Fire Will Come Review

Oliver Laxe fixates on the arresting mystery, darkness, and light of nature and humanity in Fire Will Come, which opens on the damning majesty of slender eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus trees stand tranquil, until they tumble down as if swallowed by a beast of mythical size. Said beast is revealed to be a rolling bulldozer, a mechanical yet sentient-seeming metallic force. It halts before a mighty tree, staring down a new match.

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A Girl Missing Review

A Girl Missing has fleeting swirls into trancelike bizarreness such as when its protagonist, the middle-aged Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui), dreams herself crawling on all fours, growling at a young woman, ready to pounce—before the former wakes up in her untidy apartment. The betrayal that drove this cut-short revenge fantasy begins to unravel.

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Sibyl Review

The title character in Sibyl (Viginie Efira) weaves herself a web of bedlam, not admitting that she has ensnared herself for the majority of the film. Her toxicity spills over into people’s lives. By willfully absorbing other people’s lives and allowing their troubles to fester her long existing issues, she’s in for a mess. Not to mention, said people ensnared in her web had already weaved their own toxic webs, now tangling in hers.

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To the Ends of the Earth Review

I’ve been in a spot where the young Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) was (or maybe still in it): an existential anxiety about your prospects. For anyone who has ever done film production before, you know that small filmmaking roles can be a gateway to your desired grander opportunity. At this point in her life, Yoko is disillusioned with her position as a host of a reality travel show trailed by a trifling all-male crew in Uzbekistan. At first, Yoko treats her position like an unwanted obligation since she has been pining for better—or something she calls “better.” Now she fears she may be in stasis rather than moving forward toward her desired destination.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth encapsulates one woman’s blossoming from a reserved drone into a willing participant with Maeda’s subtle dynamism from a perpetually placid and pouty countenance to a focused visage.

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Young Ahmed Review

Belgian neorealist master filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne make films that might focus primarily on individuals, but they always echo back to some larger trend occurring in society. Similarly, there’s usually a divide in their movies between what happens in the plot and what their stories are truly about. Until their latest film, Young Ahmed, the Dardennes always made film that did not feel like the themes were the starting point – they were an organic outgrowth of their deeply human tales.

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new york film festival 2019 week 1

As we head into the second week of the 57th annual New York Film Festival, let’s look back at the best that week 1 of the festival had to offer us.

The prestigious film festival kicked off on a strong note with Martin Scorsese’s latest mob masterpiece, The Irishman, and only kept it up from there. Nadav Lapid‘s maddening Israeli-French immigrant drama Synonyms confused but impressed, while Kelly Reichardt’s offbeat and tender frontier drama First Cow has a very good cow. Dive into our New York Film Festival 2019 Week 1 recap.

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I Was Home But Review

It takes a while before a human face appears in Angela Schanelec’s I Was At Home, But, which opens on a static scene of nature. When it begins to aim on human faces, the exact details of their lives are left vaguely clarified, leaving puzzle pieces for the audience to sort out. The movie wears its indefinite nature just as its deliberately incomplete title. 

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Zombi Child Review

A pufferfish is sliced. Poison is stashed into a shoe. An unwitting victim (Mackenson Bijou) puts on that shoe and walks the street of 1962 Haiti. Then he falls dead. He is buried. The corpse appears to hear the beat of dirt shoving on his casket. Inexplicably, the scene cuts to the walking corpse being dragged to a sugarcane farm. Now a “zombi,” he is forced into slavery with others like him. As automation with head bowed, the zombi slaves have no will to break from orders. Until one day, when the zombi breaks from slave labor and watches his civilization from the distance. 

This tale is lifted from the strange case of Clairvius Narcisse, a real-life documented “zombi”, a man who was buried alive before he returned to his society. (His tale also inspired Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow). “Zombi” is the Haitian-French original spelling of the widely-known “Zombie.” And the “Zombi” of Zombi Child isn’t your conventional Hollywood walking dead. While Clairvius moans, elicit glassy stares, and gaits with bodily convulsions, Clairvius’s zombi form bears flesh that looks healthy on the outside rather than visibly torn. But his pain is inward, a starving for release from an ache he cannot articulate even when he finds the will to depart from the grueling labor.

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Oh Mercy Review

Middle-aged police chief Daoud (Roschdy Zem) operates in the crime-ridden city of Roubaix. Stray kittens seem to know him well, since he always has a dish of milk for them. He takes this compassion into his police field of work. A younger officer (Antoine Reinartz), less versed in Daoud’s patience, joins in. Their unit conducts cases: a family quarrel, a runaway, arson, a rape case. Deep into the film, they discover the corpse of a strangled octogenarian and take a pair of destitute women into questioning.

Lifting from a real murder case in director Arnaud Desplechin’s hometown of Roubaix, Oh Mercy is a crime film with dreary atmosphere that isn’t about solving a murder mystery as it is painting a portrait of the wearisome haziness of a crime. Never does the film indulge in the voyeurism of its key crime scene, observing how truths (or relative shapes of the truth) are delayed by the psyche and how the crimes affect the investigators.

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Synonyms Review

A penetrating vacancy haunts the expression of Yoav (Tom Mercier) as he twirls a postcard rack at a French tourist stop. His soul had gone AWOL ever since he deserted his military training in Israeli for Paris. He seems to be making up his own initiation process along the way. Pulling from director Nadav Lapid’s grappling with his Israeli identity, Synonyms is an off-kilter feature about the uneasy metamorphosis of identity, disillusionment, and masculinity when settling in a new homeland.

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