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AFI Fest 2016: Malgre la nuit, by Scott Nye

2 Dec

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There’s been some discussion over the past several years about the relative value of miserablism in cinema, specifically art-house cinema. And there’s probably something to the notion that some filmmakers use horrifying scenarios lazily, not really considering the implications of unrelenting violence and misery but simply using their presence to suggest depth or importance. Of course, the other side of this is that Donald Trump was elected president days before I saw Malgré la nuit, and sometimes the world does feel as hopeless as that which is depicted here. Sometimes, a deep-dive into the world of snuff pornography through the lens of whispered conversations and desperate cries feels about right. Doubly so when it’s as masterfully, breathtakingly executed as Philippe Grandrieux achieves here.

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AFI Fest 2016: Yourself and Yours / Crosscurrent, by Scott Nye

27 Nov

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Hong Sang-soo’s last several films have focused on schematic narratives designed to ensure repetition – the same story told slightly differently three times (In Another Country), the pages of a letter are mixed up and the story is told out of order (Hill of Freedom), or a slight tweak of conversational approach causes a chance meeting to branch off in very different directions (Right Now, Wrong Then). The set-up for his latest, Yourself and Yours, suggests much of the same, but represents instead a distinct breaking point for Hong. While the sudden emergence of a woman (Lee Yoo-young) who looks exactly like Youngsoo’s (Kim Joo-hyuk) ex does draw in its share of repetitions and variations on a theme, Hong heightens the sense of purgatory that pervades many of his films. His characters seem truly unable to escape their obsessions, their regret, and their curiosity. His bitter irony turns to near-melodrama, as Youngsoo slowly gives into his inability to understand Minjung and what he did to make her leave.
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AFI Fest 2016: Always Shine, by Scott Nye

21 Nov

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When Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni died on the same day, comparisons between the two titans of midcentury cinema were inevitable. In response to claims that Antonioni’s influence was wider, that, in Michael Atkinson’s words, “no one seems to want to be the new Bergman.” Glenn Kenny retorted, “That’s partly because nobody can be the new Bergman. And not just for the obvious reason.” He went on the cite Bergman’s rich education in religion, literature, and theatre, which is inextricable from the power of his cinema. “Today’s young filmmaker’s aren’t, for the most part, as polyglot. For a lot of them all the culture they’ve got is film… To emulate Bergman, you’ve got to know what he knew, and knowing that, go on to be yourself.”

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EPISODE 505: AFI FEST 2016 w/ SCOTT NYE

21 Nov

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In this episode, Tyler and David are joined by Scott Nye to discuss the 2016 AFI Fest.

AFI FEST 2015: Length and Purpose, by Scott Nye

18 Nov

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Somewhere in the last ten years, certainly bolstered by the rise of digital cinema, the long take became something of a go-to move for festival films. If you’re really creating a film of serious intent, you’ll hold that shot until someone dies. Push it to the freaking limit, man. This also allowed filmmakers with rather thin premises to stretch them to feature length, if only barely. Suddenly the “slow cinema,” once was the province of bladder-busting masters like Tarkovsky, Tarr, Hou, and Antonioni got packed into a tight 90 minutes. The endurance test was over, but would the art remain?

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AFI FEST 2015: Son of Saul, by David Bax

17 Nov

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There are so many movies about the Holocaust that it can be tempting to develop a fatigue around the subject matter. But the enormity of the atrocity remains so incomprehensible that even another seven decades of stories couldn’t fill out a full picture of it. That’s especially true when films like László Nemes’ Son of Saul find interesting new ways to approach the topic, even if they don’t necessarily uncover new themes. The film is both an unflinching and disturbingly realistic account and also a bit of a formal experiment. With often powerful results, it mostly succeeds at both.

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AFI FEST 2015: Right Now, Wrong Then, by Scott Nye

17 Nov

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You’re not going to see the latest Hong Sang-soo movie – you’re going to see the latest installment of the Hong Sang-soo show. Releasing at least one film each year since 2008 (plus doubling up in 2013), his films stick to more or less the same tone, subject, aesthetic, and character types. If there’s a story about a film director with a weakness for drink who’s juggling a series of comically tragic relationships that start to all sound the same, Hong will find it. Probably by use of a zoom shot.

Even within such a firmly-established pattern, Right Now, Wrong Then has such a Hong Sang-soo premise that I’m actually surprised he’s never, to my knowledge, used it before. Jung Jae-young stars as Ham Chun-su, a successful film director, who hits it off with Yoon Hee-jung (Kim Min-hee), an aspiring painter, who admires him, at least for his reputation. They have quite a lot to drink, and the whole date quickly goes south. Then, after all is lost, the story restarts itself, with different beats in the same environs. For a filmmaker who’s been somewhat obsessed with repetition and slight variations, this set-up seems a long time coming.

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AFI FEST 2015: A Monster with a Thousand Heads, by David Bax

12 Nov

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Rodrigo Plá’s A Monster with a Thousand Heads is a very angry movie. Given that it’s about the insurance industry – which it would seem operates in Mexico much like it does here – rage is an exceedingly appropriate response, as anyone who’s had to navigate that bureaucracy can attest. Given how operatically frustrating it can be to do something as simple as change your primary care physician, a woman trying to get her dying husband’s treatment covered should be more than enough fodder for a feature film. Yet Monster doesn’t seek to do anything more than list its grievances, leaving anything more fertile in its story underdeveloped.

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AFI FEST 2015: Mustang, by David Bax

12 Nov

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Only a handful of reviews written in English exist of Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang at this point but, already, a comparison to The Virgin Suicides is beginning to feel like a perfunctory component. The association is an appropriate one but it is telling that we find commonalities – not just with a novel/film but with the American experience – in this tale of teenage girls living under drastic religious and familial oppression in provincial Turkey. The foreignness of the setting is taken over by the relatability of the human spirit and how it is just as likely to rise above as to be crushed in ways equally impressive. Ergüven’s blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar produces a potent concoction, both unique and universal.

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AFI FEST 2015: 45 Years, by Scott Nye

11 Nov

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People keep secrets from one another. You can know someone for decades – say, forty-five years, give or take – and still you won’t know everything. Some things are small, simple matters of differing perceptions which go unacknowledged and which generally don’t affect your day-to-day life together. Others become much larger. There’s a wealth of life experience that goes only partially explored. Maybe it’s difficult or painful to discuss, maybe it doesn’t seem relevant to the present; maybe you’ve just forgotten. Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is an astounding exploration of the gulf that exists in such a relationship, and whether that can ever be mended.

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