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The Playlist

Venice Review: 'Fill The Void' An Orthodox Jewish Romance Caught Awkwardly Between Comedy & Melodrama

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2012 2:10 PM
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  • 2 Comments
After a Cannes Film Festival which attracted criticism for including no female directors whatsoever, new Venice Film Festival head Alberto Barbera seems to be having bit of a dig at his Gallic rivals with his first year in charge. In the official selection alone, there are four female directors or co-directors, and plenty more in the various sidebars. Perhaps most notably are some from the Middle East. “Wadjda” is the first film ever made in Saudi Arabia, and that it’s made by a female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, in a country not known for its love of women in positions of power is rather extraordinary (word is the film’s pretty good too: unfortunately, other commitments kept us from seeing it here, but we plan to catch up elsewhere).

Venice Review: Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder' Is A Raw & Heartfelt Film Of Loss And Longing

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2012 7:18 AM
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  • 37 Comments
For a man not known for being prolific, an eighteen-month gap between Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (the filmmaker’s first film in five years) and his latest, “To the Wonder” (only his sixth in forty years) isn’t just unprecedented, it’s positively mind-boggling, especially given that the director is currently shooting a pair of films, “Knight of Cups” and another untitled film starring Ryan Gosling, back to back.

Telluride Review: Endearing & Buoyant ‘Frances Ha’ Marks A Terrific Gear Shift For Director Noah Baumbach

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • September 1, 2012 8:47 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Loose, limber and driven by a fierce energy and staccato/pause rhythm we haven't seen previously from this filmmaker, Noah Baumbach's sublime "Frances Ha" is a fresh and vivacious near-reinvention of the director/writer's comedic milieu. An enchanting riff on friendship and the late-20-something right of passage into true adulthood, while the buoyant comedy does focus on those who still don't have their shit together, it is however, leagues more rich and emotionally layered than the average arrested development dilemma that seems to pervade 20/30-something comedies of late.

Telluride Review: Intimate & Devastating ‘Ginger & Rosa’ Features A Transformative Elle Fanning Performance

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • September 1, 2012 12:22 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Lovely and devastating, challenging yet worthwhile, Sally Potter's "Ginger & Rosa" may be the English filmmaker's best since "Orlando," and perhaps her most accessible to date. The intimate and sensual picture also features yet another terrific performance by 14-year-old Elle Fanning, who is quickly becoming the most compelling teenage actor working in movies today. But this time, as the lead, Fanning is transformative, heartbreakingly conveying the inner-life of an adolescent with an almost eerie and nuanced command of her craft.

Venice Review: 'The Master' Is Paul Thomas Anderson's Most Complex And Distinctive Film To Date

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 1, 2012 7:37 AM
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  • 25 Comments
No movie has been more keenly anticipated by cinephiles in 2012 than Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” The filmmaker has been one of cinema’s most exciting new voices for a decade and a half now, but reached a new level of adulation with his last picture, ”There Will Be Blood,” which won awards and topped critical lists the world over five years ago. As such, the genesis and production of “The Master” was avidly followed, not least because the film was long ago said to revolve around a fictionalized surrogate of L. Ron Hubbard and his ever-controversial Scientology, and because Anderson had shot the film on 70mm film, the first major production to do so since Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” in 1996.

Telluride Review: Ben Affleck's '70s-Flavored 'Argo' Is A Terrifically Suspenseful & Entertaining Thriller

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • August 31, 2012 8:16 PM
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  • 20 Comments
Ben Affleck's third feature-length film, the terrifically suspenseful dramatic thriller "Argo," is the second picture to use Warner Bros.' 1970s logo in 2012. And like "Magic Mike," the Soderbergh film that employed the same logo earlier this year, it's an augur of what's to come, announcing a tone, mood and millieu that is imported straight from that era. Sporting a love for movies on his sleeve, Affleck's film gives nods to the smart, entertaining and engaging thrillers from the '70s -- "All The President's Men," "Three Days of the Condor," et al. -- and playfully with B-movie science-fiction pictures of the era without ever trying to lean too hard into any specific homage.

Venice Review: Ulrich Seidl's 'Paradise: Faith' Is A Disarmingly Funny & Tender Examination Of Sex & Religion

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2012 3:33 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Trilogies can come in different forms. There’s Hollywood’s favourite variety – two sequels to a hit, that organically (“The Godfather”) or inorganically (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) expand on the original film’s success. There’s the single story that’s too big to fit into a single film, like “The Apu Trilogy” or Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.” There’s the loosely thematically linked kind, like Park Chan-wook’s "vengeance trilogy," which share nothing but a central concern. And then there’s a trilogy like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s "Three Colors," which not only share a grand thematic tapestry, but also have crossovers between their characters.

Venice Review: Spike Lee's 'Bad 25' A Comprehensive & Warm Look At The Making Of Michael Jackson's Album

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2012 7:36 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A couple of years ago, before he set up his low-budget comeback film “Red Hook Summer," Spike Lee was planning another NYC-set project, “Brooklyn Loves MJ,” with the story taking place on the night of the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson in June 2009. Said to star Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie and more, the film never came together (although Lee told us recently that he hoped to get it going again), but the director’s been able to pay tribute to the late King of Pop in a couple of other ways. For one, he’s helped to organize a semi-annual Brooklyn Loves MJ party (although it didn’t take place this year or last for various reasons). And then there’s the director’s latest film, and his second of 2012, “Bad 25.” The subject matter is less weighty for the man behind such stirring docs as "4 Little Girls" and "When The Levees Broke," but the results are no less pleasing for this effort which delves into the making of Jackson's Bad, the fifth biggest-selling LP of all time.

Venice Review: Ramin Bahrani's 'At Any Price' A Patchy But Powerful Melodrama With A Fantastic Performance By Dennis Quaid

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 5:09 PM
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  • 4 Comments
The first three feature films by Ramin Bahrani – 2005’s “Man Push Cart,” 2007’s “Chop Shop” and 2008’s “Goodbye Solo” -- were extremely well-regarded by festival and art-house crowds (Roger Ebert called Bahrani “the director of the decade”), but barely made a dent on the wider cultural consciousness, receiving fairly limited releases and so far, making Bahrani a favourite of cinephiles, but far from a crossover success. But four years since his last film, Bahrani is back at Venice, the festival which made his name with “Man Push Cart,” for a film that threatens to push him towards the mainstream, with a starry cast and a distribution deal already in place from Sony Pictures Classics. And while perhaps not quite up there with the low-key, humanistic triumphs of his earlier films, “At Any Price” does seem likely to win him further and wider recognition.

Venice Review: Jonathan Demme's 'Enzo Avitabile, Music Life' Blends Great Musical Performances & Shallow Documentary

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 12:17 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Over the centuries, Italy has contributed countless things to international culture. It was of course, the center of the Roman empire, the birthplace of the Renaissance and Da Vinci, and gave the world Vivaldi, Verdi, Dante, Calvino, Fellini and Antonioni. But at least in the 20th and 21st century, music was not its strongest suit, as such. The county did birth the great film composer Ennio Morricone, and electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder and the Italo Disco movement, but the number of Italian popular musicians who became internationally famous can, for the most part, be counted on the fingers of one hand.

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