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Movie Reviews

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    Tell Laura We Love Her: Ira Sachs' "Forty Shades of Blue"

    It feels like precious little happens in “Forty Shades of Blue” -- surprising for a film so fraught with disintegrating relationships and more than its fair share of infidelity. This isn’t meant to be an indictment, but praise: Ira Sachs’ ostensibly sensational narrative is muted through a quietly observational aesthetic, such that emotional states resonate more palpably than any single event. There is no American correlate for “Forty Shades of Blue,” the most apt comparison for its even temper and tumble of unvarnished emotion lies across the ocean with French director Maurice Pialat. Like Pialat, Sachs ha...

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    Foul Play: Thomas Vinterberg's "Dear Wendy"

    Putting the nature and quality of his films aside for the moment, Lars von Trier, the jolly sadist Danish director and writer, is simply useful to have around. Like a brash, needling party guest, he starts conversations. Less committed interrogator than pathological provocateur, his films demand r...

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    For the Boys: Paul Etheridge-Ouzts' "HellBent"

    Though it's far from the "first gay slasher film," as it has been momentously touted (hello? "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge" anyone?), Paul Etheridge-Ouzts's "HellBent" might be the first horror movie that's quite so unapologetically gay-friendly. Serial killer films have been chockablock with homosexual psychotics from day one, yet rarely is the gay sensibility refracted back throughout the texture of the film itself—both the worst offending tripe ("Cruising," "Hard," "Haute tension") and the eminently defensible yet unquestionably questionable masterpieces ("Silence of the Lambs," "Psycho," "Dressed to Kill") place bla...

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    Meet Me in St. Tropez: Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau's "Cote d'Azur"

    To include Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau among France's best-unsung contemporary filmmakers would probably be a bit of a hyperbolic stretch. Yet in the interest of making someone sit up and take note, I'll dare to do just that. Wearing their big-hearted generosity perhaps a bit too much on their sleeves, the directing duo nevertheless repeatedly construct narratives of unending good will and slapdash optimism that send you out of the theater refreshingly buzzed. Even if their brand of homo-happy whimsy doesn't exactly correspond with today's trendy art-house fare, it's been disconcerting to see their work become increasingly gay-ghet...

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    What Reverse Shot Learned During Summer Vacation: 13 Lessons

    We'd prefer not to have to once again go over the corrosive specifics of the summer's oft puzzled-over "summer slump." But with its projected "whopping" 9% drop from 2004's box-office totals and 11.5% decline in attendance, what are we supposed to do in response? Suddenly decry the paucity of strong Hollywood product? Sorry for the lack of alarmism on our part, but we're not pubescent enough that we can't recall the dour humidity of summer 1995 ("Judge Dredd," "Congo," "Nine Months,"), the scorching sunburn of July 2000 ("The Perfect Storm," "Loser," "Coyote Ugly"), or even last year's less than tanned and toned lineup ("Scooby Doo 2," "I, Ro...

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    Brothers' Peepers: Gaël Morel's "Three Dancing Slaves"

    Andre Techiné's "Wild Reeds," still as urgently humane now as when it was released in 1995, has bestowed quite a legacy upon the new generation of French filmmaking. That film's psychosexual and political tangles have slowly but surely created tendrils that have reached all the way through an entire decade's worth of youth cinema. If Techiné's tender evocation of adolescent confusion and the growing social and moral awareness of a group of young friends in the early Sixties during the ongoing French-Algerian conflict had any sort of direct effect on the national cinema, it has been in its ability to pass on its spirit of rebelli...

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    Torture Chamber Drama: Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance"

    Quentin Tarantino doesn't make nearly enough movies. Thank heavens for Park Chan-wook. The first installment of Mr. Park's "Revenge Trilogy," "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," opens this week following, in reverse order, the surprise U.S. art-house success of his second entry in the series, "Oldboy." If...

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    To Die From: Marcos Siega's "Pretty Persuasion"

    For all the critics lamenting the turn to all-style/no-substance MTV aesthetics, former music video veteran Marcos Siega's "Pretty Persuasion" could have done well with a stylistic shot in the arm. Producing deft, relevant social satire is tricky enough without leaden direction weighing it down, especially when that satire is aimed at the frothy and fundamentally content-free microcosm of Los Angeles teen privilege. Films such as "Clueless" and "Election" (to which "Pretty Persuasion" owes its well-intentioned roots, even if it fails to flower) succeed on repeat viewings for precisely the same reasons "Pretty Persuasion" fails on its first an...

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    Deep Breath: Phil Morrison's "Junebug"

    Having moved away from my small New England suburb to New York City many years ago, I have noticed, with each returning visit, my perspective on my childhood home further evolving into something mysterious and ineluctably specific. It's not just a matter of aging or nostalgia; there's a sense of dee...

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    Fashion Victim: Jun Ichikawa's "Tony Takitani"

    Fashion Victim: Jun Ichikawa's "Tony Takitani"

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