Tag: 2016

**** (out of 4)

Towards the end of Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion, a new “biopic” of the poet Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon), there’s a shot in which Dickinson is shown lying on her bed. The mood is not a relaxed one; she’s just been struck by a debilitating series of seizures, and in the next scene, she’ll end up passing away for good. What’s striking about this moment, however, is the combination of the anguish on Dickinson’s face, the foreshortened way her legs stand out in the foreground, and the way the bed fills the center of the frame: taken together, the whole image provides a very close imitation of Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna’s famous depiction of a dead Jesus in Cristo morto. It’s almost as though Dickinson, like Christ, has reached some form of transcendence through death.

Alas, if there’s just one thing Davies’ take on Dickinson teaches you, it’s that this transcendence is only attained after a lifetime of emotional and spiritual agony.

Reviews - In Theaters

 

** ½ (out of 4)

Like countless movies before it, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman makes use of a “story within a story” device: the main characters, a married couple named Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), star in an Iranian production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. What at first distinguishes the film from preceding users of said device, however, is that its larger story initially doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what Miller wrote.

Reviews - In Theaters

(out of 4)

Movies about adventures in the wild have a long and intimidating pedigree. Well before Leonardo DiCaprio got himself mauled by a bear in 2015’s The Revenant, after all, you had Peter O’Toole floating on the desert sand in Lawrence of Arabia, Klaus Kinski glaring at his wearied soldiers in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and Marlon Brando whispering about “the horror” in Apocalypse Now. Despite their vast differences in setting and historical period, each of these films spoke in some way to the power of human obsession, the insatiable desire people can acquire for an object or ideal that may not even be attainable. In those stories, the wild became something simultaneously fascinating and deadly, a place where great ambitions and schemes ran up against nature’s unsparing limits.

Unfortunately, whatever wilderness you encounter in the new “adventure” movie The Lost City of Z turns out to be anything but fascinating or deadly.

Reviews - In Theaters