"It's really about control, my body, my mind. Who was going to own it? Them? Or me? I'm not a one-man woman. Bottom line." - She's Gotta Have It.
#438 | April 17, 2012
TRIBECA 2012: Critic's Notebook #1
The end of the world was just the beginning of this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Serious consideration of apocalyptic themes have permeated all kinds of recent cinema, perhaps gearing up in a timely fashion for the Mayan Shakedown forecast for 2012, so it was no surprise to note the opening weekend's selection of First Winter—which considers the events that immediately follow An Event. In this first Critic's Notebook from the fest, Steve Dollar also reviews SXSW everyman Alex Karpovsky's Tribeca debut with a shocking turn in Rubberneck, the indie rom-com starring Greta Gerwig Lola Versus, and Adam Christian Clark's dysfunctional sisters drama Caroline and Jackie. Read more >>
In This Dispatch:
  • What's New: Let the Bullets Fly, Pariah, The Time that Remains.
  • What We're Watching: The Organizer (Criterion), The Sky Turns.
  • Explore: Film of the Week: Bernie; Retro Active: Phenomena. 
"The first and second things to be said about Jiang Wen's action adventure, set in China during the warlord era of the 1920s, are that it is marvelously funny—a screwball comedy with more layers than a pearl—and visually sumptuous," praises Joe Morgenstern. Jiang Wen, after 7 years of censorship, has returned to make the highest grossing film in China's history in this film which stars Chow Yun Fat as a corrupt governor and the director as the man seeking vengeance for the death of his son. But this is action-comedy fare, and "the energy and enthusiasm recall Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle," adds Shawn Levy.
A coming-of-age tale that also explores the trials of being a 17-year-old African American girl coming out of the closet, Pariah was widely touted as one of 2011's strongest directorial debuts. Dee Rees "is an NYU film-school alumna and a protege of Spike Lee...and Pariah is as fresh in its theme and execution as Lee's 1986 first feature, She's Gotta Have It. Yet the movie's expressionist lyricism and wistful mood recall Charles Burnett's 1979 masterpiece, Killer of Sheep, while the hypnotically incantatory dialogue and sympathetic focus on a family saddled with unexpressed anger and sorrow carry echoes of Burnett's quiet 1990 domestic drama To Sleep With Anger," writes Ella Taylor at NPR.
Based loosely on the director's own upbringing in the town of Nazereth, The Time That Remains ambitiously covers six decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a bleak comic sensibility. The film focuses on the Suleiman family and locals who try their best to keep a semblance of normalcy through the conflict. Suleiman "makes smoke without fire—calm, acrid, almost noiseless films on a subject that is never less than inflammatory...His method finds order in the madness. Not that you will ever mistake the slant of his sympathies. It’s just that his vision of suffering is so scrupulous, and so mercifully free of histrionics, that it crosses the battle line of the argument," writes The New Yorker's Anthony Lane.
What We're Watching

The Organizer
There’s a key piece of editing about halfway into The Organizer, Mario Monicelli’s 1963 film about a worker’s strike in late 1800s Turin. A factory worker has travelled to the outskirts of town to bring funds to a family living below poverty conditions. The funds are to show solidarity because the family’s breadwinner has been jailed due to issues stemming from the strike. While making the rounds of the family’s dirt-floored shanty, the factory worker opens a wooden flap, revealing a grinning, barefoot toddler squatting on the ground. The film then cuts to a group of society women preening in their sparkling white gowns during a social function. Read more >>
More like this  Man of Marble Matewan

The Sky Turns
In The Sky Turns, filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez returns to her birthplace: the small Castilian village of Aldealseñor. Nearly four decades earlier, Álvarez became the last child to be born in Aldealseñor and, upon her return, she discovers a place out of time in both senses of the phrase – the way of life the village has clung to since prehistory remains an anachronism and the village inhabitants are finally yielding to the death knell of modernity. Read more >>

A minor Richard Linklater film is better than no Linklater at all. Bernie reteams Austin, Texas' finest with Jack Black eight years after their major-studio breakthrough School of Rock. Linklater's talent for normalizing potentially over-the-top material is very well-suited for mainstream fare; the key shot of School of Rock comes when Black yields to the kids in his class—all bugging him to perform for them—and launches into impassioned song. Read more >>
[This week's "Retro Active" pick is inspired by the female boarding-school chiller The Moth Diaries.] Dario Argento's fascination with sight takes sexually anxious form in Phenomena, the Italian giallo maestro's surreal 1985 saga of boarding school maturation. That carnal awakening isn't overt in Argento's film, which is nominally about a serial killer stalking young females in a remote Swiss village, a spree that coincides with the arrival of Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of a famous hunky movie star, at the imposing Richard Wagner Academy for Girls. Read more >>
RETRO ACTIVE: Phenomena (1985)

Tribeca Winners


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