Archive | Film Matters

‘Sorry We Missed You’ Makes Its Mark

What follows is a review adapted from a lecture I gave to the delightful Westchester film club, now relocated to the Emelin Theater. Perhaps it is of note that I dressed as Emma Goldman to deliver this. Perhaps instead I should have gone full hog and climbed a table bearing a UNION sign. Either way, I now petition you to see this in theaters when you can; it opens in New York today at Film Forum.

For 50 years, director Ken Loach has made films championing the British working-class. They’ve always been acutely observed but as he’s aged they’ve become brilliant. Sadly, that’s partly because they’re driven by a greater urgency–they connect almost too well to the social drama of these fraught times.

His last project, I Daniel Blake, brilliantly confronted the benefit and welfare systems. Now, at 82, he’s indicting the gig economy with this film about a Newcastle family whose delivery driver dad, home aide mom, and two kids live precariously check-to-check. This is the kind of movie that is as worthy as it is wrenching–not just for the social messages it delivers, pardon the pun, but for the portrait it paints of familial love in the face of larger pressures. Continue Reading →

Ignited by ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

What follows is a talk I gave about Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which opened this weekend and which you absolutely must see on a big screen if you love and support contemporary cinema about something besides metaphorical and literal penises.

With its gorgeously textured examination of female desire, creativity and agency, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of my favorite films of 2019.

Though it may seem magically out of time and space, it was shot in a never-rehabbed house in Brittany and set in the autumn of 1770—when all that would remain of a moment after it passed was what could be captured by memory and imagination. Witness one of its first scenes, when Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant, leaps fully clothed into the sea to save her canvases while the guys rowing the boat watch impassively (read: uselessly).

This sets the tone for this film, not only in terms of how largely absent men are—this is the last time we see one until nearly the end—but in terms of the female determination that defines this story. Continue Reading →

Little Women, Inner Children

Yesterday we taped the first episode of Talking Pictures since my back went kablooey (and yes that’s the official medical diagnosis). To celebrate I got it into my head to decorate my head, and so wove into my triple-braided bun pine cones and branches, baby’s breath, and tiny bird. All in all it was an effect that raised more than a few eyebrows among the normally unflappable population of NYC.

Chalk it up to the fact that I was reviewing the most recent iteration of Little Women, which I had approached with great trepidation and from which I had floated with great elation.

There have many, many film, television, and stage adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War-set saga about four Massachusetts sisters who are rich in love and poor in cash, but this is the most ravishing and the first that does not betray the intense feminism of its author. Directed by mumblemouth millennial Greta Gerwig (cue my trepidation), it boasts an intensely good cast including Soirse Ronan as stalwart Jo, Meryl Streep mugging to unusually good effect as drolly disapproving Aunt March, Timotheeee Chalomet very right if too slight as Laurie, and Florence Pugh, channeling the authentically big emotions of Midsommar to animate Amy, the most bedazzled and entitled of the March girls. (Laura Dern is too Modern Millie for the Marnie of my dreams, but I’m immune to her Lynchian charms.) Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy