Triangle of Sadness
As we lurch our way through the sixth or seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve only just begun to see how much billion dollar companies (and billionaires themselves) profited from the chaos, while smaller businesses and individuals took devastating financial hits. A class war has erupted, if not in real life (yet) then certainly on social media, marked by endless heated debates over privilege, the victims and villains of capitalism, and who the “elite” really are. Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness satirizes this very unsettling period in time, putting a cheeky spin on class rage, but with an acidic undertaste that lingers long after it’s over. Continue Reading →
Writing with Fire
Across the rugged state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, a team of women journalists is bustling. Khabar Lahariya (‘Waves of News’), India’s only women-run newspaper, takes its responsibility to the community very seriously. These dynamic women are out amongst the people, documenting their stories, sharing them, and seeking answers on their behalf, often at great personal risk. Continue Reading →
Mia Hansen-Løve's latest wrestles with the creative and romantic frustrations between men and women, with Ingmar Bergman watching mindfully overhead.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2021 New York Film Festival.)
It's an unwritten rule of film festivals that there have to be at least a few films in the program dealing with either the history of cinema or the filmmaking process. Bergman Island, the latest from Mia Hansen-Løve, covers both of those bases. It's a quietly beguiling look at a pair of filmmakers as they go about generating their latest projects, literally standing in the looming shadow of one of filmmaking's most towering figures. Continue Reading →
Så som i himmelen
Tea Lindeberg and star Flora Ofelia Hoffman Lindhal craft a stupendous study of a young woman's struggle with her faith amidst horror.
Perhaps the best film at TIFF was one of the first made available to audiences. A hidden gem from Denmark, Tea Lindeberg’s As in Heaven spins a stupendous picture from a quiet premise. The story of a young girl from a devout Christian farming family in Denmark set to break generations of tradition by going to school instead of shackling herself to her family’s land, As in Heaven is as wrenching as it is extraordinary. It’s a bleak picture to be sure, but it’s a powerful look at the ways religion and tradition starkly contrast with a slowly but surely changing world. Lise (Flora Ofelia Hoffman Lindhal) is an ethereal figure, bright and luminating with hope. That hope is quickly dashed by her father’s unhappiness – if not unwillingness – to send her to school. Moreover, Lise’s mother is about to have another child, growing their large family still further. Lise does housework and helps to entertain/wrangle her assorted younger siblings. She also has her eyes on a dashing tall young man who works on the farm named Jens Peter (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt).
As in Heaven’s genre-blending filmmaking offers a bleak, compelling, blood-soaked version of a Bergman-esque religious parable. Continue Reading →
Ninja Thyberg's tale of a woman's attempt to make it in the adult film industry is a feature debut that doesn't pull any punches.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.)
Fresh from Sweden, Jessica (Sofia Kappel) has just landed in Los Angeles. The customs agent asks her a few questions, and when he inquires whether she’s here for business or pleasure, she says—you know what she says. This is the only moment Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature winks at its audience. From here on out, there’s no sense of humor to be had. Sure, characters will make jokes with each other once in a blue moon, but this is far from a fun watch.
You see, Jessica is in L.A. to become an adult film star, going by Bella Cherry instead. It seems immediate that she’s on her first shoot. She meets Mike (Jason Toler), who soon becomes her agent, and lives with three other young women in the porn industry (Revika Anne Reustle, Kendra Spade, and Dana DeArmond). On paper, it’s a standard star-is-born tale. In some ways it is, but that isn’t the main approach. Pleasure, while incredibly difficult to watch, repackages that subgenre into a look at the cycle of abuse when having boundaries isn’t a commodity. Continue Reading →
Liz Garbus' Sundance drama offers a gut-wrenching, if muddled, look at a true crime disappearance.
In May of 2010, Shannan Gilbert was supposed to visit her family for dinner. She never showed up. As her family searched for her, the bodies of four women were found near the Long Island community of Oak Beach. The police determined that these women were probably killed by the same person, dubbed the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK), and they most likely solicited the women as sex workers via Craigslist. Shannan’s mother Mari believed that her daughter’s disappearance was connected to the uncovered bodies, but police maintain that they were unrelated. Desperate to uncover the truth about what happened to her daughter, Mari began her own search for justice.
This search for justice inspired Robert Kolker to write “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery”, on which Netflix’s latest crime thriller Lost Girls is based. Director Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?) aims her documentarian eye towards narrative cinema, and the result is a gut-wrenching, if somewhat muddled, experience.
Lost Girls keeps its focus squarely on Mari (Amy Ryan, Late Night) and rarely ventures into the police investigation of the case. Indeed, Mari’s lack of insight into what the police know, as well as their apparent lack of interest in the case is the main driver of the plot. The police don’t take Shannan’s disappearance seriously, due to her status as a sex worker, and much of the first act follows her hunting down people from Shannan’s life, trying to figure out where she was last seen. Continue Reading →
და ჩვენ ვიცეკვეთ
Levan Akin's grounded, richly textured Georgian love story brims with dance and forbidden romance.
“A man is a man, and a woman is a woman,” says a priest during a wedding homily, “but in these times of “globalization”, as they call it…” the rest is cut off, but the implication is clear: we were once strong and knew who we are, but ideas from the rest of the world have confused and weakened us. A common accusation made by homophobic countries is that homosexuality is an unwelcome import from Europe and America; as if queerness was an invasive species stowed away in Western media that's overtaking the native heterosexual population.
This tension between a traditional worldview pushing against globalization is the focal point of And Then We Danced, with its juxtaposition of traditional dance against a backdrop of a Georgia that's hungry for foreign products. The characters praise English cigarettes, dance to Swedish pop music, and fawn over anime posters all while wanting to honor their heritage. It's a tension that Levan Akin is probably familiar with, since the Swedish-born director is of Georgian descent.
Taking place in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the film follows Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), a young dancer vying for a place in the National Georgian Ensemble. However, his standing in the group is shaken upon the arrival of newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili). Merab is frustrated by Irakli’s talent but finds himself drawn to the young man’s rebellious nature. As the pair grow closer, their growing attraction could put them in jeopardy. Continue Reading →