A slow-paced but bracing antidote to "Django Unchained," writer/director Chris Eska's "The Retrieval" dramatizes a grim story of Texas bounty hunters in 1864, hunters who employ blacks to track and trap runaways. Eska writes that his curiosity about the period just after the Emancipation Proclamation led to his story set on the fringes of the Civil War.
Told entirely from 14-year-old Lila's limited point of view, "It Felt Like Love" immerses the viewer visually and psychologically in Lila's subjective perceptions and emotional concerns. Writer/director Eliza Hittman maintains a coherent, even strikingly astute understanding of Lila's yearning for a boyfriend, accompanied by her distress since Lila lacks the sexual appeal she desires.
"Under the Skin" wants to be an edgy, atmospheric, imaginative, sci-fi film. It succeeds only in ponderous, self-conscious pretentiousness at a slow pace. For an hour 47 minutes, co-writer/director Jonathan Glazer dwells on suggestions that amount to little more than superficial ideas as he lingers on the alien, played by Scarlett Johansson, showing minimal action or reaction.
In "The Railway Man" Eric Lomax first appears in 1980 where he's most comfortable--on a railway car. There he accidentally meets his future wife, Patti, because his train was delayed. He rattles off the circuitous connection he'll make to complete his journey--a lovely metaphor for his emotional passage from traumatized ex-prisoner of war to a psychologically strengthened individual.
Solving this mystery is amazing in itself. Even a clumsy filmmaker could have captured interest in this story of a young man who bought 100,000 negatives that turned out to be art. But John Maloof is not a ham-handed filmmaker, nor was he an ordinary bidder at the auction that netted all those negatives.
"Nymphomaniac Vol. 1" had something to say and a clever way to say it, what with all the graphics and flashbacks and analyses. But "Vol. 2" demands much and grants little. It will make even the least prudish person turn away to cover your eyes or roll them.
He is large and rather furry. She is small, tiny even. He is brown and she is grey. Ernest is a bear and Celestine, a mouse. Each has heard how the other is unbearable. The enemy. But they don't see it that way, this mousie who draws and this bear who makes music.
There's no way this thing is going to end well. That is a spoiler sentence to anyone who does not know Texas movies about alcoholics and ex-cons or novels by Larry Brown. "Joe" is set in the workaday world of a gang hired to poison trees so they die and have to be removed for the corporate landowners.
Just when you thought you'd never laugh again, along comes "Alan Partridge" to remind you that laughter is cleansing, purging, releasing. That laughter, welling up from the belly, is not only the best medicine but also pretty darn cheap. Alan Partridge has been a character played by Steve Coogan for years in various media.
Rights for the LGBT community rank among the most important contemporary issues, and civil union/gay marriage status figures prominently. In 2008 Puerto Rico became a microcosm of the legislative and religious debate with Concurrent Resolution 99, rushed through the Senate, essentially elevating marriage only between a man and a woman to a constitutional level.
Jude Law plays Dom Hemingway, the central character in the film of that title. And Jude Law is THE central reason to see writer/director Richard Shepard's wildly energetic, unpredictable comedy. With his tour-de-force performance, Law offers a master class in acting, ably supported by Richard E. Grant as his sidekick Dickie and Demian Bichir as mob boss Ivan Fontaine.
Danish director Lars von Trier courts conflict: in the content of his films, his Dogma 95 Manifesto, and in appearances. He proved that in 2011 at the Cannes Festival when, at a press conference I attended on "Melancholia," he asserted his understanding of the Nazis. Now von Trier's "Nymphomaniac: Volume I" will encourage further, possibly fruitful, debate.
A couple years ago, East Indian writer/director Ritesh Batra began making a documentary about Mumbai's famous Dabbawallahs. Five thousand strong, these deliverymen take the dabbas, lunchboxes, containing hot meals, from housewives or restaurants to office workers. For over a century, using a system of codes, colors, and symbols, the Dabbawallahs make perhaps one mistake in a million deliveries.
Put one imaginative French director--Michel Gondry--and an esoteric MIT philosopher and linguist--Noam Chomsky--together for a casual, wide-ranging conversation. The result is Gondry's clever "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?" It includes only scattered inserts of Professor Chomsky, shot on a 16-mm Bolex camera, since Gondry favors presenting the topics discussed in vividly colorful, rapid-fire animation.