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 →
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 →