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CODE UNKNOWN Blu-ray Review

It might have taken some time, but the Criterion Collection has now come to include to Michael Haneke into its pantheon of thoughtfully-restored films committed to blu-ray for perpetuity. It’s seems fitting that the film chosen for initiation into the Criterion treatment would also be his first French film, Code Unknown (2000); which, also marks the first time the German director would work with a bona-fide, world-renowned star such as Juliette Binoche, positioning the Criterion Collection into a kill two birds with one stone situation by generating excitement for Haneke fans while, simultaneously, inching one film closer to making the collection a Binoche completist.

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FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: HIERBA

Paintings from the likes of Monet, Manet and Renoir (to name a few) populate the backgrounds of each still frame, each frame signifying one act of the film’s storyline with 18 acts in total. The actors, themselves, exist primarily in the foreground, in time period aligned garments, over-emoting in the vein of silent films, gravitas pinned to the performances by way of over-exaggeration. Their existences will occasionally blend into the paintings, two art forms bleeding into one as the oil-painted veneer of thickets and overgrowth cloud the stances and footfalls of the actors navigating the artificiality of the surrounding terrain.

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THE WONDERS Review

The wonders of The Wonders do not reveal themselves until the tail-end of its slice-of-life narrative of coming-of-age in the Tuscan countryside. Not until the family at the center of the film treks out to an island, clad in togas and laurel wreaths, to participate in a television show competition to crown the next "countryside wonder", a distinction that would solve all of their financial problems. It is during this stretch of the story that magical realism creeps into the proceedings, transforming the entire affair into something marvelous.

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FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: FUNNY BUNNY

The occupying quirk found in Alison Bagnall’s Funny Bunny is easily recognizable on the surface as more of the same. At first glance, Bagnall’s feature has the familiar appearance of all the other indie comedies strewn about the distribution landscape over the past several years except that Bagnall’s implementation emerges as a more thoughtful interpretation.

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UNSUNG INDIES: Christopher Good’s MUDJACKIN’

Right from the jump, writer/director Christopher Good unloads the viewer into the whirlwind that is Mudjackin’, a brother/sister buddy comedy murder mystery, starting with an I.C.E. raid before even considering introducing context or characters really. From there, the relentlessness continues with the tempo locked-in at high-octane with rapid-fire cuts coming from every possible direction while the brother/sister duo run through an exhaustive overview of their backstories with a swiftness - years flush with dreaming big and big, shattered dreams.

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A WONDERFUL CLOUD Review

Eugene Kotlyarenko appears to be a bit of a showman; a prankster, if you will, decidedly implementing a ruse in order to pique interest and advertise his latest film, A Wonderful Cloud, to the populace, enticing viewers to witness abject depravity unsuitable for “God-fearing New Yorkers”.

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L FOR LEISURE Review

90s vibes/aesthetics burrow their roots deep within the fabric of Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman’s L for Leisure, a loosely-connected collage of vacations over the stretch of 1992-93 school year presented in the hazy confines of the sun-saturated 16mm film frames. More a series of memento-style footage of downtime and recreation than an actual, standard narrative experience. Horn and Kalman’s debut feature-length possesses a certain casualness thanks to its breezy framework, where mellow is the goal and boogie-boarding is crucial.

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SIX CENTS IN THE POCKET Review

Clocking in at 14 minutes, imbued with a literary air through well-executed voiceover (something I normally loathe), Six Cents in the Pocket is an incomparable work of culled elements from various art forms - theatre, painting, cinema and the aforementioned arena of literature - distilled into a homogenized, singular entity. With ephemeral sequences of vague context, the film’s structure is reminiscent of a classical work of literature, half-remembered, verging on anonymity, cobbled together from the residuals of memory.

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YAKUZA APOCALYPSE Review

A new film from Miike means a new section of my life devoted to complete and utter bewilderment, although in the best sense possible. As always, the beginning stages of a Miike are met with both hands firmly grasped around the logistics and the intentions of the film at hand until the bizarre aspects of the narrative begin to wander in and out the narrative. This is when my grasp begins to falter, shakingly holding on for this time will be the time I continue to have a firm grasp of the proceedings.

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UNSUNG INDIES: Ian Clark’s MMXIII

The third installment of UNSUNG INDIES delves into Ian Clark's experimental MMXIII, an exploration into image capturing and creation. Employing a myriad of technologies to present ideas and philosophies, Clark effortlessly weaves his way through the beauty and power of an image and the time-consuming undertaking of searching for the perfect image. Misleading in its simplicity, MMXIII inexplicably accommodates a wealth of ideas, every still and every progression has the ability to spark thought and discussion.

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PARTISAN Review

Miniature assassins of varying age are taught day-in day-out in the ways of death, yet the reasonings are fully disclosed. The script, written by Sarah Cyngler with Kleiman, focuses on the faction’s original partisan - Alexander (played by Jeremy Chabriel) - the eldest of the group, slowly approaching that all-important age when one starts to question the viewpoints of others (particularly, adults) and begins thinking independently.

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UNSUNG INDIES: Zach Weintraub’s THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING

For the second installment of Unsung Indies, I take a look at THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING. Written, directed and starring Zach Weintraub, alongside Sophia Takal, about a young man travelling to Buenos Aires looking to regroup while searching for possible documentary subjects, navigating a burgeoning romance, and searching for a woman from his past. All of these activities taking place within the meticulously-composed frames of cinematographer Nandan Rao.

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UNSUNG INDIES: Nandan Rao’s HAWAIIAN PUNCH

UNSUNG INDIES is a new feature where we'll highlight the best of the overlooked films to come out of the American Indie scene over the past 10 or so years, mostly dealing with films from the micro budget end of the spectrum. For our first iteration, I take a look at Nandan Rao's HAWAIIAN PUNCH, a docu-fiction concoction displayed in relaxed, sun-drenched frames.

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THE KEEPING ROOM Review

A quote attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman prefaces the limited action of The Keeping Room - a female-driven, Civil War set survival - stating that “war is cruelty” with no hope of reform. While the overall action may be limited, the cruelty of which Sherman speaks lingers and looms in every second of every frame. It’s a sentiment echoed later on by Sam Worthington’s character, one of the two Yankee scouts bringing the quote to life through their ceaseless procession of destruction, operating only in configurations of three functioning modes - drinking, killing, and raping.

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FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: THE WINDS THAT SCATTER

Given the current circumstances of the turmoil in Syria, Bell’s tender portraiture is as timely as they come. Although, he refrains from overloading the film with political viewpoints choosing instead to, merely, present a man looking for work. The cinematic equivalent of walking a mile in another man’s shoes, The Winds That Scatter is, unfortunately in this day and age, a necessity.