Hopinka aims to show things clearly, and while this film doesn’t always match the thrilling visual impact of his experimental shorts, the result of this direct approach is a complex portrait of contemporary Indigenous life.
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.
Wojnarowicz so furiously laid bare the cruelty of our nation, and in particular the puritanical hypocrisy of the GOP, that in 2010, decades after his death, Republicans John Boehner and Eric Cantor managed to bully the National Portrait Gallery into removing his artwork from an exhibition, on World AIDS Day, no less
Lo’s film leans into the expressive vulnerability of dogs while exhibiting a wariness of the tendency to exploit their cuteness, anthropomorphize their behavior, or reduce them to symbols. The camerawork, too, is grittier and more doglike, with the film’s shaky rhythms matching the trot of its eponymous subjects through urban areas.
Amidst this stirring portrait of spiritual introspection runs a current of political malaise. It is most starkly felt though the stories shared by each of these houseless folk, laying bare the moral deficiencies at the rotten core of our social safety net, in a consumerist society obsessed with profit over public welfare.
There is something more than a little perverse about the release of this film at this particular moment. One need not lean too hard on its resonances in a year of sheltering in place, alone or in small numbers, accompanied only by a networked set of machines promising connection to a vast collection of media.
Its gender dynamics disorient the era Garrel is trying to convey. Is this a retro love letter to a bygone era when it was still possible for a bus stop meet-cute to blossom into a full courtship; when long-distance lovers unironically corresponded through postcards?
If one anticipates the declassification of the FBI reports on MLK, are we then complicit in the invasion of his privacy and the attempt to racially stereotype him? This film insists that what the FBI did to King is emblematic of what this country does when it fears those who might undermine its entrenched hierarchies.
Night of the Kings is a testament to a more inclusive future: actors are sourced not only from Abidjan but also from France and Burkina Faso, and the director pointedly serves us up a medley of western art touchstones and West-African traditions.