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The Playlist

Karlovy Vary Review: Atmospheric Argentinian Paranoia Drama ‘History of Fear’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 7, 2014 11:05 AM
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History Of Fear
A debut film that picked up a little heat when it played early in the Competition lineup in Berlin, Argentinian filmmaker Benjamin Naishtat’s “History of Fear” went strangely quiet thereafter, subsumed, it seemed, by the subsequent welter of flashier offerings. But now having caught up with it at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, we can suggest another reason for both its buzzy first-look reviews and its subsequent tumble off the radar: “History of Fear” is a tense, unsettling, evocative film that showcases terrific filmmaking talent and mastery of tone from neophyte Naishtat and cinematographer Soledad Rodriguez, but it has almost zero sustain: it fades as quickly from the mind as a night terror does in the sudden light of day.

Karlovy Vary Review: Shira Geffen’s Cannes Favorite ‘Self Made’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 7, 2014 10:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Self Made
One of the great things about the broad-based programming of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is that it gives us an opportunity to pick up a lot of films that slipped through our Cannes net, and one such title was “Self-Made.” The sophomore feature from Israeli director Shira Geffen, who won the Camera d’Or in Cannes 2007 for her debut, “Jellyfish” which she co-directed with her husband Etgar Keret, “Self-Made” is a small but distinctive and beguiling film, which takes a central unexplained mystical event and spins the outcome in surprising real-world directions, while always maintaining an eye for the gently absurd. It’s a clever approach that allows Geffen, here also the sole credited writer, to comment directly on the intractable problems of Israeli/Palestinian and Jewish/Arab conflict, while maintaining enough allegorical distance to help the film also feel universal in its humanist character portraits.

Karlovy Vary Review: Jake Hoffman’s Directorial Debut 'Asthma' With Krysten Ritter, Iggy Pop And More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 6, 2014 12:24 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Asthma Ritter Samuel
It's really a win/win situation. If the logline “examines the consequences of the ‘live fast, die young’ mentality in New York’s indie rock scene” doesn’t chill you to your core, perhaps you might actually get something out of “Asthma,” the directorial debut from Jake (son of Dustin) Hoffman, which premiered last night at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. And if it fills you with trepidation, you’ll be gratified by having most of your fears borne out, especially seeing as it actually takes place largely in Connecticut and it's not even remotely about music.

Oliver Stone Says New Cut Of 'Alexander' Will Be "Best Version Yet," Criticizes 'Zero Dark Thirty' & 'The Hurt Locker' & Talks 'Pinkville'

  • By Diana Drumm
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  • July 14, 2013 10:13 AM
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  • 37 Comments
If you hadn't already gathered, Oliver Stone is a stubborn man. This can be a good and not-so-good thing. Confirming what we reported on over a year ago, Oliver Stone discussed his fourth to-be-released cut of "Alexander" at this year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (along with some of his other work and advice on writing and editing). As you might remember, the original movie was a critical and commercial flop, with possibly the most positive review coming from Richard Roeper, who wrote, "It's just a wild, glorious, wacky mess that I found really entertaining."

Karlovy Vary Review: Sophie Huber's Documentary 'Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 7, 2013 7:23 PM
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An enigmatic and perhaps occasionally overly deferential documentary about one of the all-time great character actors, Sophie Huber’s “Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction,” is slow out of the gate, but gently, ever so gently, builds to a thoughtful portrait of a thoughtful man. Stanton, while never less than amiable, is clearly not an easy subject -- “I’ve been doing this for 50 fucking years, being photographed and making movies. After a while I got tired of it.” -- in fact he states up front that he doesn’t like to give much away. And while many of the other interviewees talk about that quality of stillness and silence being one of his great strengths, it does mean he’s not the most forthcoming or garrulous of biographees. But it also lends the stories, when they haltingly come, added impact, whether about his carousing days with ex-housemate and longtime friend Jack Nicholson or when he’s sharing reminiscences with “Cisco Pike” co-star Kris Kristofferson.

Karlovy Vary Review: Felix Van Groeningen's Tribeca & Berlin Favorite 'The Broken Circle Breakdown'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 7, 2013 5:54 PM
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  • 0 Comments
An immaculately observed, desperately moving story of love, loss, and bluegrass music, it's easy to see why Belgian film "The Broken Circle Breakdown" came to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival trailing awards: Best Actress and Best Screenplay from Tribeca and the Audience Award and the Europa Cinemas Award from Berlin. While Felix von Groeningen's film, which centers around a couple whose child is diagnosed with cancer, could easily have strayed into maudlin territory, the deft, non-chronological structure and the constantly surprising, beautiful performances -- both acting and the musical -- elevate it well clear of any Movie of the Week associations.

Karlovy Vary Awards: Ben Wheatley's 'A Field In England' & 'Bluebird' Among Winners

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 6, 2013 4:25 PM
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  • 1 Comment
...and so our short sojourn to the 2013 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival draws to a close. Our time here this year was so brief that we feel guilty in not having seen more of the films In Competition, and across the various diverse and always thoughtfully-stocked sidebars, but now that the awards have been announced, we know we’ll have a starting point for all the catching up we’ve got to do.

Karlovy Vary Review: Berlin Golden Bear Winner 'Child's Pose'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 6, 2013 1:15 PM
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  • 1 Comment
One of the great pleasures of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, aside from its generally friendly atmosphere, and awesome local tipple Becherovka, is that its timing and the breadth of its selection gives us the chance to catch up with films we, for one reason or another, missed at festivals previously. And so it was with Calin Peter Netzer's "Child's Pose," a film that didn't make it onto our radar in advance at all, but then snuck up and took the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale, while we were probably, statistically speaking, in the next theater over watching a James Franco movie.

Karlovy Vary Review: Michel Gondry's 'Mood Indigo'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 6, 2013 8:59 AM
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  • 4 Comments
So if we were to CHROME CARROTS attempt to replicate the PERSPEX LIMO omnipresent inventiveness of TINY MOUSE IN A TINY HOUSE Michel Gondry’s latest film throughout the PIANO THAT MAKES COCKTAILS course of this review, it would SUNLIGHT IS STRING get pretty old, pretty damn RUBIK’S CUBE ORGANISER quick. So we’ll stop while we still have you, which is what we deeply wish Gondry had done. But in “Mood Indigo,” which opened the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last week, the French filmmaker's gonzo homemade aesthetic is off the leash entirely, and he shows no mercy in how much gimcrackery he thinks we can handle.

Karlovy Vary Review: Clio Barnard’s ’The Selfish Giant’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 5, 2013 10:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
We meet Arbor, the troubled young protagonist of Clio Barnard’s second feature “The Selfish Giant" in claustrophobic close-up as he hammers his fists in incoherent rage against the underside of the bed beneath which, we gather, he tends to retreat in times of stress. The violence subsides suddenly though, as he is coaxed out of his hiding place and out of his fit of anger, by big, soft Swifty, his best (only) friend, with whom Arbor shares a certain marginalization -- Arbor is being medicated for an unspecified antisocial disorder; Swifty is bullied and taunted for his traveller background. Marking the shift from verbal and physical violence and harshness, to a sort of grounded lyricism (a shift the film makes successfully time and again), this squally opening scene ends with a calm detail of the boys’ clasped hands, which we will return to later in different and wrenchingly tragic circumstances. It’s a gripping beginning to this passionately felt and astonishingly acted film, which shares a lot of DNA with the modern British social realist movies of Barnard’s contemporaries Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay.

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