Film Review

An irregular online film supplement edited by A. S. Hamrah.

The Battle of Mythologies

The Battle of Mythologies

Padmaavat, protest, Bollywood, and Indian national narrative

The Padmaavat protests are remarkable chiefly for the scale of their success. All kinds of groups have protested Bollywood for offending their religious or cultural sensibilities—many for good reason—but its most faithful enemies have always have been Hindu fascists. They have hated and feared the spell the movies cast over Hindi-speaking India, because no other enterprise, save electoral democracy itself, has had more spectacular success in creating a national—and a nationalist—imagination. For its part, the movie business has always been extremely faithful to its duty as the keeper of an Indian dream. When the nation broke away from the British empire in 1947, the roaring business of Bombay commercial cinema was held together by two things: the business acumen of Partition refugees, and an undivided language—the blend of Hindi and Urdu kept alive by progressive writers and actors.

I Might Get the Hazelnut

I Might Get the Hazelnut

Clint Eastwood’s late late style.

Nothing that happens on the train approaches the strangeness of the preceding half hour, which reprises Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler’s backpacking trip through Europe in the weeks before the attack. The trip becomes an opportunity to deploy basic instances of foreshadowing and dramatic irony. In every other scene, someone advises the guys to avoid Paris. Why? Charlie Hebdo never comes up, but a terrorism-shaped cloud hangs over these conversations. “Paris was OK for me,” a new friend tells them, pronouncing OK in a way that obviously means not OK. Fate, already an unsubtle presence, begins to sound like a car alarm.

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

Oscars 2018

What McDonagh believes in is storytelling. Storytelling, like Catholicism, can be plunked down anywhere, and through sheer force it will conquer. So it doesn’t matter to McDonagh if he finds himself in Belgium, Joshua Tree National Park, or Missouri: he will tell his story with forceful dialogue and dramatic violence and he will get his point across: Repent, sinners!

Notes from the Third Annual Drone Film Festival

Notes from the Third Annual Drone Film Festival

What better device than a drone to pursue a man running away?

The ability to move a camera through the air is not much younger than cinema itself, but the technology has never been so cheap and accessible, or so smooth in its execution. Even in a festival designed to celebrate it, the drone does its job so well that it’s easy to forget.

Rise of the Machines

Rise of the Machines

On the Fast and the Furious movies

Every film franchise is a testament to growth and conquest. In the case of the Marvel movies, that growth is exponential and expanding: movies beget more movies, more spinoffs, more series that emerge from spinoffs. What sets the Fast and the Furious series apart from franchises like this—at least for now—is its habit of folding all that hot-media-property energy back into itself, making the movies all the more strange and intense.

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

What is Adam Curtis doing?

There is nothing in HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis has not done before, except that his pace is increasingly relaxed, with lengthy, drifting, wordless sound/image juxtapositions that feel closer to contemporary “artists’ film” than anything on television. You could read this languor generously, as a conscious new direction in his work. Or it could simply be the sign of burgeoning self-indulgence, the kind of thing cult figures often become susceptible to.

Never a Hippie, Always a Freak

Never a Hippie, Always a Freak

“They write about me like I’m a maniac. I’m not . . . I’m forty years old, I’ve got four kids, a house, and a mortgage.”

When Zappa shows up in a suit and tie debating Robert Novak on Crossfire, the effect is less the ’60s freak who became a normal adult than an uncompromising individual voice channeled into a different format.

Assassinate the Bird

Assassinate the Bird

On Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet

Anecdotes swirl around Straub and Huillet. On set, they preferred phrases like “please” and “thank you” to “action” and “cut.” They considered over-dubbed sound, studio sets, and illusionistic cuts phony and cheap, but they praised filmmakers—including Chaplin, Mizoguchi, and John Ford—who used those devices particularly cannily. According to the filmmaker and critic John Gianvito, Straub once proclaimed that most films were “made to keep [the masses] in their place, to violate them, or to fascinate them,” and boasted that his and Huillet’s own movies “give people the liberty to get up and leave.”

We Other Puritans

We Other Puritans

No doubt many Puritans, like many film critics, were self-righteous.

The Witch is effective as a chiller, and the acting is tremendous—everyone’s wound so tight you expect springs to pop out of their heads. But we are aware from the first shot that this is a Serious Film, more Arthur Miller than Eduardo Sanchez, because the cinematography is trendily washed out, the better to show off the blood that spatters every other scene. There are visual echoes of Goya; the end title informs us loftily that much of the dialogue comes from period sources. The filmmakers are so desperate to be taken seriously that they’ve forgotten to have much fun.

We're Not Ugly People

We're Not Ugly People

Oscar Movies, 2016

The movies can put a positive spin on anything. Seeing the world anew, or for the first time, becomes an allegory of motherhood and childhood in Room, which puts its protagonist (Brie Larson) in a situation not unlike Matt Damon’s in The Martian, but Earthbound, and worse.