Archive for February, 2011

A flawed, incomprehensible must-see.

“As I do not approve of the current wave of violence that we see on our screens, I have always felt that murder should be treated delicately…I’m sure you will all agree that murder can be so much more charming and enjoyable, even for the victim, if the surroundings are pleasant and the people involved are ladies and gentleman.” — Alfred Hitchcock, 1974

The Killer Inside Me was the most baffling film of 2010. No film I saw made such consistently strange choices. And, unlike some of my favorite films, which tend to relish in delightful weirdness, few of the film’s bizarre strokes inspired any pleasure in me. Was that the point? Did I miss something? To paraphrase Mr. Ebert’s take on the film, The Killer Inside Me operates on a frequency I can’t receive (spoilers to The Killer Inside Me and Psycho abound).

That frequency originates, as far as I can tell, from Hitchcock and classic film noir. Michael Winterbottom’s film brings the misogynistic undercurrent in ’40-’50s noir and Psycho to a scalding boil. The film pummels you, without reason. There’s no elegance, no grace, no Hitchcockian class. Just a parade of ugly human behavior, devoid of easy rationalization. That gleeful psychiatrist who explains everything away at the end of Psycho? Yeah, you don’t get that here. (more…)

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This review first appeared on Quarantine the Past on November 27, 2009.

We witnessed a quiet mini-movement in American independent cinema this decade. Films set all across the country — from the Pacific Northwest to New York City and the Mississippi Delta — offered unglamorous glimpses into the lives of working-class and impoverished outsiders. Think Slumdog Millionaire, stripped of the frenetic style and gratifying closure. Shot with a poetic minimalism, films like Ballast and Chop Shop typify what A.O. Scott dubs “neo-neo realism.”

Wendy and Lucy flaunts the American minimalist M.O. at its finest. The movie addresses unspoken political concerns through a single tragic story, much like the post-WWII films of Italian neorealism. It preys on our emotional pressure points — the fear of unemployment, the helplessness of losing a pet — to convey the relentless horrors of poverty in America.


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