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MrW

I swear that’s Alec Baldwin on the poster.
2 months 3 weeks ago
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MrW

When Eisenstein's clangour gets to be too much for me, Pudovkin's varied tonal palette -- always rooted in a quiet humanism that seems focused on tiny, tiny humans in an enormous and not very welcoming landscape -- seems like just the thing.
4 months ago
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MrW

I don't think there was another director in silent Hollywood whose style was so immediately recognizable as von Stroheim's; the novelistic wealth of narrative detail, the grotesque elements around the edges of the diegesis complicating the simplistic wish-fulfilment/escapism that more straightforward entertainers aimed for, the associative-editing choices based on an idiosyncratic sense of what might be interesting or important at any give time... Erich von S and no-one else.
4 months 1 week ago
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MrW

Lean and just the right amount of mean. A masterclass in shadow and suggestion - a potentially ridiculous premise is sold by much of the menace lurking just out of frame or obscured by darkness.
4 months 1 week ago
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MrW

Shults does an impressive job at capturing the spiralling chaos of a family gathering: from the friendly, loud banter to a devastating emotional reckoning. Some great free-flowing camerawork and editing hammers it all home, although some incredible close-ups and a perfectly judged aspect ratio switch at key moments add some extra energy.

Occasionally does resemble an extended short - which it is - but a raw, uncomfortable watch on the whole
4 months 1 week ago
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MrW

This has some magnificent sequences, but it's not the revelation to me that Strike or Ivan P1 were. Leaning a little too hard on the associative editing with constant insert shots of iconic statues that represent something (or other) that may be relevant to the onscreen action?

Also, it's a little wearying to be shouted at for two hours.
4 months 1 week ago
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MrW

The airplane was my favorite character.
5 months 2 weeks ago
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MrW

A case study in how a new perspective can beautifully enliven a familiar tale. A work fascinated by its characters, and always does right by them without glossing over their flaws. Bright, soothing and compassionate - simply lovely.
5 months 3 weeks ago
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MrW

How I wish this was something released in cinemas! That magnificent sound work needs an auditorium-sized surround sound system to really do it justice. Thankfully it still works at home - been a while since a film so dramatically and relentlessly explores sound and silence, and with the goal of putting the viewer inside a characters’ traumatic experience.

The rest of the film is in some ways a conventional indie drama - not in a particularly bad way, but certainly it doesn’t quite have the same visual imagination as it does sound design. Nonetheless, it’s a genuinely tender and compassionate drama with an incredibly committed central performance. Some of the steps along the way may be predictable, but it all comes together for a rich and earned ending that felt natural and true to the character. As a drama it’s absolutely solid, but the commitment to adding that extra sensory layer allows it to rise above.
5 months 3 weeks ago
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MrW

Had a very mixed response to this one, alas.

First things first, though: Carey Mulligan is extraordinary in it. She just has an absolutely perfect grasp on what's happening, even when the rest of the film doesn't.

Alas, there are plenty of moments when the film gets awkwardly lost in what it's trying to do. There's absolutely a film out there that can be a cheeky topical satire, study of trauma and playful revenge film all at once. But the tone often feels wrong here, stumbling between different registers and moods without fully landing the jumps.

The last act is where it all kind of falls apart. spoiler

It's a shame things don't come together, because there's lots to like. As said, Mulligan is astoundingly good here and deserving of all the accolades. Fennell is an obviously promising director, and the vibrant colour palette and magnificent costume work are a joy to behold. There's a lot of really good scenes, too: spoiler

It's a film I definitely admired for trying to speak bluntly about tricky subject matter - society's attitudes towards rape and consent will always be worthy of critique and examination. But PYW can't quite navigate the thorny maze it puts itself in - it addresses its subject matter head-on, but can't wrap that into a coherent narrative. A valiant effort that takes some big swings, but a rather unsatisfactory film in the end.
5 months 3 weeks ago
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MrW

Liked it a lot, without quite loving it.

Had been primed to expect some misery/poverty porn, but honestly don’t think it fits into that category. There’s a strong sense of defiance and even satisfaction from a lot of the people in the film. Sure they have tough moments and in many ways have been left behind by society, but there’s also a sense that they’ve chosen this nomadic life which is a strong counterpoint. It doesn’t wallow in misery, instead giving us an unsentimental look at the highs and lows of life on the road. The ‘it’s pro-Amazon!’ arguments strike me as unconvincing after watching the film - Zhao shows how these corporate jobs are a part of these characters’ lives, while also touching on the wreckage corporate America leaves in its wake. But I think a polemic is not the film she’s trying to make here; she’s much more concerned with the rhythms of these people’s everyday lives.

The American landscapes look great here obviously, but in a way that I think serves the point above. These are often frosty, desolate locations... but by the same token they’re also often beautiful and enticing. The cinematography doesn’t have the sheer lyricism of say a Terrence Malick film, but it does split the difference between that and documentary-style realism to frequently fetching effect. There’s a sequence of McDormand wandering through a house at the end which uses shadow and light alone to tell you everything you need to know about a big decision she’s about to make.

That said, there are moments when the style doesn’t quite gel together. I really admire the film giving the real life nomads so much space - indeed, the most impressive thing about McDormand’s performance is how she tones it all the way down to give them space while also hinting at her character’s own hopes, traumas and history. But there can be a hint of sterility to Zhao’s style at time, albeit one bit unique to this film: it’s something that crops up a bit in rural American dramas featuring non-actors. Still, it works overall, but sometimes in a way that left me at a remove of sorts. The film is quite tame and mild-mannered - sometimes to its benefit, sometimes to its detriment. It lacks the punch of Varda’s Vagabond - a great film that covers fairly similar ground.

Impressed on the whole, like I was with The Rider a few years back. There’s a few films I’d probably have liked to see sweep the awards season above or at least alongside this, mainly because I think Never Rarely Sometimes Always and First Cow were criminally overlooked. But certainly happy to see Zhao rise rapidly up the ranks: she’s made another confident, thoughtful film here and I hope against hope some of that can come through as she gets caught up in the MCU machine.
5 months 3 weeks ago
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MrW

Certainly unique. The extremely apt title tells you a whole lot about what you need to know. The film is a freewheeling examination of 'intolerance' through the ages. There's four narratives running in parallel: one recounting the fall of Babylon, another retelling the crucifixion of Christ, a third set in 16th century France and focusing on the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and finally a 'modern day' (modern in 1916, anyway) tale about a loving couple constantly torn apart by cruel, unthinking authorities. Linked together through title cards, a recurring shot of an 'eternal' mother rocking a cradle and (more interestingly) editing, the stories reverberate with each other over the course of nearly three and a half hours. With the narrative crisscrossing and era-hopping near constantly, it resembles Cloud Atlas more than anything, albeit predating it by the guts of a century.

Ostensibly giving equal weight to the quartet of stories, the reality is only the modern and Babylonian stories truly matter here. The Galilean section might tie closely with the film's deeply Christian ideology and obsession with exploring the violent effects of religious intolerance, but it comes across as too obvious and even a little condescending in execution. The French story, meanwhile, is basically a glorified afterthought. Again, the thematic bridge is there, but it adds little of note, interrupting the more intriguing stories at almost random intervals. Generally speaking, the film is a wild melodrama that is an awfully long-winded way of presenting a pretty simplistic message. At times, especially in a borderline farcical epilogue featuring a chorus of angels forcing warring soldiers to drop their weapons, it all seems hopelessly, almost pretentiously naive in its good-intentioned but amateurishly straightforward message of Christian peace and understanding. Subtle Intolerance ain't.

On their own terms, however, the two core stories are actually quite endearing. Now, make no mistake, the first hour (or even hour and a half) is rough: establishing the various timelines and characters, it's a challenge to adapt to the film's unusual pacing, scope and early cinematic language. As shallow as it may sound, things improve significantly with a magnificent battle scene that acts as the centrepiece of the Babylon section. We can never forget this film was produced in 1916, so the sheer scale of it all - with its towering sets (later becoming an iconic Hollywood landmark), waves of extras and elaborate costumes - is still flabbergasting. As the film approaches its 100th birthday, the spectacle still impresses - the battle of Babylon being a notable highlight, but the stellar production design wows throughout. Knowing that it was all done with primitive technology makes it all the more remarkable - a trick CGI spectacles can simply never hope to repeat. It's also surprisingly visceral battle sequence, including more decapitations than I would have expected.

The modern story, meanwhile, is a slowburner but ultimately justifies the slow burn. After rambling around for an hour or so, it snaps into focus and develops as a melodramatic romance / legal thriller / anti-authority rant,. It's all pretty straightforward stuff, but handled well enough and entertaining. Things really pick up in the final hour (or 'Act II') when it all turns into a frantic race against the clock to stop an imminent execution. It is, like so much of Intolerance, straightforward and primitive, but entertainingly so. The happy ending - in which soul mates are reunited, unlike those poor Babylonian citizens so cruelly mowed down - feels hard-won, and a shame it's soured by the aforementioned obnoxious epilogue.

This extended chase sequence also illustrates the film's single most important innovation: its editing. As the film crosscuts more frantically, it links the stories in increasingly more compelling ways. This not only lends the film a momentum lacking in some of its more laborious stretches, but also shows themes and characters linked not through excessively overwritten title cards (and some of the very literal title cards on offer here are rather laughable: "Now, how shall we find this Christly example followed in our story of today?" is a personal favourite) but through cinematic form. Now, as previously stated, a lot of these ideas are simplistic to a fault, but as an early experiment in editing it's a deeply important one, and the kind of thing directors like Sergei Eisenstein would develop further and in the process change the way cinema worked forever. Although 'of its time' in so, so many ways, technically it's an astonishing achievement (Griffith also preempts Mizoguchi with his penchant of presenting rare but powerful close-ups).

Longer than even some of the more grueling modern epics, Intolerance will test the patience of many modern viewers, even those familiar with the aesthetics and language of silent cinema. It comes across like a sermon, a lecture, a class on the bleeding obvious, but also proves a valuable lesson in the language of cinema that can still educate us modern cinephiles. It's epic. It's dull. It's beautifully, jaw-droppingly extravagant. It's aged terribly. It's an ambitious failure and successful experiment. It's all these contradictory things at once. Say what you will about the film and its creator, but Intolerance at the very least is quite unlike anything else, and for all its deep-rooted flaws is still worthy of our attention. Just probably not more than once
6 months ago
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MrW

Safe to say it isn't exactly Orson Welles' magnum opus, and the hatchet job the studio did with it is all too obvious (especially during the opening minutes). The plot is nonsense at times, if rather effective once it gets going. Welles also offers a spectacularly dodgy Irish accent. Nonetheless, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and idiosyncratic effort despite its clearly rough edges. Welles' singular visual style remains, if not as pronounced as some of his others works - all deep focus and deeper shadows. And there's the ending - a tour de force sequence, capturing a confrontation in a fairground that has enough visual energy to fuel an entire film on its own
6 months ago
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MrW

LOL at 7 people checking a film they likely haven't watched yet.
8 months 4 weeks ago
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