The 14th edition of Film Comment Selects opens today at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center and runs through February 27. As Dustin Chang notes in his introduction to Twitch‘s overview, this year’s festival “consists of 22 films (17 of them local premieres) from all corners of the cinema spectrum, including genre tropes, new films by seasoned and upcoming filmmakers, well-deserved revivals and Jane Campion’s much praised TV show Top of the Lake in its entirety.” We rounded up a sampling of that praise in March.
“This is a festival that disguises its ambition in the matter-of-fact modesty of its title and presents winter-weary New York audiences with a grab bag full of oddities and treasures,” writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “It’s up to you to decide which is which.” One of his recommendations, though, is Pascal Bonitzer’s Cherchez Hortense (2012), “a comedy, more or less, set in the comfortable margins of France’s cultural and political elite.” It’s “an exemplary Film Comment selection in that it is a solid, satisfying movie that might too easily have been overlooked.”
The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody has three recommendations, the first being Hong Sang-soo‘s Our Sunhi: “Hong is no psychologist, but, rather, something of a musician. His graceful images render even the simplest setup—a woman walking alone, two people seated face to face—lyrical and dynamic.” (See, too, the reviews from Locarno.) In City of Pirates (1983), Raúl Ruiz “borrows operatic imagery from classic Hollywood melodramas and ramps up its lurid allure with looming shadows, shrieking color, Grand Guignol gore, and outrageous comedy.” And in Me and You (2012; reviews from Cannes), Bernardo Bertolucci’s “sly, sleek images distill a lifetime of aesthetic passion.”
For Chuck Bowen, writing at the House Next Door, Matthew Saville’s Felony, written by Joel Edgerton, “reveals itself to be a profoundly cynical movie posing as a work of idealism, and it’s all the more insidious because it’s otherwise so bland and forgettable.”
Back on the upside, with Melissa Anderson at Artforum: “Fortunately, [Lukas] Moodysson’s devotion to feel-bad humanism seems to be behind him: The sweetly detailed We Are the Best!, his first movie since Mammoth , marks a cheering return to the celebration of female-adolescent weirdos.” Check the reviews from Venice and Toronto.
Updates, 2/18: “Manuel Martín Cuenca’s Cannibal begins promisingly as a polished genre exercise,” finds Ed Gonzalez, but it “keeps us at a remove that eventually becomes telling of Cuenca’s reticence to explore whatever feelings of isolation and yearning and tradition-mongering may inform his main character’s grisly compulsion.” Also at the House Next Door, more on Our Sunhi from Chris Cabin.
“Of the genre-splicing movies in this year’s Film Comment Selects,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney for Film Comment itself, “Blood Glacier is the most successful mutant, suturing the creature feature, the eco-parable, and the man-and-his-dog love story into one improbably entertaining mutt of a movie.” More from Ed Gonzalez at the House Next Door.
Previewing the festival for Artinfo, Craig Hubert writes, “Raúl Ruiz is one of the only filmmakers in the history of cinema who makes films that actually feel like dreams.”
Update, 2/19: “The ability to single out, say, the genius of the Berlin School’s star pupil, Christian Petzold, is one thing,” writes David Fear in the Voice. “Giving people the opportunity to see his hard-to-find formative works like Wolfsburg (2003) and Ghosts (2005), in 35mm prints, no less, is something completely different…. The new batch, however, is where you’ll find the real eye-openers. Flesh of My Flesh follows a young woman (newcomer Anna Juliana Jaenner) as she goes about her business: running errands, stalking men in public places, boiling their blood in a baby bottle to feed her sick daughter. Anyone who caught French director Denis Dercourt’s 2006 thriller The Page Turner knows he’s adept at keeping tension simmering, but this oblique true-crime story proves he’s equally effective working in chilly, cryptic mode.”
Updates, 2/21: “The Weight is likably off-putting,” writes Chuck Bowen at the House Next Door. “At times, the structure of writer-director Jeon Kyu-hwan’s screenplay suggests a procession of social taboos that were scribbled on a variety of index cards, tossed in the air, and arranged by how they fell. The story is so clearly contrived to be outrageous that the shock quickly burns out of it, and that’s the point…. The film shouldn’t really work, but Jeon never tips his hand too far in one direction.”
Also: “With The Sacrament, director Ti West has bitten off more of a premise than his classically modest barebones approach to horror movies can presently chew.” More reviews from Venice and Toronto; and Erik Luers talks with West for the FSLC.
Back at the House, Kenji Fujishima: “A man moves to Manila, capital of the Philippines, looking for a better life, but encounters challenges along the way that test his moral limits. That, give or take a few details, is the basic setup not only of Sean Ellis’s Metro Manila, but also of Lino Brocka’s 1975 classic Manila in the Claws of Light, which was recently restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation and which easily shows up Ellis’s panoply of crime-drama clichés and overall touristic gaze.”
Blake Edwards’s The Carey Treatment (1972), screening as half of the Healthcare Mayhem double bill, “belongs to its period more than to all time,” writes Nick Pinkerton for Film Comment, “but its ineffaceable qualities prove that Edwards could never be reduced to quack or hack.”
Updates, 2/23: Jesse Cataldo: “Following a disaffected writer seeking solace in some snowy South Korean mountains, Noh Young-seok’s Intruders starts off in the familiar realm of the Hong Sang-soo comedy, with an anxious hero bedeviled by social awkwardness and the perils of soju consumption. Yet it’s not long before things take a markedly morbid turn, the first of several switchbacks in this limber horror comedy, which grows increasingly intense without sacrificing the deadpan tone or its protagonist’s increasingly huffy exhaustion. Using personal differences, economic rifts, and familiar city-versus-country conflicts to lay the groundwork for a complex murder mystery, Intruders remains a consistently entertaining and surprising sophomore effort.”
Also at the House Next Door, Kenji Fujishima: “If nothing else, Flesh of My Flesh exposes the perilously thin line between the mysteriously elliptical and the merely undercooked.”
Updates, 2/25: Max Nelson for Film Comment: “Money—who has it, who lacks it, and what those who need it are willing to do to get it—is a constant, corrosive presence in the work of German filmmaker Christian Petzold. In the three movies that make up his ‘Ghosts’ trilogy, it’s the fuel that keeps the engine of the narrative running and the obstruction that makes it stall, an object that corrupts those who have it and cripples those who don’t.”
Chris Cabin at the House Next Door on Me and You: “Bertolucci reacts the most warmly to poisonous unions, whether through blood, religion, or lust, and here he finds a distinct intimacy between two hampered loners at once drawn together and rejected by their familial ties.”
Updates, 2/27: Aaron Cutler at the L on City of Pirates: “The film’s vertiginously moving camera bathes its action in red and gray tones as it swoops through scenes with an eye for dolls, balls, pieces of fruit, and other life-threatening objects; strong rushes of music wash over characters while summoning thoughts of older horror films and new ghosts. Throughout, death and madness lurk cheerfully.”
For Film Comment, David Gregory Lawson talks with Denis Villeneuve about Enemy, which “stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a man confronted by existential conundrums and deep-seated inner-fears when he discovers his doppelgänger.”