Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: JANUARY 27 - FEBRUARY 2, 2014

(2013)



The titular character keeps his/her name despite the decade long journey of changing gender all while attempting to maintain a relationship with a single woman. It’s Melvil Poupaud who carries us through the ten year tenure. It’s Suzanne Clément who is our emotionally ravaged muse during the same time. It’s Yves Bélanger (also responsible for last year’s Dallas Buyers Club) who shoots this in color-popping 1.33 : 1. It’s writer/director Xavier Dolan who turns 25 next month and is already proving himself to be one of the top filmmakers to watch. And hell, this might just be his Citizen Kane.

★★★★½


* * *


(2013)



I recently heard Mark Kermode’s review on this film. He acknowledges the great performances all around but criticized the utter lack of performance on director John Wells’ part. Call my tastes old-fashioned, but I think it takes remarkable direction to know when to pull back the curtains and simply let your thespians chew the script to pieces, and boy, what a script it is (adapted by Tracy Letts from his own play). This is an ensemble for the keeping cast in an unfortunate family reunion in a sweltering Oklahoma country home. Simply, it’s one of the best Meryl Streep performances I’ve ever seen.

★★★★½


* * *


(2014)



Hirokazu Koreeda continues to be the Yasujiro Ozu of our day while tackling the impossibly difficult scenario of two sets of parents learning their 8-year-old sons were switched at birth. Conversations of nature vs. nurture indirectly come into play but the case study before us is a swaying verdict. Not a child rings false, nor a parent without fault. It’s truths like these, played out in simple scenes, that give his films an invitation to all, though you’ll notice an occasional pushing camera where Koreeda would’ve remained locked down before. Time is always drifting away from us in his films, but its never felt as much as a race against the clock as it does here. The older man sitting next to me in the theater would scoff at any such description. He found it slower than molasses in Alaska.

★★★★★


* * *


(2013)



Joss Whedon and friends embarked on this “homemade film” after shooting The Avengers and you couldn’t find two related projects further away in terms of budget and production value. After hosting Shakespeare readings for years, Whedon and his troupe prove their adoration of this comedy by sticking to the original text despite a modern setting. It’s odd at first, but the choice t0 shoot in black-and-white establishes a disconnect that we grow to accept. Nathan Fillion shines as Dogberry.

★★★★


* * *


(1974)



Leave it to Brian De Palma to take on Phantom of the Opera and Faust in the context of a rock palace. This batty comedy/fantasy/horror/musical contains an unforgettable Paul Williams and defining role for William Finley. Is it a mess you don’t want to look away from or an endlessly watchable ballad of madness? Probably a little bit of both. A rehearsal number covered in two split-screened long takes that manages to pay tribute to Welles’ Touch of Evil is one of my favorite shots De Palma has ever given us. Phantom of the Paradise celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year.

★★★★


* * *


Seen any of these films? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!



Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.

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