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Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, Dirt! The Movie, 2009, still from a color film, 86 minutes.

EVER SINCE DAVIS GUGGENHEIM integrated Al Gore’s biography into An Inconvenient Truth (2006), punctuating the despair of the activist’s climate change warnings with an array of personal asides about family and fame, documentaries about the environment have strived to make their dire subject matter more readily digestible. That’s a pity in the case of Dirt! The Movie (2009), because the chipper, animated interludes that litter the film, all featuring a smiling nugget of dirt, almost derail a thesis that is otherwise probing and provocative —that the history of life on our planet can be directly linked not only to the quality of its air or water but to the health of its skin, the soil.

Directors Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow partition the story into a revealing celebrati ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 392 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

Andrew Bujalski, Beeswax, 2009, still from a color film in 16 mm, 100 minutes. Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly Hatcher and Maggie Hatcher).

LET’S NOT DILATE—as many have—on whether writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s scripts are indebted to the languid stylings of Eric Rohmer, or the degree to which his characters are heirs to the lustful eccentrics in Woody Allen’s films. Let’s also forget about Mumblecore, the poorly named genre he’s said to have pioneered, which is distinguished by the directionless musings of late-twenty-somethings as they try to figure their shit out. If Bujalski’s Beeswax (2009), is any indication, he’s well on his way to surpassing most expectations.

Let’s begin, instead, with the end. It’s a bittersweet moment when the closing credits roll onto the screen. After nearly one hundred minutes of drifting plotlines and relaxed dialogue by a few ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 411 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

Park Chan-wook, Thirst, 2009, still from a color film in 35 mm, 133 minutes. Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin).

HAVING WALKED OUT OF OLDBOY (2003) AT CANNES—preferring a dinner with friends to the spectacle of watching someone swallow a live squid—and fallen asleep long before the halfway point of the DVDs of both Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Lady Vengeance (2005), I can’t call myself a Park Chan-wook enthusiast. Nevertheless, Thirst, the latest viscerally violent bloodfest from the Korean director dear to Quentin Tarantino’s heart, thrilled me head to toe, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. There’s a lot of digit-sucking foreplay in two lengthy, rough-and-raw sex scenes, which put the anemic, PG-13 yearnings of Twilight to shame. But my affection for Thirst has mostly to do with the performance of Kim Ok-vin as Tae-ju, a sullen household slave who’s transformed ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 425 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Lorna’s Silence, 2008, color film in 35 mm, 105 minutes. Publicity stills. Left and right: Claudy and Lorna (Jérémie Renier and Arta Doborishi). Photos: Christine Plenus/Sony Pictures Classics.

NO OTHER FILMMAKERS put pressure on the underprivileged young of mainland Europe as consistently as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Among their works, La Promesse (1996), Rosetta (1999), and L’Enfant (2005) variously trace the steps of a compromised teen or twenty-something negotiating survival in the context of revved-up capitalism, a world in which nearly everyone is grubbing for money. The mood is generally bleak, but thanks to the Dardennes’ blending of Loachian realism with Bressonian asceticism, hope and grace are often attained.

On paper, Lorna’s Silence (2008), their latest film, isn’t a departure from this formula, yet it is dece ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 444 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

VICE AND VULGARITY PLAY WELL IN AUSTRALIA. With the country's rum-corps origins and epic isolation, low-grade spectacle exuding illegality takes on a certain mythic quality. It’s hardly surprising then that the “great southern land” would have a rich and shameless history of bottom-line exploitation cinema, the glory days of which—the 1970s and ’80s—are affectionately chronicled in Not Quite Hollywood, a second-generation fan’s account of the rise and squall of the seedier side of the Australian film industry. Directed by Melburnian, gen-X music-video impresario Mark Hartley, NQH has no time for cultured, capital-C cinema. Peter Weir be damned. What we have here is the underbelly—cheap thrills devised to populate Australian, and eventually American, drive-in and grindhouse theaters.

The story begins with the explosive confluence of freethinking, ’60s radicalis ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 431 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

ROY ANDERSSON’S EYE IS SO STEADY, his scenes so static, that audiences could be excused for mistaking his stare for utter detachment. In his films, urban existence initially seems inert and exhausted, a modus operandi in which people cram themselves into apartments, pubs, subways, and high-rise boardrooms, leading lives that are seemingly always under pressure. But as a viewer becomes accustomed to Andersson’s peculiar rhythms, what become salient are the small spontaneities that interrupt the routines—unpredictable, life-affirming asides that are both joyous and heartbreaking.

An acquired taste to be sure, Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor (2000) cynically illuminated the tribulations of everyday life. The world was coming to an end, hope was running thin, and while there were some laughs to be found in one city’s attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy ... Read more »

Category: Films reviews | Views: 476 | Added by: Liberman | Date: 08.08.2009 | Rating: 0.0/0 | Comments (0)

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