By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
In Another Country: Was I on vacation here before?
Featuring French movie star Isabelle Huppert and performed partially in English, this is the most accessible of the recent meta-dramedies from prolific Korean writer-director Hong Sang-Soo (many of which have not screened in L.A. outside of AFI). Huppert plays three Frenchwomen visiting the same seaside Korean town in three different stories with meaningful parallels (mostly involving, in vintage Hong fashion, drunken seduction). The repetition of story elements reflects Hong's own tendency to do the same things over and over again, but Huppert, who is most fun at the film's most farcical, gives the great bard of soju-soaked melancholy a transformative face for his investigations. (Karina Longworth)
Kid-Thing: A very weird walk in the woods
Ten-year-old tomboy Annie (Sidney Aguirre) leads a lonely life of solo play and pranks, until she happens upon a hole in the woods from which she can hear an old woman calling for help. Featuring the last screen performance from the late Susan Tyrell (Fat City, Cry-Baby) as the mysterious voice, Kid-Thing is an exciting swerve away from the lo-fi absurdist comedies that director David Zellner, who usually collaborates with his brother Nathan, has been screening at Sundance and other festivals for more than a decade. It's part throwback to live-action kids films of the 70s, part experiment in supplanting the audience in a pre-adolescent's not-always-reliable subjectivity. It's 100 percent sincere. (K.L.)
Leviathan: The most wired fishing boat ever
More avant-garde imagescape than traditional documentary, this abstract portrait of the workings of a fishing boat — shot with multiple tiny cameras from unimaginable vantage points — serves up some of the most astonishing footage ever captured. Disembodied arms and shoulders work valiantly at unidentifiable tasks; a terrifying phalanx of hungry seagulls engulfs an otherwise pitch-black sky; the night's catch slides to and fro in a way that makes you feel like you, too, are destined to be on the menu. There's not a shred of story, character or implicit message to be found, but as a sheer sensory experience, it's mindblowing. (M.D.)
Like Someone in Love: Japan meets jazz
There may be no more beautiful sequence in this year's festival than that in Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love, in which a beautiful coed is taxied to an escort gig and the camera takes in the nighttime street life of Tokyo. The film itself is an intoxicating series of sleights-of-hand as the call girl befriends an elderly professor who becomes a protector of sorts — especially against her hectoring boyfriend. Kiarostami masterfully plays with expectation; clichés are upended in both character arcs and manipulation of visual perspective. The result is a film that riffs beautifully on the jazz standard that gives it its title. (E.H.)
Aspiring young actor Mwas finagles his way out of his small village to Nairobi, only to immediately be brutally mugged, arrested and swept into a current of criminality that all but defines the bustling city. Though director David "Tosh" Gitonga and his superb cast (especially Joseph Wairimu as Mwas) wonderfully illuminate the quotidian resilience and creativity needed to survive and thrive in such a cutthroat environment, Nairobi itself, and the options it affords or denies its inhabitants, is perhaps the most vibrant character on screen. As such, it provides fodder for viewers to contemplate the movie's advertising tagline: "Have we chosen to be the way we are?" (E.H.)
Paradise: Love and Paradise: Faith: Sex or religion?
Two-thirds of a planned trilogy from Ulrich Seidl (Import/Export), who is known for a blurring of fiction and documentary that's been called "staged reality," the Paradise films follow the self-actualizating adventures of Austrian sisters Teresa (Margarete Tiesel) and Anna Maria (Maria Hofstatter). Love — lurid, hilarious and sometimes sad — follows Teresa on a vacation to a Kenyan beach resort, where the doughy, pasty, middle-aged mom goes looking for love, only to be hustled for sex by the dark, handsome locals of the former colony. Meanwhile, in Faith, Anna Maria takes a trip motivated by her own passion — for Christ. (K.L.)
Pieta: Gangsters have moms, too
South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's Pieta is a droll madhouse of offenses. A sadistic collector for a loan shark (he brutally cripples those who can't pay so his boss can collect the insurance) is thrown off his game when a woman claiming to be the mother who abandoned him suddenly reappears in his life. What follows isn't exactly a tender reconciliation but a jaw-dropping essay of violence, the Oedipal complex on steroids and a third act full of plot twists that recast everything that came before. Laced with black humor, Pieta likely will offend quite a few in the audience. (E.H.)
Reality: Big Brother is watching me
Unfairly dismissed by many at Cannes as a lukewarm satire of reality TV, Matteo Garrone's follow-up to Gomorrah has more on its mind than its goofy, high-concept premise initially suggests. Yes, the story involves a middle-aged family man and amateur thespian who becomes obsessed with being cast on the new season of the Italian Big Brother. But the increasingly demented steps he takes in pursuit of this goal — including giving away all of his earthly possessions and constantly behaving as if he's being observed by scouts judging his worthiness — suggest an allegory ferocious enough to merit comparisons to Buñuel. (M.D.)
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