Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

Wild TalesWild Tales: Damián Szifrón’s film has the issue that plagues most projects that present multiple episodes: there’s a certain inconsistency about them. In this case, it’s less about the theme, since all stories share a common element, but the tone: the more the story veers away from realism towards black humour and the absurd, the best the episode is. They are never less than interesting, however. Very well-realized, the cast is generally strong (Erica Rivas and Ricardo Darín are the ones that stand out, mostly because they are given more to play) and it’s visually very rich. Javier Julia’s camerawork makes liberal use of unusual camera placements, but the overall absurdist tone justifies that choice.

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Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit)

Two Days One NightTwo Days, One Night: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne tell a sad, completely relatable story; it’s simple but there’s an undeniable humanity and sense of reality to it. The gallery of characters, all presented with the same conundrum, show various shades of the human soul; the variation is rich. The acting is uniformly great and Marion Cotillard as the main character is superb; she displays every nuance of her sadness, her frailty and her spirit. She gets no benefit, for the most part, from editing, as the action unfurls in many lengthy takes. The visual style is unadorned and functional, but Alain Marcoen’s camerawork gives the power for the cast.

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Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (Di Renjie: Shen du long wang)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea DragonYoung Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon: Tsui Hark’s film is an entertaining mix of fantasy, mystery and action, with hints of humor. The story itself is convoluted (almost confusing sometimes), full of factions and details, therefore rich in conflict; the characters are flat, but at least distinguishable. Acting is, at times, stylized and over-the-top, as is usually the case in action films. Action scenes are vibrant and interesting; however, visual effects are sub-par, and that subtracts from the overall experience. (There is a certain freshness to this film given how rare this particular combination of genre and origin is.)

Read also: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

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Tsili

TsiliTsili: Amos Gitai’s film not so much tells a story, but presents the viewer with a situation (which falls into the dangerous “important” sort) and lets it play; there’s very little context (what there is comes from the sound design) and sense of the characters. Gitai chose to, for the most part, let the film unfurl in lengthy takes with a static camera; however, neither the frames are visually interesting nor the actions portrayed very engaging (or elucidating). The pace, therefore, feels like a slog.

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An Eye for Beauty (Le Règne de la Beauté)

Le Regne de la BeauteAn Eye for Beauty: Denys Arcand’s film tells a story that, in broad strokes, is far from new; the particulars are generally not all that interesting either. The only exception in the writing that brings a breath of fresh air are the sprinkles of rich dialogue (almost too erudite). Acting is hit-and-miss at best; Éric Bruneau is adequate as the main character, but Mélanie Thierry and Melanie Merkosky are stiff, unconvincing. The camerawork of Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky is unadorned, but it makes good use of the great looking locations, both interiors and exteriors.

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The Judge (2014)

The JudgeThe Judge: David Dobkin’s film is a pleasurable watch, mostly due to the presence of an attractive cast in very good shape. Both Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. are playing to their respective strengths, so it’s no surprise how solid they are; Vera Farmiga and Vincent D’Onofrio are also interesting to see. However, the story that unfurls is unremarkable and exceedingly recognizable; also, the plot is too busy, worried about making too many different threads neatly fall in place to do most of them much justice. Janusz Kaminski’s camera and lighting are overly dramatic.

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Foxcatcher

FoxcatcherFoxcatcher: Bennett Miller’s film is a ponderous (brimming with silence and emptiness), rigorous, almost cold look at a very complex triangle of relationships. Beautifully shot by Greig Fraser, it gives the trio of actors the chance to disappear in their characters; beyond the simple physical transformation (which all of them go through), they are able to shed their usual screen personas. Steve Carell is the standout (and goes through the most radical make-up changes, almost to the point of distraction), but Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are equally great. Vanessa Redgrave, no matter how small her screen presence, is always a nice bonus.

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El Color Que Cayó del Cielo

El Color Que Cayo Del CieloEl Color Que Cayó del Cielo: in spite of its unique, almost dry subject matter and very simple style, Sergio Wolf’s documentary is nevertheless able to resonate. As the film slowly tells its story, it reveals itself as an investigation of obsession (albeit a very particular one) with many of its facets being shown through its choice of character. The use of music (composed by the director) is particularly important and effective; it’s simple, at times eerie, but they match the visuals very well.

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Trash (2014)

TrashTrash: Stephen Daldry tells with great energy this fantasy in a hiper-realistic setting. The smart editing by Elliot Graham, camerawork by Adriano Goldman, as well as the sound design, are all important factors to move the plot (which is intriguing) and portray the film’s world. The characters are not as important as the plot, so it’s not a surprise that the cast, despite attractive, is not given all that much to do; the exception are the kids (Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luís and Gabriel Weinstein), who display great chemistry and make this a joyful experience.

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A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted ManA Most Wanted Man: Anton Corbijn weaves this tale, even if there is a certain emotional distance in the final result. The film has not so much a plot as a sequence of events that serve as basis for a character study. The gallery of characters leans towards shades-of-grey, therefore more interesting to watch. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a great, nuanced performance; the whole cast is, indeed, solid. Beautifully crafted: well edited by Claire Simpson and shot by Benoît Delhomme (the handheld style is thematically justified and very well-done, but a bit unappealing aesthetically.)

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