Ladj Ly has always used his camera to make sense of the immediate and concrete reality he lived in by documenting and interrogating it tirelessly. As such, the director’s late blooming success since the film’s premiere at Cannes last May feels somehow like justice, the reward for a relentless endurance.
A Hidden Life reminds us that a courageous moral act need not be immediately efficacious to produce meaningful impact. His calm certitude, arrived at through faith, personal reflection, and individual experience, poses a challenge to all those around him, especially those who have decided for various reasons to align themselves with the forces of nationalism.
Dark Waters is at once a legal thriller, an environmental disaster movie, and a dramatized historical document of a region, spanning decades, from the atomic age to present. On its face, such a project, set primarily in corporate offices, might seem an unlikely fit for Todd Haynes.
The goal doesn’t seem to be to sincerely interrogate the ways people move through the world following a devastating loss, let alone maintain baseline fidelity to the actual contours of human emotion, but rather to poke at an audience in just the right places so they can experience catharsis via fictional suffering.
Portrait does not feel burdened with historical detail or shackled to period fidelity; the film operates more like a luminous reimagining of what could have happened behind closed doors, when geographical loneliness lent the unexpected pleasure of freedom from automatic social patterning.
Throughout, in the manner of The Beaches of Agnès (2008), Varda looks back at her work, attempting to connect the dots both for herself, and for her audience. Knowing she can no longer be with us, the ever benevolent Varda has left us with the next best thing.
The haunting of Dakar in Atlantics extends beyond the film’s supernatural storyline, encompassing something more comprehensive and more unsettling in the strangeness of the 21st-century cityscape like that springing up in the suburbs, the tension between an imposed (and imposing) environment and human needs.
Seeking historical and temporal specificity ultimately proves fruitless, and provocatively so: The Irishman is, after all, based on an account of a subjective reality, an exactingly detailed version of one man’s perception of history, and of himself.
In attempting to say something meaningful about race and politics in the city’s biggest borough, Norton has fallen into the same pattern as many real-life real-estate developers and city planners, getting rid of what made the source material so compelling in the first place, and adding his own personally convenient plotlines in the process.
Though an adroit orchestrator of discrete scenes, Lapid has thus far struggled to construct wholly satisfying narrative containers for them. So if Synonyms stands as his most accomplished work to date, that is because it commits fully to an elliptical, disjunctive method.
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.