Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:39 pm 
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13TH, THE (Ava DuVernay 2016).
-NYFF. Opening night film of the NYF, it's a documentary that argues slavery of blacks in America was never abolished, only reorganized as prison, mass incarceration. Not new information but so sharply connected it's stunning, and to many it may be news. Press screening at IFC Center 7 Oct. 2016. Premiered at NYFF 30 Sept. opened on Netflix and in theaters 7 Oct.

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AMERICAN HONEY (Andrea Arnold 2016). Arnold's first film set in the USA focuses on as wild crew of young underclass white kids roaming middle America in a van selling magazine subscriptions and partying. There is the golden girl who's the new recruit, the cool young woman in charge, and the wild best salesman (Shia LaBeouf, surprising in a best role) who wavers between them. Messy shapeless and too long but full of gorgeous life. At commercial screening, Landmark Sunshine, 6 Oct. 2016.

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B-SIDE, THE: ELSA DORFMAN'S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (Errol Morris 2016)--NYFF (Documentary). After the Village, she lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was a great friend of Allen Ginsberg and other notables (and lately of Errol Morris) and doggedly used the Polaroid giant format cameras to do no-nonsense portraits. A personal homage, it's Morris' best work. At NYFF public screening, 9 Oct. 2016, Walter Reade Theater.

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BATTLE OF ALGIERS, THE (Gillo Pontecorvo 1966). A digitally remastered print at Film Forum of the classic in French and Algerian Arabic about nationalists' terrorism and the failed efforts by the French to quash the revolt in the capitol city. Notable for its documentary style and a pace that never lets up. New generations and governments keep looking at it. At commercial screening of the new 4K restoration at Film Forum, 11 Oct. 2016. This was the opening night film at the NYFF in 1967; it premiered at Venice.

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BIRTH OF A NATION, THE (Nate Parker 2016). A hit at Sundance, first feature by the young Nate Parker , who wrote, directed, and stars, about the Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia. It seems clichéd, simplistic. Maybe the best of it is Parker's own acting: he's very good, supple, sympathetic. There is some controversy over the discovery that Parker was accused of rape when in college. He was acquitted, but the man accused with him was convicted, and the alleged victim later committed suicide. This has nothing to do with his film, but it's bad publicity. Watched at Regal Union Square (a wide release) 7 Oct. 2016.

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CERTAIN WOMEN (Kelly Reichardt 2016)-NYFF. Using stories by Maile Meloy Reichardt presents three women living in the same rural Montana town and partly connected, involving Laura Dern, frequent player Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart. Only the last segment, involving a lawyer (Stewart) giving a night school class where a lonely cowgirl (Lily Gladstone) appears, develops real emotional resonance as the girl falls hopelessly in love with the distant Stewart. Reichardt (whose oeuvre suddenly got more exciting with Night Moves, about eco-terrorists, starring a solid Jesse Eisenberg) is true to her low-key style, and the earth-toned images are handsome, but you may walk out feeling shortchanged. Watched at IFC Center 16 Oct. 2016.

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ELLE (Paul Verhoeven 2016)-NYFF. A triumph for Verhoeven, his first film in ten years and first ever made in France, starring Isabelle Huppert as successful businesswoman Michèle Leclair with a creepy past who is raped, and then pursues the rapist, but not for revenge. Luckily Hollywood rejected the lurid story ingeniously adapted by David Birke from Philppe Djian's novel Oh so we got this, one of Huppert's triumphs. Watched at NYFF press screening 14 Oct. 2016 at Walter Reade Theater.

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FIRE AT SEA/FOUCOAMMARE (Gianfranco Rosi 2016)-NYFF. It's a quirky approach to covering the refugee crisis through the Italian island of Lampedusa, where so many Afircans and Syrians have died and drowned, which spends a lot of its time with a 12-year-old local boy who's a bit of an oddball. NYFF public screening with Q&A, Rosi, US educated, very chatty. Public screening of NYFF Walter Reade Theater, 7 Oct. 2016. Limited US theatrical release begins 21 Oct. 2016.

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GRADUATION (Cristian Mungiu 2016)-NYFF. A doctor gets into moral muddy waters when his daughter is sexually assaulted, loses her focus on exams, and he tries to tweak her scores so she can get a prestigious grant to study abroad. Intense, specific and detailed, the action never lets up and has many implications for the universal midlife crisis and for corruption. Admirable, in the vein of Kieslowski's "Dekalog," but not as elegant or plangent. Watched at Alice Tully Hall at a public screening of the NYFF on a comp ticket 11 Oct. 2016. US limited theatrical release is set for 10 Feb. 2017.

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INTO THE INFERNO (Werner Herzog 2016). Herzon takes on volcanos, and his adventure takes him all over the globe, Indonesia, the Pacific islands, Iceland, Ethiopia. Fabulous and frightening images of the roaring cores of lava, explorations of earliest humans, discussions of legends delving into what deep primitive powers volcanos represent. Greeted by critics as a return to form by Herzog, but his previous film this year, Lo and Behold, about the cyber world, hacking, the Internet, and robotics, while it was a job for hire and perhaps less personal for Herzog, interested me more. Watched at a press screening at IFC Center 11 Oct. 2016. Release 28 Oct. Internet (Netflix).

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MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins 2016)-NYFF. A three-part biography and coming of age story of a black youth in south Florida who is gay, but has great difficulty expressing it. An intense, beautiful, and stylish film that is almost a black Brokeback and one of the notable films of the year, for me, though D'Angelo rates it way down, with a score of 49, between Neon Demon and Zootopia. Watched at Park Avenue Screening Room 10 Oct. 2016. Included in the Main Slate of the NYFF. Its US theatrical release begins Fri. 21 Oct. 2016. (When you think about it, and take a close look, this is a great poster.)

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NERUDA (Pablo Larraín 2016)-NYFF. Gorgeous, glossy, somewhat overblown phantasmagoria representing the life of the Chilean Nobel Prize poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) whose communism in the late Forties leads him to go into hiding and flee into Argentina over the Andes at film's end after having been pursued vainly by the prissy martinet policeman who is not sure he's real, Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal). Overshadowed by Larraín's first two films featuring the great Alfredo Castro in creepy Pinochet-era roles. Watched at a press screening at Dolby Screening Room 12 Oct. 2016. US theatrical release begins 16 Dec.

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SAND STORM (Elite Zexer 2016). Israeli woman's film about women in revolt (and not) in a bedouin family in the Negev. The husband takes a new wife to the annoyance of his first wife, while his daughter has a boyfriend from college and he breaks that off and marries her to a man of his choosing. The first wife objects to this and is banished. Watched at a commercial screening at Film Forum 6 Oct. 2016.

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STAYING VERTICAL/RESTER VERTICAL (Alain Guiraudie 2016)-NYFF. Very unpredictable and sexy doings in southeastern France from the director of th e2013 Cannes hit (and NYFF main slate slection) Stranger by the Lake/L'inconnu du lac. This is no. 2 on Mike D'Angelo's Tom Ten List (rating 77). Great palate cleanser after more conventional festival fare like most of the other NYFF Main Slate films. Watched at public screening of the NYFf 12 Oct. evening at the Walter Reade on a paid-for ticket ($24!).

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THINGS TO COME/L'AVENIR (Mia Hansen-Løve 2016)-NYFF. The 35-year-old French writer-director's fifth feature focuses on a 50+ Paris university prof of "philo" (Isabelle Huppert) who faces a series of losses of status, relationship, etc. and proclaims it "freedom" but we doubt that. Proclaimed her richest and most mature work by some. Her other films may be more distinctive, in fact. But: Huppert. Watched at NYFF press screening 14 Oct. 2016 at Walter Reade Theater.

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TOWER (Keith Matitland 2016). A detailed 96-min. recreation, with archival footage, testimony, actors, and rotoscoping, of the first US mass killing at a school, the UT Austin, TX sniper in the campus tower who in a 90-95-minute period at noon on a 100º August day,, shot 49 people and killed 18, including an unborn child. It is a tragic and terribly moving story. Deeply moving and with sad implications. This is currently no. 3 on Mike D'Angelo's Top Ten List for the year (rated 76). The Wikipedia article on the shooter, Charles Whitman (never named in this film) is extremely detailed. But the film brings to life the terrible day. Watched at Film Forum 15 Oct. 2016.

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LOVING (Jeff Nichols 2016). Nichols goes in a different direction to dramatize a 2012 documentary about Richard and Mildred Loving, the mixed-race couple who married for love and child-rearing and whose Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, ended "miscegenation" laws. The Australian actor Joel Edgerton gives a performance as the modest Richard Loving that's a marvel of muscular understatement; Ethiopia- born Ruth Negga is luminous as Loving's wife. As their stern adversary Sheriff Brooks, another Aussie, Marton Csokas, delivers a more subtle and nuanced portrait of bigotry than we often get. The legal process scenes are rather routine, but Loving is still worthy of our attention, and in a small, quiet way, one of the year's best American films. Watched at Regal Union Square 6 Nov. 2016.

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GIMMIE DANGER (Jim Jarmusch 2016). Iggy Pop and the Stooges have not had their music doc before, but the only thing that is not routine about this is the director's name; the film isn't as noteworthy as some have found his also current or coming Adam Driver vehicle Paterson to be. Narrated throughout by band vocalist and leader Pop, whose real name is James Newell Osterberg, Jr., it has archival footage, talking heads who're other band members and managers, and a description of his whole career from a boy drummer to rock legend whose comebacks keep on coming. Pop's groups influenced and partook of a range of muisc including rock, punk rock, art rock, and hard rock and associated bands include The Trolls, Sum 41, The Nymphs, The Iguanas, David Bowie, Josh Homme, Slash, Rob Duprey, Deborah Harry, Blondie, Tom Waits, Henry Rollins, Lou Reed, and The Cramps. His performances are noted for his wiry always naked torso and wild gyrations on stage. At 69 he is as wiry and gnarly as ever. This film was included in the Special Event section of the NYFF. Watched 8 Nov. 2016 at IFC Center.

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