Palatable: Train to Busan

Train to Busan (2016)
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Written by Sang-ho Yeon, Joo-Suk Park
Produced by Dong-Ha Lee, Yeon-ho Kim, Woo-taek Kim
Starring Yoo Gong, Su-an Kim, Dong-seok Ma, Yu-mi Jung, Gwi-hwa Choi, Eui-sung Kim, Woo-sik Choi, Ahn So-hee, Soo-jung Ye, Myung-shin Park, Seok-yong Jeong, Hyuk-jin Jang
Conformable to the deadly undead of O’Bannon’s and Boyle’s classics, twitching, predatory zombies in Yeon’s first live-action feature rush ravenously to bloodily propagate their pandemic, imperiling within its cramped linear quarters a bullet train’s passengers (Ma, Jung, Choi, So-hee, et al.), who can only survive by manipulating the ghouls’ cognitive limitations and stimuli. Trauma and teamwork educe an uncharacteristic heroism in one such traveler, a callous careerist (Gong) in transit with his daughter (Kim); in slightly unlike circumstances, one cruelly unscrupulous executive (Kim) inversely preserves himself at the fatal expense of his acquaintances. With substantial characters credibly rendered by a solid cast, inventive suspense tautened in a swift situational succession, and action deftly choreographed, shot and cut, this glossy international hit justifies both its hype and sociopersonal themes as overt as Romero’s to chastise corporate cupidity and baneful self-interest with characterizations more believable than any that celebrated, satirical schlockmeister ever penned. A horde of flailing and gnashing supernumeraries complement the leads well with uninhibited mordacity, especially in a few instances when their numbers swell scrambling, scrabbling, snarling by dint of CG superior to conspicuously artificial graphics beheld in Hollywood’s overbudgeted, superheroic trash. That this past decade’s only zombified flick worth watching is a South Korean production seems unavoidable, and though some of its sentiment’s sweetened saccharine by that schmaltz from Seoul during heartfelt moments and especially its emotive climax, it’s relatively palatable when expressed by a refreshingly appealing dramatis personae unimaginable in a contemporary, major motion picture produced anywhere in the Anglosphere. Even better, Yeon dispenses with that slush for a truly moving conclusion.
Recommended for a double feature paired with 28 Days Later or Seoul Station, Yeon’s animated prequel.

Execrable: Dead Awake

Dead Awake (2016)
Directed by Phillip Guzman
Written by Jeffrey Reddick
Produced by Phillip Guzman, Philip Marlatt, Galen Walker, Kurt Wehner, James LaMarr, Derek Lee Nixon, A.J. Gutierrez, Jeffrey Reddick, LeeLee Wellberg
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Jesse Bradford, Jesse Borrego, Lori Petty, Brea Grant, James Eckhouse, Mona Lee Fultz, A.J. Gutierrez, Natalie Jones, Billy Blair
It’s as apt as inevitable a subject to be exploited for the conception of a horror flick, but sleep paralysis isn’t ever in reality so soporiferous as this flat pap concerning a social worker (Donahue) who investigates the inexplicable death of her identical twin (Donahue) with her sibling’s boyfriend (Bradford) and an invariably incapable somnologist (Borrego) who’s colligated historical, apocryphal and personal evidence of a dread beldame (Jones) who strangles her somnially immobilized victims. Actualized by Guzman’s perfunctorily practiced direction, Reddick’s story typically, torpidly totters from one prosaic, progressively preposterous scene to the next, each replete with a tranche of spoken and conceptual clichés. Securely typecast Donahue prettily navigates her leaden, often footling dialogue with facility as spare as her figure to surpass most of her co-stars. Borrego and Blair seem to vie for the goofier performance, and Bradford’s greasily bewildering crinal extensions and beard impart to him a semblance of Colin Farrell cosplaying as Dick Masterson, dubbed by A.J. Bowen at his most nebbish. Much of Dominique Martinez’s photography is weirdly desaturated when that banal blue filter isn’t applied, and both modes are as ugly as Donahue’s god-awful wardrobe. Presumably intended for audiences possessing an infinitesimal threshold for horror who enjoyed Reddick’s Final Destination, it’s not likely to unsettle any save the smallest children and animals. Howbeit, this picture may be someday pressed as the nonmedical, hypnagogic remedy that finally cured insomnia.
Instead, watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Palatable: Would You Rather

Would You Rather (2012)
Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
Produced by Zak Kilberg, David Guy Levy, Maura Anderson, Ivy Isenberg, Gus Krieger, Andre Royo, Hector Tinoco, Brittany Snow, Morgan Conrad
Starring Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Enver Gjokaj, Charlie Hofheimer, Jonny Coyne, Eddie Steeples, Sasha Grey, Robin Lord Taylor, June Squibb, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Robb Wells, John Heard, Logan Miller

“Too many people have decided to do without generosity in order to practice charity.”

–Albert Camus, The Fall

Unemployment, suddenly deceased parents, their home to be sold, and an ailing brother’s (Miller) mortal need of a costly transplant are cumbers shouldered by a young woman (Snow) invited with seven other unfortunates to a soiree hosted by a wealthy, convivial sadist (Combs) whose regale is tainted by his humiliating exploitations of their frailties — a preamble to the titular parlor game that incites their capacities for malefaction to win far more than patronage from their gleefully twisted benefactor. At its best, Levy’s thriller excites in viewers its victims’ palpable pressures and dread for his subtly effective direction, Schlachtenhaufen’s wickedly felicitous script and a cast of fresh and familiar faces that hit nearly all their marks within the polished, luxuriant sumptuousness of Frank Brown’s artisanal mansion, Artemesia. Least among them is the consistently wooden Grey, aptly cast as the most trashy, cruel, candid contestant, whose transitional participation was clearly earned by her alternative oral competency. Diametrically, the hilarious and masterful flamboyance rendered by veteran genre ham Combs keenly characterizes his nabob’s iniquitous indulgence formalized with casual etiquette and rationalized as a sincere fascination with the transgressive extremes of social psychology. Taylor’s nearly so risible and repulsive as his rankly rotten scion, whose vicious addiction to wanton abuse clashes with daddy’s decorous depravity. A few instances of propagandistic portrayal and proximity fulfilled by racially calculated casting are as conspicuous as anything one might see on network television; Combs’ and Coyne’s WASPy villains are less inaccurate than passé in an era when those most egregious of our intriguing, inept elites are as disproportionately, plainly porkless as the director and some of his co-producers. Withal, it’s no less a morbidly droll or direful entertainment that brutally fictionalizes the sheer, stratified vice lurking behind so many charitable veneers. Only a handful of movies produced outside Japan and Korea compel indurated audiences to wince and laugh in alternation or simultaneity; this one does well before you’ll realize that the losers of its competing guests aren’t leaving alive.

Sublime: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (2012)
Written, produced and directed by Stefan Haupt
Starring Jordi Bonet i Armengol, Etsuro Sotoo, Jaume Torreguitart, Joan Rigol, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, Mark Burry, Joan Vila-Grau, Raimon Panikkar, Lluís Bonet, Jordi Savall, Luard Bonet, Josep Tallada, Joan Bassegoda, David Mackay, Mariona Bonet, Anna Huber

“Other architects compel admiration; Gaudí demands love as well.”

–Anthony Burgess, The Gaudiness of Gaudí

Its towering, bedight immanity reflects the hugeness of its architect’s heart and faith, enormously and unmistakably indelible upon its metropolitan skyline. Antoni Gaudí’s minor basilica is the most idiomatic of churches, a synthesis of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic, conciliation of the modern and eternal, byword of Barcelona, endeavor to objectify empyrean majesty on terra firma and monument to Catalan creativity, Catholic devotion and Christ’s deathless divinity. Of his fanciful fourteen constructions in the Catalonian capital, its unequaled ambition alone beggars the baroque in curvilineal persistence and wanton intricacy. Produced during the 125th (nonconsecutive) year of its construction, Haupt’s cinematic celebration of this incomplete, incomparable architectural and religious phenomenon renders its history in contemporary context with graceful slow pans, overhead and stabile shots before, above and interior interposed by a wealth of revealing interviews. Chief architect Bonet declares deference to Gaudí’s intent, expounds on his conceptual adaptation of natural forms, reports numerous challenges surmounted and expected to realize his herculean enterprise, and guides viewers through its uniquely hyperboloidal nave; his brother Lluís, a priest who conducts Mass in the basilica’s crypt, continues this tour to designate columns denoting and dedicated to the Apostles and Evangelists; Rigol, chairman of the Sagrada Familia’s foundation, narrates its conception as a small expiatory temple instituted by bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella; theologian Panikkar relates Gaudí’s humble origins and character, and avows that his greatest work is the ultimate symbol of the consubstantial Trinity; exhibited conducting La Capella de Catalunya’s superb rendition of Bach’s Mass in B minor, Savall likens sacred structure and composition to illustrate interpretive evolutions independent of their respective creators. Disposed at its furthest flanks, the Sagrada Familia’s twain completed (of three projected) frontispieces are as antipodal thematically and stylistically as their public receptions: Christ’s birth is signified by the Nativity facade facing a rising sun to its northeast, and his death by the Passion facade before each southwestern setting sun. That former frontal’s grand exuberance was completed in 2000 after the creation and installation of its polychrome doors and symbolic statuary of Joseph, Mary and neonatal Jesus, musicians, singers, angels, flora and fauna intricately hewn over the course of fifteen years by sculptor Sotoo, a gifted and intimate epigone as dedicated to Gaudí’s vision as to their shared Catholicism. His controversial obverse is the agnostic Subirachs, once a cosignatory to an infamous open letter published in La Vanguardia on 1965.9.1 that opposed the church’s finalization, which he’s since retracted. Individuated by a harshly orthogonal angularity fashionable in the late 20th century, his elegiac images of sublunary sin, lamenting figures, and the Savior’s trials and Crucifixion is fearsome, austere and truly original, fulfilling Gaudí’s intentions for a Passion portraying sacrificial severity with stark simplicity, and widely reprobated as a failure for its inconsonant deviation from Gaudí’s idiom. Sotoo’s veneration for Gaudí is patently dissimilar to the dispassionate respect that Subirachs voices in defense of his individuality. One Joan Vila-Grau, designer of the particolored, stained-glass panes so vivid within the basilica, proclaims a similar insistence, though his manner meshes better; these patterns are exactly cut and assembled for installation by Luard Bonet. Elsewhere, the project’s executive architect and researcher Mark Burry presses software intended for aeronautical design into service to dimension parametric, digital models so to flexibly draft present and future developments, and emphasizes the need for collaborative, interdepartmental communication. Surely the least among these interviewees is one David Mackay, architect, urban planner and another cosigner of the aforementioned open letter, who without explication derogates the basilica’s postwar construction as inauthentic and jejune; exuding a rare hypocrisy, he stupidly submits that this house of worship’s purpose should be “more social” and “less religious” to fulfill contemporary, interfaith imperatives of “our culture” — thickly oblivious to the discrete incompatibility of Catalonian and Spanish, much less British cultures. Another nadir from degenerate, atheist Albion, this peculiarly fatuous, Anglo-globalist perspective is as notable for nescience as inanity, and typical of the British refusal to fathom Catalonia since Orwell’s denouncement of this masterwork. Howbeit, this ecclesiastical edifice has weathered worse, such as anarchists who conflagrated most of Gaudí’s plans and models in the anti-clerical devastation of Spain’s Civil War. Modeler Josep Tallada diligently inventories thousands of their surviving portions and fragments identified and otherwise, and Sotoo has since reconstructed numerous smashed statues. To finally consecrate this chef-d’oeuvre, Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona to the acclamation of godly throngs and Bonet’s reverent greeting, the event to which Haupt’s documentary culminates. Perhaps a sequel or appendix may be shot to document the basilica’s completion sometime in the upcoming score, when the third and final Glory facade comprising a gigantic conical array imaging Christ’s supernal triumph and the paths to heaven and hell will be erected, as will the remaining ten steeples to a total of eighteen typing the dozen Apostles, Evangelical quartet (to feature gargoyles crafted by Sotoo), Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ collinear above the crypt at the nave’s and transept’s intersection as the central tallest, whereupon the church’s height of 170 meters will render it in stature unmatched…yet a meter shorter than nearby Montjuïc hill in obeisance to Jehovah’s physitheistic peak. Until then, visitors and viewers alike are whelmed to witness its unfinished, richly representative grandeur. From each facade’s threefold porticos importing Christian virtues to the pinnacles of their apostolic steeples, they possess a singularly, almost otherworldly power substantiated in stone. The Nativity’s porticos are demarcated by massive columns bearing helical relief on testudine footstalls, and its Tree of Life rises mightily from its central portico of Charity. Polarily, slant sequoian columns support the Passion, wherein a morbidly osteal colonnade upholds its pyramidal pediment topped with a crown of thorns countering the Tree of Life. A columnar forest, the nonobjectively isobilateral nave’s coffers admit sunlight as that dappled though boughs, and its multiplex contours jut pointed or swell convex, leading to the apse’s soaring hyperboloidal vault of 75 meters, under which the chancel is lambently illumined. Vertices of lesser spires sprout Sotoo’s sacramental sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes. Ellipses and lobations and crochets and curlicues, blooming bosses, liturgical motifs, canonical iconography as phantasmagoria in constant curvature everywhere teem myriad. From Montserrat’s prolate hills and botany stylized, it is the immaculate and the ethereal reified.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí.

Mediocre: Gloria

Gloria (2014)
Directed by Christian Keller
Written by Sabina Berman
Produced by Alan B. Curtiss, Matthias Ehrenberg, Christian Keller, Barrie M. Osborne, Braulio Arsüaga, Joan Christian Carmona, Rodrigo de Santiago, Manuel Espino, Mario Ganon, Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Eduardo Gómez Treviño, José Levy, León Levy, José Asse Marcos, Sergio Palacios, Guillermo Pino, John Winston Rainey, Emma Ramos, Osvaldo Ríos, Eduardo Sitton, ElÍas Sitton, Siahou Sitton, Antonio Soave, Salomón Sutton, Yeoshua Syrquin, Diego Szychowski, Luis Szychowski, Jorge Trad, Patricio Trad, Gerardo Vaqueiro Ussel, Álvaro Vaqueiro Ussel, Vita Vargas, Alex Zito, Mariana Félix, Luis Díaz, Max Appedole, Ricardo Kleinbaum, Charlotte Larsen, Anthony Picciuto
Starring Sofía Espinosa, Marco Pérez, Tatiana del Real, Karla Rodriguez, Estrella Solís, Ximena Romo, Alejandra Zaid, Alicia Jaziz, Ma. Fernanda Monroy, Andrea Bentley, Andrea Isamar, Marisa Rubio, Gutemberg Brito, Marcia Coutiño, Clarissa Malheiros, Miriam Calderón, Pepe Olivares, Arturo Vázquez
Nolens volens, anyone who’s becharmed their nation is entitled to — or incumbered with — an unavoidable biopic. This glossy reenactment of the ascent, celebrity and scandal that established pop singer Gloria Trevi (Espinosa) as a household name in both her native Mexico and the Hispanosphere entire is the rare picture that might’ve moved more satisfaction for superficiality. Espinosa’s vocal and visual likeness to Trevi is as felicific as her personation opposite Pérez, who plays with equal energy her abusive, autocratic, egregiously polyamorous producer and unexclusive lover Sergio Andrade, under whose auspice the playfully prurient popstar’s career was formed, furthered, nearly foredone. No stranger to defamation, Trevi entertained understatement by repudiating this production as “aberrant.” Berman’s schmaltzy script nearly sinks its enterprise with an uncurbed maudlinism, subtext of feminist banality, one scurrilous fiction theorizing the songstress’s maternity, and frequent narrative rotation from Trevi’s exhilarating career during the ’80s and ’90s to her Brazilian incarceration in the early aughts, which ruins the flick’s momentum and appeal. This isn’t improved by Keller’s rote direction, or an instance of propagandistic casting courtesy of Berman’s stereotypically kosher kin populating those risibly plethoric productional credits. After nearly a decade of research comprehending extensive interviews with their subjects, Keller and Berman somehow couldn’t catch that Trevi’s substance and allure consists in the voice and verve by which she romped into Mexico’s common heart, not her victimhood as an alleged accessary to Andrade’s ephebophilic felonies. Their focus on the latter to the relative pretermission of the former wastes a capable cast and a fun, absorbing true story depicted a decade too late — a disservice to Trevi, her fans and uninitiated viewers.

Mediocre: Tess

Tess (1979)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Thomas Hardy, Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn
Produced by Claude Berri, Timothy Burrill, Jean-Pierre Rassam, Pierre Grunstein
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson, John Collin, Rosemary Martin, Carolyn Pickles, Sylvia Coleridge, Suzanna Hamilton, Caroline Embling, Fred Bryant, David Markham, Pascale de Boysson, Josine Comellas, Dicken Ashworth, Arielle Dombasle, John Bett, Tom Chadbon, Richard Pearson, Tony Church

Multiple-choice Tesst

  1. Polanski’s most swank, syrupy, celebrated feature is dedicated “To Sharon.” Who other than his famously slain wife might’ve been a more fitting dedicatee?
    1. Lead Nastassja Kinski (whose boundless conceit and opportunism the director assuaged while boffing her)
    2. Gloria Steinem
    3. Judge Laurence J. Rittenband (LOL)
    4. Any of the above
  2. At the conclusion of the first scene, a local parson (Church) pivotally apprises our peasant protagonist’s alcoholic father (Collin) that the noble, Norman d’Urbervilles were direct ascendants of his lowly Durbeyfields. In how many instances is that datum reiterated during this story?
    1. 10,000
    2. 2
    3. 11
    4. Ugh! Too often
  3. Sweet, simple, saturnine Tess (Kinski) would prefer to moil her years away than exploit her beauty and luxuriate lifelong for high espousal. Ergo, she appeals to:
    1. Careerists
    2. Strivers
    3. Single mothers
    4. All of the above
  4. How does the viewer secern Alec’s (Lawson) rape of Tess from mere seduction?
    1. Her momentary resistance
    2. Her sheer submission
    3. This scene’s orchestral swells, transitioning abruptly from a minor to major key
    4. Her later acceptance of his largess
    5. Who knows?
  5. Those elements compensating for Brach’s, Polanski’s, and Brownjohn’s prosy, often bathetic treatment of Hardy’s dialogue include:
    1. An able cast obliged to navigate their plenitude of leaden lines
    2. Stunning, respectively foggy and effulgent photography courtesy of Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet
    3. Pierre Guffroy’s production design, which further beautifies every embellished interior
    4. Polanski’s painterly vision of landscapes, interiors and his most photogenic players, instanced by lavish long shots out of doors, or slow pans, as of a creamery’s milk dripping from suspended bags
    5. One gushingly romantic (albeit often misapplied) score composed by Philippe Sarde
    6. All of the above
  6. At her most morose, Tess assumes the demeanor of:
    1. Any dour teen
    2. A petty ingrate
    3. A goth
    4. All of the above
  7. Rather than to hypocritically disclaim, then desert Tess on their wedding night sequent to her confession, Angel (Firth) might’ve instead:
    1. Reconsidered her worth after consummating their marital union with a hearty feast and fuck
    2. Compared their respective premarital indiscretions to objectively assess their relationship
    3. Divorced Tess and remarried another of two comely, receptive prospects (Dombasle, Hamilton)
    4. Any of the above
  8. Which course of action would’ve been preferable to Tess’s madcap murder of the peremptory and prickish, yet fervid and freehanded Alec?
    1. To absquatulate with Angel without killing him
    2. To divorce Alec on the grounds of her bigamy without killing him
    3. To finally set aside her picayune moral pretensions and secretly live with both and maximize her romantic, sexual and financial benefit without killing him
    4. To contemplate the potential fate of her mother and siblings, who’ve been generously housed by her victim, so to avert his murder
    5. Anything besides murder
    6. Any of the above
  9. Polanski’s is the ninth among how many adaptations of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles?
    1. Nine
    2. Eleven
    3. Four
    4. Too many
  10. Notwithstanding the novel’s and movie’s commination of antiquated Victorian mores, a prolix blurb of the latter’s theatrical poster enounces it, “As timely today as the day it was written.” Why?
    1. Marketing
    2. Feminism
    3. Polanski sought to rehabilitate his tarnished image
    4. All of the above

Answers: 4, 3 or 4, 4, 5, 6, 4, 4, 6, 2 or 4, 4

Palatable: Ridicule

Ridicule (1996)
Directed by Patrice Leconte
Written by Rémi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, Eric Vicaut
Produced by Frédéric Brillion, Philippe Carcassonne, Gilles Legrand
Starring Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant, Judith Godrèche, Bernard Giraudeau, Bernard Dhéran, Carlo Brandt, Jacques Mathou, Urbain Cancelier, Albert Delpy, Bruno Zanardi, Marie Pillet, Jacques Roman, Philippe Magnan, Maurice Chevit, Jacques-François Zeller, Gérard Hardy, Marc Berman, Philippe du Janerand

“An aristocracy was […] by definition a class of both obligation and privilege, the one validating the other.”

–John Keegan, The Mask of Command

In the final days of his reign, Louis XVI (Cancelier) enjoys a monopoly ex officio for the dispensation of stingy subvention representing his kingdom’s terminal dearth of noblesse oblige, so the only recourse for a provincial baron (Berling) who meditates to restore the health of his province’s land and liegemen by draining its malarial swamps is a sojourn in Versailles, where he’ll entreat his regent’s largesse. A highwayman’s assault and theft proves felicitous, leaving the compassionate lord to the treatment, lodging and counsel of a marquis and physician (Rochefort) who instructs his canny junior of conventions and decorums: the application of moderate maquillage, necessity of nonstop frivolity, chaff’s optimum utterance, gaucherie to be avoided and joviality’s effect in tasteful measure. Though his peerage accords admission, only by the young nobleman’s plied talent for extemporized repartee may he petition the king after insinuating himself into the city’s stratified society: a periwigged and lavaliered, decadent and viciously vituperative gentry wherein a duke’s wily widow (Ardant), and a cunningly contemptuous abbot (Giraudeau) are to be met with craft by riposte. Waterhouse’s, Fessler’s, and Vicaut’s screenplay cleverly depicts the late aristocracy as a pampered pack of jackals sneering behind their pro forma facade of phony pleasantries and protocol, whose social currencies of jeux d’esprit and florid vitriol elicit and declass statuses. Their lordly despite is contrasted with the gracious charity of Berling’s baron, Rochefort’s kindly marquis, and the abbot Charles Michel de l’Épée (Mathou), a selfless pioneer of education for the deaf. Greater nuance is indued to an engaged couple who respectively import their failing patriciate and succeeding Enlightenment: stodgy and jaded but not at all without a distant sympathy, an aged, wealthy widower (Dhéran) is opportunistically betrothed to the marquis’ fetching and dexterous daughter (Godrèche), whose preoccupation with inceptive technologies is incarnated as her construction of and experimentation with a diving suit comparable to Freminet’s. Every sensible director of a period picture balances recondite authenticity with some accessible modicum of modernity, and Leconte succeeds here by stagily interpreting this solid script by a top-flight cast who emphasize without exceeding expression. As consistently funny as fascinating, painstakingly costumed by Christian Gasc and lensed by Thierry Arbogast in sprawling Panavision against and within the extravagance of Villiers-le-Bâcle, Châteaux de Maisons-Laffitte et Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Versailles itself, this fable of a cruelly corrupt, historical elite established by lineage and preserved with sex, wit and wealth observes one of its moral members striving to access a royal fisc and rescue his vassals, who suffer for survival and servitude.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Valmont.

Palatable: We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Written by Lionel Shriver, Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear
Produced by Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Robert Salerno, Philip Herd, Andrew Warren, Christopher Figg, Paula Jalfon, Lisa Lambert, Norman Merry, Andrew Orr, Lynne Ramsay, Christine Langan, Michael Robinson, Steven Soderbergh, Tilda Swinton, Robert Whitehouse, Suzanne Baron, Michael Corso, Molly Egan, Simon Greenall, Anthony Gudas, Leslie Thomas
Starring Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, John C. Reilly, Ashley Gerasimovich, Rock Duer, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Alex Manette

“It is not attention that the child is seeking but love.”

–Sigmund Freud

Nobody does, so the unbalanced son of a mundivagant author (Swinton) and her purblind husband (Reilly) grows from an unstill baby into an insolently incommunicative toddler (Duer), then a child (Newell) whose unchecked petulance finds expression in contumelious conduct and a refractory destructivity that hardens during inattentive and irrespondent years into the incisive opprobry and underhanded abuse by which he’s characterized as a teenager (Miller), and an atrocity’s augured. Her first visit stateside finds Scotland’s preeminent directress exploring what everyone should yet so few will after every murderous spree, picking the kernel of Shriver’s novel to condemn the excessive liberality and negligence typifying whatever presently passes for parenting, manifest maddeningly as pleasant lies, quiet reluctance from conflict, an absence of corporal punishment, acquiescence to pettishly puerile vagaries and unremitting disaffection, here initially attributed to postpartum depression, which aggravates acrimony reciprocally. Swinton’s anathema silently suffers public persecution as penance in the aftermath of her son’s ultimate trespass, and meanders mnemonically in flashbacks dreamily, anachronically interconnected as Leone prescribed, which demonstrate her failures to love, to chasten, to relate, to communicate, while her oblivious husband refuses to acknowledge but one of his son’s many misdeeds. Ramsay excels in the exhibition of commonplace frailties and their worst consequences, always guiding her leads to extremities without falsity. Her careerist’s frigidity and parental ineptitude are registered keenly by Swinton, who’s weirdly, unnecessarily, crinally and ocularly embrowned to adopt some maternal semblance to Duer, Newell and Miller, all of whom plausibly exude their malfeasant’s cunning and antipathy. Always approaching his dramatic roles with an everyman’s realism contrary to his famously clownish comedic characters, Reilly likewise creates without caricaturing his oafishly obtuse father. If only to preserve the primacy of their story’s pathological burden, neither Shriver nor Ramsay stooped to contribute to the irrational, pan-Atlantic, leftist “conversation” concerning firearms; by assuming the archer’s posture, their antagonist affirms the determining significance not of means but madness. Punctiliously cut by Herzog’s preferred editor Joe Bini, and swollen with sanguine symbolism, Kevin exposes without homily how abominations are conceived behind suburban veneers.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Elliot Rodger’s mortifying videos.

Palatable: Miss Granny

Miss Granny (2014)
Directed by Dong-hyuk Hwang
Written by Dong-ik Shin, Yoon-jeong Hong, Hee-seon Dong, Dong-hyuk Hwang
Produced by Jae-soon Chun, Heung-seok Han, Ji-yeong Lim, Ji-yong Hong, Jae-pil Lee, Ji-sung Park, Tae-sung Jeong
Starring Eun-kyung Shim, Moon-hee Na, In-hwan Park, Jin-young Jung, Jin-wook Lee, Dong-il Sung, Jung-min Hwang

“If youth be a defect, it is one that we outgrow only too soon.”

–James Russell Lowell

Like all other truly civilized peoples, Koreans enjoy retrospection and aspiration equally, simultaneously whenever possible. Its dualistic satisfaction ensured the domestically remunerative and internationally resounding success of this comedy, wherein a sprightly, splenetic grandmother (Na) calloused from destitution is rejuvenated by the thaumaturgy of a magical photographer (Jang Gwang), and promptly, peppily pursues the vicenarian life she might’ve enjoyed when she was a pauperized single mother with a refreshed haircut and wardrobe as the passionate singer (Shim) of her grandson’s (Jung) rock band. Shim’s and Na’s resemblance and replication of their widow’s saucy, superannuated manner are indispensable to both this pic’s profuse humor and sentiment, as is her inattention in transition from anile to youthful identities of the social liberty she enjoys in her latter years, or of her landlord’s (Park) enduring affection when flirting with a handsome producer (Lee) who truly appreciates her monodic fervency in an era of rote K-pap. Seoul now produces plentifully a caliber of hilarity and hokum Hollywood hasn’t since the early ’90s, if only because its industry (powered by talent rather than rootless mediocrities and politicized pillocks) values true beauty and felicity, without regarding familial love, loyalty and sacrifice as mere abstractions existing only to further a plot. At its shameless soppiest, Granny‘s as moving as elsewhen funny, as irrepressibly frolic as its protagonist at either age. Remakes have since predictably followed as Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Filipino transpositions, all inherently superior to godforsaken Big.

Sublime: The Leopard

The Leopard (1963)
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti
Produced by Goffredo Lombardo, Pietro Notarianni
Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Romolo Valli, Paolo Stoppa, Lucilla Morlacchi, Rina Morelli, Serge Reggiani, Leslie French, Terence Hill, Pierre Clémenti, Giuliano Gemma, Evelyn Stewart, Ottavia Piccolo, Carlo Valenzano, Anna Maria Bottini, Lola Braccini, Howard Nelson Rubien

“To overlook forms a large part of the work of ruling.”

–Baltasar Gracian

Risorgimento looms ineludible in the twilight of a Sicilian principality, whose aging dynast (Lancaster) wisely resigns to an eventual abdication that impels his efforts to secure his posterity’s future by nurturing the democratic instruments of national unification and conciliating his moribund aristocracy with succeeding, ascendant arrivistes of the mercantile class. That former objective is accomplished via plebiscite, and the latter actuated by arranging the marriage of the prince’s unscrupulously ambitious nephew (Delon), renowned for his heroism as one of Garibaldi’s redshirts, and the ravishing daughter (Cardinale) of a wealthy, wily parvenu (Stoppa), whose bumbling bearing and tastelessness enshroud a rare guile. Readers of Tomasi’s grand historical novel shouldn’t expect from Visconti’s lavish yet conscientiously clipped and condensed motion picture a version faithful to its source: the royal family’s beloved, essentially emblematical dog Bendicò merely occupies its periphery; Delon’s and Cardinale’s amatory betrothed are recharacterized to satisfy a tidier plot, as is the regent’s shunned daughter (Morlacchi); the book’s devastating, final chapters depicting its monarch’s transcendental quietus and the fate of his daughters are exquisite in print yet unfit for film, and rightly omitted; existential contrasts of mortality and eternity, conclusion and continuity poetically expatiated in the text are merely alluded here. Within sumptuous interiors replete with masterly portraiture, frescoed ceilings and gilt appointments, ornate relievos and statuary, and alfresco against the natural majesty of rocky Sicilian landscapes, Visconti’s focus on the story’s erotic and political aspects effects and constitutes the core of its drama, as when the philandering potentate’s shrift father (Valli) reproaches his master for backstairs advoutry or verbalizes the Vatican’s solicitudes, a potential love triangle leaves Morlacchi’s virtuous princess spurned, and an organist (Reggiani) disenfranchised by the wrongful invalidation of his sole dissenting vote harangues the minor monarch who he reveres above all others. Played perfectly (albeit typically dubbed) by a choice cast attired in costumes fabricated by Piero Tosi with the same attention to the period’s details as that endued to Mario Garbuglia’s production design, each development unfolds at a pace as stately as its protagonist in slow pans and painterly static shots, its contemplations in stark silences as stirring as Nino Rota’s soaring symphony, repurposed as a score as fit as any other of the production’s elements, and breathing the 19th century’s impassioned Romanticism. Lancaster’s liege is a representative of royalty in extremis and homage to the author’s great-grandfather, who fully fathoms the mold of his people, value of quiet compromise and necessity of sacrifice for survival. Lacking the entire substance, pathos and punch of the novel, this nonpareil of Italian formalism still stirs the spirit in its evocation of a nobility and order lost to accession.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Godfather.