Living is Easy With Eyes Closed (Vivir Es Fácil Con los Ojos Cerrados)

Living Is Easy With Eyes ClosedLiving is Easy With Eyes Closed: David Trueba’s film is pleasurable enough, but ultimately it’s also rather bland and excessively neat. The plot is almost insufficient, as the focus are on the characters; however, the characters also feel undeveloped and somewhat uninteresting. Also, not much is told about the world where they live in. The cast is solid and have good chemistry, particularly Natalia de Molina and Javier Cámara, but they are not given much to do. The film looks good and convincingly portrays its time period, but it’s unremarkable visually, much like the whole.

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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence: Roy Andersson presents a film that is an spectacle of precision. The sense of humor is dry and mostly dark, but delivered always at the exact moment for maximum impact. The overall style is rather unique: light on dialogue, the camera always set static for the whole vignette, essentially no cuts; it suggests a rigor in the observation, but the action itself is always borderline (sometimes over the line) absurd. Every shot is beautifully framed by István Borbás and Gergely Pálos (and the color pallete, always consistent), allowing some action to happen in the whole space (the precision in the blocking here is paramount). Of course, this would be irrelevant if the sad stories didn’t resonate, in their very particular way. Wonderfully peculiar, peculiarly wonderful.

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The Rules of the Game (La Règle du Jeu)

The Rules of the GameThe Rules of the Game: Jean Renoir presents the viewer with a wonderful farce; the plot itself is not as important as the presentation (as well as the implied criticism) of the world where the story takes place. The characters are broad and simple, but the group is large and the multitude of relationships is always a joy to watch. Dialogue is sharp, replete with great one-liners. Performances by the cast are, generally, stylized (this is, after all, a comedy) but a perfect fit to the material; Marcel Dalio is the one that sticks the most.

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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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