21 posts categorized "Art Film"

May 10, 2017


ManifestoBy far the best film to come along in the first half of 2017, “Manifesto” is as thought and discussion-provoking as films come. It also happens to be entertaining as hell. This is one provocative movie about the ongoing culture wars that disrupt our lives in the most intrinsic ways.

Writer/director Julian Rosefeldt comments on modern life and art through a textual landscape created from different manifestos from such authors as Marx and Engels, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism.” Still the barrage of ideologies remains refreshingly transparent thanks to the social setting of each of the film's highly stylized backgrounds. 

Cate Blanchett shows off her chops in a virtuosic display in which she plays 13 different characters, each with a lot to say about art, commerce, creativity, love, hope, desire, geo-global politics, death, global warming, passion, ignorance, authenticity, capitalism and family. If that sounds like a lot, be assured that I have but scratched the surface of the ambitious ideas that Blanchett embodies with a ferocity of purpose seldom seen on stage or screen.


Even the Dogma 95 manifesto makes an appearance in an elementary classroom full of whip-smart students. There’s even a surprise ending that reveals the harmony hidden between each of Cate Blanchett’s wildly different characters.

“Manifesto” is a beautifully conceived think-piece that takes the viewer on a journey of ideas and expression. Any person interested in bold artistic statements should check out this tour de force art film delivered with virtuosic precision from one of the world’s greatest living actresses. It’s not too far a stretch to call this film a real treasure. Bon appetite.

Cate Blanchett

Not Rated. 95 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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December 11, 2014


NYMPH()MANIAC VOLUME IIThe decision to split Lars von Trier’s epic erotic journey into two parts is one of the worst cinematic travesties committed in 2014. Von Trier’s signature rigor, combined with the freethinking filmmaker’s unique instincts for penetrating universal human truths, resounds with a pure cinematic clarity that is astounding.

Provocative, droll, fearless, and cinematically sexual in unprecedented ways, “Nymphomaniac” (in its proper unedited form) is a four-hour movie with an unknown potential to alter reality.

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s sexually polymorphic character Joe represents an icon of the contradictions of modern day feminist ideologies. That Joe’s sexually adventurous self-help therapy places her in the presence of an overeducated male exploiter (disguised as her rescuer) puts a sharp grace note that carries on and on and on.


Not Rated. 124 mins. (A) (Five Stars — out of five/no halves)

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December 01, 2014



ERASERHEADDavid Lynch's filmic immersion into the surreal world of his distinctly odd protagonist Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) comes through in a creepy black-and-white black comedy that functions perfectly as a nerve-wracking exercise in existential horror. Put it down to Lynch’s concurrent introduction to fatherhood, followed by a divorce during the making of the film, which he spent five years preparing and filming. No matter how many films you have seen in your tiny lifetime, nothing can prepare you for “Eraserhead.”


Henry Spencer wears his black hair short on the sides, but long and straight-up on top in a cross between a jewfro and a pompadour that sets him apart from the gloomy industrial area of dark factories and empty lots where he works and lives. Is Henry Jewish? Does it matter? Keep asking questions. Lynch revels in all things disorienting, upsetting, and mysterious. Uncertainties hang over every scene.


Nance’s beautifully stylized comic performance harmonizes with Lynch’s high contrast visual design to give the film a sensitive emotional core. Nance’s Henry is every bit as devised as Buster Keaton’s or Charlie Chaplin’s alter egos. 


The bizarre story follows fright wig Henry through painfully slow and strange events centered on romantic relations with his seizure-prone girlfriend Mary (played by Charlotte Stewart). Mary’s primary character trait is her frequent tendency to cry. And cry she does.


While on “vacation” from his printing job Henry visits Mary in her dingy apartment to meet her family for dinner for the first time. Mary’s mother (Mrs. X) skips the pleasantries. She is suspicious of “clever” Henry from the start. Mrs. X enjoys her own “seizure” during a spastic dinner Before the visit is over, Mary’s mom interrogates Henry about whether or not he has had “sexual intercourse” with Mary. Henry valiantly tries to evade her burning question, but the gig is up when Mrs. X informs him that Mary has already had the “baby” which waits to be picked up from the hospital. The onus is on Henry to settle down with Mary and get married immediately. But what of the “baby” that resembles an infant calf, at least from the neck up?


There is so little dialogue in the film that you sometimes forget that the characters can talk. The arriviste filmmaker uses a richly layered soundscape of droning frequencies, in addition to things like the unrelenting pitch of a baby that won’t stop crying, to tweak the viewer’s mind. Stanley Kubrick had nothing on his faraway pupil. Lynch’s stark lighting design provokes a heavy mood of melancholia and potential violence. Kubrick repaid Lynch’s effort when he showed “Eraserhead” to his crew in preparation for “The Shining.”


Made in 1976, "Eraserhead" provided an offset balm to the crush of Hollywood blockbusters like "Star Wars" by way of “Eraserhead’s” repertoire status as a Midnight Movie. As a viewer, you can’t help but be entranced by the filmmaker’s resourcefulness. As history revels, “Eraserhead” makes its point in an eloquently if gut-wrenching way that overloads your sensory perception. It’s not a comfortable experience, but it is a entertaining one.


Not Rated. 89 mins. (A+) Five Stars

COLE SMITHEYHelp keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and get cool rewards! Thanks a lot pal!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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