Isabella has films within films, plays within plays, and people within people. As in its central mise en abyme, the director creates an abyss of rhyme and recurrence. His mode of adaptation works reflexively, where these layers upon layers lead to a sense of collapse.
The actors interpret their often dense monologues with an admirable naturalness and, perhaps more importantly, truly work to convey the act of listening. In many ways, the work of Puiu in guiding the actors through the genuinely demanding material is a more impressive achievement than the heightened realism of The Death of Mr. Larazescu.
In this nonlinear narrative, which abruptly, frequently jumps back eight years in time to glean moments from Sibyl’s former life and love, choppy scenes have the effect of disorienting, painful memories resurfaced, like picking up the disordered pieces of diary pages torn to bits.
This plague is in no way biological or scientific; it is profoundly subjective and insurmountable. Seimetz stresses the inexplicable nature of the belief by depicting it as a sort of neon Protestant visitation that appears to each successive victim, rendered by cinematographer Jay Keitel as a hypnotic light show.
The corrections center actually functions as a reprieve for many of these women, who went from abusive childhoods straight into abusive marriages when they were as young as 12. The fact that a male filmmaker is let into this world shows their trust of him.
There is a difference between making a film of sociopolitical and cultural value and making a film about important sociopolitical and cultural matters. In some cases the latter may beget the former, but it is not a given.
Lee has never been any more obsessed with race than the country he has vigorously documented over the course of his multi-decade career. The ideas he explores and the stories he tells about the myriad of black experiences seem excessive only in a canon that all but ignores them.
His movies are about fraught relationships and breakdowns in communication, but without any histrionics; they often fracture time and chronology, but not in a cloying or self-consciously experimental way. They are so emotionally transparent that they run the risk of being mistaken for simple-minded.
Lest his film be charged with trafficking in the same philistine stuff as pornography, Serra rarely, if ever, allows his erotica to be, well, erotic. Not as well versed in the art of the exaggerated orgasm as adult-film actors, his nonprofessionals are awkward and imprecise.