• Kagero-za

    Kagero-za

    I like going through reviews for the Taisho trilogy because they splay all over the map, resisting consensus. The films are very cryptically presented, so those who didn't pay attention are weeded out by their vagueness, while others can't even agree on which film is harder to understand than the other, let alone whether or not they're about anything. Here I'm more specifically referring to this film's reputation as more confusing than the preceding Zigeunerweisen: I feel precisely the opposite.…

  • Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices

    Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices

    I find Herzog’s documentaries most interesting when there’s a particularly intense friction between the subject matter and the liberties of his approach (mixing the staged and scripted with the captured; feeding lines or “guiding” interviewees), Grizzly Man, Into the Abyss, and Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices being the strongest examples. Herzog’s shies away neither from counterpoints that disrupt his theses, nor the ways in which a camera brings the performer out of a subject, so the narrativity of reality becomes…

  • Die Hard

    Die Hard

    Practically a musical, McTiernan, Urioste, Kamen so in tune that it becomes a choreography of formalized emotion and adrenal thrills. The wealth in observation can distract one in multiple interpretive directions -- husband fighting for wife after losing his supremacy in the family, in the ultimate (constantly exploding) phallus; overtures to the fabled end of history: emissaries of multiple continents meeting in one space spliced together from Western modernism and Eastern minimalism, fighting over a vault of bearer bonds, Asian…

  • The Social Network

    The Social Network

    Sorkin's script, an unwieldy combination of college dramedy and biopic, provides an interesting template for Fincher, even if the film is nearly monstrous at times; both director and writer have distinct authorial forcefulness, which accounts for the exhilarating but also confounding tonal whiplash. Fincher’s vision, more daring, is somewhat hamstrung by the need to dutifully circle back and affirm traditional moralisms. His skill level allows him to pull off these moments, but they lurch awkwardly — felt most dramatically, almost…

  • Firefox

    Firefox

    A mixture of weird and boring to see Clint play the Cold War thriller so straight: he and his collaborators’ formal abilities are more than up to the challenge, but, out of their element, they can’t sustain tension for long passages of chases or special-effects heavy flight sequences. But it’s more interesting than it sounds, mostly because his usual preoccupations are reworked in a fairly novel mode. Kehr had it right yet again: so much self-effacement, perhaps the hardest Eastwood…

  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

    Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

    Of course, double billing this with Halloween, the reiterated opening sequence leapt out immediately. Unsettled steadi-cam POVs through domestic space — "There’s monsters in the house” — both belonging to their film’s killers, but where Michael is a rising and unanswerable unconscious within suburbia, here the sequence itself is monstrous, an invented trauma. Adkins motivation for becoming a killing machine is the destruction of the family, encoded by the government that programmed him; the family is manufactured and is one…

  • Conquest

    Conquest

    Fulci wisely realizes the simplicity of the fantasy film lends itself to that pure cinema he and others were looking for — it goes mostly unnoticed that this is far more successful a consistent hallucination than The Beyond or City of the Living Dead; but for the obvious genre specifics — swords, sandals, creatures, magic — it comes off as one of the strongest realizations of his Fulvia approach, and after the fact. He tips his hand with allusions to…

  • Scream 4

    Scream 4

    The spread of reviews on this film is really curious, with many outright ignoring its ideas — lost, no doubt, in the sentimental haze cast by it being Wes Craven’s last film —and others reacting to them with hostility. The latter, more honest and fruitful as this is a film with ideas, still fall back on either vague suggestions or, I think, mistaken reading of intent: this is not, unlike the original, a film about slasher films, and its diegetic…

  • Friday the 13th Part 2

    Friday the 13th Part 2

    The first film is mischaracterized as cruel, 2 is where the series actually begins gesturing towards nihilism and cohering the iconography and approach; if you look at the first three films as essentially the long process of creating said iconography, then the heaviest lifting is done here (Part 3 finalizes the aesthetic). The original's characterizations are almost naturalistic by comparison: one film along and already almost everyone's become a cartoon or a pervert -- in this you feel sharply a…

  • Seized

    Seized

    So slight the narrative barely registers as existing at all, and Florentine's faculty for visual storytelling feels reigned in and rhythmically neutered (his cinema immediately misses Irit Raz), but also a nice dish of termitic pleasures for the obsessives: two combatants dancing over mosaic tiles in front of the Pacific Ocean, Mario Van Peebles chewing into one of those ridiculous DTV character performances, and a handheld camera style that casually walks the line between chaotic and controlled energy that eludes most filmmakers.

  • Sodoma's Ghost

    Sodoma's Ghost

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Sodoma’s Ghost is one of those personal lost corners of cinephilia, a bad and broken film that, like a half-finished puzzle, grows more in absentia, the mind furnishing the missing pieces. By most standards it’s an outright failure, listless and barely sensical and uncharacteristically restrained, but, if you speak a little of the Fulci language, you begin to understand, or better feel, the resonance of its overlaying of past and present, and its attempt to put across a metaphysical notion…

  • Celluloid Nightmares

    Celluloid Nightmares

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    All of the Satō films I’ve seen have been reflexive to some degree, but this is the most confrontational, designed as if to watch its audience and creators back. Satō, lead actress and writing collaborator Itō Kiyomi, the audience, and even critics of Satō are all anticipated and given proxies, metacinematically portraying the confluence of voyeuristic drives core to the pinku production model; there’s a dark humor to its self-aware depiction of an “artist” working under these conditions — the…