• Topsy-Turvy

    Topsy-Turvy

    ★★★★

    I can imagine that Topsy-Turvy seemed like an unanticipated and potentially risky deviation for Mike Leigh at the time. A large-scale, light-hearted period piece revolving around Victorian era collaborators Gilbert & Sullivan as they assemble their comic opera The Mikado appears to be completely at odds with the sobering nature of his works prior. So it's a true testament to Leigh's versatility that he was able to reconfigure his naturalistic, semi-improvised approach to comfortably fit the material. He constructs a comprehensive…

  • Beau Travail

    Beau Travail

    ★★★

    Quite captivating as a pure mood piece, but constrained by the vague narrative and character choices that leave it nearly impenetrable on an emotional level. Beau Travail seems to be in dispute with itself over what it is trying to be, so it's little surprise that my thoughts about it are similarly conflicted.

    The story of a commanding officer's distorted jealousy towards one of his troop explores despotism, repression and foreignness through the lenses of colonialism, military power structures and…

  • Confessions

    Confessions

    ★★★

    If you've ever wanted to see a revenge thriller that is shot and edited like a late-2000s metalcore music video then this is the film for you.

    Confessions starts out very strong. The entire first act, which takes the form of a prolonged monologue, is so impressively constructed and delivered with such intense visual verve that I thought we could be heading into superlative territory. Unfortunately, my fears that it was too front-loaded were confirmed by what followed. The twist-laden…

  • Like Someone in Love

    Like Someone in Love

    ★★★★½

    It feels somewhat fitting that Like Someone in Love was the final film released by Abbas Kiarostami during his lifetime. The gradual, wistful manner in which it unfolds practically forces the mind to wander in contemplation in a way that makes its subject matter resonate deeply. There's a pensive haziness that engulfs every frame which is both elusive and captivating, making the viewing experience akin to being put into a trance.

    The narrative sees Kiarostami returning once again to the…

  • Certified Copy

    Certified Copy

    ★★★★

    There is no doubt whatsoever that Kiarostami was a true virtuoso at obliterating the conventional expectations of narrative driven cinema. Certified Copy appears to push his reoccuring thematic elements of self-identity, perception, fragile relationships and fiction overlapping reality to their very limits within such a medium in a way that casts a disorientating spell over the entire picture.

    What initially looks like a prolonged interaction between two people who've just met undergoes a metamorphosis before our very eyes until it's…

  • The Wind Will Carry Us

    The Wind Will Carry Us

    ★★★★

    Just imagine the kind of evocative and lyrical ruminations on life typically found in Kiarostami's works imbued with a picturesque tranquility that makes the whole thing flow as if it really is floating on air, then you're in the sort of space which The Wind Will Carry Us occupies. It's a relatively straightforward yet completely sincere story about a worker named Behzad assimilating to the culture and routine of the quaint village that he's been assigned to. We're never explicitly…

  • Taste of Cherry

    Taste of Cherry

    ★★★★½

    Abbas Kiarostami does something quite remarkable with Taste of Cherry by looking at the all-encompassing nature of suicidal thoughts in a way that feels completely genuine. Not for one second is he guilty of being overly sentimental, ostentatious or preachy because he clearly understands that such thoughts aren't usually displayed in a conspicuous manner. It's such a pure view since feelings of hopelessness often infect a person's life through gradual, undetectable means before overwhelming them entirely. This film strikingly captures…

  • Hiroshima Mon Amour

    Hiroshima Mon Amour

    ★★★

    I really like the central concept here, drawing a hazy contrast between a fleeting relationship and the aftermath of the horrific bombing of Hiroshima as a way to explore how we're forever unable to escape the destructive events of the past because they continue to haunt the present. Lingering despair causing cycles of heartache, memories to distort and commitment to cease; most effectively demonstrated with the striking opening monologue interlaced with images of devastation and Emmanuelle Riva's poignant performance. Sadly,…

  • The Lady from Shanghai

    The Lady from Shanghai

    ★★½

    Starting to think that I'm just not a big fan of Orson Welles because I found this to be mildly diverting fluff in all honesty. Reading that his original vision was butchered in post-production comes as no surprise (it's basically his directorial trademark, sadly) as the entire narrative feels jumbled in a way that doesn't evoke the kind of mystery or tension that was probably intended. It's packed with the types of twists and double-crosses that you'd expect from the…

  • Touch of Evil

    Touch of Evil

    ★★★½

    It's really unfortunate how Orson Welles' original vision for this film was compromised because there's enough intriguing elements here to suggest that he could have made something special. The restored cut patches things together to a satisfactory degree, but I feel like it's always blatantly obvious that something went on behind the scenes to affect the end product.

    This is a dark, seedy noir that really gets to the core of what the genre is all about by crafting a…

  • Train to Busan

    Train to Busan

    ★★½

    Given how well worn this type of material is, I feel that Train to Busan plays things a little too safe to leave much of an impression. I could forgive the lack of inventiveness on concepts we've seen many times before such as quick zombies or action on transportation if the characters were strong, but they're all so rigidly cliched that I struggled to get invested in their plight which deadened most of the emotional impact. It also doesn't help…

  • King Kong

    King Kong

    ★★★

    On one hand, it is quite refreshing to look back on a big-budget film that is so clearly someone's idiosyncratic vision and full of passionate filmmaking, espeically in the current climate of blockbusters made by committee. On the other hand, I'm still bewildered that this feels like the longest film ever made when it's barely 3 hours long. I honestly feel like I had a birthday while watching this thing. It's obvious that Peter Jackson was given carte blanche on…