Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 10:37 am 
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Listed alphabetically. LInked where there is a review.

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ASSISTANT, THE (Kitty Green 2019). Hour by hour depiction of one work day of a young woman (Julia Garner) just out of Northwestern employed at the lowest level in a NYC film production company with an unseen boss sort of like Harvey Weinstein. Okay, maybe a lot like Harvey Weinstein. She is not one of his victims yet but this shows the demeaning powerless system that would enable his behavior within the company. A muted shout of anger. Watched at Village East Feb. 27. Metascore: 77%.

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THE BOOKSELLERS (D.W. Young 2019)

A documentary about New York independent booksellers and some of the institution's history, punctuated with comments by a famous book lover: Fran Lebowitz. Comprehensive, but I'd have perhaps preferred a closeup of one really colorful and interesting rare book dealer, like the late Peter B. Howard of Serendipity Books, in Berkeley. Watched at Quad Cinema Sat., Mar. 14, 2020. Metascore 74%.

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CANE RIVER (Horace Jenkins 1982). Restoration of a found negative of a lost film. The director died soon after completion of this film and it was never distributed. Set in rural northwest Louisiana. The hero is a handsome, athletic descendent of the land-owner creole Metoyer family, who gives up a football career to come home to farm and write poetry. In the course of the film he becomes involved with a young local black woman who wants to escape to go to college, whose mother objects to the relationship. A very sedate, proper film seriously addressing details of African American history. Awkward, touching, important to know about lost black filmmaker, like Charles Burnett. Watched at Quad Cinema Feb. 28.

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THE CLIMB (Michael Angelo Covino 2019). Watched on a screener, this is a highly accomplished and cinematic film that's fun to watch and rewatch. The liaisons and interesting musical interludes and the fluidly tracked long single takes may overwhelm the emotional content a bit, but I am expecting raves, and there already are. Full review on release. It was to come out Mar. 20, but was postponed due to the vurus. Watched Mar. 18 and 19, 2020. Metascore 82%.

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DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL (Albert Shin 2019). This seemed to me almost as complicated as Robert Towne's wonderful script for Chinatown or as dark and violent in conception as the "Red Riding" trilogy or Fincher's Zodiac, and it might work better as a series. But nothing is ever as good a neo-noir as Chinatown or some of John Dahl's movies. Two unreliable narrators, plus David Cronenberg, and this is set in Canada, near Niagara Falls, where a woman with a very confused past comes back to try to solve the mystery of a boy she saw kidnapped when she was seven. Very good as a seedy evocation of a place. Promising. Albert Shin is a Canadian director whose first film was in Korean. Watched at IFC Center. Mar. 3. Metascore 61%.

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EMMA. (Autumn de Wilde 2020) . This new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel is advertised as a visual comedy, staged like an opera or a musical. What most struck me was the characters are made to look not just gentry but enormously wealthy, with teams of liveried servants everywhere and the biggest stately homes in Europe. But Mann Booker prize-winning novelist Eleanor Catton follows the plot and characters faithfully and makes it all very clear. I had a good time. Watched at Angelika Film Center Mar. 1. Metascore: 70%.

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L'INNOCENTE (Luchino Visctonti 1976). Restoration. Faithfully adapted from an 1892 novel by Gabriele D'Annunzio. "Tullio Hermil [Giancarlo Giannini] is a chauvinist aristocrat who flaunts his mistress [Jennifer O'Neill] to his wife [Laura Anatonelli], but when he believes [the wife] has been unfaithful he becomes enamored of her again" says the blurb. But when she becomes pregnant by Filippo d'Arborio (Marc Porel), the hottie writer she had the affair with, Tullio wrecks his life, her life, and the baby's. This melodrama reminded me of Patrice Chéreau's strange, operatic Gabrielle (NYFF 2005), which I liked better, but Visconti's last film has a rich aura about it too, even though I have never liked Giannini. Watched at Film Forum (whose auditoriums and foyer have been really nicely updated now) on Mar. 2.

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INVISIBLE MAN, THE (Leigh Whannell 2020). A slick reworking of the theme that's a new star vehicle for Elizabeth Moss, pared down here to a #MeToo story of an abused wife whose husband fakes death and comes back in an invisible suit to torment her. An elegant, minimal, and soulless movie with an elaborate, skillful plot. Watched at Regal Union Square (which has been and is being elegantly remodeled) Feb 28. Metascore: 70%.

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NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (Eliza Hittmann 2020. I had only seen her Beach Rats (ND/NF 2017), about a young man with a secret gay life. This is a vérité, pared-down, linear account of a teenage girl in Pennsylvania going with her cousin to NYC to get an abortion. "Isn’t it wonderful how the opportunity for safe reproductive health is becoming something you can only find in a few major cities? " - comment on a key Season Four "High Maintenance" episode (S4E4, "Backflash"). The austerity and focus of Never Rarely are impressive, the theme important and increasingly timely, and response has been accordingly positive. Watched at Angelika Film Center Fri., Mar. 13. Metascore 93%.

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PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE/PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU (Céline Sciamma 2019). A beautiful film about an 18th-century lesbian love affair between a painter and the aristicratic woman (Adèle Haenel) she's supposed to paint without her knowing for the man who's to marry her, who hasn't seen her. Set on a rocky coastline, dark, stormy, romantic. This may have brought Sciamma the greatest prestige yet, but seemed for all its poetry and eroticism more removed from reality than her previous films. Metascore: 95%. Watched at Village East Feb. 26.

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PREMATURE (Rashaad Ernesto Green 2019). Excellent scenes of Harlem with the pungent rapid fire talk of today. Set against a young couple in a sexy, intense summer love affair while she is slated to go off to college but things go wrong with an unplanned pregnancy. They go wrong in how this story is told too (the pickle scene is a clumsy cliché - as Mike Angelo also noted) and the casting of the two leads is off, because both actors are a bit old for their parts. The moments of Harlem talk, though, are great. Metascore: 81%.

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SEBERG (Benedict Andrews 2019). Interesting because of the subject , French Nouvelle Vague icon Jean Seberg, and the actress, Kristen Stewart. But though Stewart is cool, she lacks the warmth of Seberg. The movie is annoying, because it focuses only on Seberg's downfall, the way the FBI hounded her for supporting and sleeping with Black Panthers, and we have to spend too much time breathing down the necks of an evil agent (Vince Vaughan) and an innocent one (Jack O'Connell). A flop. Watched at Village East Feb. 29. Metascore: 54%.

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STRAIGHT UP (James Sweeney 2019). Is the arrival of a bright new talent, James Sweeney, who wrote, directed, and stars in this romantic comedy of a young half-Asian gay man in LA who won't accept he's gay and can't stand sex anyway since he's so OCD and averse to body fluids, so gets into a sweet but sexless live-in relationship with a would-be actress who's an intense hyper-verbal nutcase like him. Owen Gleiiberman of Variety heralds a "a new kind of brainiac screwball comedy" here and someone who writes for "pop-culture-saturated digital millennials who think faster than they can process." Sweeney has some problems with the structure but still, cool to watch. For some reason I thought of Miranda July but this was more amusing and quick-witted. Watched at IFC Center Mar. 2. Metascore: 63%.

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YOUNG AHMED (Jean-Pierre, Luc Dardenne 2019)[/B]. Set as usual in the Dardennes' part of Belgium, this focuses on a Moroccan-descent teenager who falls under the sway of a fanatical young imam and becomes fanatical himself. Fanatics are not interesting, and when they're inarticulate teenagers even less so. Young Ahmed becomes a negative example of the Dardennes' singleminded obsessiveness. Not one of their real successes, though for some reason this got them the directing prize at Cannes. Watched at Quad Cinema Mar. 26. Metascore: 66%.

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