Spends a significant amount of time with a makeshift family who adopt/kidnap a neighbor from an abusive home. Their daily life and care for each other is seen up close for the first hour, until just like in yesterday’s movie Too Many Husbands, the decision of how to arrange their own family is taken out of their hands when the Morality Police show up and straighten it out according to the Law. Suddenly each member of our close movie family is revealed as a low-class criminal, reduced to a mugshot and named by their crime (thief / murderer / kidnapper / fraudster). It’s an extremely effective sympathy tactic – a moving film even though I could see the gears turning.

The first Kore-Eda I’ve watched since Nobody Knows, 15 years ago, even though the eight he made in between were variously acclaimed, making top-ten lists and Criterion blu-rays… I guess the Palme d’Or finally got me. Sakura Andô (Love Exposure) won Japan’s top acting award as the mother. One of the final films by Kirin Kiki (Suzuki’s Zigeunerweisen and Pistol Opera) as the grandma.

Manana is tired of her family, and one day walks out and gets her own apartment. Everyone tells her this is unacceptable and ridiculous and she’ll come crawling back, but she does not. She still sees her husband and kids and parents, reluctantly, but mostly keeps to herself even when home. Remarkably, the movie allows this to happen, doesn’t condemn or destroy her.

Michael Sicinski on letterboxd:

Nana & Simon’s choice to spatialize Manana’s rebellion allows them to literalize her movement away from the fold, a break which is then compromised by her older brother’s insistence that some dumb lugs in her building “keep an eye on her.” Unbeknownst to Manana, the patriarchy is everywhere. This is made even clearer, in far harsher terms, when some old friends of Manana’s divulge a secret about her past, something that she herself did not know.

That something is that her husband Soso (“ironically but accurately named”) had a long-term affair, something her friends assume Manana already knew, because why else would she have left. In fact, he has a son with this woman, and Manana meets him under the pretense of checking their gas meter. Meanwhile life goes on in the family she has left – one kid has a breakup, the other has a new (pregnant) girlfriend, and Manana’s parents and brother can never stop meddling.

Bilge Ebiri, whose review got me watching this in the first place:

The film unfolds as a series of long takes, as we follow characters in and out of rooms, staying close enough to register individual experiences while always making sure to keep the rest of the world in focus. But the camerawork isn’t that rough, handheld, vérité style we’ve become so used to; it’s fluid without being showy, immediate without being unbalanced.

Codirectors Ekvtimishvili and Gross made a previous feature called In Bloom, which is also about females in Georgia escaping their families. Soso starred in Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds, and I have no idea where Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) came from.

Naturalistic slowcore – I think it’s another hybrid-doc film, and it was a bad move for my attention span to play this right after Orleans and the Sarah Morris shorts. On the other hand I’ve been meaning to watch anything by Pereda since the 50 Under 50 list almost five years ago, so I’m glad I finally did.

Gabino seems to be rehearsing a breakup poem composed of song titles – ah, no he’s selling mp3 discs of romantic songs, and for some some never-explained reason he thinks he needs to memorize the titles of all included songs. Gabino lives with his mom, has a couple siblings, and his dad is trying to get them involved in a pyramid sales scheme with his friend Gonzo. Gradually we figure out that the dad abandoned the family many years ago and has just returned… Gabino is tentatively spending time with him but mom is trying to throw him out. I lost the thread of things towards the end, when the dad returns as a different actor.

Dad #1 would like to sell you a CD:

Enter Dad #2:

Oddball film techniques: sometimes the action freezes, people standing still without speaking for minutes while some harpsichord-sounding music plays, recalling My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done. At least once we simply repeat a scene, but it plays out differently. A few durational “see how long any audience will put up with this” shots. Then mid-movie, someone behind the camera starts talking to an actor, asking about his past. Role-playing: in my favorite scene, Gabino pretends to be his father, making in-character excuses and pleas while mom rehearses telling him to leave. By the end I didn’t know what’s real, and was convinced that Gabino really sells CDs on the subway, but no, he’s an actor who has been in 40 other movies. He also plays “Gabino” in all the other Pereda movies.

Pereda in Cinema Scope:

Greatest Hits is a film where the same scene happens more than once in the film, and some of the scenes that repeat themselves were separate takes. I enjoy the repetition, but when I see that a take is a bit different than the first one, only I can enjoy this difference. In this film I tried to give the audience the pleasure I would get from noticing the differences from one take to another.

At times I sort of interview them, Gabino and his real father, and I ask them real things about their real lives. When the film starts over, in the second half, that’s when it becomes a lot more obvious, because there’s one new actor who’s playing a character that we saw before, but the new actor — my uncle actually — is more of a documentary subject. He doesn’t know when we’re filming him, so he’s just talking away. I told him what the movie was about, but I didn’t tell him at that point that he had to act, I just said we’re making a movie and this is your character.

“If you love someone, you love them forever.”

A movie about different kinds of love across the country. I picked this for Katy’s sake, figuring some love stories would be a nice break from films about rats, family murder, refugees and more family murder. It turned out to be a really beautifully constructed film. On the surface, we’ve got three stories: Alaskan Blake falls for spindly nerdy guy, Hawaiian surfer Will’s relationship has broken up but he loves his young son, and New York girl Victory lives and works with her musical family. But then the filmmaker casts actors and coworkers to play the younger (and future) selves of the first two and the missing mom of Victory, filming poetic flashbacks and reenactments, and the actors start interacting with the real-life subjects and changing their present-day stories. Pretty much custom made for a festival called True/False.

Alaska (in a Swiss Army Man-reminiscent school bus):

Hawaii:

New York:

Things don’t really work out. Blake’s boyfriend Joel leaves her (and the film) right after she has decided to quit her stripping job, throwing her already precarious life out of balance. Victory’s real mom opens up to her stand-in, and ugly history is revealed. Her dad has at least one girlfriend, is a charismatic family man and band leader who may also be an abuser. Will has violent disagreements with his ex and her new man, but would still do anything for the little boy, even after discovering he’s not the father. I don’t know if the filmmaker set out to find love stories that would become so twisted and complicated (because we ditched the Q&A to find food before our next screening) but she sure found ’em.

Eric Kohn:

Ha’rel’s playful formalism never settles down. Recurring segments follow various subjects reflecting on their lives, as onscreen text highlights their words; often, the text continues while the voiceover fades away. It’s a striking device that effectively poeticizes their rambling declarations. The filmmaker is just as capable of landing on intriguing images, from the sight of a high-heeled woman crossing a creek to a spellbinding shot of Will holding flowers to an unseen target just outside the frame. These elegant moments are paired with frank discussions about sex, abandonment, and heartbreak, which don’t always arrive at poignant conclusions but certainly speak to the movie’s larger themes … Ha’rel’s unique vision holds tremendous value for the craft of non-fiction filmmaking, which so often suffers from formulaic approaches.

Travis, an ace photographer and committed activist, explores his own sordid family history, which only gets more shameful as he goes on, trying to atone for the crimes of his heritage by at least bringing them to light. Travis was in the room, reading live narration and triggering clips, making the experience more interesting and confrontational. His research leads him through some truly fiction-sounding scenarios – he’s told to quit searching and is chased out of town, and eventually digs up multiple rapes and another murder. This one has been written up extensively, and more elegantly than I can manage.

A. Taubin from Sundance:

Set in the deep South, in the small town of Dothan, Alabama, where S.E. Branch, a white supremacist and Wilkerson’s great-grandfather, shot and killed a black man named Bill Spann in Branch’s grocery store. Branch was charged with murder, but the case never went to trial and he suffered no consequences … How is it that some people escape the racism and misogyny in which they are raised (Branch abused his wife and daughters and likely killed more than one black man) and some cling to it as their reason for existence? Wilkerson doesn’t offer an answer. But raising the question — at this moment when families are torn apart by what they believe America is and should be — is more than enough.

J. Cronk:

What he found, and what we watch and listen to him deliberate upon, was not news of a single murder, but an entire history of racism and brutal violence against the local black community. Branch, he discovers, was an outspoken bigot linked to multiple instances of violence and abuse against black men and women. With only a pair of vague news clippings and Spann’s death certificate as evidence, Wilkerson proceeded to trace the entwined fates of the Branch and Spann families … The futility of this quest is the crux of the film and the aspect of the project that most plagues Wilkerson, whose narration is in a constant state of second-guessing, self-indictment, and flat-out shame at the extent of the atrocities … When, in the course of his research, Wilkerson discovers that his mother’s sister is a practising white supremacist, the film takes on an increasingly disturbing urgency.

V. Murthi:

Wilkerson isn’t being disingenuous in his emotions or approach, but some of the moves on display feel too forced to be truly effective, especially when they’re juxtaposed next to others that are above board. This is the one film I feel most conflicted about. On one hand, I’m not sure I should judge an individual’s personal, politically motivated expression, but on the other hand, I can’t lie and say that there weren’t times when it made me feel uncomfortable outside the scope of Wilkerson’s perceived intentions. With that being said, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? was one of the very best things I saw at the festival precisely because it got under my skin.

Detective Robin (Elisabeth Moss of Queen of Earth) is visiting her sick mom in the New Zealand small town where she grew up. A 12-year-old girl is discovered to be pregnant then disappears, and Robin takes over the case.

The story sucked me in, and I appreciated the actors, particularly Moss and local drug lord (and missing girl’s dad) Peter Mullan and a too-rarely-seen Holly Hunter as the guru of a makeshift trailer-park of troubled women. I was hoping for a good movie given extra time to deepen and spread out, but it started to feel too television. Each episode develops the main plot a bit more, gives the main character a bit more backstory, and reveals a bit more of the town’s dark secrets. And the big hook at the beginning (pregnant child) and big reveal at the end (child-molesting club run by chief cop), along with Robin’s stories of past abuse and constant present threats and the women’s camp and whatever they’ve been through, all adds an icky air of sexual violence to the show. As the episodes progressed, I started to cynically believe that this isn’t helping anyone, just attempting to give an air of importance to an otherwise standard story, though I suppose the intent was to recognize the sexual violence present, mostly hidden, everywhere. Overall I did like it, the distinct characters in gorgeous settings, but not jonesing for season two.

Bonus subplots: clashes with local law enforcement, occasional stories of the women at the camp, some late revenge on one of Robin’s childhood rapists, a major on/off/again affair with her high school boyfriend (Thomas Wright of The Bridge), adventures of tight-lipped Jamie (Tui’s most trusted friend), threats of incest, a couple of deaths (most horribly Jamie’s) and a late reveal that the drug lord is Robin’s real dad.

Jamie:

Robin’s mom and stepdad:

Cowritten with Gerard Lee (Sweetie) and directed with Garth Davis (Lion). Same cinematographer as True Detective season one – that’s no surprise. I recently saw Peter Mullan as the evil father in Sunset Song – he’s good at being menacing. Local boss cop Al is David Wenham of Public Enemies. Moss won best actress at the golden globes and the show won best cinematography at the emmys, but Behind The Candelabra took best TV movie at both.

Sepinwall liked it:

The character work is rich and devastating, the atmosphere hypnotic, and the overall storytelling so good that even if the mysteries hadn’t been resolved, I wouldn’t have felt like my time was wasted … who done it ultimately isn’t as important as the toll the crime takes on our heroine, and on the community around her.

Katy and I disagreed over which was the bigger twist ending: the revelation of Sarah’s real father, or that half the family home-movie stock-footage was faked. I figured the way the movie was going, something bigger than her mother’s death, which we learn about early on, had to be coming – the stories have to be building to some family secret, so the fact of the affair was less surprising than the betrayal of the documentary form, as we briefly see Polley directing her own “mother” in the re-enactments.

Polley:

I wanted people to constantly question what they were seeing and if it was real or if it wasn’t, because that was my experience. My experience going through the story was “Is what I’m hearing fact? Is it nostalgia? Is it subjective? Is it objective?” So I wanted the audience to have a paralleled experience to that and that’s why we worked so hard to make the recreations as accurate as we possibly could.

Incidentally, Sarah’s mom was a casting director and acted in a late-80’s TV series, dad Michael has acted in Slings and Arrows, and biological dad Harry Gulkin was oscar nominated for a movie appropriately named Lies Me Father Told Me.

Cinema Scope’s A. Nayman admires it partly, but finds it all too carefully filled with self-regard.

Quite excellent. A twisty secrets-and-lies family drama without any of the twists feeling contrived, and with none of the characters feeling less than sympathetic.

Marie (Berenice Bejo, star of The Artist) gets her separated husband Ahmad back to Paris for a divorce so she can marry Samir (Tahar Rahim, star of A Prophet). Marie’s two daughters and Samir’s son are moody because of family upheaval. But it turns out teenage Lucie (Pauline Burlet, a young Piaf in La Vie en Rose) is also moody because she might be partly responsible for Samir’s current wife being in a coma. Samir’s employee at the dry cleaners (Sabrina Ouazani of a couple Kechiche movies) may also be partly responsible, but some details surrounding her near-suicide remain unknowable at the end.

Beaten out by Blue is the Warmest Color at Cannes, The Great Beauty at the Globes, and something called Me, Myself and Mum at the Cesars. Cinema Scope called it muddled, tedious and inept. “Farhadi’s direction is actually somewhat more serviceable than his writing, if you have a taste for television-style two-shots and bland compositions,” ouch.

Kind of your standard family-secret homicidal-maniac twist-ending thriller, but Park makes it great. Every scene is amazing looking, not just well-shot but with attention-drawing effects like seamlessly transitioning Nicole Kidman’s hair into a field of grass.

Mia W. is our vaguely Rogue-looking heroine whose dad died the day she turned 18 – killed by his maniac brother, it turns out, who killed their youngest brother as a boy, then kills Mia’s would-be-rapist school acquaintance (Alden Ehrenreich, Bennie in Tetro), then almost kills her mom until finally Mia pulls out the hunting rifle that the movie has taken care to mention and blows him away. Then she drives off, killing a sheriff on the way out of town, having inherited her uncle’s taste for murder.

Other victims include family maid Mrs. McG (hidden in the freezer) and Auntie Jen (Jacki Weaver of Picnic at Hanging Rock) – great discovery scene as Mia calls auntie’s cell and hears it ringing underground. The shooting (by Park’s usual guy Chung-hoon Chung) and editing (by Nicolas de Toth, son of the House of Wax director) are thrilling. Matthew Goode (Firth’s dead boyfriend in A Single Man, kinda has a George Clooney voice) is crazy uncle Charlie, Mia Wasikowska is currently starring in Only Lovers Left Alive, and this is the first Nicole Kidman movie I’ve seen since Birth. Shoot, Harmony Korine was in this and I didn’t notice him.