Movies reviewed this week: No Bears, Rye Lane, Sharper, Images from the Playground, Body Double, Tai-Chi Master, The Intruder, and Three Colours: Red.
4/24/2023: No Bears (2022): ****1/2
More than a little dizzying; more so after reading up on the background, which is fair — how can you separate Panahi’s situation from his art when he’s making movies about himself? Starring himself? I’m a sucker for some metatextual fiction, and this gave me more than enough of that.
Art at all costs. The fact that he’s willing to pay the cost himself — literally, because the man was in fact standing right there on the border — doesn’t relieve his guilt from asking others to pay the cost with him. But that self-awareness does relieve the burden of responsibility. Besides, as the village plot makes abundantly clear, the government is going to come down on him no matter what. Might as well dance.
4/27/2023: Rye Lane (2023): ***1/2
Effervescent and joyous and I don’t need much more than that. It didn’t leave the cozy confines of the rom-com formula but it rung some pretty great changes along the way to the inevitable — points for a male protagonist who gets to cry without being played for laughs and points for the fish-eye lens.
4/29/2023: Sharper (2023): ***
I like a clever conman film. It’s no Mamet, but neither is Mamet any more. I don’t think the structure worked because the thrill is in the initial revelation; following the historical threads for twenty minutes doesn’t really buy you much. That aside, though, the overlapping con games are up to par even if the ending was predictable.
4/29/2023: Images from the Playground (2009): ***
This starts out as a mundane yet charming peek behind the scenes of Bergman’s earlier films. Stick with it: around halfway through it turns into a low key exploration of his relationship with his actors. Harriet Andersson has this great story about how Bergman made her show up on set even when she didn’t have scenes, because he wanted to know where she was. She tells it while we’re watching his behind the scenes footage of her, lounging around the set watching other people work, because that’s what he wanted to film with his home camera. There’s a lot of that sort of frank insight— Bergman was pretty honest about what he was doing, and why.
4/29/2023: Body Double (1984): ****
I wasn’t convinced until the end credits, but when De Palma slapped us in the face with the banality of body double work, he sold me. De Palma’s at his best when he’s indulging his sense of humor anyhow, and Body Double is cynically funny all the way through.
4/29/2023: Tai-Chi Master (1993): ***1/2
Absolute excess, one of the finest exemplars of 80s-90s wirework martial arts movies. Jet Li gets to play yet another semi-legendary martial artist and who can object to that? The plot is a thin excuse for about a million fight scenes, which is fine; Michelle Yeoh gets to shine as well.
4/30/2023: The Intruder (2004): ****1/2
Tonight on Claire Denis Story Hour, the director will be skinning the corpse of a spy thriller, setting aside the flesh, and putting the rest into service of her commentary on colonialism. Do not expect to recognize anything after she’s done.
4/30/2023: Three Colours: Red (1994): *****
I could watch this trilogy a hundred times and I’d watch three hundred movies, interlocking in a multitude of parallel worlds. It just depends on where your heart lands. This time I watched a movie about a retired judge learning that intertwined lives are worth the pain. Maybe next time it’ll be a movie about dogs. I’ll find myself moved to tears no matter what.