Film Comment Selects

Saratan, 2005

Inviting favorable comparison to Serik Aprimov’s Glastnost-era muted comedy The Last Stop (a film that ushered the Kazakh new wave), Kyrgyzstan filmmaker Ernest Abdyshaparov spins his own charming, infectious, and delightful pastoral tale on the doldrums of rural life in post Soviet-era central Asian republics in Saratan. Introducing an eclectic cast of characters – a… read more »

Twilight’s Last Gleaming, 1977

Loosely adapted from novelist Walter Wager’s 1971 thriller, Viper Three, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is Robert Aldrich’s impassioned and provocative excoriation – and, perhaps implicitly, exorcism – of the American government’s administrative Cold War policy that sought to wage a representative, small-scale, protracted ideological war in Vietnam in order to reinforce a “doctrine of credibility” to… read more »

Paradise, 2009

Something like an unconstructed take on Peter Mettler’s epic essay film, Gambling, Gods and LSD, Michael Almereyda’s Paradise similarly assembles a series of fragmentary, cross-cultural, quotidian images taken from the filmmaker’s video diaries that reflect on fundamental human questions of life, existential purpose, and transcendence. In an early episode in the film, a man passing… read more »

Happy Here and Now, 2002

A young woman named Amelia (Liane Balaban), has arrived in New Orleans to search for her sister, Muriel (Shalom Harlow) after she abruptly and inexplicably lost contact with her, and the key to the beautiful young woman’s disappearance seems to lie in the formatted hard drive of her laptop computer. It is through this mysterious… read more »

Los Muertos, 2004

Los Muertos opens to the visually atmospheric and strangely surreal image of an unpopulated tropical forest, tracking sinuously (and disorientingly) through the lush wilderness, momentary revealing the dead bodies of two young people splayed amid the obscuring brush, before returning to the idyllic shots of foliage that becomes unfocused and diffused, imbuing the image with… read more »

Los Angeles Plays Itself, 2003

Ostensibly named after a notorious gay porn film entitled L.A. Plays Itself (where the systematic degradation of the city was paralleled through increasingly violent sexual encounters), Los Angeles Plays Itself is a thoughtful and sublimely articulate stream of consciousness piece that explores Hollywood’s historical neutering, mythification, and suppression of Los Angeles’ native cultural identity in… read more »

Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?, 2005

Shinji Aoyama returns to the desolate geographical and spiritual landscapes of Eureka to create a thoughtful and idiosyncratic – if patently offbeat and unclassifiable – concoction of doomsday angst, picaresque humor, synthesized cacophony, natural communion, and even redemption in Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?. The film’s allusive title, taken from the Aramaic transcription of Jesus’ ninth… read more »

Demonlover, 2002

The insidious consequences of technology are similarly explored in Olivier Assayas’ ambitious, savage, and thematically replete, but ultimately unfocused and tangentially occluded feature Demonlover. The initial premise of the film centers on the ruthless machinations of competing corporations as they respond to the delicate final negotiations over a partnership with a successful Japanese animé studio… read more »

Air Doll, 2009

During a poignant encounter in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s idiosyncratic, yet droll and resonant contemporary fable, Air Doll, a reclusive doll maker, Sonoda (Jô Odagiri) tells a troubled inflatable doll turned video store clerk, Nozomi (Du-na Bae) that the main difference between her and a human being is biodegradability. In a way, Sonoda’s simplified differentiation between burnable… read more »

Morphia, 2008

Adapted from Mikhail Bulgakov’s collection of autofictional stories, A Country Doctor’s Notebook, Aleksei Balabanov’s Morphia is an unvarnished portrait of rural Russia at the cusp of the Bolshevik Revolution. Told from the perspective of an idealistic young doctor, Polyakov (Leonid Bichevin), Morphia retains the humor and texturality of Bulgakov’s prose to underscore Polyakov’s difficult and… read more »