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. Browse our entire film section over at villagevoice.com/movies.
World cinema punches back just one week after Furious 7. New and new-ish films from global greats rule New York screens this week: Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria, of course, and Asghar Farhadi’s long-delayed About Elly.
Don’t miss those, of course, but it’s also worth saving some eyeball time for Rebels of the Neon God,Tsai Ming-liang’s 1992 gem about the misery of fluorescent-lit office life, at Lincoln Center and the Quad Cinema, as well as part of the Museum of the Moving Image’s essential retrospective of the work of the Malaysian-Chinese director. Of Rebels our Jonathan Kiefer spots correspondences with the work of Jacques Tati. He writes,
Also like any given Tati film, Tsai’s Rebels of the Neon God is distinctly of its time but not dated: The rituals of this era’s disaffected youth, set to hooky synth-bass riffs, include drilling into public pay phones and then blowing the stolen loot on arcade video games. (It’s a nice touch that one of the games is played by punching something as hard as you can.) Or, as modeled by the young Lee Kang-sheng, who would become Tsai’s leading man of choice, responding to moments of emotional confusion with peculiar spontaneous dancing.
Bollywood director Vidhu Vinod Chopra isn’t widely considered a master on the order of Tsai, but he has clout enough to wrangle appreciative blurbs for his debut American feature from the likes of James Cameron and Alfonso Cuarón. Too bad the film, Broken Horses, is an only-in-the-movies tale of revenge and brotherhood that feels like it’s “based on the kind of script that seemed to come out of a spigot someplace after Reservoir Dogs hit.” That’s from my review, which goes on to complain:
The story is a borderland/movieland piffle about two brothers — one a concert musician (Anton Yelchin) who has moved to New York, the other a slow-witted townie (Chris Marquette) who as a child gunned down his sheriff father’s murderer — who find themselves at odds with those crimelords for some reason. Loyalties will be tested, past sins will be exhumed, and Chopra will demonstrate his facility for the most important aspects of popular American moviemaking: He’s excellent at filming stern-faced men slowly walking toward the terrible things they have to do.
All that said, you absolutely should check out the musical numbers from 3 Idiots, a Bollywood mega-hit produced by Chopra. Here’s a jolly, sudsy locker-room singalong:
There’s stronger international fare on hand in Black Souls, a grim yet potent Italian crime film from director Francesco Munzi. Simon Abrams writes,
Munzi gives the film’s no-frills dialogue extra weight by emphasizing quiet scenes of characters thinking, pacing, or just brooding. By making every pause feel third-trimester pregnant, Munzi gets you to forget that you’ve seen these types of characters a million times before and can therefore anticipate their actions.
Also recommended: A pair of documentaries, at Cinema Village, about the world coming home to the States. Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s In Country studies the men who meet in Oregon to LARP the Vietnam War. Sherilyn Connelly writes:
Some are veterans of recent wars, such as husband, father, and possible PTSD sufferer Charles “Tuna” Ford, who’s recently returned from Iraq and is looking forward to being deployed to Afghanistan, where at least he’ll understand his role. Especially fascinating is Vinh Nguyen, who fought for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam as a teenager in the early 1970s; he says he’s trying to return to the time when he felt like he was doing something important.
And our Ernest Hardy is fascinated and alarmed by Song From the Forest, the story of Louis Sarno, a white American ethnomusicologist who, studying in Africa, connects with the way of life of the Bayaka pygmies, whose music he has documented on marvelous recordings. Sarno has married a Bayakan woman, and they have a son, Samedi, and Hardy finds high drama in the way the cultures edge together:
Director Michael Obert has a fine sense of the power of the quotidian: Naked toddlers dance in a puddle for applauding villagers; pre-teen boys cavort in the river and then talk smack on the banks. But Obert also slips in powerful critiques of Sarno with the lightest of touches — some so light they might be accidental. As Sarno’s preparing to take Samedi to the States for the first time, his wife tells the camera that he’s never offered to take her, that she’s never met her mother-in-law. The camera holds on her face, inscrutable but speaking volumes.
Finally, our Amy Nicholson half-recommends another throwback to the heyday of Tarantinoid guns-and-monologues indie flicks. She calls Kriv Stenders’s Australian hitman spree Kill Me Three Times “twisty, clever, and totally Nineties, complete with a bag of cash that gets passed from crook to crook.”
Simon Pegg stars, which should give you a sense of the tone. Nicholson adds:
Taped onto VHS, Kill Me Three Times could pass for a forgotten Pulp Fiction knockoff, if not for the fact that Palmer would have been eight years old. Here, lives are so cheap that the film plays like a game of Mouse Trap, placing characters in a snare, yanking them out, and then revealing facts that make us want to shove them back in. Pegg is fun as the psychopathic murderer who, even at the wrong end of a rifle, still cheers, “Nice shot!”
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