• Petite Maman

    Petite Maman

    ★★★★

    Floats like a leaf among autumnal colours, gliding down to land upon a tender surface, casting its ripples outward. From the light touch of this simple, sparse story spread concentric circles that link mother and daughter, past and present, meetings and goodbyes. And like the beauty of the summer shifting to fall, the film too gives hint to a hidden winter of yet unexpressed grief.

    Petite Maman transports the viewer back to the experience of childhood— of sleepovers, tree forts,…

  • Noah

    Noah

    ★★

    Imagine a rock golem, part seagull trapped in oil, part hobbled ballet dancer, part six-winged Seraphim angel (as Aronofsky himself has described). These are the Watchers, angels that chose to fall from heaven to aid the children of Adam and Eve, thus merging their ethereal radiance with terrestrial tactility. They look malformed and move ungainly; their celestial cores are encased in clunky carapaces. Such an image also provides a useful metaphor for the film itself, since Aronofsky’s passionate vision— of…

  • The Crowd

    The Crowd

    ★★★★

    You can do anything. You can be anyone you want. You can make it big. This is the American myth, the myth of the individual that inevitably rises to stand out against the crowd. Yet this romanticized myth obscures the more common one: the myth of the crowd that slowly closes in to subsume the individual. It’s a pointed parallel that our protagonist, John Sims, is born on July 4th, 1900, the beginning of a new century— for the trajectory…

  • That Day, on the Beach

    That Day, on the Beach

    ★★★★

    Two friends meet for lunch after thirteen years apart, and between them crashes the wave of pent-up time. From their conversation, past events are cast through the sieve of memory— and what lasts, what fades? What has become indelible upon the sand of a life, unwashed by cycling tides; and what has passed harmlessly away, like proverbial water under the bridge? Their meeting is charged with things said and unsaid, personal history, unresolved tension, and the fingerprint of change. Through…

  • Fallen Angels

    Fallen Angels

    ★★★½

    Woozy dreamy style. Infused with the intoxication of emotional aches, both freeing and constraining. A cinematic mood that pries apart love and almost-love, to leave the characters alone together, swirling in their own gulfs of desire. Ricocheting from romance to romance, from crime to comedy, Fallen Angels charts a dual narrative, another exploration of cosmic connection and lost souls that collide in the shadowed streets of Hong Kong.

    Fallen Angels is weird, wild, and unexpected. At times it surges with…

  • Pitfall

    Pitfall

    ★★★

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

    Part human drama, part ghost story, and part murder mystery, Pitfall is a fascinating first feature by Hiroshi Teshigahara. It begins with a father and his son looking for work, and eventually stumbling into a mostly abandoned ghost town. The metaphoric ghosts are then made literal, after the protagonist is murdered and finds the town populated with spirits. They solemnly carry out their final actions, going through the last motions of their corporeal forms: swinging invisible pick-axes and wielding absent…

  • Requiem for a Dream

    Requiem for a Dream

    ★★★★★

    Shattering, axis-tilting cinema. Four stories spiral into each other, ever downward, from slippery slope to absolute abyss, swirling down the drain where dreams putrefy into nightmare, their already-broken shards smashing still further, shredding each other into slivers of self-destruction that collide in a final gut-wrenching cymbal-crash of a climax.

    We are but a series of chemical imbalances. A flux of molecules fluttering in the brain, preyed upon by the modern world. The human body is beset by inanimate systems of…

  • Mahjong

    Mahjong

    ★★½

    Mahjong shows Taipei as a maelstrom of collisions— cultural, global, generational— and all too caught up in its roiling, rapid changes. Characters arrive from a wide range of locations: an ignorant businessman from London, a lost, naive woman from Paris, and young gangsters that hail from the city’s underworld, looking to ensnare the easily-manipulated foreigners. Thematically, the film is similar to its predecessor, A Confucian Confusion, as it shows city life in the wake of receding traditional values that have…

  • Days of Being Wild

    Days of Being Wild

    ★★★

    The collision of gang violence and romantic passion within Wong Kar-wai’s first film finds its way into his sophomore effort, albeit filtered and re-balanced; for although Days of Being Wild focuses more on lonely yearning, it is still interspersed with moments of quick and brutal violence. From there, the film takes flight off the launchpad of its predecessor, emerging as less reckless but more free, more sensual, and more intimate.

    Although not as loose and playful as Chungking Express, nor…

  • Beau Travail

    Beau Travail

    ★★★★½

    Beautiful, mesmerizing, unforgettable. A true fruition of Denis’ style, Beau Travail breathes like a sentence powered by verbal phrases, its clauses always linked by movement and action. The sun flashing off water; the way the body swims in teal sea, sinuous as a fish. People swaying, light dancing along the bevels of a glass. Undershirts flapping in the breeze, dry green against the infinite blue of sky. Shaving, showering. Men ducking under wires, scuttling like mad creatures; on wires, suspended…

  • A Confucian Confusion

    A Confucian Confusion

    ★★★½

    Imagine Confucius is reincarnated. Confucius— who lived from 551–479 BCE, and became one of the most significant philosophers in East Asian history— reincarnated in modern Taiwan. A perfect example of tradition colliding into modernity. Such is the premise in “A Confucian Confusion,” the fictional manuscript introduced about halfway through Yang’s film, penned by a writer in the midst of his own existential crisis. While explaining his work, the writer describes how Confucius finds himself as “Mr. Popular.” Everyone clamours about…

  • As Tears Go By

    As Tears Go By

    ★★½

    With his debut film, Wong Kar-wai launches out of the starting gate all helter-skelter and sensual and snazzy, inviting the viewer directly into his cinematic vision, where loose images conspire with neon colour in the language of unresolved yearning. As Tears Go By emerges rather unpolished, but it still carries Wong Kar-wai’s characteristic energy and his keen eye for visuals, even if these forces are somewhat muted.

    The atmosphere of the film is forged from raw, unrefined cool. We’re talking…