Let’s be real: most film students’ thesis films are mediocre, at best. And certainly most thesis films don’t get into Berlinale or Fantasia. So let me introduce you to Luz, a 70-minute feature written and directed by Tilman Singer. He’s a young German filmmaker with a hell of a future ahead of him if he’s given the opportunity (i.e the money) to make more work.

In his review for /Film, our own Matt Donato describes the “what-the-fuck’”slow-burner that is Luz. There isn’t much of a plot to speak of, and the simple narrative (once you figure out what’s going on) hints to more of what’s offscreen than on. But I’ll give it a go: a young Chilean cab driver named Luz wanders into a police station after getting into a car accident after which her passenger disappeared. A psychiatrist, a detective and a sound technician assist in her interrogation. What they discover through hypnosis is, well, demonic. Shot on 16mm with a trance inducing score, the stunningly confident debut is a maelstrom of bodily possession and hypnosis.

I sat down with Luz writer/director Tilman Singer and producer/production designer Dario Mendez Acosta to talk about the film at the Fantasia Film Festival. Topics included demonic possession, the challenges of making a feature at school, and the upcoming Suspiria remake. 

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madeline's madeline review

“And soon, mechanically, oppressed by the gloomy day and the prospect of a sad future, I carried to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had let soften a piece of madeleine. But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake-crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening in me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated me, without my having any notion as to its cause. It had immediately made the vicissitudes of life unimportant to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory, acting in the same way that love acts, by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not in me, it was me.” Excerpt from Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis

“You are not the cat, you’re inside the cat. The emotions you are having are not your own. They are someone else’s.” These are the first few lines spoken at us by a blurry, distorted KK (Okwui Okpokwasili) as she stares into the lens, putting us into a trance. Her soft-spoken words clash with Proust’s quote about madeleines. When we receive a sensation that is triggered from an outside source (like a madeline, or a cat) is that sensation housed inside us or are we made up of it? What if we apply those questions to acting? Does acting entail transforming into someone else from the outside in, or finding the character from inside and growing outwards?

These are the kinds of questions that have long preoccupied the art of acting and they are front and centre in Josephine Decker’s brilliant third feature Madeline’s Madeline.

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chained for life review

“Blindness is an illness, but it’s also a metaphor,” explains the actress Mabel (Jess Weixler) in an interview with a skeptical journalist. She’s talking about her role as a blind woman in a sordid arthouse horror film set in a hospital for the disfigured and genetically abnormal. As she, a sight-seeing woman, defends her choice to play a blind woman amid much controversy, she squirms a little. She knows she’s bullshitting. How do you play a metaphor when you have no experience of that which is symbolized? Do we impose metaphors on that which makes us uncomfortable, functioning as a coping mechanism?

These are the questions Chained for Life tackles directly..

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amiko review

“At what point will happiness happen?” muses Amiko, the lost teenager (I guess that’s redundant) in the eponymous film. She lives in the city of Nagano, in central Japan. But it might as well be the seventh circle of hell. Early on in the film, she falls in love with Aomi (Hiroro Oshita) in the space of a single conversation. They talk about their mutual love of Radiohead, their mutual hatred for sports, and their shared boredom. Sounds like a first love, right? You would think so, but Amiko (Aira Sunohara) will have to wait months before she can speak to him again. By that time, she will have tracked him down in Tokyo, where he is living with an older, ex-student.

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Under the Silver Lake Review

When you hear neo-noir, what do you think of? The dark underbelly of a city? A detective with a broken moral compass? Illusive women? Venetian blinds? Well, Under the Silver Lake has all of that. And more. Much, much more.

But contrary to the film’s marketing, Under the Silver Lake is not like Mulholland Dr., nor is it like Chinatown. Whether it wants to be is unclear. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows follow-up is a bold, beguiling tale about erotic obsession and paranoia set in L.A.

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Unfriended Dark Web review

Picture this: a group of friends get together for their weekly game night. It’s all fun and games until they get entangled in a mess they can’t get out of and their innocent worlds collide with the dark underbelly of crime. If this sounds like the plot of Game Night, then you’re half right, because it’s also what happens in Unfriended: Dark Web (previously titled Unfriended: Game Night). The major difference between the two (and it’s not the fact that only one is a comedy, because Unfriended is pretty funny) is in its form. The film takes place entirely on a laptop screen. In that sense, it’s a sequel in form only to 2014’s Unfriended (there is no haunted dead girl in this one). Read More »

Mike Diana interview

You know what they say: one man’s obscenity is another man’s art. In the case of cartoonist Mike Diana, it’s both. If you’ve never heard of him, than a new documentary is hoping to change that.

In director Frank Henenlotter‘s Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana, Diana’s historic 1994 trial is given as much attention as the history of comic book censorship. Mike Diana is the first artist in America to have been convicted on obscenity charges. His underground comics, depicting comically gargantuan penises, beastiality, and child rape, are provocative to say the least. But they were never meant for wide distribution. Diana makes it clear that his comics were a reaction against his conservative suburban town of Largo, Florida. But when an undercover cop bought a copy of his zine, shit hit the fan. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, a $3,000 fine, and was forbidden from drawing comics entirely, with the threat of random police searches hanging over him.

The court case described in the documentary is almost ludicrous when viewed now, in a post-internet era in which hourly encounters with hate speech have supplanted any fear of prurient artwork. I mean, can you imagine the filmmakers of Superbad going to trial for their hilarious and skillful dick drawings in the credit sequence?

I sat down with Diana and Henenlotter at the Fantasia Film Festival yesterday to talk about their documentary. Read our Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana interview below. Read More »

People's Republic of Desire

If you’re anything like me and the thought that you’ve accidentally Instagram Live-d your makeup routine induces sudden nausea, than making a living by live-streaming is probably not one of your career goals. But for the subjects of Hao Wu‘s documentary People’s Republic of Desire, live-streaming isn’t just how they make their living, it’s how they make up their sense of self. Though I am unable to get past my inhibitions, I will gladly watch other people sit on their couch and answer the questions that roll in on the screen. It’s become increasingly easier to check out of your life for a moment and check in to someone else’s. But the line between voyeurism and escapism is a thin one that is barely toed by the subjects in Wu’s documentary. Read More »

Just a Breath Away Review

Supposedly, if you want to know how wealthy someone is in Beijing, you simply ask them what floor they live on. The bigger the number, the wealthier they are. To live above the air pollution is a much coveted position, one which, in the case of the protagonists of Dans La Brume (the film’s English title is Just a Breath Away), can be a fate changer. 

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