Monday, April 28, 2014

More Than the Rainbow

The photographers featured throughout Dan Wechsler's More than the Rainbow are a pretty scruffy, competitive bunch, sometimes supportive of one another, but often critical too-—and not just of its main subject, New York City street photog Matt Weber. Julio Mitchell, for instance, says he doesn't find most of Cartier-Bresson's moments decisive—-just trivial. "Maybe that's why he's so popular," he sniffs. Their jostling opinions make for some interesting exchanges, as a handful of photographers, plus a few critics and other tastemakers, talk about things like the merits of film versus digital and the importance of finding one's voice. Most people are interviewed one-on-one by the filmmaker, but segments are edited deftly together to make the film feel like a good conversation, moving seamlessly from one topic to the next with the unselfconscious ease of a good dinner party.

The One I Love

The One I Love, which played at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, is a likeable falling-out-of-love story with a clever but somewhat underdeveloped premise. Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are trying to salvage their marriage, though all the talk just seems to be making things worse. Then their therapist (Ted Danson) sends them to an idyllic retreat in Ojai, where the grounds are gorgeous, the weather is sunny, and Sophie and Ethan have a beautiful main house and a guest house all to themselves. At first, the place seems to be rejuvenating their relationship, but they soon realize that all the fun they thought they were having together actually wasn't with one another; it was with two other people who look and act almost exactly like they do, only a little better.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Human Capital

Paolo Virzì's Human Capital, which played at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, gives the tired trope of cutting between overlapping stories a welcome shot of adrenaline, using it not just to compare and contrast tangentially related stories, but to show how people caught up in their private dramas can overlook or misinterpret the people around them—especially those who have less power, whether because of their gender, their class, their age, or some combination of the three.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The German Doctor

"He thought I was a perfect specimen—except for my height," says Lilith (Florencia Bado) in voiceover, describing the reaction of the eponymous character (Alex Brendemühl) when he first encountered her as a beautiful 12-year-old whose stunted growth made her look much younger. The doctor's assessment is a fitting introduction to this film, in which things always feel off balance even as the plot points click all too neatly into place.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting Down and Dirty: Q&A with the Director of Manos Sucias

Manos Sucias, which screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, is the story of two young men from Buenaventura, an impoverished town on Columbia’s Pacific coast, who pair up to take a fishing boat on a perilous drug run for a ruthless drug lord. I talked to director Josef Kubota Wladyka for The L Magazine about the film and the true stories it was based on.

Every time someone in your movie talks about moving to Bogota, someone else reminds them that there are no black people there. Do Afro-Colombians tend to be pretty invisible in most parts of Colombia? And if so, is that part of what made you want to tell this story?
Yes, definitely. I believe Afro-Latinos in South America in general haven’t been well represented in film, especially in Colombia.

If you travel to Buenaventura, it doesn’t take long to see that it’s a place that’s been sort of forgotten by the government. It’s the richest port city in Colombia—it has the most imports and exports—but the people who live there don’t participate in that economy. It’s under siege by a lot of things, especially narco-trafficking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Director Alonso Ruiz Palacios is aware enough of his place in Mexican cinema's new wave to include a couple of jarringly meta references in his otherwise fourth-wall-preserving debut film, Güeros, first popping into the frame to ask one of the actors what he thinks of the screenplay and then giving another character a speech about "fucking Mexican movies." But if most of the art films to come out of Mexico over the last couple decades "grab a bunch of beggars," as the character who complains about Mexican cinema goes on to say, to score points about social justice or the disintegration of the social fabric, Güeros follows in the footsteps of movies like Y Tu Mamá También and Duck Season. The film's social commentary unspools quietly in the background while the narrative focuses on the ennui, free-floating anxiety, and inchoate longing for meaning experienced by two or three privileged young people from the middle- to upper-middle classes.

Friday, April 11, 2014

100 Words on... Trouble in Paradise

One of the sleekest, slyest and most sneakily subversive of the many brilliant rom-coms that tumbled out of Hollywood in the ‘30s, this Lubitsch classic is a sinuous cascade of silkily delivered double entendres. Gaston (Herbert Marshall) and Lily (Miriam Hopkins), a match made in paradise, may be thieves, but then so is the patrician board chair of the company whose owner, Mme Colet (Kay Francis), becomes first their target, then Lily’s rival as Gaston falls for the stately but down-to-earth beauty. “If you behave like a gentleman,” Lily promises Gaston, as she leaves him with Mme Colet for the evening, “I’ll break your neck!”

Written for The L Magazine