Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen. The Voice reviews all of ’em. Here are some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited, for better or worse (click on the movie title to read the full review).
Our Stephanie Zacharek exults in Marcel Carné’s little-seen 1939 crime drama Le Jour Se Lève, hitting Film Forum this week. Zacharek adores star Jean Gabin, who plays a regular joe (or Jean?) whose life spins out of control after he falls for the wrong woman, and she calls the film “extraordinary,” writing:
Le Jour Se Lève, the fourth collaboration between Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert, is gorgeously melancholy, and not just because of its tragic love-triangle plot: Released less than three months before France and Britain declared war on Germany, it vibrates with unspoken foreboding and despair — but it’s mostly in Gabin’s face, solemn and watchful, that we see the signs of the gathering storm.
Another international pleasure finally hitting U.S. screens: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s horror/mystery/romance/redemption whatzit Penance, playing at Cinema Village and available on demand everywhere. Simon Abrams is enthusiastic despite some thinness of characterization — and a 4 ½-hour running time. He writes:
While it doesn’t cohere into anything more substantial than a collection of self-loathing anxieties, Japanese teledrama Penance is effectively unnerving on a scene-for-scene basis thanks to writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s preference for ambience over character-driven drama. Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse), the Ingmar Bergman of contemporary horror filmmakers, accordingly subordinates grieving mother Asako’s (Kyoko Koizumi) search for her pre-teen daughter Emili’s (Hazuki Kimura) killer to a thorough examination of the traumas that bind Asako to Emili’s four childhood gal pals.
Serena Donadoni toasts Katie Holmes in Miss Meadows, Karen Leigh Hopkins’s chipper/killer comedy about an elementary school teacher who revenges herself upon the world. Parts of it sound like an answer to that catcalling video that made the rounds a few weeks back:
Wearing a 1950s-inspired ensemble complete with long gloves and Mary Jane tap shoes, Holmes’s Meadows walks down a quiet street as deer leap across lawns and bluebirds serenade her from treetops. A nasty man drives alongside and interrupts her blissful stroll with rude comments that devolve into threats, so Miss Meadows calmly unclasps her demure handbag, pulls out a lovely little pistol, and kills him with one well-placed shot.
Ernest Hardy endorses Todd Darling’s doc Occupy the Farm, which recounts the efforts of Bay Area activists to prevent a UC Berkeley agricultural property from being turned over to corporate interests. Hardy writes:
While sympathetic with Occupy, director Todd Darling allows the other side to have their say without reducing them to caricatured villainy. (Their own demeanors and hypocrisy pretty much cover that.) The film is riveting from the start, with its ragtag multiculti heroines and heroes meshing multiple identity markers (activist, academic, refurbished hippie), often within individual selves. And they do so while dropping crucial historical and analytical information in support of their case. Brutal confrontations with cops and last-minute political maneuvering by government officials make the film a nail-biting experience, even for those who know the outcome.
This week’s most exciting on-the-downlow film pick might be a double-Decker double feature at IFP Media Center: two new gorgeous, haunted films from director Laura Decker. Michael Nordine reviewed them both, calling the “sinuous thriller” Butter on the Latch “elegant and elliptical” before offering this intriguing description:
Two women (Isolde Chae-Lawrence and Sarah Small, who improvised their dialogue) have their friendship tested during a Balkan festival/retreat near Mendocino, California. There’s something in the woods, and it would appear to know more about them than they do about it: the past traumas that draw them together, the small conflicts that may drive them apart. The abrupt movement and shallow focus of Ashley Connor’s arresting cinematography affords us only the most claustrophobic view of their affairs, like an avant-garde reimagining of The Blair Witch Project.
Nordine makes the second Decker, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, sound even more promising — bovine POV! He writes:
[As with] Butter on the Latch, Decker’s focus on the land extends even further to animals here than it does in that film — at one point, there’s what appears to be a brief, wonderfully strange segment from the perspective of a cow — with Jeremiah relaying an old folktale in which a boy is told that every living person houses two dueling wolves: one good, the other evil. You’ll be left wondering which force is stronger long after the credits have rolled.
Sherilyn Connelly reports that uplifting musical rom-com Always Woodstock isn’t perfect, but it is winning and worth tracking down, in theaters or on demand, due to one can’t-miss element:
Any film justifies its existence when it gives Katey Sagal a chance to sing. After a very bad day in which she gets fired from her position as a burgeoning executive at a major New York record label — this right before discovering her fiancé with another woman — twentysomething Catherine (Allison Miller) decides to move upstate to the family home in Woodstock. She intends to follow in her late parents’ footsteps and become a songwriter, and is aided by quirky (but not too quirky) barista/bartender Emily (Rumer Willis), as well as reclusive local singing legend Lee Ann (Sagal).
Then there’s a love story, too. Maybe one day we’ll get a documentary that’s just Katey Sagal singing karaoke.
Here’s an engaging throwback: Texas neo-noir Bad Turn Worse, a promising debut for new brother-team directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins. It’s playing in New York at Cinema Village, but it feels like it could be showing on the late-night cable movie channel of your choice, circa ’96. (It would come on right before the softcore.) From my review:
From the opening robbery in a hard-land gas station, Simon Hawkins and Zeke Hawkins’s Bad Turn Worse floors it straight into the past — it plays like one of the best of those chatty, reflexive, standoffs-and-monologues crime indies every young dude in L.A. whipped up after Tarantino hit. Deep into the third act, one character actually says, “Now you’re bluffing”; another, after announcing a betrayal meant to upend our understanding of what’s been going on, executes a little bow. (That one’s also tasked with proving the film’s un-PC bona fides, saying, “No reason you’d kill someone who exists, right? Just fucking Mexicans!”)
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