar Review

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Berlinale 2017: El Mar La Mar Review

Sensory Ethnography Lab

Berlinale 2017: El Mar La Mar Review

On paper, El Mar La Mar sounds simple: a documentary about life in the Sonoran Desert, specifically for the border control agents stationed near the U.S.-Mexico border and the undocumented immigrants who've survived the daunting trek across the area's rugged terrain. But Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki's documentary is one of the latest works to come out of the Sensory Ethnography Lab, an experimental laboratory based in Harvard University that's devoted to pushing the aesthetic boundaries of nonfiction filmmaking. As such, Bonnetta and Sniadecki's approach to exploring the desert and topic of immigration often veers toward the avant-garde.