Saturday, October 13, 2012

No was part of the 2012 New York Film Festival

The brilliant Chilean director Pablo Larraín gives us another take (after Tony Manero and Post Mortem) on his country’s dark dance with military dictatorship in this often lighthearted, sometimes inspirational but ultimately unsettling feature.

No covers an extraordinary time in 1988 during which the Pinochet regime was shamed by international pressure into holding an election to produce a show of legitimacy. For 27 days leading up to the election, the state-controlled TV station aired 15 minutes a day of free programming for the government and 15 minutes against it. After 15 years of silencing the opposition with torture, death, or sheer terror, the junta was confident that their supporters would turn out to vote Yes while the No’s would stay home, fearful of retaliation or (rightly) convinced that the vote was fixed. But they didn’t account for the brave No team, led by canny image-shapers straight out of advertising, who stole the election back from them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Mary Elizabeth Winstead is magnetic as Kate in Smashed, a delayed coming-of-age story that never quite gets inside its heroine’s head. An intense beauty who happens to be a lush, Kate remains charming as she sings sloshed karaoke in a bar, drunk-bikes home, or makes out with her equally smashed husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul)—though she can turn feral on a dime, peeing on the floor of a liquor store when the clerk refuses to sell her a bottle after hours. After Kate joins AA, Winstead ratchets down the voltage in an even more interesting way, making Kate still appealing but less explosive, less unpredictable—just less in general, without the fire that alcohol used to light in her.

But the script is as superficial as Winstead’s performance is dense, its on-the-nose dialogue and ticking-things-off-the-list feel making Kate’s story play like a series of anecdotes whose edges have been smoothed off in the telling.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Night Across the Street

Night Across the Street was part of the 2012 New York Film Festival

"It was very autobiographical," said producer François Margolin of Raúl Ruiz's last film, Night Across the Street, after its New York Film Festival press screening. And that, said the producer, was odd, "because Raul was absolutely not a director that made anything that was autobiographical. It's as if he finished his career with his first film." The director of 115 films in just under 50 years, Ruiz was more than just fluent in the language of film: he was a poet of cinema. True to form, Night Across the Street rarely falters, maintaining its surrealistic deadpan as assuredly as it does its golden-brown palette. Yet it often drags, feeling longer at 110 minutes than Mysteries of Lisbon did at 272.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Memories Look at Me

Memories Look at Me was part of the 2012 New York Film Festival

In this quiet meditation on mortality, the healing powers and limitations of family intimacy, and the inexorable passage of time, writer-director-star Song Fang (the hypnotically tranquil filmmaker/nanny of Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon) plays a fictionalized version of herself.

Returning home from Beijing to Nanjing, Fang settles into the rhythms of her fit but aging parents’ (played by Fang’s real parents) lives, sharing domestic chores and talking about the past, various relatives, other people they know while fending off well-meaning attempts to diagnose or “fix” her single status.