True Crit

Weekly film reviews. by Howard Feinstein

  • Body and Soul: New York Film Festival, Part III

    There are fewer films to deal with in this last of a three-feature curtain raiser. Writing commentary on the selections in the other two — six and five films, respectively — is enervating after two-and-a-half front-loaded weeks of screenings, plus repeats. The potential for gratuitous collateral damage spikes and hovers precariously, which translates into: In a very few cases, one risks being harsher than intended. Some of the harshees might be worth reviewing when they open commercially, when everyone is more focused. In The New York Times‘ Critic’s Notebook (November 10, 2016), Manohla Dargis considers both the long- and short-term risks of…  Read more

    On Oct 12, 2016
    By on Oct 12, 2016 Columns
  • Makeovers: The New York Film Festival, Part II

    Every film not only tells a story but is a story. Lumping several movies together to find commonality is a perilous pursuit. For example, we have to determine if shared traits operate at the level of content, plot or characters. Or might they be more in the vein of form — style, perhaps, or generic membership? Last week, zeroing in on what I consider the six finest features screening in the first third of the New York Film Festival led me to a marked thematic thread, which we can file under “loneliness and the attempt to escape it.” From the…  Read more

    On Oct 7, 2016
    By on Oct 7, 2016 Columns
  • Studio 54: The New York Film Festival, Part I

    On the evidence of the finest films in the first third of this 54th edition of the New York Film Festival, those familiar with the exhibitionistic, amped-up social set that frolicked in, gawked at, or read about the notorious, dear-departed Manhattan night spot might find it ironic, or a misnomer, that its moniker is my appropriated title for this initial NYFF feature. Sure, Lincoln Center ranks far lower on the cool scale than the legendary club, but, a testament to tenacity, merit, and resilience — how it has managed to survive continuous power struggles and administrative shuffles of parent organization…  Read more

    On Sep 29, 2016
    By on Sep 29, 2016 Columns
  • Disbelief: Federico Veiroj’s The Apostate

    Barring lapse or conversion, how do you spurn religion? For centuries, Catholics have had a formal means to renounce the Church: apostasy. The tedious process, sometimes ritualized with a walk backwards from the altar to the front entrance, aims to remove all official documents pertaining to one’s baptism. Upon entering adulthood, some practicing laypeople begin to see it as involuntary. They want to own it by revising the past, in spite of the fact that, according to Revelations, a stigma accompanies disavowal: an indelible stain of apostasy, aka the mark of the beast. A de-baptism movement has been under way…  Read more

    On Sep 7, 2016
    By on Sep 7, 2016 Columns
  • Freeze Frame: In Order of Disappearance

    A blond, fair-skinned Swedish actor playing a petit-bourgeois Swede of the old school who resurfaces in the Norway of the overnight economic miracle, the ubiquitous Stellan Skarsgard looks as blank in Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s determinedly revisionist In Order of Disappearance as the snow-covered swaths atop the rural roadwork his Nils Dickman rips through at the helm of his commanding danger-signal-yellow snow plough. The 2014 masterwork is only now making its long-awaited U.S. debut. The color matches the baggy waterproof overalls that keep Nils’s sizable frame dry, and is just about the only hue outside of white visible during…  Read more

    On Aug 25, 2016
    By on Aug 25, 2016 Columns
  • Acting Out: Ira Sachs’s Little Men

    Friendships have boundaries and limits. Aristotle wrote of perfect friends in his Ethics, noting that totals must remain low. Sounds much like romance to me: Is the new bff the one? The philosopher described the role played by villainous economic factors, which were still up for discussion 2000 years later by authors like Michael A. Kaplan in an academic text called Friendship Fictions. I don’t think the concept of friendship can be quantified, but the monetary value of some of its indicators, or their equivalents, can be guesstimated. Mercenary matters disrupt the bonds between tight male buds in Ira Sachs’s…  Read more

    On Aug 5, 2016
    By on Aug 5, 2016 Columns
  • Fabled: The Childhood of a Leader

    Youthful innocents relish playing the part of amateur cartographer for school assignments, drawing prats, or, even more fun, molding contours from papier-mache. Seven-year-old Prescott (Tom Sweet), the subject of Brady Corbet’s astonishing debut feature, The Childhood of a Leader, is no innocent. The film, adapted from Jean-Paul Sartre’s short story of the same title and co-scripted by Norwegian Mona Fastvold, charts his rocky path from angel in his church’s Nativity play to one of the signature faces of the diabolical: totalitarianism. The scene in which the boy slides his fingers across a wall map of Europe just as it was…  Read more

    On Jul 21, 2016
    By on Jul 21, 2016 Columns
  • Separation Anxiety: Men Go to Battle

    The lives of the young, illiterate Mellon brothers, Henry (Tim Morton) and Francis (David Maloney), whose world barely extends beyond their small, unproductive farm in Small’s Corner, Kentucky, might seem historically insignificant compared to the monumental events transpiring in their own backyard in 1861. The magic — I use the word loosely because the film is cloaked in such an original isomorph of naturalism — of director Zachary Treitz’s Men Go to Battle lies in its equal treatment of the two strands. The filmmaker tailors the aesthetic to his purposes, noting with a hint of sarcasm to The L Magazine,…  Read more

    On Jul 8, 2016
    By on Jul 8, 2016 Columns
  • Doctor’s Order: The Innocents

    Determinism or free will? I’m flummoxed. This is my second successive review of a film about nuns. The first was Zach Clark’s Little Sister, in which meek ex-goth Colleen Lunsford (Addison Timlin) is a novice in a New York City convent whose mother superior, like the newcomer herself, doubts the young woman’s faith and commitment to the order of the Sisters of Mercy. During a trip to the family home in North Carolina — half therapy, half reunion with a brother mutilated from combat — she appropriates the flamboyance and kitsch that had been a substantial part of their youth.…  Read more

    On Jun 30, 2016
    By on Jun 30, 2016 Columns
  • The Wrong Box: Zach Clark’s Little Sister, MoMA’s Sally Bergerless Doc Fortnight

    “I needed structure!” says former goth Colleen Lunsford (Addison Timlin, star-to-be) in a revelatory moment in Little Sister, the latest feature by Brooklyn-based Zach Clark (White Reindeer, Vacation). It is one of two unaffected masterpieces (the other is Ira Sachs’s Little Men, which I’ll review when the increasingly daring Magnolia Pictures releases it) screening at BAMcinemafest (Jun 15-26) that I was fortunate enough to catch early — two for two! Colleen is exasperated trying to explain to her estranged, self-absorbed mom, Joani (Ally Sheedy, better than ever), why she left home to seek out spiritual redemption in a cloistered New…  Read more

    On Jun 14, 2016
    By on Jun 14, 2016 Columns
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