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Mar del Plata International Film Festival Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

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Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2016: Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

Arrow Films

Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2016: Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

With its beaches and maritime climate, Mar del Plata has been hailed as the Cannes of Latin America. The Argentine city merits the title in some ways, as Mar del Plata hosts the only A-list film festival in the region, the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, which pools a considerable number of films from top European festivals. This year’s slate was a fair representation of the festival’s ambition to mirror Western trends, featuring Cristi Piu’s Sieranevada, Oliver Assayas’s Personal Shopper, Hong sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours, Radu Jude’s Scarred Hearts, and Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left.

Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Madly

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Tribeca Film Festival 2016: Madly

Chloe Thomson

Tribeca Film Festival 2016: Madly

Featuring shorts by Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Anurag Kashyap, Sebastián Silva, Sion Sono, and Bat for Lashes, Madly broadly tackles the subject of love without, even at its least successful, stooping to the dire, barrel-scraping cultural condescension of Rio, I Love You. The omnibus film kicks off on a disturbing note with Kashyap’s Clean, Shaven, the title referring to Archana’s (Radhika Apte) pubic hair, which she shaves off to the extreme consternation of her old-fashioned husband, Allwyn (Adarsh Gourav), who proceeds to imprison her in their apartment as punishment. Without the luxury of time afforded by the epic scale of the filmmaker’s two-part crime epic Gangs of Wasseypur, the short often comes off choppy in its storytelling, but its feminist anger still comes still resonates quite, well, madly.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss collaborate on yet another fine quasi-thriller with Phoenix, about a concentration camp survivor, Nelly (Hoss), who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery for a wound and emerges unrecognized by Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband who gave her up to the Gestapo. Well, not entirely unrecognized: He thinks she looks just enough like his presumably dead wife that she could pose as Nelly in order to receive her hefty inheritance. The performative scenes that result from Johnny’s coaching elicit yet another spellbinding performance from Hoss, who always makes Nelly look as if she wants desperately for Johnny to see that it’s her while also dreading what will happen if he figures the truth out. Further, the film uses this setup to make a keen, occasionally funny comment on the male gaze, as Johnny knows every small detail of his wife’s body and movements, yet cannot put together the whole image of Nelly now that it no longer exactly matches up to his idealized memories.

Fantastic Fest 2013: Coherence, Patrick, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, & The Congress

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Fantastic Fest 2013: <em>Coherence</em>, <em>Patrick</em>, <em>Why Don’t You Play in Hell?</em>, & <em>The Congress</em>
Fantastic Fest 2013: <em>Coherence</em>, <em>Patrick</em>, <em>Why Don’t You Play in Hell?</em>, & <em>The Congress</em>

This year, the ever-anarchic and genre-heavy nerd Valhalla known as Fantastic Fest delivered more blood-soaked, supernaturally tinged cinematic offerings from around the globe and advocated a distinct devil-may-care endorsement of debauchery. As the saying goes, “chaos reigns.” This cheeky slogan was eagerly adopted by the film festival’s organizers as an unofficial motto, derived of course from Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, which screened at the festival in 2009. From opening-night premieres of loud, big-budget, guns-a’-blazin fare like Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills to non-cinematic, Texas-style, off-site savagery such as outings to hunt wild hogs from helicopters (seriously!), it’s in many ways difficult to believe that this year’s Fantastic Fest was both real and somehow completely legal.

Venice Film Festival 2013: Gerontophilia, Tracks, & Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

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Venice Film Festival 2013: <em>Gerontophilia</em>, <em>Tracks</em>, & <em>Why Don’t You Play in Hell?</em>
Venice Film Festival 2013: <em>Gerontophilia</em>, <em>Tracks</em>, & <em>Why Don’t You Play in Hell?</em>

Mahatma Gandhi is—and always has been—many things to many people, but a sex symbol? In Canadian provocateur Bruce LaBruce’s bluntly titled Gerontophilia, a hugely enlarged rendering of the Indian politician’s visage looms, wall-mounted, over the bed of young protagonist Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie). It’s a sly sight gag, pointing both to the ostensibly straight Lake’s burgeoning desire for aging male flesh, and functioning as a subversive re-contextualization of the familiar. This goes for the subject matter, which has been addressed in films like Hal Ashby’s evergreen Harold and Maude, but still remains a taboo—as does LaBruce’s work. Anyone familiar with the director’s thematically transgressive, sexually explicit canon (No Skin Off My Ass, Skin Flick) might be expecting a result even more startling than usual given the premise, but Gerontophilia may be his most formally conservative film to date.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: The Land of Hope and Penance

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Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>The Land of Hope</em> and <em>Penance</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>The Land of Hope</em> and <em>Penance</em>

One hates to begrudge an artist the freedom to explore the possibilities of their medium, but a pair of films by two of Japan’s most aesthetically radical cult directors have given me pause. Known respectively as conjurers of kaleidoscopically risqué fantasias and severe J-horror parables, spiritual brothers-in-arms Sion Sono and Kiyoshi Kurosawa have recently begun experimenting with more conventional genres and modes of narrative presentation. Kurosawa was the first to make the move in 2008 with Tokyo Sonata, a quietly devastating film about economic hardship and familial strife. Besides succeeding marvelously on its own terms, it also proved that the transition from genre constructs to dramatic classicism could unfold rather seamlessly. Sono, meanwhile, has reached a dizzying level of creative drive over the last few years. Beginning in 2007 with his underground classic Love Exposure, Sono has pushed furiously against the tides of convention and good taste with such alternately invigorating and infuriating works as Cold Fish, Himizu, and Guilty of Romance.

DOC NYC 2011: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom and Minka

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DOC NYC 2011: <em>The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom</em> and <em>Minka</em>
DOC NYC 2011: <em>The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom</em> and <em>Minka</em>

This year’s DOC NYC festival includes a handful of programs of short films, one of which screened Tuesday night at IFC Center and which will screen once again today at 12:30 p.m. Titled “Views on Japan,” the program includes two short subjects, Davina Pardo’s Minka and Lucy Walker’s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. If nothing else, both films provoke us to consider the value of immersing oneself in an outsider’s perspective on a particular culture.

Walker’s 40-minute film is arguably more interesting, if somewhat problematic, in that regard. The symbolic nature of cherry blossoms—as, among other things, a reminder of the impermanence of life, of the concept known in Japan as mono no aware—is, by now, I would reckon, a pretty widely known aspect of Japanese culture; even many cities in America—Washington, D.C., perhaps most famously—celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms annually when springtime arrives. So a film that promises to be a meditation on the nature of the cherry blossom as a cultural symbol doesn’t sound especially illuminating on the face of it.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run
Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

If the Cannes Film Festival is the cinephile’s version of the Olympics, the media critics covering the event are its long-distance runners. Traversing two weeks of nonstop screenings, panels, conferences, and other festivities can be intimidating by any standard, and don’t forget there’s writing to be done. This is my first year on the Croisette, so I made sure to speak with a few veterans who’ve already survived the madness. One golden rule emerged from their collective wisdom: pace yourself. Easier said than done, I’d imagine. Even though my preplanned screening schedule includes 53 features, interviews, and a red carpet or two, this dude plans to abide. Or at least try not to go crazy with excitement and stress.

As I sit here on a cramped plane to Nice by way of Zurich by way of Philadelphia by way of Los Angles (don’t ask), the mere thought of attending Cannes, much less covering the spectacle for a respected media outlet, makes my head spin. Twelve months ago, I was teaching film studies and screenwriting and fruitlessly screaming into the vast film blogosphere trying to be heard, anticipating Cannes reports by writers I admired from the cold vantage point of a computer screen. Well, what a difference a year makes. Thanks to the endless support of Slant’s co-founder and film editor, Ed Gonzalez, I’m one of the lucky few who get to battle first-world problems like “pace yourself” and “make sure to sleep.” Consider me humbled.

Film Comment Selects 2011: Cold Fish

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Film Comment Selects 2011: <em>Cold Fish</em>
Film Comment Selects 2011: <em>Cold Fish</em>

Even before it delves headlong into a maelstrom of severed appendages and demon-id masculinity, Cold Fish makes it readily apparent that the center (a.k.a. middle-class normalcy) cannot hold. We open on a young woman, Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka), as she grabs packages of microwave rice and soup from a fluorescent-drab grocery store. Writer-director Sion Sono injects these moments with frenzied portent, slicing up her shopping into assaultive fragments of suburban mundanity. Unnamed anxieties continue to hum beneath the surface once Taeko returns home and prepares a terse meal for older husband Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) and Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara), her resentful stepdaughter from Shamoto’s previous marriage. Mitsuko’s quick exit from the dinner table and Shamoto’s subsequent failed seduction of Taeko points to the everyday dysfunction churning within the family. Just how deep the rot goes, however, initially comes in flashes, as when Shamoto briefly recalls Mitsuko kicking a prostrate Taeko in the stomach and screaming at her for daring to replace her deceased mother—a scene that Sono shoots and edits with the same frenzied queasiness as the opening.