Olga Hepnarová was the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia back in 1975, convicted of murder after she deliberately drove a truck onto the sidewalk, running over several citizens that happened to be waiting for the tram. Eight people died, twelve people were injured. Kazda and Weinreb’s film, I, Olga Hepnarová, is based on this true story and utilizes the real-life writings of the condemned. With that, an immediate question arises - why and for what purpose?
There is nothing fancy about Bloomin Mud Shuffle, the latest from writer/director Frank V. Ross. No high concept or high drama; there is no sensationalizing the alcoholism and depression that is set in at the core of the narrative’s fabric. It is stripped of adornments and embellishments, stripped down into glimpses of a life not overtly suffering from these issues but more so continuing in spite of these issues. It is not flashy because there is no reason for Ross to employ flash considering the way in which he is able to quietly mine genuine emotion from day-to-day minutiae of life.
With Valeria, Vassilopoulos taps into the inherent peculiarity of Eva’s ordeal, opting to focus on the most immediate question one would probably have after receiving someone else’s skin for one’s own face: who was this person? The film tackles the idea of transference and how a transplant can fundamentally change a person. With all of this, Vassilopoulos encapsulates the film with an air of mystery, from the overall tone to the lighting and the cinematography from Mia Cioffi Henry. All of it feels otherworldly, much like you would imagine it feeling if you had someone else’s face as your face.
Multi-hyphenate Frank Mosley’s latest short film, Parthenon, (which he wrote, directed and edited) will be playing as a part of the just-announced Sarasota Film Festival lineup. We’ve featured much of his work over the past few years. His
Jubilation and revelry mark the beginning of Mother of George, the sophomore film from Andrew Dosunmu, as rhythmic drum beats and congregational singing usher the viewer through a traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony; a joyous procession shimmering in gilded light, illuminating golden headdresses and majestic robes of purple, bearing witness to the union of Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé). It is an occasion steeped in the merriment of hope and cheer for the promising future that now lays before them, one hopefully filled with good health and financial success but, most importantly and above all, one filled with healthy children.
The title of writer/director Onur Tukel’s latest is fairly straightforward, perhaps a bit of an understatement as a descriptor, but straightforward nonetheless. Catfight has catfights; more than one, actually. Although, the catfights contained within Catfight are not your stereotypical, garden variety physical altercations between females that would warrant that label. There is no hair-pulling or face-scratching. There is nothing but an abundance of pure, unfettered brutality inflicted upon the faces of the film’s co-leads.
Erwin is not only the focus but he seems to overwhelm the frame at every turn; the repertoire of his three expressions always extending out past the confines. One being the computer-gaming trance of glazed-over eyes, pixelated Vikings hacking and slashing reflected in his glasses; the other, an exasperated long-face of frustration and, finally, the resting inactivity of slumber. The presentation of these personal states of Erwin, in claustrophobic close-up, point to the possibility of two perspectives; one from the viewer and one from Erwin himself.
All throughout, in directing and writing, Ambs tries to match the beauty of the scenery with fluid camera movements to imbue grace and a voiceover that is sobering in its solemnity (complemented by the score from Eluvium). The cinematography does well in keeping the somewhat redundant imagery from growing stale. The camera is patient, usually fixed on our cyclist but occasionally breaking free; panning away from the open road, as if rubbernecking to witness the beauty of the landscape, inserting the viewer in the trip but also capturing the sights for McKurtis himself as his focus is pin-pointed on the unfurling white line before him.
Movement reigns in the feature-length debut from writer/director Celia Rowlson-Hall; unsurprisingly, given her background in dance (most recently as a movement consultant on Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits) which she utilizes to great effect within her modern reimagining of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage. There is an airy feel to the proceedings of Ma; a narrative which more so resembles a sequencing of transient creative impulses, both quick and chaotic, with lingering respites of meditative artistry detached from any standard, straightforward storytelling mode. Suggestive in nature yet with one clear imperative: movement is key.
When it comes to the Criterion Collection’s contemporary titles, the majority of their selection happen to be male filmmakers. Established male filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, the Dardenne brothers or, say, Michael Haneke. All of which are rather safe picks; all a bit mainstream, essentially. However, this time around they have seemed to break from their comfort zone, releasing Kirsten Johnson’s highly-regarded feature, Cameraperson, which appeared on a multitude of best-of lists from last year. Here it is presented in a new high-definition digital master, alongside a handful of well-crafted supplements that offer considerable insight into the production of the film.
Regarding the films of Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi there is a certain reputation that precedes his work; one thinks of skillfully-crafted drama that is well thought out, that can be interpreted and misinterpreted depending on a particular point of view; and, that is what Farhadi delivers time and time again, like he does with his latest, The Salesman, thus reiterating himself as one of the finest purveyors of domestic drama working in cinema today.
Up until this point in time, Criterion has been home to a scant number of African films, two to be precise, both of which come by way of the World Cinema Project - Ahmed El Maanouni’s Trances and Djibril Diop Mambety’s Touki bouki. Their latest entry ups that number to three (obviously) and also marks the first entry for, who many consider, the most important name in African cinema, Ousmane Sembene. His film, Black Girl, which catapulted him into international recognition is too made available because of the work of the World Cinema Project.
An experiment in narrative storytelling, Joji Koyama and Tujiko Noriko’s Kuro sets out to rethink and/or reappropriate certain modes of storytelling within the cinematic landscape. Its experimentation is as refined as it is all-encompassing resulting in an intriguing film-viewing experience as the imagery and sounds of Kuro (almost) never exist within the same spatial reality, each specific aspect detailing different moments in time, concurrently as an overlay of past and present.
Withdrawn is a fitting title for Adrian Murray’s feature-length debut as nearly every aspect of the production appears to inhabit some form of withdrawal within its process. Granted, the title seems to directly refer to the specifics of the film’s narrative regarding a young man plotting to withdraw funds from someone else’s misplaced credit card, but it also extends itself outward, permeating every inch of the film’s fabric.
The world of cinema set-ups is chockablock with the familiar and the unique and in the case of Dim the Fluorescents, director Daniel Warth alongside co-writer Miles Barstead have pooled the two into a unique take of a familiar narrative. The familiar: focusing on the plight of the struggling artist; the unique: the struggling artists in this case bide their time by producing and performing elaborate demonstrations for companies and corporations.
Out of curiousity, I went ahead and broke down the titles that ended up securing a place on my year-end list. Of the 50 titles, 52% of them happened to theatrical offerings while the other 48% were viewed via the internet; websites like