Hochzeitsgäste [1990)

Finding beauty in a crowd.

You will never find it again.

The ne plus ultra of “fleeting”.

Was it just a dream?

Her hair?

We can pin nothing down.

About this brilliant film.

Except for its brilliance.

And that it’s a Polish movie directed by a German.

Who has no arms.

And who changed his name.

I have run the names of all the actresses in the credits.

And none of them are an obvious match for the star of this film.

The star is not Christina Ormani.

It’s the other girl.

The one that gets cheated on.

The jilted lover.

She gets cheated on, so she cheats back.

And in cheating, she finds love.

True love.

This masterpiece short film (feature?) was credited to Niko Brücher.

It was his first film.

You may know him (but probably not) as Niko von Glasow.

It makes sense that this is a masterpiece.

Because Von Glasow trained with Fassbinder.

The actor-auteur of Kamikaze 1989.

I could be wrong, but I think Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a better actor than he was a director.

And let me be unequivocal:  he was a GREAT actor.

On par with Bogart.

Really.

Back to Von Glasow.

He studied film at NYU.

And in Poland.

From the latter is drawn the cast of this film.

They are, it seems, Polish student actors.

Some went on to stable careers.

Others didn’t.

The star.

Who is she?

What is her name?

Which one of these inscrutable Polish names represents her?

I can’t be a fanboy if I don’t have a name.

My suspicion is that this is just about the only film she made.

But I don’t even know what to call her.

These are OBSCURE actors in this film (with a couple of exceptions).

Von Glasow has no arms because of Thalidomide.

Born this way.

But none of this adulation for this mystery actress would matter had Von Glasow not made this masterpiece where there are no spoken words for the first nine minutes of the film.

Indeed, over the course of its 38 minutes, there is no FUNCTIONAL dialogue whatsoever.

There is some whispering.

Some chattering.

But there are no subtitles.

And there need not be.

For this is essentially a silent film with sound.

Not to be confused with a silent film with musical accompaniment.

There’s music here, alright.

A strange, mournful (and rather clownish) marimba scores much of this film.

Just little melodies.

No crazy four-part harmonies or anything.

Very minimal.

Marimba (!)

What a choice!!

It makes for an ODD amalgam.

To reiterate, this film is powered strictly by VISUAL SYMBOLISM.

The actors’ movements and the camera’s light-sucking registration make up the entirety of this visual poem.

I must give credit to the cinematographer.

Although she is credited with merely “Kamera”, it is Jolanta Dylewska.

Between Von Glasow and herself, this is one of the most beautifully-shot black and white films I have ever seen.

It is on par with the two early Godard masterpieces À Bout de souffle and Vivre sa vie in this regard.

As well as being reminiscent in tone and mood to Antonioni’s breathtaking L’Avventura.

And our mystery actress (Anna Dabrowska?) is the equivalent of Monica Vitti.

We are talking about the same level of beauty.

And we are talking about having that beauty captured on film in such a singular way.

This film is currently free to watch on Tubi.

Don’t miss it.

-PD

Leave No Trace [2018)

What a horrible day.

Valentine’s Day.

My favorite holiday.

To understand young men whom the economy has left behind.

Young men turning to violence and mischief.

Hating the state.

No more funicular.

Reach out to someone with PTSD today.

Even if you don’t have the right thing to say.

Just make an effort.

I did.

Sure, I want someone to give a fuck about me.

It sucks to be thoroughly disrespected.

This film is better than Jojo Rabbit.

But it has no sense of humor.

Living hand-to-mouth is not funny.

Homeschooling is the best.

But our society has been ruined.

Our societies have been ruined.

Hearing helicopters is too much.

Bringing you back to a mind frame where no moment is safe.

This film is no Hanna.

But this is still a poignant story.

Saoirse has lost her touch.

It was all too much for Thora and Dennings.

Thomasin is the hope for acting.

The best actress working today.

But she has only made one film that is good.

And that film is perfect.

And that film is Last Night in Soho.

Living off the grid.

War is hard on kids.

Kids want to play.

We need fun.

All work and no play makes us fucking crazy.

God bless the truckers who are reclaiming our freedoms.

KEEP GOING!!!

Sitting on a velvet couch in a cabin.

Velour.

The luxury.

Well-worn.

For years living on the forrest floor.

Now to curl your feet up sideways.

Instant karma.

It means something.

It all means something.

And we are back to hellish life.

American flags.

Get to know your neighbors.

My life has been stolen.

But I have successfully stopped drinking.

Haven’t touched the stuff for well over a year.

And I have successfully quit tobacco.

Haven’t touched the stuff for well over a year.

No nicotine up in here.

The challenge is living with something like GAD.

Sounds so easy.

Anxiety.

But tack onto that tachycardia.

A level serious enough to require medication.

And tack onto that high blood pressure.

A level serious enough to require medication.

Good luck relaxing.

You can’t.

Good luck being independent of medications.

My daily struggle and challenge is to become less dependent on my medications.

It is like building a fucking pyramid.

The progress is infinitesimally-small.

Each day.

Some days are a step backwards.

Every day.

Marking.

Tallying it up.

Am I making progress?

Yes.

SLOW.

S L O W.

Very disheartening to be alone again.

Grand gestures.

Wasted.

All for naught.

Bad match.

She needed to be the fucked-up one.

But I got problems too.

And vice-versa.

I’m trying not to judge.

I’m still trying to reach out.

On my favorite holiday.

With a hole in my heart.

War zone.

What’s your joy?

No joy.

I just dream of an actress from New Zealand.

Because her story speaks to me.

It is the hope that someone out there will love me in spite of all my flaws.

I look really bad on paper.

Because I am really bad in reality.

But I am still a person.

And I am not dead yet.

I hope the cats do their job.

Be nice.

Keep company.

My family.

Till the end.

I’m not blocking any energies.

I’m not blocking anything.

Except a couple of dickheads on TikTok.

Starting over.

I can’t breathe.

Everyone is gay.

Or lesbian.

Or whatever.

The whole world is fucking crazy.

And I need the crazy that fits with my crazy.

The crazy that matches me.

Reach out to someone with PTSD.

Don’t judge.

Don’t worry if you don’t say quite the right thing.

Don’t worry if you don’t get a response.

I’m lonely as fuck.

Instant karma.

It means something.

It all means something.

Thank you, God, for giving me a friend for awhile.

Please be merciful and let me not die of loneliness.

This is the loneliest life I have ever known.

45 years.

-PD

Last Night in Soho [2021)

First off.

I am in love with Thomasin McKenzie.

I think Saoirse Ronan has lost her touch.

Kat Dennings doesn’t even bother with films anymore.

And Thora Birch is too much of a liberal moron.

But then all actors are liberal morons, aren’t they?

Except for a precious few.

Jon Voight.

James Woods.

Rob Schneider.

Kirstie Alley.

Robert Davi.

Jim Caviezel.

Secondly.

This film is a masterpiece.

Edgar Wright is the best filmmaker in the world right now.

Is he better than Jean-Luc Godard?

No.

But Godard is not making films for mass consumption.

Is he better than Wes Anderson?

BY A MILLION FUCKING MILES!!!

Don’t get me wrong.

Wes Anderson made one perfect film.

And that film was The Grand Budapest Hotel.

And that film wouldn’t have been perfect without Saoirse Ronan.

That’s how important her presence in that film was.

Saoirse has made another perfect film.

Hanna.

But her others are mediocre.

Brooklyn.

Meh.

Lady Bird.

Even more meh (not a good thing).

Saoirse has gone astray.

Just as Thora Birch went astray.

Ghost World is a perfect film.

And American Beauty is close to perfect.

For my money, Homeless to Harvard is her other perfect film.

Kat Dennings films kinda suck.

Her masterpiece is actually 2 Broke Girls.

I’m serious.

But that’s not cinema.

Twin Peaks is cinema.

Even though it’s a TV show.

Histoire(s) du cinéma is the best film ever made.

And it was made for TV.

Homeless to Harvard is a Lifetime movie.

Made for TV.

It is not cinema.

Not exactly.

But it may be a perfect film.

Wes Anderson made his perfect film with Saoirse Ronan.

And he made a good film (Tenenbaums).

The rest are shite.

I did not understand Edgar Wright’s film language when I first saw Shaun of the Dead.

I thought it was crap.

How wrong I was!

Here is my contention.

Every Edgar Wright film is perfect.

Shaun of the Dead?

Yes.

Hot Fuzz?

Yes.

The World’s End?

Yes.

Baby Driver?

Yes.

Scott Pilgrim?

Yes.

And this film is perfect too.

But this is not quite the Wright you are used to.

This is a genuinely scary film.

But it stands up with Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining as one of the four best horror films ever made.

Edgar Wright films are all about detail.

But not the twee obsession with detail that Wes Anderson has.

Edgar Wright is overflowing with talent.

Wes Anderson is not.

Anderson needed Saoirse Ronan to make his perfect film.

And there was a bit (just a bit!) of grit in Grand Budapest.

Saoirse is missing from his other films.

And there is no real grit in any of the others.

Tenenbaums is good.

But the Wes Anderson players are tiresome.

Is Bill Murray amazing?

Yes.

But are his performances in Wes Anderson films his best work?

Absolutely not.

No more Jason Schwatzman (for fuck’s sake!).

Is Luke Wilson a great actor?

Yes.

What’s his best film?

Masked and Anonymous.

Maybe it’s Paltrow and Hackman which make Tenenbaums good.

For my money, Luke Wilson is the one who makes that film go.

But it is not on the same level as Grand Budapest.

Last Night in Soho is the Grand Budapest of the ’20s.

We’re in the ’20s now.

Are they roaring?

Like a fucking mouse.

Last Night in Soho is a gazillion times better than No Time to Die.

This film has everything the Bond film didn’t.

Substance.

Competent directing.

A story worth sticking with.

And so it is fitting that Diana Rigg’s last role should absolutely trump the death of James Bond.

The one George Lazenby film was WAY better than No Time to Die.

The death of love is more sad than the death of the hero.

Diana Rigg is the linchpin in the Bond franchise.

Pull that thread, and the sweater unravels.

Léa Seydoux is boring as fuck in the Bond films.

She was great in Blue.

But she was nothing compared to the one who carried that film (Adele Exarchopoulos).

Exarchopoulos made one perfect film.

Blue is the Warmest Color.

None of her other films are even good.

Wright makes what Youth in Revolt might have been.

He is not glib.

This is not a hipster film.

Michael Cera (who has made one perfect film [Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist]) is, mercifully, NOT in Last Night in Soho.

[correction…Kat Dennings DID make one perfect film]

Thomasin McKenzie’s obsession with ’60s London music is real.

It’s not a fucking Austin Powers joke.

Rita Tushingham is wonderful as Gram.

Excellent casting.

[take note, Bond franchise]

Thomasin hooks up with a black dude.

No big deal.

Take note, Bond franchise.

NOT EVERY FUCKING PERSON HAS TO BE BLACK IN ORDER FOR A FILM TO BE VIABLE!!!

Thomasin’s love interest is a black fellow.

I have no problem with that.

He does a good job.

For fuck’s sake…he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!

Michael Ajao.

Fine acting!

There can be important black characters WITHOUT A FILM BEING A WOKE FUCKING JOKE (like the recent Bond film).

No big deal.

Don’t make it a big deal.

It has to fit with the story.

The story is the most important thing.

The writers of the Bond film (Purvis and Wade) have allowed their name to be attached to the fucking pathetic shit of No Time to Die.

So you get a kiwi to speak in a Cornish accent.

GREAT ACTRESS!

Thomasin McKenzie.

Say that name with me.

Jacinda Ardern’s father (or mother?) was a horse.

Ugly bitch.

Ugly soul.

Thomasin McKenzie is the best thing to ever come out of New Zealand.

However, there has been one perfect kiwi movie:  Eagle vs Shark.

Synnøve Karlsen is so fucking annoying in Soho.

And she was supposed to be.

So, good job (I guess).

Every film needs a villain.

And Jocasta (Karlsen’s character) is the real villain of this film.

Thomasin is different.

Jocasta beats her down.

Mentally.

A stingy spirit.

Can never share in any of her joys.

Do you know anyone like that?

But Thomasin is troubled.

Hallucinations?

Maybe.

Seeing ghosts?

Maybe.

We’re trying to solve a case here.

Cold case.

Maybe a lot of cold cases.

Maybe a serial killer.

To the Belle and Sebastian bedsit.

Salad days are short-lived.

Don’t underestimate Sandie Shaw.

Always something there to remind me.

1964.

Puppet on a string.

Gotta pay your dues.

As a wind-up bird girl.

Brian Epstein.

Giorgio Gomelsky.

Andrew Loog Oldham.

ABKCO.

The influence of Vertigo upon Last Night in Soho cannot be understated.

The red of the Café de Paris.

The blonde of Anya Taylor-Joy’s hair.

And Thomasin’s hair.

[also, don’t underestimate Bergman’s Persona]

The glance to the side.

It’s not Jimmy Stewart.

It’s Thomasin.

Allusions to The Way of the Dragon and The Lady from Shanghai in the mirrors.

Sure, a bit of Pulp Fiction.

But that’s just for the kids.

Edgar Wright’s grasp of cinema history is way deeper than some Tarantino bullshit.

And yet, he likes zombies.

And shitty horror films from the ’80s.

I mean REALLY shitty, camp ones.

Slasher films.

Back to Vertigo.

Kim Novak’s apartment is bathed in green neon.

But Thomasin’s bedsit is a red, white, and blue homage to Godard.

An homage to Une Femme est une femme.

Dancing.

Dancing girls.

Prostitutes.

Vivre sa vie.

Pink dress fembot.

Pew pew.

Thomasin is way sexier than Anya Taylor-Joy.

Thomasin is the girl next door.

The frumpy hair of Homeless to Harvard.

I love it.

It must be this way.

To juxtapose the transition to Swinging Sixties glamour.

Is Trump just culture jamming with his vaccine tack?

Either that, or the hero has become the villain.

Did the D.C. swamp make Trump into a swamp zombie?

Maybe no one comes out clean.

International law was broken.

War crimes.

All these Wright films have zombies.

Or robots.

Faceless automatons.

A bit of Dragon Tattoo.

We all like a good microfiche scene!

Is Terence Stamp her father?

If Sandie is her mother?

Could be.

Otherwise, she would be the daughter of a prick.

But Stamp tried to save Sandie.

Arsenic and old lace.

The ones you never suspect.

Sicario.

“Buried” in the walls.

Decomposing.

Poe.

Gacy.

Wright’s “sympathy for the serial killer”.

What happened to these people that made them monsters?

Don’t underestimate Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (his only English-language film…and a flat-out masterpiece).

In the world of Edgar Wright, it is records.

Vinyl.

Not books.

And sometimes the elderly want to die with their memories.

They are not going anywhere.

They are not fleeing.

It’s been a good life.

Going down with the ship.

Up in flames.

The shitbags want their deaths avenged.

After all, they were just horny, well-to-do dads who needed a little excitement.

Prostitution.

It’s the law, after all.

Murder is murder.

Crimes of passion.

By reason of insanity.

Not guilty.

Not insane.

But traumatized.

But Thomasin has been on the adventure.

She knows what Sandie has been through.

Trump was abused for four years.

That is true.

And he fought like a champ.

Is there no justice?

Is it culture jamming (I ask again)?

Confusion.

Keeping his enemies off balance.

Getting a foot in the door.

Truth Social will censor “hate speech” with a Silicon Valley AI bot.

In order to get on Apple App Store and Google Play.

But the roll out is delayed?

Lie about the vaccines.

“Safe and effective”.

Move in for the kill shot.

Against whom?

Big Pharma and the New World Order.

But we have to call out serial killers for who they are.

If you are saying the COVID vaccines are “safe and effective”, you are spreading misinformation that is endangering the lives of those who hear and trust you.

CDC:  11,879

  IMG_6975

Open VAERS:  23,149

IMG_6976

IMG_6977

Neither safe,

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html

https://openvaers.com/covid-data/mortality

nor effective.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-covid-deaths-2021-vaccines-b1963790.html

IMG_5785

10,000-20,000 vaccine deaths should be read as 100,000-200,000 vaccine deaths because of this:

https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/underreporting-vaccine-adverse-events

IMG_6468

IMG_6469

And correlation does not necessarily equal causation…unless this (peep the myocarditis…you think that’s all JnJ? [nigga please!]):

https://openvaers.com/covid-data

IMG_6981

But the election was stolen.

Or was it allowed to be stolen?

When will the other shoe drop?

Or does the other shoe even exist?

This charade is going to go on until 2024?

Maybe Sandie is not her mother.

-PD

This Beautiful Fantastic [2016)

I must admit, I didn’t expect this film to be good.

At all.

Indeed, the thumbnail seemed to indicate that Elizabeth Hurley was the star.

And so this makes two recent movies for which the adverts capitalized on the similarity of their leading ladies to actresses more famous than themselves.

But I am thankful.

Because Elizabeth Hurley could never have pulled this off (though she be a completely competent actress).

No.

This Beautiful Fantastic needed a magic beyond its worldly resources.

And Jessica Brown Findlay brought that magic.

Which is not to say that Simon Aboud did not do a fine job directing our film.

He most certainly did.

One might say this film is about gardens and gardening.

And in a way, it is.

But it is much more about love.

Loss.

Awkwardness.

Work.

Bad luck.

Innocence.

Purity.

Friendship.

OCD.

Introversion.

Jerks.

Coping.

So many strands.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic here.

But Andrew Scott is equally good.

Wilkinson grounds this production.

Scott is perhaps the prodigy.

Brown Findlay is some pure substance which elevates everything.

She needs these two actors.

But they need her as much if not more.

Jeremy Irvine also has flashes of brilliance here.

I quite enjoyed this movie.

I’m thankful it exists.

So we must delve deeper.

We must admit that Brown Findlay’s lips are to this film as J. Lo’s ass is to Ali G.

Which is to say, Brown Findlay’s lips are almost an additional actor here.

They have a life of their own.

You might call this poor fetishism, but it needs must be said.

These are on par with those of Angelina Jolie.

But there’s a difference.

Brown Findlay’s lips are not freakishly large.

And yet, they draw the eyes.

One cannot look away.

They are always the quivering point of focus in this gossamer production.

Which is also to say, Brown Findlay is really really beautiful.

That is a factor in and of itself.

I seldom say this about any actress.

But it almost goes without saying here.

She is freakishly beautiful.

By which, we mean, breathtaking.

Natural.

Astounding.

And a damn fine actress!

 

-PD

Djam [2017)

What a deeply-moving film.

I would like to talk about Tony Gatlif, the director.

You might know him from Latcho Drom.

Or from the Asia Argento film Transylvania.

Let me assure you of one thing.

Djam (known as Journey from Greece in English) is MUCH BETTER than Transylvania.

Which brings me to the crux.

The star, Daphné Patakia (truly a star!), is MUCH MORE TALENTED AND BEAUTIFUL than Asia Argento.

Mark my words.

This young lady is amazing!!!

Which is not to denigrate Asia Argento.

She’s a very good looking lady.

Her film Incompresa (which she directed) is amazing.

But Daphné Patakia is in another league altogether.

Simon Abkarian does a wonderful job here.

Maryne Cayon is indispensable.

But Daphné Patakia sends this film into orbit!

How can I describe it?

Rebetika.  Rebetiko.

Like “the blues”.

Daphné’s eyes.

Very much like:

djam1

Do you remember?

1984?

National Geographic?

Which brings us back to Greek-French.

Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Another fantastic actress.

Yes, Djam approaches the artistry of La Vie d’Adèle–Chapitres 1 & 2, but Djam is more special somehow to me.

Sure, there’s some nudity, but not much.

And we feel that this film might go the lesbian route, but instead it goes Lesbos.

It’s hard for me to overstate how important Daphné Patakia is to this film…and to film in general.

Very few actresses have done what she’s done.

It is, in truth, BEYOND our favorites in Hollywood:

-Thora Birch

-Saoirse Ronan

-Kat Dennings

Because it is done from left field.

And most related to these brilliant actresses:

-Anamaria Marinca

-Dorotheea Petre

and

-Julianne Côté

And less-so to:

-Adèle Exarchopoulos

-Pauline Étienne

One might even make a comparison to Moran Rosenblatt.

But I think the comparisons to Marinca and Petre are most apt.

Patakia is plumbing some serious depths in Djam.

And doing it with the joie de vivre of Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie.

One senses even a bit of Audrey Hepburn here.

That Funny Face bohemian dance routine.

But mixed with Anna Karina’s famous jukebox strut:

djam2.gif

New era.

Film clips.

Keep up.

Text can be extracted (if there’s anything worthwhile).

But images moving make it flow.

People want everything all at once.

But sadness can be healed.

When we care for the crazy.

God does not ignore our efforts.

And the world knows and recognizes mental illness.

Reach out a hand and console.

An essential film.

 

-PD

Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story [2003)

Happy Birthday to Thora Birch, my favorite actress of all time!

Yes, I know…I know.

A film critic whose favorite actress is a young 35-year-old whipper snapper???

Yes.

That’s alright.

Laugh at me.

If the question was, “Who was your favorite classic Hollywood actress?,” then I would answer, “Lauren Bacall”.

But I said favorite actress of all time.

You can search my “Thora” category here on my site for why exactly this actress is my favorite.

Because otherwise, we’re going to be here all day.

And I have a movie to review!

One of my favorites:  Homeless to Harvard.

It is, indeed …The Liz Murray Story, but I will be using the shortened title hereafter for brevity’s sake.

It is my contention (and I have made the point elsewhere…probably on this very site of mine) that Thora Birch produced a trilogy of acting performances which are more-or-less analogous to Bob Dylan’s classic trilogy.

Let’s start with Dylan.

The three (at unity from a similarity of intense expression):

Bringing It All Back Home

Highway 61 Revisited 

and

Blonde on Blonde

And now the Thora films which correspond in my mind:

American Beauty

Ghost World

and

Homeless to Harvard

Sure…Birch didn’t direct these films.

But her acting is so strong, she might as well have.

By this point she was no longer a prodigy.

She was a mature actress.  A master of her craft.

And the story here is one to really sink teeth in.

[In which.]

We recently touched on homelessness here in the review of Alicia Vikander’s stellar turn as Katarina from Till det som är vackert.

Pure.

But the esthetics of Homeless to Harvard are different.

This isn’t European arthouse.  It’s a Lifetime made-for-TV film.

But don’t go running anywhere!!!

This is as gritty as any Lou Reed tale.

And it’s all real.

Too pure.

Heroin addict parents.

Mother schizophrenic.

Blindness.

Genetic.

Mother with HIV.

Father with AIDS.

Vice versa ice Ursa.

Father in homeless shelter.

Mother wielding knife.  Vomiting.

Alcoholism.

Really appealing, eh?

But you gotta stick with it.

This isn’t Darren Aronofsky mise-en-scène.

It’t not, “Let’s win an award at Sundance.”  Or, “Let’s sweep at Cannes.”

It’s more like one of Aesop’s fables.

It’s the message, man!

And so first, let’s honor the director.

Peter Levin.

Who knew a television film could be so artful?

Well, when you combine the history of Histoire(s) du cinéma with the precedent of Twin Peaks, you should know by now that television can produce good stuff.

Hell…

Your TV can even WATCH YOU! (as per WikiLeaks Vault7).

But I digress…

The weeper (no masonry) sob story…had me crying in my Junior Mints…we must attribute to the excellent writing of Ronni Kern.

Who the hell is Ronni Kern?!?

Male?  Female?

I’ve had less trouble finding the gender of completely unknown foreign movie people.

But Kern is pretty invisible on the Internet.

And maybe there’s a point here.

  1.  It doesn’t fucking matter.
  2. You should judge someone on their work, not their gender.

Hopefully Ms. Birch will appreciate this flash of liberalism should she read this review.

[I’m not holding my breath]

But we have just celebrated International Women’s Day.

And the fact that Birch’s character here is a “feminist” is a running pseudo-joke.

Which brings us to the performances.

Michael Riley is stellar, stellar (I know…) as Liz’s father Peter.

Kudos to the styling department.

That beard.  And that hair!

Crazy, man, crazy!!

But Riley’s performance is really special.

It touched my heart.

Long ago.

When I first saw this film.

And dare I say, this movie made me appreciate my own family.

It made me miss my folks.

And so I salute Peter Riley and Lifetime and all involved for that effect on my heart.

Jennifer Pisana is really fabulous as the young Liz Murray here.

It’s an unenviable task.

To precede Thora Birch’s entrance.

But Pisana is indispensable to this little masterpiece.

Those sweaters.

And the full pronunciations…”Mommy”…”Daddy”…

Ms. Pisana affects the necessary naïveté to be juxtaposed against the sad schizophrenia of Kelly Lynch (who plays Liz’s mom).

And Lynch is great.

Think Cries and Whispers.

[cris et chuchotements…(( (( ((…et chuchotements]

Robert Bockstael does a fine job as Liz’s teacher David.

Very convincing.  Excellent craftsmanship.

Makyla Smith is piquant in her depiction of Liz’s best friend Chris.

[God…the Magic Marker…and the pine box…fuuuuuuck]

Yes, friends…this is Lifetime Television.

So the brisure (bonjour, monsieur Derrida) is “crap”.

“Crap happens.”

Whoa…watch thy mouth, Kelly Lynch!

So again…Peter Levin does a fantastic job shoehorning a true X-file into PG territory.

We see a syringe here and there.  A tourniquet.

Riley cleaning a spoon.

But the real heartbreak is Wheat Chex with tap water.

Yeah…

Hello Gummo.

Ellen Page has a small role here.

And she’s good.

Fine actress.

But we’ve been waiting to roll out the big gun.

Thora Birch.

On this, her birthday, I am only just now getting towards a handful of reviews honoring her unique thespian gift.

What to say?

That every look is magic?

That every glance is gold?

That she has crafted her microexpressions in solitude…and wielded them like an Arthurian sword for the duration of this flick?

Yes, yes, and yes.

[and an Oxford comma]

Because kids take it for granted.

Rich kids.

Harvard.

Penn.

Princeton.

Maybe…

But even more so the lesser ivied walls.

I won’t name names.

But the spoiled kids.

Not turning in homework.

Bragging about shortcuts.

Those, ultimately, will be life’s losers.

But Liz Murray worked her butt off to get into Harvard.

From sleeping on the B Train.

Four years of high school in two.

And Thora Birch has worked her butt off too.

She hasn’t gotten the roles her talent deserves.

But the roles she has gotten, she has largely smashed out of the park.

Like the Babe Ruth of leading ladies.

And so there are other actresses I admire.

But Thora Birch was the first.

The first to give me that magical feeling which only Neil Young has adequately described:

“I fell in love with the actress/She was playin’ a part that I could understand”.

Happy Birthday, Thora Birch!

And may all your days and films be filled with the joy which you have put into the world through your cinematic brilliance.

-PD

Till det som är vackert [2009)

This is a perfect, imperfect film.

Like Russell’s paradox.

And I hope director Lisa Langseth won’t go all Frege on me and jump out a window.

Ah!

You know…

I have spoiled nothing.

And my words are almost completely inconsequential.

But similar things have been said about La Règle du jeu.

And I disagree with that.

In 1939, Jean Renoir made an unqualified (perfect) masterpiece with that film.

I qualified it only to distinguish from my initial example.

And so Pure (the title of this Swedish film which is currently on Netflix in the U.S.) is much like Asia Argento’s almost-masterpiece Incompresa.

I will be quite blunt.

Lisa Langseth stretches in almost the exact same dimension that Argento did with her fine film.

But the real similarity is acting perfection.

For a young child, Giulia Salerno was magnificent (really!) in Argento’s film.

And so Ms. Argento had the secret weapon.

A (very young) actress capable of cine-magic.

Ms. Langseth was blessed with more-or-less the same thing.

But even better.

[perhaps because the actress was a little older and more experienced]

Alicia Vikander makes Till det som är vackert go.

I mean, really…this is an acting performance unlike any other.

And so my only gripe with Ms. Langseth, the director, is that she stretched the story TOO FAR.

But that’s ok.

Because, you know what?  Maybe I’m wrong.

Langseth and Argento both seem to be trying to tell every story they’ve ever lived…IN ONE FILM.

Argento is the guiltier party.

For most of Pure, Langseth sticks to a taut plot.

Buttressed by Vikander’s exquisite acting, the sum total is ecstasy.

And so, I find myself reacting against the Hitchcock tendency in two films.

Some directors NEED a good dose of Hitchcock.

Wes Anderson, for example.

That guy is so saccharine…that when the fingers come off in Grand Budapest, we finally have a filmmaker.

But Langseth and Argento are telling GRUELING stories throughout (in Pure and Misunderstood, respectively).

And so the heavy bass note…the one which when slammed births the 9th harmonic…it doesn’t work here.

Because the tritone.

To progress through the harmonic series.

And resolve on a tritone.

It takes a special auteur to do such.

And these two ladies are not the dodecaphonists to do so.

They have not worked out a coherent system to justify their heart-ripping atonality.

But fear not.

Pure is so, so, so worth watching!

This is as close as a film can get to masterpiece while still being flawed.

And it’s so very close, I’m wondering whether the flawed one is me.

[no doubt]

Let me correct the record (ouch…David “Scumbag” Brock)…

We get noodles with ketchup.

I mean, this film is Gummo real.

So I want to give some BIG compliments.

Till det som är vackert is the best Swedish film ever made by anyone not named Ingmar Bergman.

In fact, it’s BETTER than several of Bergman’s films.

Shall I name names?

Pure is worlds (WORLDS) better than Fanny and Alexander.

Bergman was in poseur mode.

That flick is so overrated.

And Lisa Langseth totally smokes (eats the lunch of) Bergman.

Further, Till det som är vackert is (in my humble, masculine opinion) the greatest feminist film since 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days…and in some ways EVEN BETTER than that timeless masterpiece.

And so, in general, I bow down in worship to Pure.

We have homelessness.

We have mental illness.

We have resilience.

Naturalism.  Grit.  The bird-soul of music…

The only thing we needed was an editor.

To say.

Cut.

About 20 minutes before the end.

Because Ms. Langseth wants to give us redemption.

She just seems to have her Raskolnikov in the wrong pocket.

It’s ok.

I’m the daftest son of a bitch on the planet.

One last thing…

This movie moved me so much.

The bulk of this film.

Did something to me.

Therapeutic.

And sublimely enlightening.

And so I thank God for Lisa Langseth and Alicia Vikander.

God bless you.

Thank you for making this kind of art.

As Nick Cave sang,

“It’s beauty that’s gonna save the world now”.

-PD

Puppylove [2013)

Everybody likes sex, right?

Well, maybe not priests, but…

Ok.  Bad joke.

But sex is not a subject I’ve ever written about specifically in any of my film reviews.

And perhaps it is only fitting that Puppylove be the movie under the aegis of which I first do so.

There are several ways of situating this film “historically” in the medium of cinema.

One would be to take a recent frame of reference.

Blue.

In a strange example of Zeitgeist, Blue is the Warmest Color beat Puppylove to market by about six months.

Indeed, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 might be the best comparison.

But it is not a very historical one.

Which is to say, the two films are more or less contemporaneous.

Were the creators of the latter film influenced by the earlier release?

Because the connection is strong.

From the astounding Adèle Exarchopoulos, we can draw an easy line to the equally-sublime Solène Rigot.

Their characters, Adèle and Diane, are extremely similar.

But let’s take director Delphine Lehericey’s wonderful film back to an actual previous point in film development.

 American Beauty.

1999.

Solène Rigot is an easy comparison to Thora Birch (my favorite actress ever) in that film.

Likewise, Audrey Bastien is an exact overlay (no pun intended) on Mena Suvari’s character Angela Hayes.

[At this point I would like to quote Neil Young (“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”) and admit that Solène Rigot really stole my heart with this one.  It took me awhile to fully comprehend…who she looked like…someone who broke my heart…a Beatrice in my Dantean darkness upon a time.]

Back to film criticism, and sticking with 1999’s “Best Picture”, we should also note that Kevin Spacey is well signified by signifier Vincent Perez in Puppylove.

To paraphrase Godard, ever image in every film is a quote.

Which brings us to the fountainhead.

To wit, where does this style of filmmaking which Lehericey is practicing originate?

For me, there is no better answer than Monsieur Godard’s perfect film Je vous salue, Marie.

1985.

Hail Mary‘s most jaw-dropping asset was the inimitable Myriem Roussel.

Solène Rigot is a reincarnation of Roussel’s magic.

Instead of basketball, it’s field hockey.

But Puppylove goes on to quote delicately and successfully.

Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water.

Perhaps even Kubrick’s Lolita (equally applicable to American Beauty…at least in theory).

But I’m the schmuck who wins the prize.

I didn’t care how “hot” Mena Suvari was.

And I don’t give a shit about Audrey Bastien’s skinny little frame either.

[Though Bastien is a much better actress than Suvari.]

I fall for the outcasts.

Jane Burnham (Thora Birch).

And, here, Diane (Solène Rigot).

Puppylove is not as earth-shattering a film as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color.

But Delphine Lehericey is an extremely gifted director.

And she had the secret weapon to pull it off.

Solène Rigot.

Puppylove will endure because Rigot is the real thing.

I’ve hardly talked about sex yet (like, not at all).

But that’s the way the master of understatement Hitchcock would have done it.

The most sublime moments in highly-sexualized European cinema are when the sex isn’t happening.

Exarchopoulos proved this.

And Rigot confirms it.

-PD

Vi är bäst! [2013)

IF you want to see a bogus, bollocks feminist film, watch Free the Nipple.

But if you want to see the real thing…a really empowering, touching story, then check out We Are the Best!

IT’s in Swedish.

So you’ll have to use your brain.

And your eyes.

Unless you speak Swedish.

But it will be well worth your time.

Vi är bäst! isn’t trite acting from a bunch of pseudo-provocateurs who just want to take their shirts off.

Nej.

This is the story of three 13-year-old girls.

None of them fit in.

Everyone tells them they’re ugly.

One of them is ostracized for being a Christian.

[now THAT’S punk!]

But it’s the story of three girls who come together and do the greatest thing possible:  form a band.

Music!!!

And let me just say this:  the acting is fucking fantastic!

Mira Barkhammer plays Bobo.

For me, she is the star of the film.

She is the outcast of the outcasts.

No make up.

No cool haircut.

She’s searching for her identity.

But she’s so smart.  So truly unique!

She wears these little wire-rim glasses.

From one perspective, this film is her search for what’s behind the mirror.

Director Lukas Moodysson made a masterpiece here.

Bobo…

The name…

I think of Boris Diaw.

The whole scenario is aw-kward.

But so beautifully so!

And yet Bobo is not perfect.

Far from it.

It’s a team effort.

And teams, especially when they are ad hoc and organic, are inherently dysfunctional.

The actress who puts the dys in dysfunction here is Mira Grosin.

But she too is so wonderful in this film!

She is the inspiration.

The first one out on the limb.

The rebel.

The loudmouth.

She inspires her other two bandmates to fly their freak flags high.

But the most enigmatic is Liv LeMoyne:  the Christian.

Director Moodysson is so deft in his handling of this dynamic.

LeMoyne’s character [Hedvig] has long, beautiful blond hair.

[At this point it is appropriate to address a strange form of class relations in Sweden:  hair color.]

When I used to think of Sweden (which I did rarely), I would imagine everyone as a blond.

Perhaps the American vision of Sweden is a socialist paradise of blond bikini models.

At the very least, blondness seems to be the defining characteristic in the American popular imagination regarding Sweden (as far as I can tell).

This isn’t a scientific study, you understand…

But it is important to point this out.

The snottiest (in the stuck up, snobbish sense) characters in this film are mostly blonds.

The little girls who call Bobo and Klara [Grosin] ugly.

It is really heartbreaking.

These two BRUNETTE girls endure such humiliation throughout this film.

And so it’s no wonder that they want to start a PUNK BAND!

But they can’t play.

Like, not at all…

Their first halting efforts are in the vein of The Shaggs.

No, worse.

And that’s where the Christian comes in.

Hedvig is an accomplished classical guitarist.

It is, indeed, much like the story of Garth Hudson’s joining The Band.

Lessons.

So to speak.

Bobo and Klara are astounded at Hedvig’s talent.

They lament that they’ll never be as good as their gifted new friend.

But Hedvig is all encouragement.

It is [pardon the expression] a match made in heaven.

And so three misfits (for different reasons) band together (literally) and take on the cock rock ridiculousness of bullies like youth-center-rehearsal-room-“stars” Iron Fist.

The message is astounding.

I haven’t seen a film which does such honor to the idea of feminism since 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

But there’s no ulterior motive here.

This isn’t a George Soros production.

This is the real thing.

Just three young people (who happen to be female) wanting to make some noise in their world.

And we see how beautiful punk music is.

IT’s a catharsis.

Like Sonic Youth.

And we remember the true geniuses of the genre (like my hero, the late Alan Vega).

But we also remember the maxim:  “three chords and the truth”.

Hedvig’s got the chords.

[Ah…harmony!  What a concept!!!]

But Klara has the attitude.

And Bobo has the intellect.

They learn from each other.

“Here.  Stay on this note.  Good.  Now move to this note.”

“Punk is about rebellion.  It’s not about the school talent show.  We’ve got to keep going.  It’s a fight.”

“You really need to change your hair.  Do something fun!  Express yourself!  Cut loose!”

Those are my translations of action, not dialogue.

But I can’t stress enough how great these three actresses are in this film.

Mira Barkhammer in particular is a prodigy.

But, as in the story, the trio is inseparable.

And for this kind of cohesion, we have but one place to look in thanks:  the auteur.

-PD

Brooklyn [2015)

I do believe my tear ducts are sore on account of this film.

Some writing will be meaningful, and some meaningless (depending on the audience).

Don’t you keep anything for yourself?

Very little…

Because I believe in the beauty of people…out there…in the vast world…the goodness of people…in heart and in soul.

It’s like Titanic without the shipwreck.

((lachrymal vases))

Ireland should be very proud of Saoirse Ronan.

And so should The Bronx.

From Howth and environs to Jerzy Kosiński’s 1982 masterpiece novel Pinball.

I have written a great deal about Saoirse in the past.

She is my favorite actress working in film.

[Thora Birch needs some gigs.  Kat Dennings needs to ditch 2 Broke Girls or CBS needs to enter the Hulu joint venture.  Anamaria Marinca and Dorotheea Petre need gigs.  Myriem Roussel:  where are you?  And finally Adèle Exarchopoulos:  you are on the right track!]

But Saoirse Ronan is unique among my favorite actresses for a variety of reasons.

Brooklyn gives her a chance to employ her Irish accent–to accentuate rather than mask it.

Quite frankly, this is a brilliant film!

John Crowley did a masterful job as director.

Emory Cohen is really good herein.

Julie Walters is hilarious!

Fiona Glascott is darn-near perfect.

But this whole thing is really about Saoirse Ronan.

John Crowley surrounded her with an older style of filmmaking.

It fits the story snugly.

Saoirse shines through like no other actress.

She is a ruby with the hardness of a diamond.

Etching her name into film history at the young age of 22.

Hollywood is not dead as long as she continues to get the starring roles she deserves.

 

-PD