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Angelo Muredda
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***½/**** directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez by Angelo Muredda The most spectacular sequence in Leviathan, the last major film to come out of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, captured a horrifying seagull raid from the perspective of the birds' prey, the camera appended to a boat and darting through the water alongside a school of anxious fish. MANAKAMANA, co-directed by the lab's recent graduates Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, doesn't quite have the money shot of its predecessor, but its very existence as a finished product feels like the fulfillment of a delicate magic trick. Forgoing the dozens of lightweight cameras that made Leviathan such a visceral experience, Spray and Velez fix their single camera on a cable car as it travels over the valleys of Trisuli in Nepal, carrying all manner of local pilgrims and tourists to the titular temple. We follow the car as it goes up and down over the valley eleven times, alternately watching the restless, contended, and excited passengers register every bump and dip of the trip and feeling swept along ourselves, thanks to a transparent glass window that overlooks the hills. (As Dennis Lim pointed out in the LA TIMES, each ride's duration... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2013 at Film Freak Central
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**/**** directed by Atom Egoyan by Angelo Muredda Something is off in Devil's Knot, the third film about the West Memphis Three in as many years, and it isn't just the Satanic panic that turned a bereaved community against three wrongfully-accused teenagers. Although its Tennessee setting takes him far from his usual haunt of Toronto, this material seemed like a slam dunk for Atom Egoyan, who's done his best work in films about parents dwelling in the endless hangover of their children's premature deaths. It's a shame, then, that his new film feels like a wheel-spinning exercise rather than a deepening of old themes. Egoyan's approach to this tapped-out story hits the dramatic and formal beats you'd expect from his filmography: here we get a child's cryptic, disembodied voiceover about what he's seen; there, a videotaped testimony that conceals more than it discloses. Ambiguity is the name of the game, just like in The Sweet Hereafter, where everything turns on young Sarah Polley's poker face as she ushers the adults around her into the topsy-turvy world of the title. The trouble here is twofold: first, this is a murder case, not a bus accident, so somebody ultimately killed those kids,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2013 at Film Freak Central
Mike: It's not the sentence that's shared but the fantasy of total surveillance, represented by Smith Sr. having the resources to remotely film whatever coverage of his son the plot requires. (When cameras fail him, Jaden's suit dutifully reports his accelerated heart-rate, so Dad can "see" he's lying.) The point is that a lavishly mounted project has a key concept in common with the low-rent joke script from "Extras." I don't see how it's a non-sequitur to say so if the idea is that Shyamalan talks big but thinks small, just like the "Extras" version of Patrick Stewart.
Toggle Commented Jun 3, 2013 on After Earth (2013) at Film Freak Central
Lon -- OK: A haughty bonded schoolteacher in an Australian outback town heads for Sydney but gets waylaid in The Yabba, a Neverland for alcoholic brutes who wrestle, shoot kangaroos, and play Two-Up. Hence the coins.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2013 on Wake in Fright (1971) at Film Freak Central
@Simon: I liked it. It's...sturdy. And Mikkelsen gives good stern face. Should be a capsule by me in the TIFF archives.
Angelo Muredda added a favorite at Film Freak Central
Dec 29, 2012
Josh -- Good points. I suspect you'll be disappointed by how Boal fudges with time such that the CIA feels like an apparatus that's only tangentially affected by the administration. A fleeting glimpse of Obama speaking on torture is one of the only acknowledgments that policy is dictated from anywhere, though my sense of the agents watching the footage in that scene is that what they're hearing is a variation on what they always hear about torture at the start of new administrations. That vagueness about precedent is a weakness I wouldn't defend, but I would say that if the "cause to the effect" as you put it is 9/11, then the effect isn't so much the government doing bad things but licensing itself to do bad things in this instance. Bigelow and Boal opt out of a larger historical portrait, which you could say is irresponsible, or you could say is not their interest; the starting point of the distress calls feels more like the origin point for this tactical response focalized through Maya than, say, America's descent into terrorism. I think the closest thing we get to an admission of pre-9/11 dirty hands is the inference that Maya has been bred by a deeply self-righteous system: the only half-revealing moment from her is when she says "I believe I was spared to finish the job" like a proper zealot.
Bias against poor movies played into this review.
Can't speak to Fun, who I have only heard in commercials, but 9 Songs would have been more to my taste if it was a better movie. And your defense of BRMC and Elbow is more impassioned than the half-assed way both are used as sonic background to gauzy hipster dates, no?
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2012 on TIFF '12: Everyday at Film Freak Central
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***/**** written and directed by Anand Gandhi by Angelo Muredda The feature debut of Indian playwright (and occasional soap writer) Anand Gandhi, Ship of Theseus puts its dramaturgical origins up front. Gandhi's film begins with a philosophical conceit from Plutarch--the question of whether a ship that's been repaired using parts from other vessels can be considered the same ship at all--and workshops it through three seemingly-disconnected stories set in modern-day Mumbai. All three strands, which unfold like a series of one-act plays, are preoccupied with the biological analogy of Theseus's broken-down ship, a leaky body that needs an organ transplant to survive. And while the finale that brings them together is unnecessarily tidy, the individual segments strike a fine balance between humanism and intellectual rigor. Though there are some technical blips that lend the film an unfinished feel, this is generally strong work for a neophyte. What's impressive is how each story addresses the marching orders of the central paradox without sacrificing characterization. It would have been easy, for instance, to bungle the opening portrait of Aaliya (Aida El-Kashef), a blind photographer whose artistic process involves shooting by instinct and developing the finished work through a multi-step process of vectorizing... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2012 at Film Freak Central