Much Ado About Nothing
There’s a reason why William Shakespeare remains the author of more adapted works than any other writer, and it pretty much all comes down to language. Many people will point to his love dramas and tales of revenge as the height of his output, but for me it’s his comedies that continue to impress, and none do so better than Much Ado About Nothing.
There’s a brief but intense drama to be found within, but it’s the sharp wit and big laughs that elevate it. When big time movie diretor Joss Whedon (The Avengers) surprised us with news that he had shot an adaptation at his own house in less than two weeks expectations were all over the place, but the resulting film is easily one of the best the Bard’s work has ever seen. Shakespeare’s words mesh beautifully with Whedon’s sensibilities and visual playfulness, and you can barely help but smile through the entire thing. - RH
Where can you see it? Joss Whedon’s indie-minded Shakespeare adaptation opened in early June in limited theatrical release and has been growing less limited ever since. It’s currently playing in over 200 theaters so you should hopefully be able to find one near you.
Post Tenebras Lux
What do a British rugby team, a girl who dreams of cattle, a well-endowed devil who glows like the byproduct of a nuclear fallout, and an erotic French bathhouse have in common? Mexican writer/director Carlos Reygadas (who won Best Director at Cannes in 2012 for this film) never provides direct solutions to what may initially, misleadingly seem like a cinematic riddle.
Instead, Reygadas opts to employ a dream logic where words, images, events, emotions, and landscapes slowly fold back onto one another into a whole that remains deliberately incoherent yet strangely unified. Post Tenebras Lux (Latin for “light after darkness”) is as mesmerizingly elegiac as it is twisted and discomfiting, as immersive as it is shocking and disturbing; the film is even, on occasion, pitch-black funny. The filmmaker who made a sizable impression with American audiences with the contemplative, remarkable Silent Light continues exploring his interest in micro-communities and social formations rarely captured on film, this time turning to his own life (the film is partly autobiographical), home (Reygadas was inspired to make the film while building his house in Morelos, Mexico, the area filmed), and family (his own daughter plays the precocious cow-dreamer).
The result is a challenging symphony of characters, images, and scenarios, all realized as stark, beautiful, intimate manifestations of a restless and singular cinematic imagination. - LP
Where can you see it? A release date hasn’t been set yet, but Post Tenebras Lux should be available on DVD from Strand Releasing soon.
Murder mysteries are often lumped into genre groupings that unintentionally act to diminish the film’s dramatic merits, but once in a while one of these thrillers stands out with its portrayal of evil and good in the real world. David Fincher’s Zodiac and Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder are the best of the best in that regard, but this little German thriller from 2010 comes pretty damn close. A teenage girl is murdered, and her killer is never caught, but when a similar crime presents itself two decades later the truth about the earlier crime begins to work its way up into the open.
We meet and spend time with all the players, from family and detectives to strangers and the killer, and all the while the loss, sadness and obsession worm their way into our brains. The film is beautifully shot, and even as we’re given the answers we’re disturbed with both realizations and new doubts. – RH
Where can you see it? The film had a brief, limited theatrical run in March and should hopefully be coming to DVD soon.
Something in the Air
Tied with Laurence Anyways as my favorite film of the year so far, Olivier Assayas’s semi-autobiographical tale of French teenagers/would-be-revolutionaries after the events of 1968 (the film’s French title translates to After May) is perhaps one of the most honest, thoroughly realized, and sincere examinations of a perpetually-recounted era, refusing either backward-looking cynicism of full-fledged romanticism.
After the modest, intimate family narrative of Summer Hours and the epic Molotov cocktail of a biopic that was Carlos, Assayas strikes something in the middle with this tale of a small handful of young people carrying the weight of big ideas. Gorgeously photographed and accompanied with a killer and surprisingly not-at-all cliché soundtrack, Something in the Air evokes post-’68 France in ways that only someone who was there could film. Typically, filmmakers use their first works as biopics, but I’m thankful that Assayas waited to share his peace/love/fuck the establishment youth after establishing himself as a master filmmaker with 13 features under his belt. Simply stunning. – LP
Where can you see it? Something in the Air will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in September.
This is the official two-sentence synopsis of writer/director Shane Carruth‘s long awaited follow-up to Primer. “A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.” So while Upstream Color had substantial indie buzz no one was surprised when it didn’t catch on with the masses.
As seemingly convoluted as that desription sounds, the film is actually fairly straightforward in its tale of identity, relationships and the acceptance and reclamation of our very souls. It’s an empowering love story, and that personalized interpretation is one of its many joys. I’ve already heard multiple “explanations” of the film from people, and while some love it and some hate it, I find their wildly varied interpretaions just as valid as my own.
Carruth wore multiple hats on the production including acting and scoring, but his greatest accomplishment (outisde of the writing and directing) was as casting director. Amy Seimetz, in the second lead role, gives one of the year’s great, unsung performances as a woman who sees great suffering and madness before struggling to come through on the other side. – RH
Where can you see it? Shane Carruth’s mind-bending yet simple love story is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix Instant and VOD.
What fantastic but small movies have you seen and loved this year so far?