I wrote a ten-year retrospective of Mr. Nobody (2009/2010), even though I saw the director’s cut, released a year later. Anyway, here it is!
Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi’s documentary Half-Life in Fukushima (Demi-vie à Fukushima 2016) is an hour-long glimpse into the life of Naoto Matsumura, a man of almost sixty years of age who refused to evacuate with his wife and son, instead staying with his elderly father. The film follows him around as he takes care of his livestock and other affairs, and nothing too formally special is needed or deployed: The mere existence of these arresting images of abandoned civilization, often in long takes, is enough to continuously remind us that everything we see is radioactive.
There seems to a a trend of metafiction in South Korean arthouse. Before Burning (2018) there was On the Beach at Night Alone (Bamui Haebyeoneseo Honja / 밤의 해변에서 혼자 2017), by Hong Sang-soo and starring his real-life mistress (now partner) Kim Min-hee as Young-hee, a former mistress of a great Director (Moon Sung-keun). It’s also a slow burn, with the central affair merely hinted at for most of its running time. But Kim gets two stupendous set-pieces, all facilitated by alcohol, and she burns it all down.
The Danish real-time single-set thriller The Guilty (Den skyldige 2018), debut feature of writer-director Gustav Möller, is a trip and a half. Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is relegated to emergency response operator while a case he’s entangled in goes through the courts. He doesn’t like it, but he plays nice. Then he gets a call from Iben (Jessica Dinage), who says she’s been kidnapped in a van. Despite everyone telling him to just do his job, Asger feels responsible for getting this woman safely back to her two young children, and his personal overinvolvement proves to be his downfall.
In Chiwawa (Chiwawa-chan / チワワちゃん 2019), a group of friends get their hands on a truckload of money, burn through it in three days, and drift out of each other’s lives. Then, we learn in the opening scene, Chiwawa (Shiori Yoshida), the new friend they met that very night who spearheaded the dumbest robbery in cinema history, winds up dead, her body parts tossed into the sea. To counter the moralistic news reports focusing on Chiwawa’s promiscuity and party lifestyle, Miki (Mugi Kadowaka) canvasses their shared group of friends for their memories of her—despite the fact that Chiwawa stole her boyfriend, Yoshida (Ryô Narita), who turns out to be a playboy. We thus get Citizen Kane (1941), complete with nostalgia for lost youthful innocence, in the non-moralistic sense.
I have a running theory about Rachel McAdams and Natalie Portman. I think the former is more telegenic when expressing emotions such as joy, exuberance, mirth, while the latter is favored by the camera for anxiety, ambivalence, despair. Vox Lux, Brady Corbet’s second feature as director, stars Portman and only strengthens this impression. But even in Celeste’s (Portman) on-the-edge neurosis, Portman still isn’t the perfect fit for the character’s exuberance.
Grief is a many-faceted thing. I’ve often felt that mainstream portrayals of grief treat it like an illness to be gotten over, rather than what it really is: a new state of being. It becomes an indelible part of one’s life, not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, just another thing. (The explosion of the good/bad experience binary is one of the groundbreaking aspects of Inside Out (2015).) It’s one of my biggest issues with First Man (2018) and, in retrospect, Manchester by the Sea (2016). Maborosi (Maboroshi no Hikari / 幻の光 1995), the Ozu-tinged fiction feature debut of current arthouse darling Hirokazu Kore-eda, is a detailed and deeply empathetic portrayal of one woman carried along by the passage of time, bringing her grief with her.
My first theater review, of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts I and II (Broadway 2018), has been published at Critics at Large. Check it out here!
My full review of Contact Prints of Baileng Canal (Yinyang Bailengzun / 印樣白冷圳 2018) has just been published at The News Lens International. Check it out here!